Big Agnes Jack Rabbit SL vs Copper Spur UL

For anyone who is looking at comparing a Jack Rabbit SL2, SL3, or SL4 to a Copper Spur UL2, UL3, or UL4 the following should be useful to you.  I compare a Jack Rabbit SL3 to a Copper Spur UL3 with an eye towards the differences between them and some opinion about those differences.

Most of the differences involve different design choices, most are fairly minor, but they are distinguishable between tents. Click for a table of the difference.  These two tents are like lifelong identical twins.  You can see that they were inspired from the same design, but one has taken better care then the other.

The most obvious and by far the biggest difference most people will consider after looking at the two tents is price.  The $130 dollar difference in price. For all the differences below, many of which put the Spur in prefered column, it’s hard to see how it’s worth the price difference.  

If you are an ounce counter, then the Spur is likely your choice, as it’s nearly a pound lighter then the Rabbit.  The Rabbit still is a very light tent, and well within the spectrum of reasonable even when backpacking.  Both have the option of using the fly only as your tent, which will save you more weight.

There’s a small amount less space in the Rabbit then in the Spur.  A foot less in area, and two inches in height.  I’m guessing the height might related to the difference in poles (covered later) and some of it is intentionally smaller on the Rabbit.  Considering that the person size of a tent is often subtracted by one (four to three, three to two, etc) in practice, this difference in volume isn’t a large one.

I would have thought the hinge of the door wouldn’t have mattered, but the fact that there is a difference made me try both in the field.  My opinion is that the Spur bottom hinging door is superior to the left and right hinging door on the Rabbit.  This is primarily because zipper does not tend to get as stuck moving up on the Spur, then from the side on the Rabbit.  More specifically the as the zipper moves up, the angle of the drooping fabric keeps it clear of the zipper slide.  This means that you can generally do the copper spur with one hand, where as you’ll often need two hands for the Rabbit (to manually change the droop and keep it clear).

In addition to this the zipper slides are actually different on the Spur then the Rabbit, but only in that the Rabbit uses rope as pull cord and the Spur is an BA embroidered nylon strap.

The silicone treated nylon rip-stop that is used on the Rabbit is thicker and you can feel it. I haven’t been able to find out how thin it is in millimeters, but they use the same silicone treatment on it as they do on the Spur’s fabric. The Spurs ultralight silicone treated nylon rip-stop feels almost too thin.  I realize this is probably irrational, as the tensile strength & puncture resistance is likely very similar for the Rabbit and the Spur inspite of the thickness difference. I would not put either down without a footprint however. (I recommend you buy or cut your own tyvek footprint, as it’s cheaper and has a similar resistance to water, puncture, and what’s more it’s generally lighter.)  I will say that if you are not on a level ground you are likely to slide around a bit, in both tents. Much more so in Spur, but the Rabbit is still prone.  I’m guessing it’s the silicone coating (if it makes bakeware nonstick, I doubt a sleeping bag or pad will).

  The mesh is an odd variation to have chosen, but there is a difference.  The Rabbit has three sides that have 1/3 mesh from the top down, and a forth that is mesh from the top to the boat.  This has an unintended side effect that is unlikely to be considered until you use it.  With the rainfly in place and staked down, you can see inside the tent from a moderate angle (or vice versa, you can see out).  This also means wind and anything it drags can get in.  In the Spur, it’s four sides of nylon till the top third, so this is not an issue.  For days without the rainfly, looking over a vista, then this is great for the Rabbit, but if your modest or worried about the 3 season worth then consider what that mesh means to you.

Looking at the poles out of there pack there is an obvious difference about the hubs, which is that the hubs are different. The poles themselves are made out of the same TH72M aluminum and both by DAC.  They do use different poles however.  The Rabbit uses DAC Pressfit poles and the Spur uses DAC Featherlight NSL poles.  The difference being that a Pressfit poles is a uniform diameter along the length of the pole, whereas a Featherlight NSL pole expands where the connectors join, thus saving a bit of weight while keeping the strength.  This might account for the two inch height difference, as the Featherlite NSL poles with Reverse Combi (another DAC feature) gives more volume at the top, however this is speculation on my part. There are some other differences such as the anodizing, but it’s not structurally noteworthy.

The hubs are indeed different. A injection molded plastic hub is use on the Rabbit, vs a lightweight hub made of aluminum (probably also by DAC) is used on the Spur. This probably speaks to wear & tear as well as strength.  The plastic hub is perfectly usable, but it’s plastic. The aluminum hubs of the spur fit cleanly and uses the design strength of a circle to bear the load.

Rabbit center pole cross   The center lifting pole that’s used on both tents are just different pole types (as mentioned before), however the Rabbit does not use a guide or support brace on the spine pole.  It will rub along the spine and isn’t going to stay over the clip. The Spur uses a dual purpose plastic fitting that keeps the cross pole from rubbing along the spine and combines a clip for the top of the fabric.  This keeps both the cross bar centered and the top of the tent under it.  My opinion is that the design is a little clunky as I’d prefer the cross bar clip into the fitting so you don’t have to hold it in place while fitting the ends in place. (Feels like duck duck goose, holding the center while circling.) Also the clip from the fabric is a little cumbersome, so it’s not quite a one hand operation.  I much prefer a fitting then no fitting however.

Rabbit vs Spur Vestibule   Rabbit vs Spur Vestibule Here is another spot I wouldn’t have thought it mattered but the vestibule design on the Rabbit involves a zipper running up at an angle near the corner pole to the top.  The Spur zips from the stake on the rainfly to the top.  Both have a cover flap, both use two patches of velcro to keep the cover in place.  Like the zipper with the doors, it comes down to snags.  The angle of the zipper on the Rabbit causes it to catch (and therefore requires two hands), the Spur’s top to bottom zipper doesn’t seem to have this problem.  With an open flap the Rabbit gives you no residual protection (i.e. the flap just droops) and gives you a half obscured view from inside if rolled up.  The Spur’s flap drops over the door (due to gravity), additionally both sides of the vestibule can be staked or rolled up to give the door a clear view, as well a the side benefit that if you unzip the flaps but leave both stake, the zipper cover can be velcroed in place, leaving you nearly the same protection.

There are difference in color which is seems entirely aesthetic.  The Rabbit is a grey boat with a dark tan middle, with a totally grey rainfly. The Spur is an orange boat with a light tan middle, with a grey rainfly with orange end panels.

The stakes that come with the Rabbit are bent aluminum rods common to many tents. (i.e. those that bend easy when hitting a submerged rock). The Spur has DAC’s J-stakes which are shorter than the poles, but much more resilient.  

  Jack Rabbit SL3 Copper Spur UL3
Price $369 $499
Volume Floor Area 43sq ft
Vestibule Area 9sq ft
Head Height 42"
Floor Area 44sq ft
Vestibule Area 9/9sq ft
Head Height 44"
Weight (packed) 5lb 4oz 4lb 6oz
Fabric silicone treated nylon rip-stop ultralight silicone treated nylon rip-stop
Doors D door (Left & Right hinge) D door (bottom hinge)
Zipper Rope pull cord Embroidered fabric pull strap.
Mesh top 1/3 on three sides, and 3/4 on one top 1/3 on all 4 sides
Poles DAC Pressfit DAC Featherlite NSL
Hubs DAC Injection molded plastic DAC Sunflower hub
Center pole cross No fitting Plastic guide & clip
Vestibule design Side zippered to the corner Center zippered to the stake
Color Grey, dark tan Orange, light tan, & grey
Stakes Aluminum rods DAC J-stakes

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