The Big Agnes Tiger Wall UL is new for spring 2018. REI has been the exclusive distributor so far, but more retailers will have it starting next month. It’s available in two sizes:
- Tiger Wall UL 2 ($400, 2 lbs 3 oz)
- Tiger Wall UL 3 ($450, 2 lbs 11 oz)
With its semi-freestanding pitch, crossover roof pole, and two-door/two-vestibule configuration, the Tiger Wall UL sits functionally between BA’s popular Fly Creek and Copper Spur models, and competes most directly with the MSR FreeLite, Nemo Blaze, Nemo Hornet, and Sierra Designs Sweet Suite.
I wrote a preview of the Tiger Wall UL as part of my Outdoor Retailer coverage in January, and used a production version in Utah’s Grand Gulch in April on a trip with my wife Amanda.
Review: Big Agnes Tiger Wall UL2 and UL3
The Tiger Wall UL was not designed to break records. Instead, it tries to do more while keeping in check its weight and price, and remaining very easy to use. I don’t believe there is a 2- or 3-person semi-freestanding double-wall tent that weighs 2.5 or 3.0 pounds (or less), that retails for $400 or $450 (or less), and that matches or surpasses the Tiger Wall’s interior verticality, two side-entry doors, and two vestibules.
But the Tiger Wall UL is not without compromise. To achieve its low weight, Big Agnes used thin fabrics and light-duty #3 zippers, provided the bare minimum of interior floor space, and was stingy on guyline tensioners and door openings.
I found the Tiger Wall UL to be an ideal “couples trip” tent — it’s the first shelter that Amanda has genuinely liked. She thought it was comfortable and secure, appreciated having her own door and interior pockets, and was able to pitch it without knowing any knots or reading the instructions. Meanwhile, it was acceptably lightweight for me.
You might consider the Tiger Wall UL2 or UL3 if you want a 2- or 3-person shelter that:
- Weighs less than 2.5 or 3.0 pounds for fly, inner, poles, stakes, and stuff sacks;
- Features two side-entry doors and two vestibules;
- Costs $400 or $450, or less if you can wait for a major holiday sale;
- Has a double-wall construction, with the ability to use the fly, inner, and footprint independently or together as a system;
- Includes a dedicated pole set, perhaps because you don’t use trekking poles;
- Has an intuitive, foolproof pitch;
- Can be inspected first-hand prior to purchase, and returned painlessly if you change your mind; and/or
- Comes with a reasonable warranty.
I would not recommend the Tiger Wall UL for regular use in snowstorms, high winds, or sandy environments. For very extensive use, I would at least plan on buying the accessory footprint, and I probably would look for something less delicate. For ounce-counters, you may be willing to spend more, endure more fuss, and/or be less comfortable to get something lighter.
Key product specs
How much does the Tiger Wall UL weigh?
My Tiger Wall UL3 was about 1 oz (2.7 percent) heavier than its spec weight, which is within a reasonable margin of error.
The “Packed Weight” is closest to what the UL2 and UL3 will weigh on an actual trip when pitched in its default configuration (fly + inner, stock pole set, no footprint). At best, 2.3 oz can be shed: take four stakes (-1.4 oz) for just the vestibules and rear corners, and leave behind the two largest stuff sacks (-0.9 oz).
In marketing material, the Tiger Wall’s “Trail weight” will often be referenced. But this is not a practical weight, since since its performance is greatly diminished if the rear corners and vestibules are not tensioned.
As you would expect of a semi-freestanding tent, the Tiger Wall UL has a nearly foolproof pitch that is convenient and fast. However, it’s almost too easy — unlike a perfectly pitched tarp or mid, it provides no sense of satisfaction.
It is easiest to pitch the inner first, and then the fly. If you have the accessory footprint, it’d be possible (but awkward) to pitch the fly first, like in the event it were raining.
The single-pole is clumsily long, but that seems preferable to a more manageable multi-piece pole set that must be assembled on-site and that is at greater risk of losing pieces.
The rear corners and vestibules must be tensioned to maximize interior volume, vestibule volume, and weather-resistance. I strongly recommend attaching adjustable guylines to these tie-outs, in the event that a rock or root is in the way. No tension system is included, which helps to keep spec weight low but which compromises its functionality.
The Tiger Wall UL2 and UL3 provide the bare minimum floor space for a 2- and 3-person tent. The UL2 is 52 inches wide at the head, 42 inches at the foot; the UL3, 66 inches at the head, 60 inches at the foot.
With two 20-inch pads inside the UL2, there is just 1 to 6 inches of leftover space on each side. With three 20-inch pads inside the UL3, there is even less leftover space — 0 to 3 inches on each side. If an occupant has a wider 25-inch pad, the Tiger Wall will only fit one or two people.
Amanda and I found the UL3 amply comfortable. But we agreed that we would not want to share it with another adult, especially in inclement weather, and especially for a weight penalty of only 4 oz. A child or small dog would be okay, although I’d have to protect the floor from sharp paws.
The crossover roof pole helps to maximize the interior volume potential of the footprint. The side walls are near vertical, which allows all occupants to sit up comfortably without needing to lean towards the center as required in fin-style geometries like the Fly Creek and Nemo Hornet.
The two side-entry doors and two vestibules offer multiple advantages over a single front-entry door. Entry and exit is physically easier, requiring less contorting. Each user gets their own vestibule, so there is no battle over space, access, or organization. And it allows for cross-ventilation, which helps to minimize condensation in humid conditions and to improve comfort in warm temperatures.
The user-friendliness of the double doors is partially compromised by the door size on the Tiger Wall’s fly. Another 12 inches of zipper (at the cost of about 2 oz) would help here. Big Agnes describes this as a feature (“Low Vent”), explaining that it keeps the vestibule protected while still allowing for air flow.
The cost of ultralight
While inspecting the Tiger Wall closely and using it for several days in the field, I began to admire BA’s vigilance in reducing its weight. I don’t necessarily agree with all their decisions and I detest the rationale (to win the “spec war,” which sadly is a big driver for the sales of tents and other outdoor gear), but I can at least admire the effort. My specific concerns:
The weight of a tent is largely a function of its fabrics. And one way that BA achieves very low weights is by using very lightweight fabrics. In the Tiger Wall, BA used 15d coated nylon for the fly and 20d coated nylon for the floor, both rated to 1200 mm hydrostatic head. BA uses the same fabrics in their Fly Creek, and they are serviceable for multiple seasons or a long thru-hike. But they’re not as reliably waterproof or as tear- and puncture-resistant as the 30d nylons or Dyneema Composite Fabric (Cuben) used by cottage companies, which would add weight and cost, respectively.
The #3 zippers on the fly and inner are lighter but less reliable than #5. Treat them with care: keep them clean and don’t tug hard on them. If you camp frequently in southern Utah or other environments with extremely fine sand, I’d probably look for a different shelter.
The stingy tie-outs and small entryway also fall into this topic, but they’ve been mentioned elsewhere.
Room for improvement
How could Big Agnes improve the Tiger Wall UL, without fundamentally changing it (e.g. using heavier fabrics and #5 zippers, increasing its dimensions, etc)?
1. Adjustable tie-outs. The pole set creates acceptable tension at three points: the two front corners, and the rear center. Stakes are helpful in these locations, but not critical. Four other locations need to be tied down, however: the two rear corners, and the two vestibules. And I think it’s unreasonable to assume a tent can always be staked out in the field like it can be in a showroom floor — rocks and roots have a tendency to get in the way.
2. Pole set length. The compressed length of the pole set is 19 inches, which is longer than the width of nearly all backpacks. So the Tiger Wall (or at least its poleset) must be carried vertically. A shorter pole set that could be oriented horizontally would be preferred, if the weight trade-off was not significant.
3. Burrito-style stuff sack. The stock stuff sack for the Tiger Wall is a conventional tube. I have found top-loading stuff sacks like the MSR Tent Compression Sack to be much more user-friendly. Sierra Designs switched to this style last year, too.
4. Stakes. J stakes from DAC are strong and light, but I don’t care for them. They must be oriented such that the point of the “V” is directed squarely at the shelter; the cord notches are also shallow. I would much prefer Y-shaped stakes like this one:
Lets quickly compare the Tiger Wall UL to tents from BA and other wholesale manufacturers.
Tiger Wall vs. Fly Creek
The Fly Creek HV UL2 is 3 oz lighter and $50 less, but has only one front-entry door and a fin-shaped architecture that is less roomy.
The Fly Creek HV UL3 is heavier by 6 oz, but still has only one door. And it’s only $30 less.
Without question, I would prefer the two-door/two-vestibule configuration of the Tiger Wall.
Tiger Wall vs Copper Spur
The Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2 and Copper Spur HV UL3 match the Tiger Wall’s dimensions and dual side-entry doors. However, they are 9 to 15 oz heavier and $50 more, which seems like big penalty for one marginal benefit, the Copper Spur’s free-standing design.
The Copper Spur Platinum series is more weight-competitive with the Tiger Wall, but has a $200 or $250 premium. For those prices, I’d be looking at shelters made of DCF.
Tiger Wall vs MSR Freelite
The MSR Freelite 2 and Freelite 3 share a similar architecture as the Tiger Wall UL2 and UL3 — both are semi-freestanding with three points, have dual side-entry doors and the crossover roof pole. Their dimensions are a wash: MSR is a bit wider, BA is a bit taller.
The biggest difference is in weight and cost. The Freelites are about half-pound heavier (despite using thinner 10d and 15d fabrics), and retail for $40 or $50 more. In addition, availability is currently limited.
Tiger Wall vs. Nemo Hornet
The Nemo Hornet 2P is 3 oz lighter than the Tiger Wall UL2 and $30 less expensive. But it uses even thinner (and less durable) fabrics, and it has a fin-style architecture (no crossover roof pole) that creates less interior volume. A 3-person version of the Hornet is not available.
TW for the win, again.
Tiger Wall vs Nemo Blaze
The Nemo Blaze 2P is 1 oz lighter than the Tiger Wall UL2. Its interior volume is comparable. But it uses more delicate fabrics (10d fly and floor), and it’s pitch is non-freestanding and less storm-resistant.
Tiger Wall vs Sierra Designs Sweet Suite
The Sierra Designs Sweet Suite 2 and Sweet Suite 3 are also new for spring 2018. They are roomier (in peak height, and width at the floor and shoulders) and use heavier-duty fabrics (20d and 30d for the fly and floor, respectively), but notably heavier, by about a pound. The SS2 is $30 less than the TWUL2, but the SS3 is $10 more than the TWUL3.
More competitive comparisions
To find something better (i.e. lighter, less expensive, or higher performance) than the Big Agnes Tiger Wall UL3, you need to look at the cottage industry and to move away from semi-freestanding double-wall tents. It’s more difficult to claim that one shelter is “best” here, because they cater to different types of users.
Tiger Wall vs Zpacks Duplex and Triplex
The Zpacks Duplex and Triplex are substantially lighter and stronger, because they are made with DCF/Cuben. But it’ll cost you: the 22-oz Duplex sells for $200 more than the Tiger Wall UL2; the Triplex, $250 more than the UL3. In addition, the ZPacks shelters are single-wall, not modular; so the fly and inner cannot be used independently.
Tiger Wall vs Mountain Laurel Designs DuoMid
The Mountain Laurel Designs DuoMid + InnerNet is lighter (28 oz equivalent trail weight), stronger (30d sil-nylon), and more storm-resistant. But it’s not as easy to use; you can’t inspect it before you buy it; it’s marginally more expensive, and never on sale; and it’s sloping walls feel less roomy.
Tiger Wall vs Tarptent
Tarptent has a few models that are competitive with the Tiger Wall, notably the Bowfin, Double Rainbow, and Saddle 2. In general, the Tiger Wall will be easier to use and lighter, while the Tarptents will be more durable and less expensive.
Questions about the Big Agnes Tiger Wall UL3? Leave a comment
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My wife and I strongly considered the Tiger Wall 3 but after seeing the TW2 set up for display at our local REI a few months ago, it was crossed off our list. We both got in, checked it out and immeaditely didn’t like some of its features, some of which you also mentioned in your write up. The mesh body seemed too thin for us, having to unzip two zippers to get out seemed a bad design and thought the foot area pole dropped too quickly, losing what could of been usable head area with a simple notch. Plus, the wife didn’t like the pee yellow color.
We ended up buying a SD Sweet Suite 2. It’s heavier than the TW but the mesh body seems much more durable and the pole design gives a roomier feel. The TIger Wall will meet the needs for many couples, it just wasn’t for us.
Would you have opinions and a list of competitors based on simplicity rather than light weight? It would be a great to find a family shelter that works for big dayhikes and for backpacking trips. A mid design seems nice on the face of it but lacks niceties like a gear porch that are really useful with kids.
I find freestanding tents fiddly to pitch in wind/rain. I’ve liked the Sierra Designs Divine Light series so far but they are equally fiddly to get right.
How did you end up liking those BA AXL pads?
My wife and I picked up two of the insulated version (“rated” down to 15deg) but I had to return them after experiencing a very, very cold and uncomfortable night in the upper 30s.
I’ve been hearing complaints about their warmth. My wife and I both really liked ours, and didn’t have an issue with temps in mid-40’s, including one night when we were camped on slickrock, which is more thermally dense than most other surfaces.
I wonder if there are discrepancies in the production, but we also enjoyed the pads on the Trans-Catalina Trail in the mid40s as well. Very comfortable.
It wasn’t until we hit the 30s on San Jacinto that the cold became a problem. My body was cold everywhere it was in contact with the sleeping pad.
Andrew, thanks for another in-depth product review. It’s possible the ZPacks or ML tents could be viable options for me. Things for me to consider:
I have never camped with a single wall tent and have heard reservations from people that condensation can become a problem in single wall tents.
I’m not likely to spend more that 20 days/nites a year in a tent.
Realistic number of uses for Tiger Wall: 100? more/less?
Reducing pack weight is important for me. Not getting any younger.
Will be able to demo Tiger Wall in June…but REI sale is on now!
Condensation is more a function of campsite selection and fly design than pure single-wall/double-wall. If you pick a wet campsite on a cold night and if your shelter doesn’t allow for airflow when it’s raining, you’re going to end up with condensation inside your shelter regardless of its construction.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the Tiger Wall since I wrote the review, and pondering the question, “Why would anyone actually buy this thing?” As I said in the review, I’d buy it because it’s a perfect “couples trip” tent — plenty of room for two (in the 3P version), and simple as heck to set up. If I were always doing casual couples trips, spending $400/$450 could be justified.
But if I were looking for a shelter that’s appropriate for a thru-hike or that offers hardcore performance, I’d keep looking. MLD mids+inners are lighter, more storm-worthy, and more durable; and Tarptent shelters are lighter, more durable, and less expensive. Shelters from both brands are more fussy, and you can’t return them or check them out in a store. But those seem like small inconveniences to me, in light of what you get and given the long history of use of these shelters, i.e. if Tarptent or MLD shelters were always failing, we’d have heard it by now.
BA struggles to compete with the cottage brands on performance-to-weight because it’s choosing to design tents with dedicated pole sets. The poles on the TW UL3 weigh 15 oz. That is a LOT of weight that could be invested elsewhere, like in more durable fabric and in larger panels that negate the inherent geometric inefficiency of trekking pole-supported shelters (e.g. low- and moderate-angle walls, non-cathedral ceilings). The dedicated poles make BA tents more user-friendly, but end up being a big handicap. BA has tried to do more trekking pole-supported shelters (e.g. the Scout) but I’m willing to bet that they get little traction and so BA continues to double-down on Fly Creek and Copper Spur-style tents, which they sell by the pallet. I could easily be convinced to incur some fuss or learn some knots in exchange for carrying a half- or full-pound less of shelter, but a lot of other backpackers apparently don’t feel that way.
A lot of people just don’t use trekking poles. Me for instance, I’ve never used trekking poles. So for me to get a trekking pole tent, it’s. Basically carrying poles just for the tent that actually weigh more than the dedicated pole set of the Tiger Wall.
I am solo thru-hiking the PCT sobo this year (leaving in 3 weeks) and the salesperson at REI encouraged me to buy the Tiger Wall UL2. I’m expecting multiple family/friends to come join me for short sections of the PCT so I wanted a 1.5-2 person tent that was lightweight enough to carry throughout. However, I spent 2 weeks camping north of Seattle (in one location) with this tent and I didn’t like it, although I wasn’t able to figure out exactly why until I read your review here and things became clearer. I’d prefer to spend the money now on something that works well and will last all 5 months rather than replace half way through, but I also don’t want to spend upwards of $500 on a tent, or carry more oz than necessary. Any suggestions you have would be greatly appreciated. Thanks
I carry trekking poles, but I like to be able to leave base camp standing (particularly if it might rain) when I go on day hikes–and I need to bring my trekking poles along on those hikes. I’ve used Tarptent before (the ProTrail iirc) and it was extremely annoying needing to choose between breaking down camp every day and leaving a pole behind for my hike.
I think the market for relaxed couples-trip gear is much larger than the market for gear aimed primarily at thru-hikers or expedition trips. Cottage manufacturers can make money on small product volumes, but Big Agnes probably can’t.
My husband and I have been using a Copper Spur UL3 (yes, 3, not 2) as our primary couples tent for years. It has loads of space, and only weighs a little over 2 lbs per person. It’s perfect for places with tent platforms or other large open sites.
A Tiger Wall 3 would probably work about as well for us.
For solo trips, we use a Big Agnes Fly Creek 2. I find this perfect for one person, and it can be squeezed into a smaller space between trees, roots, and rocks.
Now that I’m getting interested in going farther off the beaten path here in New England, I’ve ordered my first hammock, a Hammock Gear Wanderlust. I hope that it will let me camp in off-trail locations where a tent would not work. There are many places in the Northeast where good tent campsites are few and far between.
I do not carry trekking poles and like Griffin view that as not a weight savings. Also many of the places I camp are above timberline. Tents like the Tigerwall and Hornet seem to be all that is light and functional in those situations. What is your perspective on that? I am always trying to balance pack weight versus comfort.
Dec. 2017, I directly asked BA what the denier of their fabrics are in this tent. Their customer Care Rep emailed me this: “The Fly, Body, Floor, and Mesh on the Tiger Wall are all going to be 15D.” REI Q&A also states that it is 15d throughout.
Too fragile for my liking.
Unless they changed their floor material, you should edit to report a floor of 15d.
My specs were based on conversations with reps at OR in January 2018, but the rep seemed a little foggy on this email. I’m default to yours, since it makes more sense — BA specs the HH at 1200 for the fly and floor, and you’d expect to see a higher HH if they were using 20d on one of them.
Andrew, I noted that in the cottage industry section, you didn’t mention Gossamer Gear’s “The Two” as a competitive option. Any experience with that brand?The cost seems reasonable and I have adopted hiking poles so it seems a logical option.
A little experience with the brand, but none that isn’t several years old.
Thanks the detailed review, love your site, such a great resource.
I read your other post on the new Carbon models for 2019. Do you know if BA will be releasing an update to the Tiger Wall UL2/3 for 2019, and what the changes would be?
The reason I ask is that I plan to get UL3 sometime this year, and I’m wondering whether I should hold off, or grab the 2018 version, I’m in no rush.
I doubt there are any changes to the Tiger Wall 2/3 for 2019, and haven’t heard of any. Normally, equipment like shelters, packs, and sleeping bags on a 2-year cycle — it’s just too expensive to update them every season, especially since there is no compelling need for it.
I’m looking for a good 3 person option for myself and 2 children (6 and 10), I have been afraid to invest in a UL tent because I can see it getting destroyed by my kids. I was looking at the Nemo Dagger 3P or possibly a Tarptent Cloudburst 3. Both look to be around 4lbs and have a bit heavier fabrics which seemed like a reasonable compromise of weight and durability. What are your thoughts. I live in Northern Colorado, most trips will be above 6,000 feet in Colorado, Wyoming or Colorado Plateau.
Thanks for the article and the all around great site. In spite of your advice I bought a tiger wall ul3 to use as a 2p tent (I don’t always use poles, my backpacking buddies usually have less experience than me and it’s an easy tent for them to set up, I found it for $300, etc). That said, I very nearly pulled the trigger on a tarptent and I’m inspired by the modularity of those designs. What consumer-level mods would you make if you knew you’d be getting some mileage out of this tent? I plan on adding guylines at the center head end of the fly, the vestibules, and the foot corners. I’ve also considered adding a clip onto the the middle of the door to hold it closed in case I want the bottom open for ventilation. I’d love to hear your thoughts, especially WRT how to get the footbox floor, mesh, and fly all tensioned and spaced properly without running 3 lines off each corner.
I’d definitely replace the stock guyline with my guyline system, https://andrewskurka.com/2016/guyline-tension-system-backpacking-tents-tarps-hammocks/
Then bring some Ti skewer stakes for non-critical tie-outs.