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Reviews > Shelters > Tents > Big Sky International Mirage 1P 2D Tent > Test Report by Michael Wheiler
BIG SKY MIRAGE 1P TENT
By Michael Wheiler
SKIP TO THE INITIAL REPORT: July 6, 2009
SKIP TO THE FIELD REPORT: September 15, 2009
SKIP TO THE LONG TERM REPORT: November 17, 2009
INITIAL REPORTManufacturer's Description:
July 6, 2009
Full View With Vestibule Shut
Foot End View of Mirage
Head End View of Mirage
Product Specifications For the Mirage Per Big Sky International Unless Otherwise Noted:
The Mirage is a "hybrid design recommended for low humidity areas such as USA's southwest and Rocky Mountain areas and not recommended for high humidity areas." Big Sky also claims that the Mirage is the "Lightest weight full size, free standing shelter...perfect for the lightweight backpacker." The Mirage 1P has two vestibules, both have zippers on the two door version but on the one door version only one vestibule has a zipper. The Mirage is a freestanding, three season tent with a hybrid design because it has a double wall on the vestibule sides of the tent and a single wall on the main body of the tent. The interior is connected to the outer shell so it can be "quickly set up or taken down in one piece like a single wall tent." Big Sky claims an "extremely quick set up and take down, only a minute or so from bag to set up, including installing stakes/pegs." External pole clips assist with the "easy setup." The Mirage has "lots of no-see-um mesh for bug protection and ventilation." According to Big Sky, the doors on the Mirage "are located a little toward the head end" of the tent so as to be "ergonomically located to minimize excess movement getting in/out" and the doors are "ergonomically sized" in that they are "wider at the bottom to allow legs swinging in/out of the shelter, with high entrance height for headroom clearance." Big Sky claims that their shelters have the "best ergonomic design of any in the industry." Big Sky also asserts that the Mirage is "ready to go out of the box; it is seam sealed where necessary at the factory before shipping."
Examination and Set Up:
The Mirage arrived in perfect condition. The tent and poles were contained in a gray colored compression stuff sack with a draw cord closure. Big Sky graciously upgraded our Mirage 1P by adding (1) the ultra light weight SuperSil-UL fabric, (2) the ultra light weight DuraLite composite poles, (3) four 4 in/10 cm aluminum Ultra-C stakes, (4) two 6 in/15 cm aluminum Ultra-C stakes, (5) four spectra/nylon guy lines with four 5.5 in/14 cm aluminum "Y-not" stakes, and (6) a 1P ShelterSaver ground cloth. The stakes, guy lines and ground cloth were in separate packaging inside the shipping box. I was able to easily add these items inside the compression stuff sack. Also included was a two page information sheet regarding the material and setup of the Mirage. The information sheet contained a warning regarding the flammability of the silnylon fabric used in the tent. Big Sky provided a fabric swatch to use for a test burn as an example of why the tent should not be used near an open flame and suggested that if the user did not want to accept the risk of using the silnylon fabric, he or she should return the tent for a full refund. Since Big Sky suggested it and I really kind of enjoy destructive testing, I happily applied an open flame to the fabric swatch. There was no hesitation in the fabric catching fire or melting depending on how close I got the flame. Clearly the tent material is highly susceptible to extreme damage by an open flame.
Tent And Accessories In Stuff Sack.
Big Sky provided the following set up instructions with a diagram:
The Loop Buckle Where the Poles Cross
An Open Vent on the Mirage
With more dark clouds on the horizon, I added the guy lines and secured the shelter for the night. After I got inside the Mirage, I immediately noticed that some rain got inside the tent during the initial setup attempt. I tried to wipe out the moisture as best I could with a towel. The second storm hit shortly thereafter and despite the wind, the Mirage appeared to be relatively unaffected. According to Big Sky, although the Mirage is a freestanding tent, using the four guy lines creates a "more storm worthy structure." I have to admit, with the guy lines, the Mirage was able to easily handle a couple of pretty serious thunderstorms. I left it up the next day to dry but a late afternoon thunderstorm tested the Mirage's stability again. For a tent designed for areas with low humidity, the Mirage was getting moisture/wind tested early and often! The high winds came in short bursts but the Mirage seemed to handle them well. I left the tent up until the next day to dry and then took it down. Take down and storage were quick and easy.
Tent With Vestibule Door Rolled Back And Secured With Toggle.
To date, although the tent shipped a bit later than originally planned, Big Sky has been prompt in responding to emails and inquiries and I have been pleased with their customer service.
The Mirage has a number of excellent features. Foremost on the list is the fact that it is a very light shelter and it compresses very well making it relatively easy to store in my pack. The Mirage appears to be very well constructed and once pitched it was solid and stable even during a second thunderstorm with lots of rain. I like the available interior space and the minimal weight of this shelter. I also like the quick and easy setup and take down. I like the pockets, the interior headroom and the dual vestibules for gear storage. I like the door arrangement. The doors seem to be a bit easier to enter, though I'm reserving judgment on the ergonomic doors until my Field Report. Given all the warnings about how easy it is to damage the shelter's fabric, I am a bit concerned about tearing the shelter during use in the field.
September 15, 2009
TEST LOCATIONS AND FIELD CONDITIONS:
Summary: For those who like to skip to the end of the book, here is the short version of my Field Report. I'm very impressed with this light weight, very packable tent. I love the ergonomic design and all the storage space. Despite all the use, there are no signs of wear or tear to date. It pitches tight as a drum. Big Sky states that the Mirage should not be used in areas with high humidity. In my experience, after three nights of fairly steady rain with increased humidity, there was a significant build-up of moisture inside the Mirage despite open vents and pitching the tent so as to take advantage of the prevailing wind. Additionally, due to its light weight, it is also a bit difficult to pitch in a strong wind.
During the field testing period, I used the Mirage on four separate outings for a total of seven (7) nights.
The Mirage near Long Lake.
The first two nights were spent on July 30 and 31, 2009 at Long Lake near Copper Basin in the Lost River Mountain Range in Idaho (elevation 9,590 ft/2,923 m). It is about a 7 mile/11 kilometer hike from the trailhead to Long Lake. The first night, I set the Mirage up in a torrential downpour and brisk wind. The overnight low temperature was about 42 F/6 C. The second night was peaceful and quiet with no rain or wind. The temperatures overnight were very mild and I slept very well after hiking to Golden Lake and back (approximately 6 miles/10 km round trip).
I used a Therm-A-Rest ProLite 4 pad and a regular size Marmot Wisp. I stored my backpack on a garbage bag under one of the vestibules. I placed my boots and Teva sandals under the other vestibule. The four interior pockets provided more than ample storage space for smaller items like my flash light, bear spray, glasses, compass and maps. The Mirage provided complete coverage from the rain for all my gear. Although narrower than most of my other solo tents, the Mirage's ergonomic design gave me plenty of room to roll, curl up, and stretch out. I did have to be careful when sitting-up not to drag my head across the roof of the tent--especially when it was wet. I also noticed that the wind circulated underneath the vestibule and through the mesh interior of the Mirage with little effort. This helped keep the tent cool and reduced condensation. However, during cooler temperatures, I do not believe this feature would provide me with much protection from cold wind.
I next used the Mirage for three nights on August 5-8, 2009 during a backpack trip from Beckler Ranger Station in Yellowstone National Park to Fish Lake (elevation 6,488 ft/1,978 m) where we set up a base camp just outside the Park boundaries and then hiked into Union Falls. Wednesday night after setting up the tent, a thunderstorm rolled in just to give the Mirage a good shower. The low temperature Wednesday night was 38 F/3 C. Another thunderstorm paid us a visit just before we reached our planned base camp and I had the opportunity of pitching the Mirage in the wind and rain again. The overnight low on Thursday was 36 F/2 C. I also noted a significant amount of condensation build-up on the inside of the Mirage the next morning. As if on cue, while we were hiking back to base camp from Union Falls, another thunderstorm hit and it rained a good portion of the night. Fortunately, the Mirage was already up and provided me with a place to dry off. The low temperature Friday night was near freezing. Saturday morning, we could see snow at the higher elevations.
All three nights, I used a Therm-A-Rest ProLite 4 pad and a Sierra Designs Arrow Rock regular size sleeping bag. I kept my extra clothes inside the tent. I used the pockets inside the tent to hold my flashlight, bear spray, glasses, etc. Since we were in bear country, all my food and personal hygiene items were stored in a secure location away from the tent. My pack was placed on a garbage bag under one of the vestibules. My boots were under the other vestibule. The Mirage provided ample coverage for all of my equipment. However, late on the third night of rain, the moisture really started to build-up inside the Mirage. It was dripping in some places and the tent material was simply wet in other places. I must add that most of my gear, sleeping bag included, did not get really wet. There were some damp spots on my sleeping bag but nothing I couldn't live with.
The Mirage was next used on August 14-15, 2009 while camping at the Teton Canyon Campground (elevation 6,500 ft/1,981 m) near Alpine, Wyoming for one night. The weather that evening was perfect. I did not record the overnight temperature. On this occasion, I used a regular open foam pad and a regular sized REI Andora sleeping bag inside the tent. The open foam pad was practically wall to wall on the floor of the Mirage but otherwise was not a problem. There was no condensation build-up inside the tent the next morning.
The Mirage at the Caves near the base of Disappointment Peak.
I last used the Mirage on September 17-18, 2009 when I climbed the Grand Teton in Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming. We set-up our base camp Thursday evening at the Caves camp site (elevation 9,600 ft/2,926 m). This camp site sits near the base of Disappointment Peak. The battery in my weather station died during the night but the overnight temperature was surprisingly warm. I kept my sleeping bag rated at 30 F/-1 C unzipped most of the night and slept comfortably. There was a slight breeze blowing from the south and I found no condensation inside the Mirage when I awoke at 4 a.m. I was a bit concerned about pitching the Mirage on the hard, rocky tent platform I found at the Caves but I had little choice. The ground was covered with small, sharp pieces of granite and the ground was so hard and filled with rock that I couldn't even start a tent peg. I improvised by using rocks to hold the guy lines. I tied the vestibule door loop on each side to stakes, placed the stakes flat on the ground and then anchored the stakes with rocks. This worked fine and I was very happy with the stability of the Mirage. Despite my desire to trim as much weight as possible for this 5 1/2 mile/9 km one-way trip to the Caves, I was really glad I had the ground cloth to protect the floor of the tent.
As in the past, I used a Therm-A-Rest ProLite 4 pad and a Sierra Designs Arrow Rock regular size sleeping bag. I kept my extra clothes inside the tent. Again, I used the pockets inside the tent to hold my flashlight, bear spray, glasses, etc. Since we were in bear/marmot country, all my food and personal hygiene items were stored in a secure location away from the tent. My pack was placed on a garbage bag under one of the vestibules. My boots were under the other vestibule. As before, the Mirage provided ample coverage for all of my equipment. I slept very well until 3 a.m. when I woke up briefly to check my watch and then promptly went back to sleep.
To date, I have had no significant problems with the Mirage. I have been pleasantly surprised by its durability, its ergonomic design, and its coverage capacity. I have had some difficulty with the vestibule door zippers catching on tent material but that is mostly due to my not being careful. I have discovered no signs of wear or tear. Only after three nights of rain did I notice a significant amount of moisture inside the tent which was likely due to a build-up of condensation. However, Big Sky warns that this tent is not designed for use in areas with lots of humidity. In comparing the Mirage to my other two solo tents, it is much lighter and much more compact. It is easy to pitch, except in high winds. It has a tight pitch and provided ample coverage for all my gear on each of my trips to date.
LONG TERM REPORT
November 17, 2009
Recently, I was contacted by Big Sky International regarding my Field Report on the Mirage 1P and I was politely advised that Big Sky disagreed with a comment I made in that report. Based upon those communications, my rereading of the company web page, and rereading my Field Report, I believe Big Sky's concern is well taken and I have revised my Field Report. Big Sky International's web site states that the Mirage is "Recommended for low humidity areas, such as USA's southwest and Rocky Mountain areas, and not recommended for high humidity areas." I am afraid, based upon my mistaken interpretation of Big Sky's statement and my experience while using the tent during three afternoons/nights of fairly constant rain, my report implied that Big Sky warned the Mirage would leak during heavy or prolonged rain storms. Such is not true. According to Big Sky, the Mirage should not leak.
Big Sky's intention in making the statement was to convey to the customer that the Mirage may not be acceptable for high humidity conditions because condensation may form inside the tent even without rain and customers should not expect the same level of performance he or she may have obtained from a double wall shelter when used in high humidity conditions.
Based upon my discussions with Big Sky International and after further reflecting upon my notes and memory of the trip at issue, it is very likely that the moisture I reported seeing on the interior of the tent was the result of significant condensation build-up despite open vents and having pitched the Mirage 1P so as to take advantage of the prevailing wind. I cannot say the tent was "leaking" due to rain nor do I intend to imply such. The most I can say at this time is what I previously reported: that moisture "was dripping in some places and the tent material was simply wet in other places." I have corrected my Field Report accordingly. I should also add that my communications with Big Sky International were cordial and professional. My thanks to Bob Molen at Big Sky for working with me on this matter.
Now, for those readers who would like me to cut to the chase, I have used the Mirage 1P in rain, wind, snow, sunshine, hot and cold temperatures. It has held up very well to the stresses of use in widely varied weather. It is by far the lightest fully enclosed shelter that I have used to date and despite the light weight fabric, the Mirage 1P shows no signs of wear or tear. It is very compact and is easy to stow and carry. I used the four large interior pocket extensively to hold everything from bear spray to extra clothes. The unique ergonomic design allowed me to have excellent freedom of movement inside the tent. The dual vestibules on the two-door version I tested provided more than adequate storage space for gear--especially during the rain and snow. Generally speaking, the tent is easy to pitch and with the hybrid design of the Mirage 1P, I was able to set-up the tent in the rain with very little moisture getting inside. On the downside, typical of a single skin tent (especially one made with less breathable silnylon), the Mirage 1P is more susceptible to significant condensation build-up on the inside walls. Despite this issue, I would recommend the Mirage 1P to anyone who is looking for a light weight backpacking shelter.
LONG TERM TESTING:
I was able to use the Mirage 1P twice more during the last two of months for a total of nine nights during the entire test period. I first used the Mirage 1P in late October at Hawley Creek (elevation 6,660 ft/2,030 m) near Leadore, Idaho. There was about 1/2 in/1 cm of fresh snow on the ground and the temperature at bed time was 28 F/-2 C. A light, almost dry, snow was falling intermittently and there was a steady, slight breeze. I pitched the Mirage 1P with a heavier ground cloth placed beneath it to protect if from freezing to the ground. I used wool glove liners on my hands while pitching the Mirage 1P and experienced no difficulty setting-up the tent. During the night, I could feel the cold air circulating through the tent's mesh walls and over my face from under the vestibule. As a result, I pulled my face a little further into the hood of the sleeping bag and slept quite soundly all night. I awoke in the morning to a dusting of snow on the top of the tent. There was no condensation build-up on the interior of the tent though the hood of my sleeping bag was a bit damp from my breathing. Despite the cold morning temperature, 17 F/-8 C, the zippers worked without a hitch. The poles and tent fabric seemed unaffected.
I last used the Mirage 1P on November 13-14, 2009 near Palisades, Idaho (elevation 5,394 ft/1,644 m). We were camped close to the Snake River below the Palisade's Reservoir dam. The temperature at bed time was 26 F/-3 C. I again used a heavier ground cloth to keep the Mirage 1P from freezing to the ground. I used wool glove liners while pitching the tent and had no difficulty in that process. I also set the tent up in the dark by the light of a headlamp. There was a steady, moderate wind until about 3:00 A.M. when it started to lightly snow. Again, I felt the cold air circulate over my face and used the sleeping bag hood as cover. I only occasionally heard the tent fabric rustle gently in the wind. For the most part, I slept fairly soundly and was sorry to get out of my toasty warm sleeping bag at 7:30 A.M. There was a small amount of snow accumulated on the tent--nothing significant. There was no condensation build up on the interior walls but the interior of my sleeping bag hood was damp from my breathing. As before, despite the cold temperature, 21 F/-6 C, the zippers functioned properly and I noticed no problems with the tent poles or fabric. My boots and pack were amply covered under the vestibules. I simply shook the Mirage 1P and all the snow slid off. I was able to take down the tent, roll it up and place it in the stuff sack. Once back home, I removed the Mirage 1P from the stuff sack and hung it over two chairs in a spare bedroom to dry. It was dry the next day.
Near Palisades With A Little Snow
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