Big Agnes, the mother of comfort – when they go ultralight, they don’t sacrifice the comfort. I’ve been testing their Happy Hooligan UL2 in the Selkirks to evaluate the mix of comfort, performance and ultra-lightness promised by the brand.

Big Agnes Happy Hooligan UL2 Features:

  • Two doors, two vestibules
  • All mesh body is great for star gazing and ventilation
  • Media pockets located above sleeping area
  • 2 interior mesh pockets, 2 media pockets & 8 superlight aluminum J stakes
  • Fly and floor are silicone treated nylon rip-stop
  • Fly and floor have 1200mm waterproof polyurethane coating
  • All seams taped with waterproof, solvent-free polyurethane tape (No PVC or VOC’s)
  • DAC Pressfit pole system with lightweight hubs
  • MSRP: $379
Big Agnes Happy Hooligan UL2 Review

Enjoying the Selkirks

Go light, but keep the comforts

The Happy Hooligan’s silhouette is a classic style with a single ridge pole and an asymmetric Y at each end. One end is narrower to face into the wind, the other is wider for space. It’s lightweight and dead simple to set up. I enjoyed the Happy Hooligan on several trips into the Selkirks with friends where it got to enjoy some summertime snow and wind in the sub-alpine.

Let’s jump right in with liveability. When I evaluate liveability, I look at how comfortable the tent is to spend time in, whether that’s a night or sitting out a multi-day storm. A key factor to consider is how vertical the tent walls are based on the pole design. Big Agnes has done a good job at this with the Happy Hooligan, particularly with the large vertical side walls that house the big double doors. It makes it very comfortable to sit up in the middle of the tent, although it can feel a trifle cramped up against the head wall. Because the tent ceiling drops dramatically towards one end, you basically have to sleep heads together. Hope you brought your breath mints. A nice part about that long central ridge pole is that it keeps the tent high and steep, helping snow to slide off.

Big Agnes Happy Hooligan UL2 Review

A pole intersection, featuring DAC poles and components

Peak height and interior square footage is a commonly used number to compare interior space. So, here’s where the comparison sits against two popular competitor tents. The Sierra Designs Tensegrity’s packed weight is 3lb, has 29.3 square feet of interior space and a 41″ in peak height. The Mountain Hardwear Ghost weighs 2lb 9oz, has 27 square feet of interior space and a peak height of 37″. Happy Hooligan has 40″ of space at its peak and 29 square feet of interior storage. Its packed weight is 3lbs 9 oz.

So in terms of interior space, it’s a fairly spacious two-man tent with good stats, but it is heavier than these two ultralight competitors. It’s important to remember that it also has two huge vestibules for exterior storage, which is important in rainy weather! It’s neither the lightest nor the roomiest tent available, but that exterior storage is a handy addition.

Big Agnes Happy Hooligan UL2 Review

Note the coordination between the fly and the body

As usual with Big Agnes, the Happy Hooligan has a carefully selected slate of features. There are two sets of two pockets on each side of the roof and one of each is specially built to be able to hold an electronic device above your head with a spot for the cord to run. It’s a handy feature for kiddos, or bored adults on rainy days.

The two huge doors are also a pleasant feature, since you don’t have to crawl over your partner to get out. The zippers pull especially easily and there are no pinch points in the zipper track.

Big Agnes Happy Hooligan UL2 Review

One of the generous vents, which you can open and close with velcro tabs

Set-up is another important factor in a good tent. The Happy Hooligan earns mixed reviews here. I would have preferred to see color-coordinated pole ends to match the webbing, but on the other hand it’s dead simple to see which end of the tent is wider and match that with the wider poles. Handily, the fly and webbing are color coordinated. It’s a true free-standing tent (except for the vestibules) so it’s easy to set up quickly on rocky surfaces.

In real life, I was very pleased with how the tent performed. A major question for me is always ventilation, and the Happy Hooligan features a dedicated vent on the fly. This, coupled with the full mesh upper section, means that condensation is rarely an issue except on the dampest nights when the tent is totally closed. The full bathtub floor keeps water out from the bottom up, too. I had no issues with leakage. and the denier is a good compromise between light weight and strength.

Big Agnes Happy Hooligan UL2 Review

Pretty generous pull tabs on each main door

I was pleased with now the tent did in the wind, too. There are plenty of guy-out points and it’s helpful that the one side of the tent is narrows considerably. I never had an issue and the tent, when guide out well, doesn’t have any loose areas of fabric or noisy flappy spots. That said, I also never encountered wind greater than 25-30 miles an hour. Sorry guys, can’t control the weather!

Big Agnes Happy Hooligan UL2 Review

Packed size, including the footprint

The Good

  • Big double doors with easy-pulling zippers
  • Thoughtful design performs well in the wind, but leaves plenty of headroom
  • Media pockets are a nice touch
  • Smart design means no spots for water to pool on the roof, and no excess fabric
  • Color coordinated fly and body attachment points
  • DAC poles are anodized with a more environmentally friendly process
  • Full mesh upper allows stargazing, full bathtub floor keeps that water out!

The Bad

  • I’d like to see color coordinated poles/grommets, but it’s still fairly obvious to see which side is which
  • Included stakes are lightweight but feel cheap
  • Narrowed footbox means you have to sleep head-to-head

The Bottom Line: Big Agnes Happy Hooligan UL2

The Happy Hooligan is a really respectable, lightweight offering in the ultralight world. There are lighter tents, there are bigger tents, but this tent still has plenty to offer and is one of the most affordable options at its weight range. If you love the Big Agnes name and reputation for quality shelters, and very often hike with another person and want that double door/double vestibule setup, the Happy Hooligan deserves a close look!

Buy Now: Available at Backcountry.com

About Author

Kevin Glover is an outdoorsman living, climbing and biking in Spokane, WA. Originally from the Nevada high desert, he moved to the PNW for its mild winters and allergen-free summers. He has guided throughout the Cascades and Enchantments for Peak 7 Adventures.

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