Gear Review: Big Agnes Soda Mountain SL4

This freestanding dome weighs less than two pounds per person, but it’s as roomy as a deluxe car-camping tent.

This freestanding dome weighs less than two pounds per person, but it’s as roomy as a deluxe car-camping tent, thanks to a 70-inch peak height that lets six-footers change clothes standing up and everyone move about comfortably. “I loved not having to crouch or crab-walk as I stepped around others inside,” says one tester.

The weight savings comes from: 1) the use of a single door; 2) extensive use of lightweight fabrics like polyester mesh and 40-denier siliconized ripstop nylon; and 3) a hubbed pole setup that coaxes the maximum amount of stability and space out of minimum metal. Setup is intuitive and easy for tall folks (testers shorter than 5’2” had trouble reaching the pole clips on top), with two long segments that cross in an X and a shorter brow pole above the door. The 96-inch-long floor accommodates giants—even our 6’6” tester enjoyed wiggle room. Despite its height, the Soda Mountain is surprisingly stable: In Idaho’s City of Rocks, 30-mph gusts produced slight flapping and bending in the tent body, but “nothing worrisome,” reports our tester.

The all-mesh body provides outstanding ventilation, but the lightweight fabric isn’t bulletproof; one tester’s dog ripped the mesh. The snug, 12-square-foot vestibule offers limited gear storage. (Willing to trade headroom for even more weight savings? Check the Editors’ Choice Award-winning Copper Spur UL4: backpacker.com/editorschoice2011.)

> Floor 57 square feet

> Weight 7 lbs. 15 oz.

> Price $600

> Info bigagnes.com