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I'm Far Two InTents

Blog Date 7 July 2023

I has 2 tents innit. Why 2 tents? Because each tent has its pros and its cons.

The Vango tunnel tent in the sunshine with camping gear and Sharon's Z250SL
Tent #1 - The Vango earning it's keep in Germany.

Tent number one is a Vango Beta 350XL. This is a tunnel tent with 2 sections. There's the section we like to call the "porch" and then there's the section we like to call the "bedroom". Notice there I use the term "we". This is the tent of choice when Sharon is accompanying me. 

Why? Primarily because it has the 2 sections. With judicious threats of violence towards me Sharon can ensure that the muddy boots, the wet bike gear, the not-quite-empty tin cans and my unwashed undercrackers remain in the porch area. This leaves the bedroom area clean and dry for clean and dry clothes and sleeping bags. While I can be slovenly at times I shall have to admit for the most part this works and works well.

A simple diagram of the layout of the tunnel tent
I'm here RightMove if you need me to do your Floor Plans

There are other benefits too. Sharon can have a lie in while I sit in the porch if it's raining. I can make us a nice cuppa tea while she lounges in her warm comfy sleeping bag. I can sit with the porch doors open talking to passers by while Sharon can get dressed in privacy with the bedroom door closed. 

There are of course downsides to the tunnel tent. 

I need to explain something first. Any regular tent camper will know the bag your tent came in from the manufacturer must - by definition - be large enough to contain the tent. However this tent was packed by an incredibly talented team of spatial physicists and 2 dimensional ninjas and the aid of a 49 tonne press. Once unpacked and used in the 3rd dimension the magic is broken and the tent will never return to the confines of that impressively small bag.

Actually... it will. IF... if you are the sort of person that irons and folds your socks. If you are the sort of person who lines up the cup handles in your cupboard. You know who you are. You oh-so-carefully fold the tent up into perfect halves then quarters, you delicately swish away any blade of grass stuck to the material, you precisely line up the peg straps, you even neatly roll up the guide ropes, you roll up each section, ensuring no crease remains and no fold is out of place, you then guide your perfectly precision pressed tent into it's bag... and it's still a bitch to get the zip closed. Dweeb.

I'm not that man. I use a much MUCH larger bag and just ram it in there. Aaaaaaaand this means the large tunnel tent, when unceremoniously stuffed into an 80l (yes, 80 litres) bag and squashed a bit still takes up a lot of room. About 60 litres when some of the air has been squashed out. This is the reason why my 500 looks seriously overladen when we're off on our travels.

A big 80 litre yellow bag bungeed onto the rear seat of the 500
That bag is mostly uncompressed tent.

The other major issue I have with the tunnel tent are the poles. These are fibreglass and are perpetually bent under tension while forming the tunnel. They have an annoying habit of aging and quite quickly too. This leads to "greenstick fractures", particularly in high winds. This happens often enough I now have to carry spare poles with me. Luckily these are cheap and common enough to be found in most camping shops and are, with practice, easy to replace. We did own a tunnel tent with aluminium poles - super light but prone to completely snapping, much harder to find and a lot more expensive.

A snapped alloy tent pole and a new one being cut to length
Alloy tent poles are blummin awful things.

The roof of the tunnel tent is obviously curved, much like an old nissen hut. Theoretically there is an incalculably small flat area of the roof but in reality there's a flat bit. It's not so much as the rain coming in through the flat bit as condensation forming on the flat bit that's the problem. This condensation is prone to dripping. Within the bedroom the inner liner catches this minimal amount easily without ever getting thoroughly wet, the porch area can get a bit damp at times. It's not a major issue, but it is sub-optimal. I've told Sharon she needs to stop breathing.

Finally the tunnel tent is not that tall. It's fine for being seated but standing up while getting dressed is impossible - unless you're Sharon and even she has to stoop. 

And that's the tunnel tent. My other tent is an el-cheapo teepee tent from Go-Outdoors. There's no inner liner, single skinned. There's only the one section. This is my choice of tent when I'm on my lonesome - usually.

A tall green teepee tent filled with Ren's camping kit
The teepee (or tipi). 

Why? Because it is SO easy to put up. The tunnel tent requires 3 poles being carefully threaded through material "tubes" and then a fight to get the shape right. With the teepee I just peg out the octagonal shape diagonally then slide in the 3 section stout steel centre pole. I can put this thing up in 4 to 5 minutes, the tunnel tent takes around 15. 

That stout steel centre pole is quite confidence inspiring after faffing around with wibbly wobbly fibreglass or brittle ally poles. While the teepee rises well over 6 feet from the ground it feels as solid as a house even in the highest of winds and believe me, we've experienced some wind (phnarr phnarrr). 

Ren's hand is holding a thick steel tube about 2cm in diameter
Now THAT'S a proper tent pole.

The layout is poop though. The sort-of-circular shape is OK for 1 person (this is classed as a 4 man tent) but with 2 people in there there's little room for your gear, chairs and cooking. There's a lot of floor area but little of it is usable with the steep sides of the teepee - this is where the tunnel wins out. The door is also sloped so if you have the door open while cooking the rain comes in. I need a door tarp. 

With being single skinned it is necessary to ensure nothing goes near the sides - however the steep walls mean condensation runs down the material and doesn't drip onto you or your kit. Sharon believes being single skinned it's colder too but I find it hard to believe the difference between one incredibly thin layer and 2 incredibly thin layers makes much difference.

With there only being one section if you're walking in mud and water that mud and water is in your sleeping section too. Yes you can keep the dirty bit by the door and keep the bit away from the door a bit cleaner but without a real definitive boundary these lines get blurred. 

A diagram of the octagonal tent, the bed and the muddy bit
I've missed my calling - I am a graphical genius.

The teepee works for me, and me alone. I appreciate the ease of erection (phnarr) and it's smaller pack size. I can live with the wet walls and the muddy floor. I like the stout centre pole and strength against the wind. But I can definitely see why Sharon doesn't like it and for the 2 of us it doesn't work.

So - ideally I'd like a teepee tent with a stout central pole that has a separate bedroom area with an inner skin. Oh and it has to be easy to pack. Oh and it must be more rectangular than round. Oh it must be easy to put up too. Oh the walls need to be sloped but not too much you know, to make space. Oh and it must be excellent quality and long lasting while remaining cheap. 

Send me a tent and I'll review it - contact

Reader's Comments

nab301 said :-
Ren , at least you've answered the question I've been asking myself for a long time now "what does he carry in that large 80l Yellow bag?"
Obviously you never spent time in scouting type organisations, the short time I spent I learned how to roll up sleeping bags into miniscule bundles . The tents we used back in the 70's though were probably post war things which required vehicular transport or at the very least a hand cart to move them around and that was before they got wet!

"Send me a tent and I'll review it "
I have one I purchased in Lidl over ten years ago and it's never been unpacked ! You're welcome to review it if you want....

07/07/2023 12:15:14 UTC
Upt'North ¹ said :-
Where's your toilet and shower?
And where are the servants quarters?
Seems a strange affair to I.
07/07/2023 12:59:45 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
nab-301 I was a cub scout for a while and I endured (not enjoyed) my first camping experience with them. It was as you state something canvas and ex-army with no groundsheet. It was a soggy weekend and myself along with quite a number of other unprepared children were trying to sleep in a puddle while being terribly homesick and thoroughly miserable. I wonder if this is where my innate ineptitude for camping comes from?

I think sending the tent over from Ireland would cost you more than me going to buy one from Lidl. I'm sorry to report but it looks like our Ireland trip this year is a no-go. Blummin work getting in the way of my fun. Pffffft.
07/07/2023 13:08:35 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
The toilet and shower are usually about 15 minutes walk away Upt', usually between the static caravans who have no need of such things. Why oh why oh why oh why... As for the servant's quarters - I am the servant. I spend most of my time running round looking after Her Worshipful Ladyship Madam Parker.
07/07/2023 13:08:16 UTC
Bogger said :-
I love tents. That's why I have so many.

The last one, a Coleman, was free earlier this year. It's a very good tent.

The one previous to that cost me a full £2.00 from a car boot. Also a good tent if a trifle on the small side.

Oh I like camping stoves as well.

Bogger......who is in no way weird
07/07/2023 20:54:59 UTC
Upt'North ¹ said :-
Is it possible to "love" a tent? I'm not criticising, just questioning.
Can you possibly love a piece of man made fibre and bits of string?
What's love anyway........just a secondhand emotion.
So can you love a tent in a sane world or is it just an inanimate stitching of material? Which may or may not keep you comfortable at night.
09/07/2023 10:16:24 UTC
Ian Soady¹ said :-
Man made fibre? I have an original (1970s) Blacks Good Companion in the shed. Best Egyptian cotton. I haven't used to for at least 40 years - any offers?

As for Upt's philosophical musings comfortable is one of those relative things. Ren's comfortable may be my torment from hell.
09/07/2023 15:10:25 UTC
said :-
Blacks good companion. Cracking tent you have there Sir.

Upt it's possible to love anything. Even Mrs Bogger.

09/07/2023 20:09:57 UTC
Upt'North ¹ said :-
Thanks Bogger.
But I'll decline.
Nothing personal, I'm sure she's a delight.
10/07/2023 10:37:03 UTC
Snod said :-
Ahhh I found myself wrestling with some old fibreglass poles just a couple of weeks ago - they were supposed to hold up my trusty Vango Beta 250. But they kept snapping, as if they had dried out or something. By the first Tuesday (of a two week touring holiday!) I had to give in and buy a new tent. So then I carried two tents around France, Germany, Austria and Italy.

When I got home I did some googling to see if fibreglass poles are known to age badly and couldn't find anything, just people pointing fingers at poles being dropped on the floor and apparently this damages them. But I'm pretty sure they don't age well at all.

The new tent is a Forclaz MT 500 with aluminium poles, it seems good so far but it is a bit small and you get no porch area. The "floor" is also very thin and susceptible to puncture. I've been told I should cut a piece of tarp to go underneath it but I didn't have to do that with the old Vango. Bah.
11/07/2023 18:10:04 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
Aaah Snod, that's a frustrating start to a trip. I'm of the opinion each time the poles are bent to form the curve they weaken, each heat cycle from day to night they weaken, each gust of wind flexing them they weaken. They may not age in storage but they must in use.

The ally poles and thin groundsheet make for a light and compact tent I'm sure, but at the expense of longevity? We'll have to wait and see.
14/07/2023 17:58:26 UTC

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