I remember my first trip to Philmont Scout Camp. I was seventeen years old and my Scout troop and I were set to cover seventy five miles in the next ten days. At that point I had just started writing for Feed the Habit and I took an eccentric little suite of gear to test down there; very little of it was ideal for backpacking with a herd of boys. I wish, in hindsight, that I’d had the Big Agnes Lone Spring 3 with me. It’s the perfect tent for rowdy young backpackers who know how to put gear through the ringer.
Big Agnes Lone Spring 3 Tent Features:
- Single door and vestibule
- Storm flaps on vestibule zipper
- Reflective guylines and webbing on tent corners
- Fly and floor are polyester rip-stop
- Fly and floor have 1500mm waterproof polyurethane coating
- Tent body is polyester rip-stop and polyester mesh
- All seams taped with waterproof, solvent-free polyurethane tape (No PVC or VOC’s)
- DAC pole system with press fit connectors and lightweight hubs
- Plastic clips attach tent body to pole frame
- Hub pole design
- 9 lightweight aluminum hook stakes
- Four interior mesh pockets
- Packed weight: 5;bs 13oz
- Floor area: 47 square feet
- Vestibule area: 9 square feet
- MSRP: $269.95
A Big Agnes for the Proletariat
The Lone Spring 3 is the perfect fusion of classic tent design, robust construction and accessible pricing. This tent was a very faithful companion with me this summer as I guided with Peak 7 Adventures. Peak 7 is a rad little non-profit that takes kids from the PNW’s inner cities on high quality adventure experiences; the kids have little regard for things like ultralight nylon and narrow-gauge lightweight zipper tracks, so all of Peak 7’s gear has a well-loved feel to it. You can imagine, then, the sort of testing that the poor Lone Spring 3 had to suffer though.
The Lone Spring has many of the features that I’d look for in a quality entry-level backpacking tent. It has a tall bathtub floor that has a modest 1500mm PU coating and a nice, tall rise for poorly chosen campsites. A panel of solid fabric rises to greet the polyester mesh roof halfway up the tent, providing a little bit of privacy and tons and tons of ventilation. The polyester is a notable choice here: it’s inherently more hydrophobic than nylon so it might help the tent better weather the effects of condensation, but it’s also not quite as durable in the long run. That said, it probably won’t be an issue if you conscientiously keep the tent body out of the sun.
Inside of the tent are four triangular storage pockets stitched into each corner. This, plus the potential to add one of Big Agnes’ gear lofts, adds at least the illusion of organization when the tent is crammed with three kids. More experienced backpackers will no doubt appreciate all of the storage potential spaced evenly around the tent. There is just one single door; this is an appropriate cost-saving measure but it definitely necessitates a degree of proficiency with gymnastics for the guy at the back of the tent. The door itself is really well designed: its peak is pulled taught by the spreader pole and the zipper pulls easily all the way around the track. Kudos on nailing this simple, critical point.
I also want to give Big Agnes credit for including some of the features that I tent to see on high-dollar tents. We have a complete suite of DAC poles (featuring a nifty swivel hub) and twist clips – the frame definitely looks like something you’d fine on a tent costing half again of the Lone Spring’s price. The pole design is a simple, classic dome that joins together at the swivel hub for quick, painless setup. The tent’s interior is enlarged with a single spreader pole that ends in durable sleeves attached to the tent body.
The fly is an incredibly bomber nylon of unknown denier, but like the floor it’s treated with a 1500mm PU coating to shed the PNW crud. The vestibule door slices the vestibule right in half for a big, roomy entrance; its storm flap is beefy enough not to get caught in the zipper track, too. The fly features two pop up vents that I’d recommend leaving open in all weather except horizontal rain; you’re going to need the ventilation with three people crammed into the Lone Spring. The tent also includes a complete guyline set and the Lone Spring can actually be quite strong when guyed out; we took it on two unfortunately blustery trips to Sahale and the Lone Spring weathered the exposure to aplomb.
How does the Lone Spring compare?
This Summer we’re testing four different three-man tents and the Lone Spring is a strong competitor for scantiest overall heft. The Sierra Designs Flash 3 clocks in at 6lbs. 3oz, the Kelty Outfitter Pro 3 comes in at 7lbs 14oz and the MSR Elixir 3 comes in at 6lbs 13oz. At just 5lbs 13oz the Lone Spring has the lowest packed weight of any tent that we’re testing, despite its bomber fly. I credit Big Agnes’ weight-saving single door and lightweight fabric choices (which do sacrifice a little durability) with lowering the Lone Spring’s weight to such an attractive range.
When it comes to sheer interior square footage, the Big Agnes takes the cake when compared to our other tester tents. As the winner of the bunch, the Big Agnes Lone Spring 3 that has a palatial 47 square feet of interior space; the similarly cavernous Kelty Outfitter Pro 3 clocks in at a whopping 46 square feet; the Sierra Designs Flash 3 has a comfortable 41.2 square feet; the Elixir 3, then, is the smallest tent with just 39.5 square feet of space. It should be noted, though, that the Lone Spring’s 9 square foot vestibule pales in comparison with the MSR and the Sierra Design tents’ storage capabilities.
I suppose if I wanted to bash on the Lone Spring for any reason at all, though, it would be Big Agnes’ choice of stakes. These are the budget hooked aluminum critters that are prone to bend at the slightest provocation. But, hey, this tent is darned affordable.
- Fantastic overall weight/size ratio
- DAC poles and toys are great to see on a tent at this price
- Full guy-out possibilities lead to a surprisingly strong design
- High bathtub floor is an added bit of insurance
- Simple, clean pole design allows for quick setup
- Lots of pocket for organization
- Fabric choice tends more towards lightweight than durability
- Single door is tricky with a packed tent
- Full-coverage fly can lead to ventilation difficulties
The Bottom Line: Lone Spring 3
I like the Lone Spring 3; it’s a clean, simple tent that has the chutzpah for lots of backcountry abuse. I’ve framed this review in terms of it being a great tent for youngsters or new backpackers, but its size and overall performance opens it up as a viable option for all sorts of backpackers who are on a budget. Big Agnes has made their name and quality accessible to a whole legion of outdoorspeople with the Lone Spring 3.
Buy Now: Available from REI.com