Is my kit any good?
To help people decide on what kit is good for them I write mini reviews on gear that I purchase and will give a full, honest opinion. However, what may or may not suit me doesn’t necessarily mean it will be the same for you.
I am sure you will be able to find fancy video reviews of the same kit explaining virtually the same detail that you find on the manufacturers specifications. Mine will be a bit more simpler than that, basically what’s good and whats not.
Land Rover Explore Mobile Phone
When wild camping I am sure I’m not the only one who uses a phone for a camera or as a GPS or a link to civilisation. I’ve even seen wild campers using them to watch movies!
Mostly, I take mine for navigation and in case I need help and have to contact the emergency services or if my family need to contact me. We have to face it, mobile phones are now an important accessory when going out. Most of the time it’s nice not to have one around, but I prefer to for my own safety.
I have been an iPhone customer since the iPhone 3 and stuck with them ever since; up until recently…… I fell out of love with them because they became unreliable. Battery charge retention was awful, they became far too fragile to throw around or drop and the IOS crashed so often after updates it drove me insane. Therefore, I started looking around.
I wanted something, which was rugged, but which would be ok for everyday use, the main thing for me was the battery quality. I did not want to be having to charge it continuously, twice a day. It also needed to be waterproof, have a camera and be ok in cold weather. My IPhone used to pack up on me if I went anywhere outdoors in winter. So I hit Google to see what came up.
Enter the Land Rover Explore.
I had never heard of it but after a little research and checking out the spec it began to interest me. Battery life, a couple of days, it also came with the Adventure Pack which included a magnetic powerpack that would give the phone an extra charge if needed.
The powerpack also has a built in ceramic GPS so its accuracy is absolutely spot on.
It also comes with a variety of outdoor apps including a year’s subscription to View Finder maps. It has a Share Location button so it will send out a distress signal and inform people exactly where you are.
I was very tempted!
I contacted a couple of real life explorers who had used it on expeditions all over the world including Siberia, in winter. They all gave it the thumbs up. I took the plunge.
I have now had the phone for a couple of months and I absolutely love it.
There were a few reviews from people saying it was heavy…. You need to change your butcher mate! It is heavier than your sleek iPhones and Samsung’s, granted but it’s not something I even think about. It comes with a rubber cover which can fit the phone and the batter pack together, then using the carabineer it comes with I just clip it to my rucksack or day bag when I am on my bike.
The camera isn’t up to the standard of the iPhone but nevertheless it takes a decent photo. I have a Nikon D4s if I want to take a good photo however, that won’t take a photo underwater, the Land Rover Explore will.
This phone is a working, get outdoors kind of phone it’s all about its ruggedness and its ability to withstand harsh environments. I am going to Outer Mongolia in March 2019 to a place described as outside of Antarctica, the coldest place on earth. This phone will operate normally at +50C down to -30C, yep, that’s no typo.
If you want a phone to impress people as you gently slide it out of your waistcoat pocket in slinky wine bar this phone is not for you. If you go hiking, wild camping, mountain biking (you can get a bracket for your bike!) mountaineering and generally love
the outdoors, all I can say is why don’t you have one already?
You can get the Land Rover Explore on contract with EE and I think Vodaphone. I bought the phone direct and got a pay monthly sim. Did I mention it has a dual sim card slot? When traveling abroad you buy a sim card at the destination airport and pop it in and away you go.
To purchase the phone outright like I did can cost around £500 but currently its on offer at well below that. Compare that to the latest iPhone which the basic model comes in at nearly £1000. Never again will I have an iPhone after having this.
Storage is 64Gb operating on the Android system. All the apps I had on my iPhone I have on this, I have used it to fly my Mavic Air drone using the DJI Go 4 app and its brilliant, you don’t even have to take your gloves of to use the touch screen, it has a glove wearing mode.
I know it may sound like I have been paid to write this review but I haven’t. This thing is bullet proof.
For a wild camper this is an excellent piece of kit, its not just a phone it has so many outdoors features that I wonder how I ever managed without it. To trek up in the hills for an overnight wild camp not having to worry about taking a charging cable and all the add-ons that go with it, to have pin point map accuracy is brilliant (you should always take a paper map and compass though if the environment is unfamiliar).
Highly recommended. 9.9/10
Force10 Helium 100 Tent
The Force10 range of tents are basically the top end Vango tents made primarily for the more avid adventurer who needs quality but not the weight.
I was first attracted to this tent about 18 months ago, weighing in at only just over a kilo, the thought of less weight to carry appealed to me. I had been using the Vango Zenith 100 for a while and although immensely happy with it, the temptation of having something of similar design but less weight was too much for me and I splashed out the £230 on this promising bit of kit.
Pitching it is very easy, in fact I will say its pitched in exactly the same way as the Zenith. it has the same footprint and the same strengthening straps, the same space, if not slightly taller due to the flatter top as opposed to the hoop of the Zenith. As with the Zenith, I keep the inner attached to the fly sheet all the time as this makes pitching a lot easier. The porch area is a tad smaller but there’s not much in it. The zips are a bit “catchy”, they seem to snag all the time which irritates the hell out of me.
When using my Exped Sleeping Pad I get lifted off the floor 9cm which means my head is always touching the inner tent when I have a pillow which is a bit annoying.
The materiel is much, much thinner however, it claims to be more waterproof than the Zenith and I have to say I have used it in rain, lots of rain and although the material gets wet, it doesn’t seem to leak. The single pole is very lightweight and it seems quite robust but not as robust as the Zenith one but that one is heavier.
So, how does it rate compared to my £65 Vango Zenith 100 I hear you ask?
Well its no where near as far as I am concerned the Zenith 100 every day of the week for me.
Although the F10 has superior quality materiel, its flimsy, it flaps around in the slightest wind and it just doesn’t feel like a proper tent. the big downside is its ventilation. I said earlier that the tent doesn’t seem to leak, well its hard to tell because every time I have used it, my sleeping bag has ended up wet. Luckily my bag is a good quality one and I have kept dry inside. The condensation is a nightmare.
The whole inside of the tent is absolutely wet through every time I have used it. I have tried all sorts to solve the problem but to no avail, nothing I do makes any difference.
So for that reason I give this tent a big thumbs down. The idea of a tent is to protect you from the elements. If condensation can’t escape then its a problem, particularly in cold weather when the inside of the tent can freeze, you may as well just throw your sleeping bag on the ground. Therefore this tent is in the cupboard and only comes out on still, summer nights.
I believe the extra 600gm in weight is worth it for the Zenith100 plus its over £160 cheaper which equals a good sleeping bag and a decent stove.
Sorry Force 10 but this isn’t a good product and I cannot recommend it to anyone. Its crap.
Exped SynMat Winterlite Sleeping Pad
I have tried numerous sleeping mats, roll up foam, large self inflating, small self inflating, you name it, I have tried it. I just couldn’t find one that suited me. I wanted comfort, lightweight and something to protect me from the cold.
Whilst searching on line I came across a company called Exped who made light, thin blow up mats insulated for extra warmth so I decided to have a look. Then POW…. the price tag!! They are expensive. I continued to do more research nevertheless and discovered some very promising reviews and also a few not so promising. I emailed the company with lots of questions and they assured me if I had any problems with it they would take it back, Can’t go wrong I thought.
I decided to go for it. (I am not going to say how much I paid as the wife may read this at some point and she wouldn’t be best pleased).
I have had the pad three years now and I forget how many times I have used it, lets just say a lot. So what do I think…
The inside of the baffles on the pad are lined with a down material which they claim can offer protection down to about -17degC. Thats all well and good but all I am interested in is whether or not its comfy.
Well I can honestly say without it my enthusiasm for wild camping could have diminished, this has well and truly kept me on the outdoor track.
I believe the claim about -17degC and I think it can be pushed even lower. I took it to Mongolia with me where night time temperatures plummeted to around -25 to -30 and I never felt and cold through it even when I used it directly on the frozen floor. Its very warm, in fact when I used it the other day I could physically feel the heat as I was laying on it. These expedition type pads have R-Value ratings which measures how good they perform in the cold, this has an R-Value of 4.90 which, when I researched what the hell that meant is really good.
Comfort wise, its the business. Its 9cm thick when its fully inflated so even my hefty frame is kept well away from the cold floor. I tend not to fully inflate it though unless my back is a bit stiff. Thats one of the beauties of this mat, you can have it how it best suits you.
When inflated its 183cm long and at its widest part is 65cm. I say widest part as it tapers towards the bottom. Personally I would have been happy with a shorter one but the length isn’t a problem.
This is how it looks inflated:
Inflating it is so easy, as it has a down lining inside its recommended that you don’t blow into it with your mouth as your breath contains moisture and this can affect the down inside the baffles, turning it black and covering it in mildew. It will still work fine but it just looks rubbish as you can see the black through the material. It comes with an inflation sack which is in effect a dry sack with a connector on it that clips onto the mat. you just sweep the sack around gathering some air and roll it up which forces air into the pad. Three sack fulls and you’re ready to go.
A point worth noting, the pad has never ever deflated on me all the time I have had it, the air stays inside until you are ready to deflate it yourself.
It comes with its own bag and repair kit should you have any accidents but I have not had any need to repair mine.
When deflated, this thing is small and incredibly light compared to foam mats or self inflating mats. To put its packed size into perspective…..
You’re looking at the size of a litre water bottle if that. It fits into any rucksack easily.
This is a fantastic bit of kit, I absolutely love it and wouldn’t be without it. If I was younger and fitter and didn’t have old bones I probably wouldn’t be tempted because of the high price tag and I would make do with something inferior. But I am me and I like it!
If you are like me and like to be comfortable and hate the thought of feeling every stone or twig you forgot to move before pitching your tent.then you need one of these
Jetboil Minimo Stove Review
There are literally hundreds of stoves capable of cooking great food while you’re out wild camping, gas stoves, wood stoves, stoves powered by wet fuels like meths or petrol, solid fuel blocks, you name it, you can find it.
Which stove you choose depends on what your individual requirements are. In the Army we used Heximine blocks in a small hand sized fold away cooker, they were useless, I hated them due to the fact your food tasted of the rancid fumes the blocks gave off whilst burning. However, people still use them so who am I to judge.
When I started wild camping I invested in a small Camping Gaz stove from Go Outdoors for £19. The ones referred to as Bluey’s due to the colour of the gas canisters they attached to. These are really good for what they are but they do have a down side, they are not good in breezy conditions and when its cold, they won’t work and the gas burns up very quickly.
I was happy to plod on with my little stove though until a few weeks before Christmas my daughter asked me what I would like from Santa. I am the hardest person to buy for as I am generally happy with what I have and always say I don’t need anything then my son piped up and asked if I had heard of a Jetboil. Of course I had but I had always thought they were just too expensive. He suggested they both chip in and buy me one. Spoiled or what!
So I was the lucky recipient of a Jetboil Minimo.
It is really compact and everything fits perfectly into the pot.
The kit consists of:
- A 1lt cooking pot
- Burning element
- A stand
- A sealing Lid
- Small pot to eat from
The burner on the Minimo has an ignition button which is excellent, fires up first time every time. Not all Jetboil models have this so be careful when buying if its something you want. I always take a lighter just in case.
It takes just a few seconds to set up, the jet boil cartridges are of the screw on type, the burner screws down without any fuss a small amount of gas does escape as the burner is screwed fully on and taken off but its no cause for alarm, its just a very quick hiss.
The stand for the stove (the orange bit) is a must, without it the stove becomes a little top heavy when boiling a full pot of water and not stable enough for me. However this small plastic stand gives it all the stability it needs and some.
Like I said, it can all be set up in less than a minute.
Now to the nitty gritty, is it as good as people say it is? In a word, yes it is. It boils water faster than our kettle at home by a country mile. As I am a tight fisted northerner, I only boil the amount of water I need to save gas, I don’t see the point in pouring hot water away. When I used this the other day to make a brew, I measured the water using my mug and poured it in. I lit the jetboil and by the time I had tipped the coffee in the mug, dropped in some powdered milk and a dash of sugar the water was boiling. It took just over a minute.
So what can you cook on it? Well anything really, I have a pot stand adapter so I don’t have to use the Jetboil pot exclusively. However, thats all I do ever use. I don’t drag pots and pans away with me on wild camps, I just like to keep things simple. I eat boil in the bag grub (see below “What to Eat”) or dehydrated food I pour hot water on. Simple. I have seen wild camping video blogs on YouTube where folk rustle up ribeye steaks with a selection of veg! Far too much hassle for me but if thats what folk enjoy then fill yer boots.
My typical breakfast:
So the Jetboil….
It is brilliant and I wouldn’t swap it for any other stove, it suits my needs perfectly. It boils so rapid and it certainly lives up to its name.
Points to note:
They are expensive and so are gas canisters at around £4 a go but they seriously seem to last for ever. On a 3 night/4 day trip to the Cairngorms I used one full canister and a small amount from a second on the last day, the spec says on one canister you can boil 12 litres of water, I believe it. Obviously it depends on the weather, as if its cold, you wont get the same mileage as you would if its warm. You can fit the cheaper Coleman gas canisters on Jetboils but I personally don’t think they burn as clean or as good.
When I used it recently in very windy conditions it did blow out so I did have to find a bit of shelter, but thats the first time it had happened since I have had it.
The Neoprene covering around the pot is the best invention, no more burned fingers.
As far as wild camping goes, I think these are a luxury item due to the cost but they are very light, 415gms all in, they burn so well in the lowest temperatures and they are extremely reliable. I use mine when I go out for day trips in the car instead of a flask, its so much simpler and fresh coffee wins every time over tepid coffee thats been in a flask for hours.
If you can justify the £130 for one, you really do need one!! Massive thumbs up from me.
What To Eat?
I have been asked by a reader to write a small piece on the type of food I take with me. As I have said elsewhere in my blog, Posh cooking isn’t my thing. I have seen video’s on YouTube of people cooking steak and fresh veg on their wild camp I like to keep things nice and simple but I do like my food to taste half decent.
When I reignited my wild camping hobby last year I went into Go Outdoors and came out with a selection of Wayfarer meals in a bag. The choice was incredible, they had a long shelf life and at 300g a pack were just enough to fill an empty hole and they tasted OK. The down side is they are really expensive, £4.50 + a pack.
I used wayfarer meals for most of my early wild camps but after a while I began to try alternatives like dried food, packs of microwave rice that I would just boil in its bag, They were ok but not really what you would call tasty. I then came across a range called “Look What We Found” whilst perusing the aisle in Morrisons.
I’m not sure where in the ready meal market they are aimed but I suspect the older generation. Designed as a quick microwave mini meal I thought they would be worth a try. So one winters night on a moor in the Peak District I cooked one for the first time.
The meals are British made and when looking down the list of ingredients they strike me as being on the healthy side as opposed to the high calorific content of the Wayfarer. They lack preservatives (cooked when sealed like a can) so no worries there and all contain 100% natural ingredients. The shelf life is around 12 months.
Now these packs come in at 250g per serving so 50g short of the Wayfarer meals so to be honest, its unlikely they are going to fill you up. So I would recommend cooking something to accompany them like rice, cous cous etc. I take with me a pack of Morrisons instant mash.
I normally use half a pack of mash by boiling up some water and mixing it and while I leave it to stand tear open the pack of “Look What We Have Found” and put it in boiling water, giving it a stir now and again to distribute the heat. The time varies on what meal you have chosen but anywhere from 4-6 mins. If you pour it out onto your mash and its only just warmed through, don’t worry too much about it as they can be eaten cold straight from the pouch.
I know its a bit corny when people say “It tastes like home cooked food.. yum yum” but these really do. I can see myself taking these out every time now.
So, why these over the renowned Wayfarer you may ask……… The £1.48 price tag, the taste is better and although there is less, its still a decent meal. Add a few pence worth of Morrisons Cheesy mash and you have a substantial meal which is in all ways superior to Wayfarer.
Obviously there are loads of ideas for camping foods and you can find plenty of ideas online so I am only going to cover these “Look What We Found” meals. They have a website so give it a quick look to get more information on nutrition etc. Be warned though, don’t look to Amazon for your purchases, they are so over priced.
I was recently asked to write a piece for my blog regarding sleeping bags and which one do I think is best. Sleeping bags can be a real bone of contention when it comes to purchasing one, like everything else its down to personal choice, how much you’re willing to spend and what do you need it for.
Someone recently told me they had bought a sleeping bag costing literally many hundreds of pounds. It was, allegedly, comfortable down to -17C and in extreme conditions down to -25C. I asked him where and when he would be using it and it was intended for use in the UK in Spring, Summer and Autumn.
Now for me that is a case of extreme overkill, someone who is more interested in bragging rights than actually using his sleeping bag. Its highly unlikely they will need that sleeping bag for such extreme conditions.
Before you go out and buy one, think seriously about what it will be used for. These things can cost serious money so just get what you need is my motto.
Now the next question….. Down or synthetic?
Down Sleeping Bags are seen by many as the best sleeping bags to have, they are lightweight and very warm and can pack down smaller that their synthetic equivalents. During my time in the Army I always had an Army issue down bag. They were very warm until they got wet. Once wet they were a nightmare, they would take ages to get dry and would be double their weight. The other thing worth considering is their cost. A good down bag will cost many hundreds of pounds.
Down does last a long time so you can plan on having one for a good few years. However, they have to be specialist cleaned and they are only any good in a cold, dry environment.
Personally I go for a synthetic bag every time. Synthetics have come a long way and for warmth value can compete very well with down.
I started off with a Vango Nitestar XL. I always go for the larger sleeping bag as I don’t like to be cramped. This sleeping bag is really good, I used it in all seasons, it struggles in winter but it is only a 3 season bag. When I used it in winter, I just used more layers of clothing and I was fine. The specification says its good down to -1C
My only problem with the Vango was its size when packed. Its massive, and even when compressed as much as I could, it still took half of the space in my rucksack.
I shopped around and looked at the range of bags by Snugpak, A company based in Yorkshire who manufacture most of their own outdoor kit in the UK.
I settled for the Softie Elite 3:
Its a synthetic mummy style sleeping bag with Snugpaks patented “Expandapanel”, this is an integrated panel that can be used to expand the top of the bag a further 12.5cm which gives me that extra space that I like. Its recommended use is down to -5C and in extreme conditions it will offer some comfort down to -10C. I have used this bag in winter at -6C and I was fine. As you can see in the photo it weighs in at 1600gm which is much lighter than the Vango I have.
It also packs down pretty small and it fits into the bottom compartment of my rucksack leaving the main compartment free for all my other gear.
I have used this a lot and I cant really fault it, however I have only used it in winter so I am not sure if it will be too warm during the summer, we shall see. If it is, I will probably go and buy the Snugpak Softie Elite 1 which is the lighter version.
The Softie Elite 3 will knock you back somewhere in the region of £85 which is not too bad for what you get. Its easy to keep clean and is water resistant so if you have a night with bad condensation or you get caught out in the rain you can be confident the filling and the inside of the bag is going to be dry.
On a recent trip to the Cairngorms with my son he used the Snugpack Basecamp TSB bag inside an Alpkit Hunkka Bivvie Bag, a combination which performed really well in below -0C night temperatures. He loves it and highly recommends the Basecamp TSB, he will happily use it in winter when temperatures hover around freezing.
The Snugpak Basecamp TSB bag costs less than £30 and is good down to -2C or -7C extreme. In the Cairngorms we were subjected to around -4/-5C during the night. It weighs in at 1650gm
For someone looking for a good quality, well made bag for spring/summer use the Basecamp would do. Like I said above, if it gets too cold, put another layer of clothing and you should be fine. I personally like the extra space the Elite 3 offers.
My advice is, think seriously about what you need, don’t go overboard and buy something you don’t really need. Wild camping is all about getting in the outdoors, its not about bragging what kit you have. Secretly people will be laughing at you if you spend hundreds of pounds on a North Face down sleeping bag when you are only going to use it in the summer in the Peak District. By all means, if you are off to the Arctic in winter then you may have to think about digging deep into your savings.
The Snugpak Softie Elite 3 gets full marks from me 5/5
Sawyer Mini Water Filter System
Having used a “Travel Tap” for a couple of years the filter needed replacing as getting water through it was becoming too difficult. A replacement filter came in around £37 incl postage so I thought I would look elsewhere and see if there was anything new on the market. Someone mentioned the Sawyer Mini Filter so for £24 I thought I would give it a go. According to the manufacturer, I would never need to by another one for 300 years. (thats 100,000 gallons of water).
The Kit comes with the filter, a syringe, a rubber straw and a hydration bag. The first thing that struck me was how small and compact it was compared to my old travel tap, it weighs next to nothing.
So whats everything for? After a few uses the flow of water may slow down depending how dirty the water is you have been filtering. This is caused by a build up of gash from the dirty water, the beauty of this is that you can clean it out really easy, hence the syringe.
Simply fill the syringe with clean water and pump it through against the flow arrow and it forces all the gash out and cleans the filter. Problem is the syringe doesn’t slide over the nipple fully so until you’ve done it it a few times be prepared for splashbacks.
OK thats how you clean it, simple really, just make sure you use clean water to do it otherwise it will become contaminated at both ends and render it useless.
The filter also comes with a plastic bag with a screw top, this is a water collection bag i.e. this is what you dunk in the river to fill with water. Its a bit awkward at first but you soon get the hang of it. Once you have collected your river water you screw the bag onto the bottom of the filter making sure its a tight fit but don’t over tighten, there’s no need. Then simply tip the lot upside down and let gravity take over.
I find if the filter is cleaned regularly the flow is pretty good, much better than my old Travel Tap, if the flow does get a bit slow you can gently squeeze the bag to increase the flow but whenever that happens to me I just flush out the filter. You should be able to manage three/four days without flushing if you are using it just for yourself however if you are using it for a group of people then it would soon clog up and require more frequent flushing. Just tell whoever you are going out with not to be a tight arse and go buy one.
The plastic straw is brilliant, I love it! Simply slide it over the nipple on the dirty end of the filter, flip off the cover on the clean end dip the open end of the plastic straw into a water source (river) then just suck the water straight through. If its just water to drink you want this method saves you having to fill the bag etc. Water for cooking etc where you need volumes of water then the bag is needed.
What I really like about this is the ability to used other water containers like a coke bottle for instance as pictured above (I left the coke in the bottle for effect!) Most plastic bottles have the same size thread so you can use this type of bottle instead of the bag if you so wish.
To sum up, I really like this, I have never had a tummy upset after using one so I assume it does its job in fine style. It makes the dirtiest water clean, however if at all I am suspicious of the water source I will always boil it just to make sure. It cant filter out viruses so if your water source is down stream from a rotting dead sheep or where some dirty git has had a dump then boil your water.
I think its versatile, easy to use and very good value for money. Very happy I invested in this. Prior to this I replaced my Travel Tap with a “Water-to-Go” bottle from Go Outdoors. I took it out just the once, it was absolutely rubbish, I just use it as a normal water bottle now, and only in an emergency! The Sawyer Mini Filter was just a couple of quid more but they are miles apart. Sawyer filter for me all day long! I give this an easy 4/5
Vango Zenith 100
I normally wild camp with someone tagging along, but when winter pulls in the volunteers are few and far between, even my trusted, loyal dog prefers to stay at home. So I came to the conclusion that I really needed a one man tent mainly because it’s less weight to carry up in the hills.
I have had my 2 man Vango Tempest 200 for a good while now and have had no complaints at all; it has served me incredibly well. However the extra kilo didn’t make much sense just for me so I started to look around.
I am happy with Vango Tents so that was going to be the first place I looked.
The design of the Zenith 100 is very similar to the Vango Banshee apart from only having enough room for one person and just one entry/exit. I’m not one who leaves kit outside the tent while I sleep so I need enough room inside for my rucksack and all my camera equipment. I need some cover for my boots and cooking equipment also.
There are many, many one man tents out there that fit the bill but there are many variables to think of, one of the important ones for me is the cost. I’m not going to go wild camping up top of the Eiger nor Everest so I don’t feel I need to spend hundreds if not thousands of pounds. I’m pretty much low level so I should be realistic when it comes to deciding what I need.
Although I say I’m not an extreme Wild Camper, the weather up in the Peak District can quite often get a bit tasty through the winter months. I therefore do need a tent with some guts.
I chose the Vango Zenith 100.
The tent packs down very small, enough to fit in my rucksack with ease or strap to the bottom. It does have official measurements but that’s in the manufacturer’s specification and how many times do you buy stuff that’s been mechanically packed into a bag which you will never be able to pack again as well once you’ve opened it. It happens to me all the time. Thankfully the bag supplied with this tent is large so it makes packing it away really easy. Many wild campers tend to leave the manufacturers bag behind when they go out to save a few grams but I always take mine just in case I have to pack the tent away wet, it doesn’t soak everything else in the rucksack. Take the bag, its a few grams!
The packed weight of the Zenith is 1.5Kg. Terra Nova do a very similar design that weighs in at 0.75Kg. Half the weight but it’s six times more expensive!
Internal space is another factor. The Zenith 100 has plenty of room for me and my kit. I’m a big lad and I hate being cramped and claustrophobic. I feel I have lots of room in this. I do sometimes have my head touching the inner tent but my sleeping mat is 9cm thick so that has an effect on the headroom available. It doesn’t bother me too much though.
There isn’t enough room for me to sit up so cooking can be a bit of a pain if the weather is poor but I get by.
The zipped door runs down the side of the tent. I like this, it makes getting in and out so much easier. I normally leave the outer door on the fly sheet open when I sleep unless it’s really cold or windy which means I don’t really have any problems with condensation. The last time I used it the temperature dropped to -6C so I zipped up good and proper and I did get quite a bit of condensation but nothing too bad. Opening the vents and the doors in the morning soon dries it out.
The instructions say to pitch the outer first, I did this for the first time and I never un-hooked the inner tent when I packed up so mine all goes up together. Just peg out one end, slide the main pole through, peg out the other end, insert the small end poles into the little jackets, peg the guys and the side of the tent and you’re good to go. It takes about 5-6 minutes with practice 7-8 mins first time.
As I said earlier the design of the tent is very popular, it’s great in bad weather as its quite low profile and it looks rather smart if I may say so. The fly sheet covers the inner tent really well and distributes rainfall away from the sleeping area but the tent itself is very well water proofed with taped seams for extra piece of mind. Probably wouldn’t keep out the water if your pitch turned into a river during the night, you have about 10cm of protection which is plenty.
The outer door has a handy grommet at the bottom corner enabling you to stick in a walking pole so you can make a tidy little space for cooking. I love this feature.
In my opinion, it’s very well made, it’s strong but light and well constructed. I have to say I have had this out in some horrific weather and it’s never let me down. I can’t yet speak for its longevity as I have only had it a year but I can’t see it failing anytime soon. For the money I paid, if it lasts me 3-4 years before I have to start thinking of replacing it I would be happy. I honestly think it will go on for years yet.
All in all I like my Zenith 100 a lot, I think for the price (£65) it was an absolute bargain. It retails at £125 but you can shop around and get some good deals. The new model comes in black but it is of very similar spec so if you go for one earlier than the 2017 model you are likely to pick up a bargain.
Some mentioned to me that Vango have a footprint for this tent, an extra groundsheet that you pitch your tent on which protects the tent from stones, twigs etc. It also gives a ground sheet to the small porch. I have been meaning to get one but not got round to it yet.
I give this a generous 4/5. Nothing is perfect but this isn’t far off.