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Reviews > Shelters > Tents > Big Sky International Mirage 1P 2D Tent > Test Report by Carol Crooker

BIG SKY MIRAGE 1P 2D SHELTER
TEST SERIES BY CAROL CROOKER
LONG-TERM REPORT

INITIAL REPORT - June 28, 2009
FIELD REPORT - September 01, 2009
LONG TERM REPORT - November 13, 2009

TESTER INFORMATION

NAME: Carol Crooker
EMAIL: cmcrooker AT gmail DOT com
AGE: 50
LOCATION: Phoenix, AZ
GENDER: F
HEIGHT: 5' 10" (1.78 m)
WEIGHT: 165 lb (74.80 kg)

For the past 10 years, I've backpacked about 30 days each year, usually in Arizona and the western mountains on trips that last 3 to 6 days. Weather has varied from 107 F to a low of 0 F (42 to -18 C). My three-season base pack weight varies from about 8 to 12 pounds (4 - 5 kg) and my winter base pack weight is about 18 pounds (8 kg). I normally use a tarp for shelter. I also packraft (backpacking that includes travel by raft) and apply the same lightweight principles I use backpacking.


INITIAL REPORT

PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS

Manufacturer: Big Sky International
Year of Manufacture: 2009
Manufacturer's Website: http://www.bigskyinternational.com
MSRP: US$416.33 with options listed

IMAGE 1
Big Sky Mirage 1P 2D manufacturer photo.



ComponentListed Weight oz (g)Measured Weight oz (g)MSRP
Mirage 1P 1D with SuprSil ™-UL fabric and DuraLite ™ composite poles*26.7 (755)NAnot listed
Mirage 1P 1D with lightweight fabric, aluminum polesnot listedNA$224.95
Two door (2D) version add 2.6 (72)NA$15.00
Ultra light weight SuprSil ™-UL fabric, color granite gray2 oz (60 g) lighter than standard fabric**NA$34.95
DuraLite ™ composite polesnot listed, 4.6 oz (131 g) lighter than aluminum poles-$99.95
Mirage 1P 2D with SuprSil ™-UL fabric and DuraLite ™ composite poles29.3 (827)***30.2 (856)$374.85
Silnylon tubular compression bag1.3 oz (36 g)1.5 (43)$9.98 with tent
AL Ultra-C stakes, four 10 cm (3.9 in), two 15 cm (5.9 in)1.6 (44)1.5 (43)$7.43
AL Y-not stakes with reflective spectra guylines, four2.6 (75)2.3 (65)$17.09
Stake stuff sacknot listed0.2 (6)included with stakes
ShelterSaver ground sheet2.5 (72)3.1 (88)$16.96 with tent
Pole splicenot listed0.3 (9)free with DuraLite poles
Mirage 1P 2D with SuprSil ™-UL fabric and DuraLite ™ composite poles and listed accessories37.8 calculated39.1 (1100)$426.31

* This is the lightest option.
** The listing is confusing, it says subtract 2 oz, but it appears the starting weight is that of the lightest option which already includes the SuprSil™ fabric.
*** This is the configuration of the test tent. Weight not listed, calculated by adding the weight listed for the second door to the lightest configuration listed on website.

INITIAL IMPRESSIONS

IMAGE 4
Ground sheet reinforcement.
The Mirage arrived from the manufacturer in a small and very light box. The shelter was enclosed in a silnylon sack with three straps that can be cinched down to reduce the diameter. I most often use a tarp for shelter, so the packed Mirage looked large to me. The packed length is determined by the length of a pole section, which is 18 in (45.7 cm). With the lightweight packs I use, this means the Mirage will need to be packed vertically inside my pack.

A large zipper bag contained the ShelterSaver ground sheet. The ground sheet is white Tyvek with reinforced edges that have a bungee and mitten clip at each corner for attaching the ground sheet to the shelter. A large blue Big Sky logo dominates the face of the ground sheet.

A sturdy seeming blue bag contained the guy line kit, stakes and pole splice. There were four short and two longer "C" shaped stakes to stake down the four corners of the Mirage and the two vestibules. The stakes have a generously sized bent over flap at the top so they can be pushed into the ground. The pole splice is a metal tube intended to keep a pole that fails functioning.

IMAGE 5
Mirage, ground sheet and stakes.
The four guy lines are yellow and reflect light. Four "X" shaped Y-not stakes presumably have more holding power than the C stakes and mate with the guy lines. Each of the Y-not stakes has a small cord loop to assist with removal.

All of the stakes are a pleasing shiny yellow-green color.

After inspecting and weighing the accessories, I jumped in my car and drove to a trail head three hours away and set up the Mirage.

After reading the page of instructions, the tent went up easily. It would have gone even quicker if I had realized the corner guy lines are color coded - the rear two on the shelter and the ShelterSaver are red. I laid out the ShelterSaver with the tent on top. I chose to stake the four corners since it was slightly breezy. The short Ultra-C stakes are quite short - 3.9 in (10 cm). They pushed into the somewhat sandy ground easily except at one corner where there was a large rock beneath the surface. I ended up leaving that corner unstaked.

IMAGE 7
Grommet for pole tip, and stake out loop.
The two shock-corded poles went together easily. The poles are quite long, but I was in an open area and no nearby vegetation interfered. Big Sky has added a thoughtful bungee loop to the end of one pole that can be used to hold the folded poles in one bundle. I put the end of one pole into a grommet then bent the pole and placed the other end in the grommet that was kitty-corner to the first. Then I held up that pole while placing the second pole. This was a little trickier - holding up the first pole and getting the end of the second pole into a grommet. I will have to see if the first pole can be left on the ground while inserting the second pole. I treated the poles with great care given there were three warnings in the manual to treat them gently.

IMAGE 8
Pole clip.
Once both poles were inserted, I located the small clip on the top of the tent and towards the rear, and fastened it around the poles. It was quite easy to then slip the pole clips onto the poles. They are larger than the pole diameter and go over the poles easily.

Lastly, I used the longer Ultra-C stakes to stake out the two vestibules. One of the poles was in a slight "S" shape so I unstaked the corners and shifted the tent so the poles fell into their natural curves. I noticed that both ends of the tent were off the ground and this did not change when I shifted the tent to adjust the poles. I hooked each corner of the ground sheet to whatever part did not overstretch the bungees - either to the stake or to the pullout from the tent.

The Mirage is quite tall in the center. I sat inside and had plenty of space over my head and I'm tall, with a torso length of 19 in (48 cm). The peak measures 45 in (114 cm) high although it is listed as 41 in (104 cm). The tent is narrower than I expected from the online photo. The listed dimensions of the floor are accurate - 36 inches tapering to 24 inches (91 - 61 cm). I did not realize how quickly the taper happens. I'd had visions of my dog or four year old niece being able to fit next to my 20-inch (51 cm) wide sleeping pad. There is definitely only room for me. Lying on my pad, there is room for my arms alongside, but that's about it. It does not feel crowded; there is just not room for a dog or kid. When I got home I put a full length 25 in (63.5 cm) wide pad into the Mirage to see if the tent is big enough for someone who uses a wide pad - it is.
There are two mesh vents on each side at the top of the Mirage. Each vent has an awning to keep out rain. The awning can be held open by means of a silnylon covered rod that is sewn to the tent body on one end and has a flap of loop fabric at the other end that attaches to a patch of hook fabric on the awning.

There are toggles and loops to fasten back both sides of the two vestibules and the netting doors. The loops are stiff enough so that I can easily find and grab them, and the toggles go in with ease.

I needed to be a little careful not the catch the zipper flap when unzipping the vestibules from outside the tent. Two small rectangles of hook and loop help hold the zipper flap over the zipper. They must be undone when unzipping a vestibule. I had no difficulty zipping a vestibule closed from inside the tent.

The two-way zippers on the mesh doors run very smoothly.

There are small loops along both interior side seams of the tent and one loop in the center at the apex. They look like they could be used for a drying line or to hang a small light or gear loft.

READING THE INSTRUCTIONS

The two pages of instructions come with a small swatch of silnylon attached with this rejoinder, "...after burning a fabric swatch you need to decide to either accept the risk of using the product with this fabric or return the unused product for a full refund."

I lit the fabric on fire to test it out. It caught fire very easily and then continued to burn well enough that I thought it would make good tinder in an emergency. I've used silnylon shelters a lot, and did not feel the need to send back the tent. But I'll careful not to catch the Mirage on fire!

The instructions are short and clear. One addition that would be nice is a mention that the foot end guy lines on the shelter and ground sheet are red, while the head end guy lines are black.

The instructions also showed the priority of attaching guy lines: vestibules first, corners second, and extra guy lines at the midpoints third. When trying the shelter out, I did not find loops to attach the guy lines to because I was in a hurry and the placement points shown in the instruction diagram look higher than they actually are.

There were three notes about treating the composite poles with care, including that the poles could fail if turning the shelter upside down to shake out debris, making sure the pole joints are fully seated, and taking the poles apart from the center first to create a more uniform tension on the shock cord.

FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

IMAGE 2
Warm weather mode.
June 22-24, Chevelon Creek on the Mogollon Rim in the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest
Elevation 6100 ft (1860 m)
Weather hot and often overcast with a few hours of sprinkles and light rain, temperatures from 90 - 53 F (32 - 12 C).
This was a short backpack trip along Chevelon Creek following a trail or bushwhacking where there was none.

TRYING IT OUT

I left for a backpacking trip an hour after the Mirage was delivered. I arrived at the trail head late so I spent the first night there and the second on the trail.

After I set up the Mirage and had a late dinner it was time for bed. I lay down on my pad to see how I fit. I'm 5'10" (178 cm) tall. There was a little clearance between me and the tent at both ends. There was room above my 3/4 length pad for a pillow and my shoes to help boost the height of the pillow. I also stored my camera, raincoat and book there.

IMAGE 3
Space at head end for storage.
I was delighted to find four flat mesh pockets, two at each end. I clipped a small light and hung my glasses over a pocket near my head. Big Sky says that two of the pockets can be used as clothes hampers, but I put my wet clothing in the vestibule since the nights were warm and I didn't want to block air flow through the mesh.

Even though each end of the tent floor was off the ground, spending the night inside did not appear to cause any undue strain on the tent. Neither did spending a large part of the night up against one wall since I had pitched the tent on a slight slope.

It was easy to get in and out of the large, D-shaped zippered netting doors. I could stand outside and bend and sit so my butt landed inside the tent. The bathtub floor comes up fairly high, but it was no problem to swing my legs inside.

The sides of the tent are mesh above the high bathtub floor.

In the morning I collapsed the tent as per the directions (by reversing the setup instructions), folded in the sides, then rolled up the tent and ground sheet around the poles and stakes. The included stuff sack is big enough to slide the bundled tent inside without much difficulty, although the straps did have a tendency to slide off the end of the sack and needed to be put back in place. I originally questioned the necessity of these compression straps, but it was handy to be able to tighten up the package before packing it into my backpack.

The ground cloth did not attract a lot of dirt and dust as I'd feared.

My planned hike was a short one as I intended to lounge next to a pool of water during the heat of the day and do a little swimming and crayfish hunting. I set up the Mirage when I arrived but did not stake it. It again went up easily and it also blew over easily in a gust of wind later on that day. I'll make a habit of staking it in the future. After hitting one of the long Ultra-C stakes once to drive it into the ground, I noticed a crack at the top bend. I had not noticed it before so it may have been caused when I hit it with a rock. The large top tabs on the Ultra-C stakes made them easier to push in by hand than V stakes and shepherd's crook stakes I've used. The shorter Ultra-C stakes did not provide a lot of holding power in the loose sandy soil the tent was on.

Since the Mirage is free standing, it was easy to pick it up after unstaking it and move it to a better location later on in the day.

A light sprinkle gave me a chance to lounge inside the Mirage. It was quite hot, so I wanted to keep the tent as open as possible. I unzipped both netting doors, rolled them back, and fastened each door in place with the provided toggle and loop. I kept one side of each vestibule staked out and kept the other side partially zipped so that a small roof was formed, then fastened it back with the toggle and loop.

The Mirage is much wider at the bottom than at the top, so the vestibules will need to be mostly closed to keep water out in a heavier rain. I found myself wishing I could use a pole to prop up the corner of one side of the vestibule to form an awning high enough to sit under that would keep out rain but allow a lot of air flow. I've done this with floorless shelters, but it would not be possible with the Mirage without some clever engineering.

Lounging, I noticed a few snags in the netting. The snags do not affect the function of the netting.

IMAGE 6
Micro-tensioner on guy line.
The wind picked up the second afternoon as a storm blew in giving me the perfect chance to try out the optional guy lines and Y-not stakes. The guy lines are unknotted on one end with micro-tensioners on the other end. Looking at the instructions (and since there were no tie out loops I could find), I decided the guy lines should be attached to the pole clips and did so. The micro-tensioners work like a tautline hitch to allow guy lines to be tightened without retying - very handy. The tent stayed steady with some gusts up to about 20 mph (8.9 mps).

Later, upon a less hurried inspection, I saw that there are four loops next to the toggles for the guy lines. (Big Sky quickly confirmed this when I e-mailed.) The loops are lower on the tent than I expected (or looked).

Big Sky recommends running the guy lines at a 45 degree angle to the shelter. The guy lines conveniently do not block the doorways.

Since it was quite warm and without biting insects, I slept with all doors tied back. I had a fantastic view of the star studded night sky from my sleeping bag.

There was room under the vestibules for my pack, wet shoes, and wet clothes - in other words for anything I would want to be under cover.

SUMMARY

The Mirage is a very well put together shelter. It is well designed and is built with high quality materials.

What I like so far:
- Wide open views with the vestibules tied back.
- Plenty of overhead clearance.
- Goes up quickly.
- Free standing.
- Lots of ventilation with the vestibules tied back.
- Well engineered touches such as:
a bungee loop on the poles to secure them,
tie back toggles that fit easily into the loops,
smooth running zipper on the mesh doors,
color coding to match ground sheet to shelter,
four mesh pockets
- Room under the vestibules for everything I'd like to keep covered.
- Easy to get in and out of.

What I don't like so far:
- It would be nice if the instructions mentioned the color coded tie outs on the tent and ground sheet.
- Design is not well suited for very warm, rainy weather (of course it doesn't claim to be either) with narrow top and wide bottom.
- Guy out points not quite to scale on instruction sheet.

Check back in two months for reports on further field testing.


FIELD REPORT

FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

August 17-19, over Wheeler Peak from West Fork (Red River) trailhead to Bull-of-the-Woods trailhead in the Carson National Forest just north of Taos, New Mexico.
Elevation 9600 - 13,161 ft (2900 - 4011 m)
Weather mostly clear with temperatures from 80 - 41 F (27 - 5 C); breezy to windy the final half of the trip.
The trail was forested dirt trail at beginning and end, with rocky trail above tree line on both sides of Wheeler Peak - the highest point in New Mexico.

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

IMAGE 1
End view with storm guy lines set in Carson National Forest.


I took the Mirage for a trip that included bagging Wheeler Peak, the highest peak in New Mexico, in August. I camped above Lost Lake the first night and next to a small stream the second. I found a large flat area the first night at an established site, cleared away pine cones and set up the tent. The second night, it was harder to find a spot to squeeze in the tent. I set it up on the only available flat area, then realized that sharp tips of rocks protruded just above the ground surface and might damage the tent floor even through the Tyvek ground cloth. It was a chore to unstake the tent, but it was then easy to move it fully erected with the ground sheet still attached. The advantage of a tarp is much less fussiness about the surface it is set up on. On the other hand, I realized a major advantage of a tent that second night. The wind blew and gusted almost all night but I slept peacefully knowing the tent wouldn't blow away with my body weight holding down the floor (I once spent several midnight hours in high winds holding one edge of a tarp over me after a stake was ripped out, trying to stay dry and hoping the torrential downpour would abate so I could move.)

I was forced to pitch the Mirage in an area with a slight tilt on the second night after realizing the only truly flat spot had sharp rocks protruding just above the surface. That night, my air mattress easily slid on the slick tent floor so I spent much of the night up against the side wall of the tent. A morning inspection showed no apparent damage to the tent.

The Mirage blew over the first time I set it up and again on this trip. I have now learned to immediately stake the four corners of the Mirage once it is up since it blows over so easily. Something else I've learned is that I don't need to hold onto the first tent pole after I've inserted it in both grommets in order to insert the second. I can lay the first pole on the ground to leave both hands free to work on inserting the second tent pole.

The guy lines and extra stakes create a stable shelter that held up well under frequent winds of about 20 mph (32 kph) with gusts up to about 40 mph (64 kph).

The short C stakes held better in the dirt of the forest floor than in the sandy soil of my last trip.

The Mirage is well engineered. Zippers remain in alignment (and zip closed easily) even if the shelter is erected and staked out with the doors open.

I found I could unhook a tied back vestibule, zip it up, and even stake it out from inside the tent. Another nice detail: the netting door ties back under the half of the vestibule that has a loop for a stake. This gives a nice, clean look to the tent when one side of the vestibule is pitched and the other is rolled back, since the netting door can be tucked away under the staked vestibule.

SUMMARY

The Mirage is well engineered with many thoughtful features. It shows no signs of wear at this point. My likes and dislikes remain as listed previously.

Check back in two months for the long term report.


LONG-TERM REPORT

LONG-TERM TEST LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

IMAGE 1
The Mirage at Hermit Rapids in the Grand Canyon.
September 18-20, Yellowstone River, Montana north of Yellowstone Park from Gardiner to Emigrant
Elevation 5260 - 4880 ft (1600 - 1480 m)
Weather hot and sunny with strong breezes in the afternoon. Temperatures from the mid 80's to 40 F (29 - 4 C) with rain on the second night.
This was a packraft trip with camping next to the river.

October 16-19, Grand Canyon, Hermit Trail to Hermit Creek, then Hermit Rapids, then Monument Creek , then out Hermit Trail
Elevation 6640 - 2300 ft (2020 - 700 m)
Weather warm (90 - 61 F, 32 - 16 C) and clear with some stiff breezes during the climb out of the Canyon.
This was a four-day backpack trip on rocky trails that were sometimes steep and sometimes slick with water. Two camp sites were on hard packed dirt in developed sites, and one was on a sandy bench near the Colorado River.

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

The Mirage performed well on a windy night on the Yellowstone River. I set the tent up in sand and staked out the four corners, the two vestibules, and used the Y-not stakes to guy out the sides for stability. The longer stakes (the Y-not and longer Ultra-C stakes) took better hold in the sand than the four short Ultra-C stakes. I put rocks on top of all 10 stakes and the tent held fine under light wind. We moved camp in the middle of the night due to a nearby homeowner's complaints and I set up the tent on dirt at a new site. I didn't bother to put rocks on the stakes but they held fine when a rain storm blew through.

The tent vestibules sagged at both sites (as is normal for silnylon). It was easy to tighten up the pitch with a quick slide of the four line tensioners on the guy lines.

Although it had stopped raining, some water from the vestibule dripped inside the tent when I exited it since the top of the Mirage is narrower than the bottom.

The first night of the Yellowstone trip the weather was benign and the tent was not under any stress. It was nice to roll back one side of the vestibules on both sides and see the stars while also allowing any cooling breezes to blow through.

I truly appreciated the privacy the Mirage offered. I could climb in, zip the vestibules, and then had room to get out of my wet clothing and into dry clothing out of sight of my ten male companions.

I didn't encounter a storm long enough to tempt me, but even if I had, I would not cook in the Mirage vestibule. There is plenty of space for gear but not enough space that I would be comfortable lighting up any kind of stove.

The storm guy lines are very handy even on still nights in two conditions I encountered in the Grand Canyon: a rocky shelf impervious to tent stakes and deep sand. In both cases I wanted to anchor the Mirage in case a storm blew in. I couldn't use stakes on the rock slab and the provided Big Sky stakes just don't have enough surface area for loose sand--nor would I expect them to. Instead, I put big rocks in loops in the guy lines and created an anchoring system I was confident in.

Camped at a developed site at Hermit Creek in the Grand Canyon, I needed to walk for a bit to use the official out house in the middle of the night. The reflective guy lines made it easy to locate the Mirage on my way back.

Once again, I experienced the convenience of a free-standing shelter. I arrived at my first camp site in the Grand Canyon, Hermit Creek, at noon. I set up the tent on a rock shelf in the only shade in the camp. I was able to easily shift the tent later for an afternoon siesta after the shade receded.

It is probably not a testament to the construction of the Mirage, but I was certainly happy to see that it hadn't been damaged when it was hauled out of my pack by a pair of ravens at Hermit Rapids.

I noticed a crack at the bend in a long Ultra-C stake during my first trip with the Mirage. I have used that stake just as I would any stake, including pounding it in with a rock on occasion. The crack has opened enough that the stake appears to be in danger of breaking.

Each tent pole is quite long. I had to do some maneuvering to find enough space to put the poles together in my tent site at Monument Creek which was surrounded by juniper trees and bushes.

The Tyvek ground cloth helps keep sand from clinging to the tent since it does not attract sand like the silnylon does.

SUMMARY

Big Sky has done a great job on the Mirage. The engineering and materials are superb. I have re-listed my likes and dislikes below from the Initial Report for clarity with the additional "dislike" that a large clear space is needed to assemble the long tent poles.

What I like so far:
- Wide open views with the vestibules tied back.
- Plenty of overhead clearance.
- Goes up quickly.
- Free standing.
- Lots of ventilation with the vestibules tied back.
- Well engineered touches such as:
a bungee loop on the poles to secure them,
tie back toggles that fit easily into the loops,
smooth running zipper on the mesh doors,
color coding to match ground sheet to shelter,
four mesh pockets (LOVE the pockets for organizing little stuff!)
- Room under the vestibules for everything I'd like to keep covered.
- Easy to get in and out of.

What I don't like so far:
- It would be nice if the instructions mentioned the color coded tie outs on the tent and ground sheet.
- Design is not well suited for very warm, rainy weather (of course it doesn't claim to be either) with narrow top and wide bottom.
- Guy out points not quite to scale on instruction sheet.
- Need large clear space to assemble long tent poles.


CONTINUED USE

I originally wanted to test the Mirage because I thought it would be nice on packrafting trips. It is quite a bit heavier than shelters I normally carry but that is much less an issue on packrafting trips that are mostly rafting. I thought a free standing shelter would be easier to set up on the often deep sand tent sites along rivers, hoped it would have enough room to allow management of an extra set of wet clothing, and figured it would offer privacy for changing on group trips. The Mirage does all that very well and I will definitely be using it on future packrafting trips.

I prefer to keep my total starting pack weight (including food and water) at 20 lbs (9.1 kg) or less. In fact, I tend to add "luxuries" on shorter trips until my pack weight reaches 20 lbs. I started down into the Grand Canyon on my four-day trip with 19 lbs (8.6 kg), including the Mirage, on my back. That means the Mirage will be a viable option for me on four-day or shorter trips in mild weather and even two or three-day trips after it drops below freezing.

This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1.5 Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.

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