Big Agnes has the vibe of a hip start-up with the quality of an outdoor giant. I’ve been romping through the deep Nevada powder and returning home to the String Ridge’s two-person comfort each night. While many of the qualities of a good four-season tent are here, the String Ridge 2 particularly impressed me with its livability and fantastic overall weight.
Big Agnes String Ridge 2 4-season Tent Features:
- Packed Weight 5lb 11oz
- Fast Fly Weight 3lb 11oz
- Features DAC Featherlite NSL Poles
- Floor and fly made from Cordura rip-stop
- Frogeye Vents
- Floor Area 31.5sq ft
- Vestibule Area 11sq ft
- Head Height 42″
- Foot Height 22″
- MSRP: $599.95
At 5lb. 11 oz, the String Ridge 2 is an exceptionally light double-wall tunnel tent – I was hard pressed to find a lighter mountaineering tent to compare with the String Ridge. The Mountain Hardware EV2 goes for the same price as the String Ridge but weighs 3oz. more. A slightly less expensive offering, the MSR Fury clocks in at a snowshoe-sinking 7 pounds. This trend continues for most of the current major players – the String Ridge is in the middle of the price range, but it weighs quite a bit less than just about everyone else. For reference, the Black Diamond Firstlight (a dome tent) is slightly less than 3.5 pounds and is in the mid-$300 mark, but it’s only a single-wall tent, making it the province of adventurers with complete disregard for winter comfort. (Note: the weights given in this section come from Outdoor Gear Labs)
I’m spending a lot of space on this for a simple reason – when it comes to weight, the String Ridge really stands out. Big Agnes’ use of DAC’s phenomenal NSL Featherlite poles and a careful fabric selection really pays off when you’re miles up a canyon and your snowshoes are starting to question your judgment.
Big Agnes was clearly concerned with livability when they designed the String Ridge. 42 inches of headroom is comfortable enough, but it’s not quite class leading – the MSR Fury will give you another three inches. Additionally, color choice is an important player in a tent’s atmosphere, and the String Ridge’s cream-colored tent body is very nice to spend time in. The red of the tent fly creates a sunny orange color that’s extremely pleasant to wake up to.
As far as living space goes, the String Ridge stacks up well to the two tents I’ve been referencing. The MSR has around 35 square feet to the String Ridge’s 31 – however, the String Ridge’s vestibule slightly recoups that loss by being two feet larger than the MSR. The Mountain Hardware EV2 limps along behind both tents with 30 square feet of room.
Big Agnes included two humongous pockets that have additional triangular pouches for storage. There’s also a small pocket directly above the door. Big, fat, easy-to-grab zipper pulls top off the tent’s user-friendly features. The String Ridge only has one door, but that too is common for mountaineering tents as light as the String Ridge. All in all, the String Ridge is fantastically livable and Big Agnes didn’t shirk from including the little features that frequently get overlooked.
In this tent, ventilation is controlled via two frogeye vents on the vestibule, the main door (or the mesh screen on the door) and a triangular rear window/vent at the foot of the tent. The frogeye vents are pretty cool – they pop up via an attached rod that velcros into place to stay put during vicious winds. The frogeyes are lined with a fine mesh to prevent blowing snow from entering the vestibule.
Cracking the main door at its top provides an upper-level opening to whisk away the warmer, moisture-laden air floating around the top of the tent. The triangular rear vent opens as wide or as small as you’d possibly need, and provides cold dry air from the outside.
In practice, I found the String Ridge did an adequate job of dispelling moisture. For a typical test trip, humidity was around 80-90%, lows in the high teens, and (for this example) winds with a slight breeze and the door facing into the wind. I opened the frogeyes, unzipped the main door about 8 inches along the top and unzipped the triangular vent four inches. In these conditions, condensation build-up inside of the tent was minimal. I did observe a little around my feet and the mouth of the sleeping bag, but that’s pretty hard to get away from. As always, Nevada’s ubiquitous breeze proved a great aid in dispelling moisture. Other users have reported more condensation buildup than what I observed, and that’s probably a result of the climate in my high desert playground.
As far as mountaineering tents go, the String ridge is easy to set up. DAC makes brilliant systems and set up times are greatly aided by their snappy poles. The String Ridge features one orange main pole that splits into a Y at each end, one end with shorter legs than the other. A second orange pole with a sharp V bend reinforces the main pole, and a black curved pole gets sleeved into the vestibule to pop it out. All of the poles attach to the tent body via DAC’s nifty Twist clips, which aren’t earth shattering but are more ergonomic than traditional clips. The main pole attaches to the tent via an H clip – this is my second tent with these H clips and I’m always worried that their plastic construction won’t hold up, but so far I haven’t seen any failures.
Like all good mountaineering tents the String Ridge features color coded clips to attach the bottom of the fly to the tent body or footprint. I rather like the clips because they’re adjustable just like a pack strap, so it’s a little easier to tension the fly properly. All of the guy lines and guy-out points are reflective, which is a relief if you’ve ever lost your bearings at night away from your tent. For that matter, I should note that the tent pitches taut, except for some sagging around the side panels of the vestibule that I couldn’t seem to tease out. C’est la vie.
I mentioned Big Agnes’ fabric choices earlier and they deserve a little more space. The floor and fly are made out of Cordura rip-stop, which I love for its durability and weight. Polyurethane and a silicone treatment pretty much seal the deal (and the moisture), but it’s definitely worth dropping the extra $60 for the footprint, which easily fits into the included tent sack. The tent body is made of light, silky nylon ripstop that tops off the deep bathtub floor. All the seams are factory taped, so you have no excuse not to stay dry in the String Ridge.
Lastly, I’d love to say something definitive about the tent’s strength and the stated ability to withstand 4 feet of Colorado snow, but I’m afraid I really can’t. I’ve spent time in the String Ridge during just two really good storms, and neither of them deposited the snow load or had the vicious winds that would be ideal for testing strength. I did notice that the tent sheds snow quite well except for a problem spot on top of the vestibule. Buyers should keep in mind that the String Ridge is a light, livable mountaineering tunnel tent that’s strong enough for average storms but isn’t designed to be a portable fortress; Big Agnes’ focus was on a combination of light weight and strength, not strength alone.
- Light as a butterfly’s sneeze
- Great fabric selections – Cordura is my favorite
- Easy set-up compared to other mountaineering tents
- Tent is highly livable and thoughtfully designed
- DAC gadgets (twist clips, H hubs) give the tent a gadgety edge
- Adjustable clips to attach the fly are great – every tent should have this
- Ventilation was up to the job
- Frog eye vents, big pockets, and lots of other good features
- No real windows
- Headroom could be a little taller
The Bottom Line
It’s pretty obvious that I like the tent – it’s very light, has a nice atmosphere and is clearly designed with human beings in mind, which is not something that can be said about every tent. At $600 the tent isn’t inexpensive, but that’s a pretty fair price compared to competing four-season tents. At just 5lb. 11 oz, the String Ridge is a stand-out product and I daresay this will turn the head of anyone who thinks Big Agnes only makes sleeping pads.
Buy Now: Available at REI.com