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Reviews > Shelters > Tents > Big Sky International Convertible 2P > Test Report by Mark Wood

Big Sky International Summit Shelter
Convertible 2P
Test Series by Mark Wood
Last Updated September 15, 2008
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Biographical Information
Product Information
Field Conditions
Initial Report - April 28, 2008
Field Report - July 15, 2008
Long Term Report - September 15, 2008

Biographical Information
Name: Mark Wood A Brief Introduction
I grew up camping with my parents and had taken a few short backpacking trips, as well as a couple of 10-day trips before I got married. While my wife and I have enjoyed car camping and day hiking for close to 6 years, we have both decided to make backpacking a permanent part of our lives. Our trips are generally shorter (2 - 5 days) over rocky, hilly terrain. My general pack weight for a 3 day trip is around 25 lb (11.4 kg) including food and water.
Age / Sex: 28 / Male
Height: 5 ft 11 in (1.8 m)
Weight: 250 lb (113 kg)
Email Address: mwood_bgt at markandkc dot net
Web page: http://www.markandkc.net
Location: Chenango County, New York, U.S.A.

Product Information
Full Shelter
Manufacturer: Big Sky International
Model: Convertible 2P
Year of Manufacture: 2007 / 2008
URL of Manufacturer: http://www.bigskyinternational.com
MSRP: Varies by Configuration
Color: Granite Gray
Component Weights: Winter Shell: 25 oz (709 g)
Winter Interior: 19.5 oz (553 g)
Summer Interior: 17.4 oz (493 g)
3 Piece HD Aluminum Poles: 26.2 oz (743 g)
Compression Stuff Sack: 2.2 oz (62 g)
Aluminum Tube Stakes (2): 0.6 oz (17 g)
Titanium Hook Stakes (6): 1.6 oz (45 g)
Aluminum Y Stakes (4): 1.7 oz (48 g)
Snow Anchors (2): 2.1 oz (60 g)
Reflective Guy Lines (4): 1.2 oz (34 g)
 
Interior Dimensions: Head Width: 55 in (140 cm)
Foot Width: 45 in (114 cm)
Length: 85 in (216 cm)
Height (Peak): 40 in (102 cm)
 
Shell Dimensions: Head Width: 65 in (165 cm)
Foot Width: 53 in (135 cm)
Length: 98 in (249 cm)
Height (Peak): 42 in (107 cm)
 

The Big Sky International Summit Convertible 2P shelter is a modular shelter system. The fly can be setup alone or with either the summer or winter interior. Therefore, package weights vary depending on what the user decides to pack.

A typical spring configuration could include the following: Winter shell, Summer Interior, 3 HD Aluminum poles, Compression Sack, Guy Lines, 6 Titanium Hook Stakes and 4 Aluminum Y stakes for a total packed weight of 4.7 lbs (2.1 kg).

Warranty: (from manufacturer website)

"We use lightweight high strength materials, but a customer should not expect our products to stand up to the same use/abuse as products using materials weighing much more than our products. Big Sky warranty products again manufacturing defects, but does not warranty products against materials failure due to durability issues."


Field Conditions

Numerous locations will be visited during the testing time frame. My usual backpacking areas are the Catskill and Adirondack regions of New York as well as some Northern Pennsylvania trails such as the West Rim Trail. Also, the Finger Lakes Trail passes very close to my home and I often incorporate this into my "regular" destinations.

In general, temperatures will range from around 40 F (4.5 C) to 90 F (32 C) during the testing time frame. Over the last few years, Upstate New York has had a lot of rain so I would expect quite a wet and muddy spring.

Elevations in my normal hiking areas generally range from 500 - 2500 ft (150 - 750 m).


Initial Report - April 28, 2008

First Impressions

Initial inspection of the Convertible 2P showed exceptional workmanship. Attention was paid to details and all seams were tight with no loose threads. The seams didn't appear to be sealed, but I will hold off sealing them unless I find they leak. All poles slide together easily and everything fits nicely in the included compression sack.

Unlike any other tent I have used before, the pole system for this shelter supports the fly alone. However, this is not the typical exo-skeleton type tent as the poles actually go in sleeves on the fly. From here (living up to the Convertible name), either the winter or summer interior can be "hung" from the fly. I can see the advantage to this system immediately as it allows for a lot of versatility. It also allows the tent to be pitched without exposing the interior which I hope will prove handy in the rain. It should also be noted that there are additional Convertible options available from the manufacturer which I was not supplied. These options make this shelter system ideal for an all season individual who like to tailor their shelter to the expected conditions.

Stakes and Misc.

Stakes and snow anchors

Initial Setup

I must confess -- for such a well made shelter, I was sorely disappointed in the included instructions. They are quite brief and list features which do not exist on this particular tent. Deciding to forge ahead on my own, I went out to my pasture to begin the initial setup. After about 10 minutes, I was becoming somewhat frustrated. The idea is that the shell has two pole sleeves running in an 'X' pattern. In these sleeves, the two straight poles are supposed to slide. However, I found that it is quite difficult to actually slide the poles through the sleeve owning to the fact that the top of the fly requires the pole to bend somewhat severely. It's not so bad getting the first pole in place, but trying to slide the second pole in was where my problem started. Once I realized that it was necessary to reach over and assist the pole in sliding over the first (already in place) pole, things went much smoother. It should be noted that the HD aluminum poles I was provided are indeed quite strong. This somewhat exacerbates the problem as they don't really like to bend up and over the fly. Once the two poles are secured, things progressed much easier.

Shell Pitched

Shell Pitched
Vestibule Pole Incorrect!

With the shell pitched and staked, it becomes elementary to line up the chosen interior and clip it in place using a series of small plastic clips on the underside of the pole sleeves. The interior also fastens to the four corners where the fly stakeout points are located. Overall, this part was very easy and was accomplished with little stress.

At this point, I had a functional shelter! However, I still had the extra vestibule pole. Things looked simple enough and I inserted it into the grommets on either side of the fly and clipped the fly to the now flexed pole. While I can see this keeping the vestibule away from the tent and offering a bit more room, I really didn't understand how this was at all supporting the tent or offering any real advantage. All of the pictures I have here are with the pole installed this way which I later found out was incorrect. Closer inspection revealed that there are two small holes under the vent at the top of the fly through which the vestibule pole can be threaded. Secured like this, there is a significant improvement in the rigidity of the fly and I can better appreciate the purpose of this feature. It should be noted that the vestibule pole is not mentioned in the instructions.

Stakes and Misc.

Shell with Winter Interior (Door Open)
Vestibule Pole Incorrect!

Winter Shell

The winter shell is available in both Granite Gray and Marigold Yellow. I specifically chose the gray option as I really don't want to draw undue attention to my camp site. I enjoy the solitude of nature and wish to keep a somewhat low profile so others can see the beauty around and not my tent. Sitting under the fly it becomes apparent that sufficient light still enters the tent. Around the edge of the shell are snow flaps which lay out on the ground. These can be buried for winter use to seal off the floor of the shelter from drafts and blowing snow. They can be secured up using plastic toggles and elastic loops for use during the summer months where ventilation is key. The dual vestibules offer a substantial amount of additional storage space -- especially with the additional vestibule pole. The top of the shell is somewhat unique. From inside, it becomes clear that the shell really has a rectangular hole at the top which is covered by an additional rectangular piece of nylon. This provides the opportunity for ventilation and there are two small poles which can be held in place using hook and loop fastener to keep these vents open which is a nice touch.

Interiors

The summer and winter interiors are functionally the same except that the summer interior is made from a light weight netting while the winter interior is made from a breathable nylon material. The floor of both is made from a silnylon material which is dark in color. The other difference is that the winter interior has vents at the top corresponding with the shell roof vents which open with a small zipper. Opening the zipper reveals bug netting.

The interior is quite cheery and there are numerous conveniences. There are mesh pockets in all four corners which I think will be great for small items (head lamp, wallet, etc...). There are also numerous loops sewn into the top seams. This should allow the occupant to hang lights or other items from the ceiling. Finally, the doors are quite tall making it very easy to enter and exit the shelter.

Summary

My initial likes and concerns can be found below:

Likes

  • Everything appears very well made
  • The doors are quite large making it very easy to get in and out of the shelter

Concerns

  • After my initial setup problems, I hope I am able to set this up quickly when necessary.
  • The small clips holding the interior to the shell worry me. I see no signs of them stressing or breaking, but I somehow feel they are the weak point of this setup.

This concludes my Initial Report. The Field Report will be appended to this report in approximately two months from the date of this report. Please check back then for further information.

Field Report - July 15, 2008

Field Conditions

Night time temperatures during the field test time frame ranged from a cool 35 F (2 C) to a hot and humid 80 F (27 C). This shelter was used a total of 11 nights -- 7 of them car camping, coupled with a pair of two night backpacking trips -- one in the Adirondack region of New York as well as one on the West Rim trail in Pennsylvania. Car camping took place in the Catskill region of New York as well as a weekend hiking / camping trip to Allegheny State Park. Rain was prevalent during the Adirondack backpack trip and there was plenty of humidity most nights.

Pitching the Convertible 2P

I've attempted to use as many possible configurations of this shelter as possible during the Field Testing time frame. Early in the test period, I used the winter interior but as conditions warmed, I switched over to the summer interior. Both fit very well inside the supplied shell. At no point during the testing did I experience any leakage. A ground cloth was never used.

As mentioned in the Initial Report, I was incorrectly pitching the shell with respect to the Vestibule Pole. In the photo below, it is possible to see how the pole should pass through two small holes in the pole sleeve. This is easily seen when detaching the top vent and flipping it over as I have done for this picture. This procedure makes it much simpler to pitch this pole correctly.

Correct Vestibule Pole

Correct Vestibule Pole Location

With regards to stakes, I have found that for me, the simplest configuration is to use four titanium hook stakes to secure the four corners of the tent and two aluminum tube stakes to secure the vestibules (one per side). For especially soft soil, I've found the included aluminum Y stakes work very well for the four corners and hold more securely than the titanium hook stakes. I have yet to have trouble finding an appropriate stake for the soil conditions I've experienced.

Having pitched the Convertible 2P numerous times, I have to say that the procedure gets easier and easier. It is actually quite simple unless the poles or the pole sleeves are at all wet. In this situation, the poles stick to the sleeve material making for a somewhat frustrating experience. While I don't see this as a major flaw of the system, I couldn't help but wish for pole clips instead of the sleeves. The pole clips on the Vestibule Pole gave me zero problems under the same conditions.

Living in the Convertible 2P

Living Space

The Convertible 2P is a spacious living space for two people. I have found that using the Vestibule pole maximizes the space for storage under the fly (and outside of the tent body itself) and allows for two adults to be very comfortable inside. I especially enjoy having the pockets at all four corners of the interior. Not only does it help keep the shelter organized, they provide a great place to dry out socks and such after hiking all day in the rain.

Mesh Pockets

Mesh Pockets

Having never had a shelter with two entrances, I do have to say that my wife and I truly enjoyed this feature. Neither of us tends to get up much during the night, so we rarely climb over one another on a single entrance shelter. However, being able to leave our packs and other gear in our own vestibule, and able to access these whenever we needed was really nice.

Condensation

One of my major concerns for any shelter is how well it handles condensation. I tend to be a very warm sleeper, and seem to have a bigger problem with condensation than most. Overall, the Convertible 2P provides acceptable ventilation if proper precautions are taken. The first essential item is to ensure the roof vents are open. If rain isn't expected, the entire roof vent will open allowing for a clear view up to the stars (through the interiors top mesh). Also, if possible, having the vestibules open helps a lot. During a serious rain storm, neither of these are options and I found that a somewhat high level of condensation formed. However, since the interior of the tent does not touch the fly (if pitched tightly) the condensation has yet to reach any of my gear. I've also found it very helpful to stow the snow skirt when not needed.

Pitched with all vents open

Vents Open and Snow Skirt Stowed

It should be noted that during the testing with the winter interior I noticed less condensation problems. I would have to attribute this to the cooler weather and lower humidity on the nights it was used. I did, however, open both ceiling vents of the winter interior during use.

Summary

Overall, I've really enjoyed the Convertible 2P. It's kept the rain away, withstood moderate winds and provided a spacious shelter for two people.

My initial likes and concerns can be found below:

Likes

  • Large double entrances!
  • Withstands the weather very well

Concerns

  • Ventilation is somewhat lacking
  • I'm still a bit worried about the small clips holding the interior to the shell worry me even though I have experienced no problems thus far.

This concludes my Field Report. The Long Term Report will be appended to this report in approximately two months from the date of this report. Please check back then for further information.

Long Term Report - September 15, 2008

Field Conditions

Night time temperatures during the long term reporting phase ranged from 45 F (7 C) to a hot and humid 75 F (24 C). This shelter was used a total of 4 additional nights -- 2 of them car camping, coupled with a pair of overnight backpacking trips -- both in the Adirondack region of New York. Car camping took place in the Catskill region of New York. Humidity was very high for the car camping trip and on one of the hiking trips.

Pitching the Convertible 2P

Throughout the long term testing phase, I normally used only the summer interior and the full three pole setup (two crossing poles plus the vestibule pole). I found that this configuration maximized interior space (third pole) while not making the whole shelter too heavy for backpacking. This worked very well for me and the shelter was quite weather proof.

During the last backpacking trip, cold nights were expected so I decided to take the winter interior instead of the summer version. This proved to be a bad decision on my part. While the temperatures fell to around 45 F (7 C), I was still very warm. Also, the humidity was higher than I would have expected which led to some minor condensation problems. The winter interior is much less breathable than the almost all mesh summer interior and therefore, ventilation was much less than I would have liked. Between the humid night and the condensation in my breath, I had drips running down the interior walls in the morning. Overall, not the most comfortable night, but not the shelter's fault as I have used the summer interior in similar conditions with much less of a problem. I simply picked the wrong configuration for the conditions.

Living in the Convertible 2P

Living Space

My hiking companion slept in a hammock for all outings during the Long Term Phase so I had the spacious Convertible 2P to myself. This shelter is plenty large for not only myself and my gear, but my wife's gear as well. I truly enjoy having the luxury of a two person shelter for only myself!

I also have found that the accessibility of the dual vestibules and doors is something which I'm becoming spoiled by. I can store a lot of gear in the vestibules even if it's rainy and muddy outside. Compared to some of the single occupant shelters I've used, this seems downright huge!

Condensation

I almost always have condensation problems with double-walled shelters. This one is no exception, but to a minor degree. I have been very pleased since even on the warmest nights with high humidity, the condensation has remained manageable. Only when I chose the wrong interior for the conditions did I experience any sort of heavy condensation. I continue to take care to ensure the roof vents are situated to allow a breeze and this seems to make a huge difference.

Summary

Overall, this is a great shelter for two, and a luxury shelter for one. There are no major issues with the shelter and it performs admirably in all conditions thus far.

My final opinions can be found below:

Likes

  • Easy to use, large, double entrances
  • Remained dry and comfortable in a variety of conditions

Concerns

  • Ventilation is somewhat lacking (though I've found ways to mitigate this concern)
  • The small clips holding the interior to the shell seem undersized but have continued to perform as designed. I still wish they were slightly more rugged if nothing more than for piece of mind.

This concludes my Long Term Report. I wish to thank Big Sky and BackpackGearTest for the opportunity to test this shelter!



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