Thursday, December 4, 2008

Gear Review - Big Agnes Seedhouse SL3

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Big Agnes - Seedhouse SL3
Ultralight 3-Season Tent

Seedhouse SL3 (fly-off) at a backpacking camp

The Seedhouse SL3 is one of the finest tents I have ever had the pleasure of using. It took a really long time to pick out a new tent earlier this year, and I'm excited to finally have enough experience with it to write a review. While it is billed as a three-person tent, it (like most others in this class) is really intended for 2 people who like a lot of space (like Amber and I). You could however, house a third person in a real pinch.

Seedhouse SL3 fly door open

We looked at a number of 2 and 3 person backpacking tents. Especially those from the North Face, Sierra Designs, Marmot and MSR. In the end, the Big Agnes was the most enticing. It has a simple, no-nonsense, freestanding design that gives a ton of space, good weather resistance, and an extremely light packing weight (around 5 lbs.). There is also a non-superlight version for those of you looking to save a few bucks and gain a few ounces.

Seedhouse SL3 side view (notice pole structure)

Although it is freestanding, you'll want to guy the fly out whenever possible, which really doesn't take too long. This gives you a drum-tight weather shell, and good ventilation. Many of the other tents we looked at have dual doors, which is a deal-breaker for some, but we don't have any trouble getting in and out he main door. We also purchased the footprint, which is nice as you can set the tent up in various configurations, or put it together fly first in a downpour to keep the tent body dry.

Seedhouse SL3 sealed up

I've heard other reviewers complain about condensation, since there aren't any dedicated vents. I don't find it to be a big problem. The fly door unzips from the top or bottom, and you can easily vent well properly buy opening a hole at the top of the fly door. Also, since the materials are impervious on both sides, you can easily wipe it down with a camp towel if you're in a hurry and it is moist. As long as you are careful to seat all the pole joints correctly, and not hook things in the mesh, it will be a tough little tent.

Seedhouse SL3 reflective guy-outs

We haven't yet had the tent out in truly heavy weather, but it has weather light rain and moderate winds quite well. It doesnt flop around like our old dome tent, and although we bought it for backpacking, we now take it almost every time we go car camping. Something about it's cocoon-like shape makes for a comforting nights sleep. Well worth the price, and if you look hard enough, you may even find it on sale!

  • Low packing weight for class
  • Easy clip & pole set-up
  • Double-sealed fly and footprint
  • Very cozy

  • Superlight materials demand respect
  • Only one door / entrance
  • Can require creative condensation management
External Links:
  • Sleeping capacity - 3
  • Average minimum weight - 3 lb. 15 oz.
  • Average packaged weight - 4 lbs. 8 oz.
  • Floor dimensions - 90 x 73 inches
  • Peak height - 46 inches
  • Floor area - 36 square feet
  • Vestibule area - 11 square feet
  • Canopy fabric - Nylon mesh
  • Rainfly fabric - Coated nylon ripstop
  • Floor fabric - Coated nylon ripstop
  • Doors - 1
  • Number of poles - 3
  • Pole material - Aluminum DAC Featherlite NSL
  • Pole diameter - 8.2 millimeters
  • Packed size - 8 x 20 inches

1 comment:

Eric said...

A brief update:

We recently went through our first good rainstorm in the SL3. There was a lot of condensation on the fly, due to the limited venting system, but the double-wall construction, excellent materials, and pre-cut footprint accessory kept us bone dry inside.

We also discovered that the reflective guy-outs can be almost invisible over dark dirt at dawn and dusk. Otherwise, this investment continues to impress!