Big Agnes Big House 4 Tent Review


A.J. Johnson started running when he was 6 years old. Growing up he played all types of sports, from your standard soccer and baseball, to B.M.X. at a national level, and tennis at the college level. He never stopped running and eventually got into triathlon. After 10 years in triathlon, 2 of them at the professional level, he “retired” from racing and now gets outside for fun. He enjoys all variations of skiing, cycling, and running and is up for just about anything outdoors. He still enjoys competing in endurance events and has started the Endure Tour as a way to race and raise funds for the Foundation Fighting Blindness. To find out more about him, and to see what he’s currently doing, go to

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4 Responses

  1. Jim Carroll and Beamer says:

    First, I would like to take issue with your statement that it sleeps four (obviously) plus all of their gear. Inasmuch as there were only two of you with your gear, and you did not have the (obviously – see the pictures) bike along, you just took the word “4-person” to mean that 65 square feet equals four persons and their gear. What a reach!

    Nearly every other reviewer who is an owner of any of these 4-person tents has concluded that it is “snug” to say the very least, and the gear has to stay outside if you wish to sleep. The diagram theat Big Agnes actually uses for a capacity of four persons is that of their mummy bags, stacked like cord-wood. And it leaves no room to keep the mummy bags from the tent walls, to stop condensation.

    Second, while you find the “cool little roll out welcome mat” so interesting that you “don’t want to get wet shoes inside the tent,” you have failed to explain just how you clean up that mess. The problem with the attached mat is that there is no way you can detach it to clean it up and get rid of the puddles when it does rain.

    Third, you talk about the 5 feet 8 inches of height that allows you to stand up inside the tent with one breath and then describe the “trapezoid gear loft was handy for hanging a light at night and can hold more small items.” If you actually had it for review you must only be about 5’3″ tall because it goes up in the center under that 5’8″ of clearance. Not only that, with the twelve “mesh pockets for items like headlamps, car keys, phone, etc.” why do you need the gear loft to “hold more small items?” For those four people you want to obviously sleep in the tent?

    How do you know the Vestibule would hold your bikes if you never used one? Did you read that or did you assume that you could. In actuality the BH-4’s vestibule is on 37 square feet, not the 52 that most retailers have listed on their web-sites. I suggest if you don’t actually have one not to “review” it before finding out what the size actually is. Go to the Big Agnes website to see the dimensions if you can’t put your hands on one.

    Other than the fact that you guys did not properly set the tent up, placing the guy-out lines to properly have the rain-fly in place and to protect it from wind gusts, you missed one of the significant items that the Big House has: interior straps that connect the fly to the poles (which also add time for attachment to setting up). And you missed the point where you can roll up the sides of the rain-fly to allow for greater cross ventilation without adjusting the guylines.

    Lastly, the Big House series will be changed for 2013, with greater use of fabric, a substitution of red for the orange color and significantly – elimination of the back door. It is subject to close-out prices at this time and after that they will be gone until the new tents will be here, around March 2013. There are other parts that could be said for this tent, and its big sister the BH-6, but a weekend of some kind of usage doesn’t get the job done.

    Yes, the folding bag design is nice but it is not the most singular item that a true review will place up front. It is a design that most Big Agnes tent products have come to rely upon.

    I must say, as an owner and user of the BH-4 (as well as Big Agnes’ Wolf Mountain 6 and Kelty’s Hula House tents), your very superficial expose of this tent is disappointing to say the least.

  2. Hi Jim,

    Well thought out and written comment. We appreciate your candid thoughts on this tent. I was not the person who wrote this review, but I did however use this tent a number of times. Please keep in mind that a lot of times, different people have different opinions and different experiences with gear. I tested this tent out a few times on a guys mountain bike trip and we fit 4 – 6’0 tall guys and a dog in this tent with our gear comfortably. This tent will usually be used for car camping in my experience and typically what doesn’t fit in my tent, I just throw in my car. For the vestibule, I found it to be sufficient to store wet and dirty gear, but we locked our bikes on our car racks while sleeping.
    Please see the date in the review, it was in 2010. Over the course of 3 years, most companies will come up with new technologies when it comes to products including fabrics used.

    Once again, thank you for your comment and if you have any additional comments you want to share, please feel free to let loose!

  3. Jim Carroll and Beamer says:

    This is a review, much more than the cursory one that you posted a couple of years ago.

    The Big Agnes Big House 4 was designed for the starting family and those looking for a great shelter under $350, including footprint. The BH-4 is for those who enjoy car camping, but lightweight enough to be split between two or three people for backpacking. Because it is presently on close-out sales it can be an excellent bargain and purchased for a lot less. It is too early to speak of the Big House series for 2013, but there will be no back door on the new design, only a front entry, and less mesh. Obviously this will change the design of the tents quite a bit, but there will be red color instead of orange.

    This four person Big House legitimately has adequate space for three people, and that goes for most 4-person rated tents. It’s most comfortable for two or three people and their gear.

    You will note that the BH-4 tent is 100 inches in Length. Its width goes from 82 up to 96 inches. Two double wide sleeping bags from Big Agnes would take up 78 x 50 (at the narrowest pad) so you see that it will cover 4 people, but how much gear? That does not leave any room for getting away from the tent walls – but then a weekender every once in a while you don’t worry about that. But if you use the single mummy bags (and you did imply that the occupants were men, and not children) they fit on pads that are (at the narrowest) 20 x 72 inches. And for those 6 footers, you have to go to pads that are 78 inches long. How do you fit in the dog when you have only 80 increasing to 96 inches in width for the tent? And do that “comfortably” with all of your gear?

    Remember, these are the dimensions for the pads – not the sleeping bags!

    With features you expect to find in more expensive models, it includes color-coded coded webbing and buckles, locking pole ends with grommets, pole clips plus sleeves, sealed seams and has a bathtub-type constructed floor to prevent leaks.

    The BH-4’s excellent pole structure provides sufficient head room up to 5 feet 8 inches, and creates lots of livable shelter for family car camping. But that height is the maximum – in the center of the tent. It does not account for a gear loft and a hanging lantern.

    Somehow the reviewer missed: The poles are lightweight DAC PressFit, TH72M 7001 aluminum (the latest technology in lightweight tent poles featuring improved durability) and of varying diameters to save weight.

    The sturdy three pole design does a great job in preventing collapse in strong wind gusts, as long as it’s staked properly with provided reflective guy-lines. This freestanding dome tent has two large D-doorways. And the door’s mesh access panels can be sealed.

    One drawback is the lack of a fly vestibule, the BH-4 uses extended brows, or awnings, for rain protection; but with a generous 65 sq. ft. it permits room for gear inside the tent if you don’t cram in four people – unless they are midgets or children, plus a dog.

    From a pitching perspective this tent is a breeze. For first-timers setup might take 30 minutes to piece everything together, including time to read the instructions. But later it could be done in as little as ten minutes for only one person. However, the BH-4’s rain-fly has reverse-side ties that need to be attached to poles, which might add a couple of minutes.

    Here was another point missed by your reviewer:

    Significantly you will find the tie-downs on inside of the fly – something you won’t discover on cheaper tents. These side release buckles attach the fly to poles for fast easy set up and keep them from separating during storms. They provide overall strength and wind resistance that plagues cheaper high profile dome tents without them.

    The best thing about the Big House tent is when the guy lines are out it allows the rain fly to be rolled part way, opening it up for air flow. You can furl the sides of the rain fly without removing the fly. When it rains it literally takes about a minute to unroll the surfaces and clip them down. While you might not want to sleep all the time, it’s a nice bonus configuration.

    The floor is made of durable polyester, and not nylon. It comes with 1500mm waterproof polyurethane coating. Polyester is similar to nylon, but resists abrasion, UV damage, and acid rain better; and, it does not shrink, stretch or sag.

    The fabrics of the body, doors and fly are all 75 denier ripstop – usually found in more expensive offerings. All seams are waterproofed with solvent-free polyurethane. The polyester mesh ceiling, wall panels and ground level side vents promote air circulation. Inside this tent are several mesh storage pockets that comfortably store most lightweight gear and electronics, keeping them off the floor or just organized.

    While it is freestanding it is a good practice to deploy the guy lines which gives added strength and stability when high winds or gusts occur. This Big House includes 14 superlight aluminum stakes. However, Big Agnes could put sturdier tent stakes in with this base camp tent, since the little hook ones bend easily. After all, it is not designed for back packing where weight is a factor.

    The tent also features a welcome mat that provides a space for muddy shoes; but to be honest, Big Agnes could remove this feature as it is one of the hardest things to clean before packing up, especially after a rain. One solution: fold it under the tent because it is non-detachable.

    Attention must be given to the care of the tent. Upon each tearing down of campsites I carefully clean every ferrule connector and tent peg, and give special attention to all of the zippers and pulls. And after camping I thoroughly clean the tent fabrics and lubricate the poles with silicon before putting them away. You can use products from Nikwax and McNett products for minor repairs, cleaning and waterproofing, along with lubrication of zipper pulls and silicon for tent poles.

    As a suggestion, it is good practice to invest in more rugged tent stakes. One’s that can be driven. And, I personally would get rid of the little plastic tensioners that come with the guy-lines, using others such as: MSR Cam Rings, Nite Ize Figure 9s or Taut-ties.

    Other purchases might cover optional equipment including a footprint, gear loft and an extra large zip-on front vestibule – not 52 sq ft but 37 – which is hooped for more room. These are sold separately, and if there is need for a larger sized tent you can always move to the Big Agnes Big House 6.

    You should note the outstanding customer service of Big Agnes is unexcelled. You won’t have lots of aggravation if you have a problem; it is something that will be taken care of, and quickly. With Big Agnes you know they stand behind their products with a real life-time warranty, and not excuses.

    Now, all we have to do is to await the Big Agnes’ 2013 models of the Big House 4 to find out where they have made them better, if not for at a greater price than the current 2012 close-outs. Good Luck!

    Oh, gee whiz – I forgot to mention the bag and its sections…

  4. Thank you Jim for the very thorough comment and review of this tent. It is always good to get different perspectives and experiences.

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