Camping - Tent
Our first touring tent was made by a small UK company based in Leeds, Lightwave. The specific model was the t2 trek xt. The current equivalent is the G20 Trek xt. The current version weighs only 2.89 Kilograms (6.35lbs)
complete. It is a tunnel design, two man tent with a spacious awning for
such a light package and head room in the awning of 1200mm (47 inches).
We used the tent on our Outer Hebrides trip and it stood up to a force 8 gale. It is a great tent for short tours.
For our round the World trip though we decided that, as we would be
spending so much time in our tent, we wanted something a little bigger,
even if it meant carrying more weight. Specifically we wanted a camping tent
that was robust, but high enough to allow us to actually sit on a stool
inside the tent. We researched the market and were tempted by the
Hilleberg range and the Wechsel range. Both offered tunnel tents with
higher profiles, but they attached an equally high profile price.
Finally we alighted upon the good old British standby, Vango.
The Equinox 350 is a roomy three man tent with a very generous head
clearance of 1350mm (53 inches) and weighing only 5.3kg (11.66lbs). OK
it's nearly double the weight of our last tent, but hey we are getting
old and need a bit of comfort at least - even if it does mean harder
What has been our experience of it so far? Broadly speaking very good.
Despite its height, the internal stays give it good rigidity and it is
still quite stable in high winds. There a few issues with it. Firstly
due to its larger footprint, it is more difficult to find a good flat
pitch and this does not suit it to wild camping very well. It is not
very tolerant of being pitched on anything other than flat ground. There
is also quite a large gap between the ground the edge of the fly sheet,
which can make it very draughty.
On cold nights it suffers from condensation on the inside of the fly
sheet, which drips onto the inner tent. However we have found that this
is a common problem with every man made fibre tent we have seen. When
there is also dew on the outside, it means you are packing a soaking wet
tent. This is no good when you have to pitch later in the day.
The door zips on the fly sheet tend to jam due to the fabric getting
caught in the zip, which is an annoying inconvenience. Another annoyance
is that when there is water on the outside of the tent and you undo the
fly sheet zip water drips onto the ground sheet in the tent awning.
All of these are minor inconveniences and to date we have yet to find a tunnel tent that doesn't suffer the same problems.
The following year, we decided that we could do with a smaller camping tent.
This would allow us more flexibility for wild camping and would save us
some weight. We researched the market and yet again came back to Vango
which offered the best value for money.
We chose the Spirit 300+. It is a tunnel tent and uses poles that are
connected and angled slightly at the apex. This means that you still
get a generous 110mm head height. Otherwise the construction is similar
to the Equinox 350.
During 2010/2011 we camped in this tent almost everyday for 7 months,
and it took everything that we could throw at it. We had a slight
problem with the zip pull opening up slightly resulting in the zip not
properly meshing coming open. This could be resolved by carefully
crimping the puller with a pair of pliers.
As with much of our gear, the effects of UV on the tent were noticeable.
Particularly where the poles threaded through. The fabric became thin
and worn, resulting in the pole going through the fabric easily. This
just required more care. We also broke a pole due to carelessness.
We will be replacing our tent again this year and would like to go for
the new Vango Titan 300. This has a lower skirt around the base to stop
draughts and has three door entries compared to the one on the Spirit
range. However, it is nearly double the price so we may have to stick
with the Spirit.
The ground sheet that Vango sell for the Equinox 350 is very heavy.
Almost as much as the tent again, so we looked for an alternative. There
appeared to be two suitable ground sheet materials in the blogs that
people were talking about. One was Silicon Impregnated Nylon (SilNylon)
and the other was a plastic material. SilNylon is nice and flexible,
easy to work with and does not make any noise when you move around on
it. However the material that we were using was not 100 percent
waterproof. The other material however is 100 percent waterproof, very
light but also very noisy when you move around on it.
We decided that we could probably put up with the ground sheet not being
quite waterproof. We bought a couple of lengths of the material and
made our own ground sheet. However, several weeks of camping in wet UK
conditions showed us that the ground sheet was not really waterproof
enough. Several times we woke up to puddles on the ground sheet. Before
we left the UK we looked for an alternative. We found a material in a
local army surplus store in Plymouth. It weighs about the same as the
SilNylon, but has proved to be 100% waterproof. It is a little more
noisy and quite slippery as it has a waxy feel to it. So we bought three
lengths and over the winter we will make it up into a ground sheet to
fit the tent. We are not sure what the material actually was.
This ground sheet worked well and lasted right through until we reached
Tasmania which was again a very wet area. On our first really wet night
it was clear that the waterproofing had broken down again. This time we
bought a bog standard PVC ground sheet at a local hardware store, cut it
to size and it worked fine.
We have come to the conclusion that it is not worth spending a lot of
money on special materials, as the wear and tear they suffer causes the
waterproofing to breakdown. The best idea is to just buy a cheap PVC
replacement when you need one.
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