A couple of years ago we bought a cheap 2-pole dome tent for the kids to use on holiday, it was quite roomy and it had a porch with a prop-up flap that all 4 of us could fit under. It was OK for the price, but it suffered from condensation and took ages to dry out. I had a look at it the other day and decided that it was neither suitable nor serviceable for our summer holiday.
So, today we went web-trawling for yet another tent. The requirements were: 3-season, sleeps 2 with gear, one decent porch, sub-£100.
I remembered that Mike Bell, AKA The Doctor, had recently blogged about his latest tent, the Argos Semi Geodesic 2 Person Tent, stock no. 340/0717, so I had a good look at his report and figured that this tent might fit the bill, especially as it had been reduced from £69.99 to £34.99.
After a quick debate with Chris this morning, I went online and reserved the last one at the local Argos, and 30 minutes later it was on the lawn ready to be pitched.
Then the downer. One of the pole-elastics was frayed through. No matter, I got on the phone to the shop and they said that although I couldn't get a replacement from them, the next-nearest Argos had one tent in stock, and they would replace the faulty pole. I reserved that tent and went to do the exchange.
Well, the lad behind the counter must have been having a bad day. I gave him the one faulty pole and explained that it was the only bit that needed replacing, but after struggling to get the new pole-bag out of the package, then failing to untie the pole-bag pull-cords, he just gave up and insisted that I took the whole new set, at no extra charge, thus saving him from the hassle of doing the job right. Looks like that's somebody else who's owed a beer on my account.
20 minutes later and the replacements were back home. 10 minutes later and the tent was up.
So, what's it like?
Well, it's huge. The format's not unlike that of a Quasar, but it looks bigger. If it wasn't for the cheaper fabrics (polyester throughout, not a hint of rip-stop) and the cheap fibreglass poles, this would make a good year-round tent, I reckon it's probably good enough for year-round site-camping. The Argos ad lists the following features:
- 1 room.
- 1 front and rear door.
- 4 air vents.
- No see UM mesh.
- Attached ground sheet.
- Hydrostatic head 2000mm (That's the fly and the groundsheet).
- Taped seams.
- Tension adjusters.
- Quick clips.
- Weight 5.8kg.
- Size of tent overall (L)460, (W)160, (H)120cm (I've corrected this info).
- Size of each room 220 x 150cm.
- Size of living space 220 x 150cm.
- Height at highest point 120cm.
- Packed size (H)20, (W)20, (D)56cm.
There are a few things of note that they've not listed:
- Both porches are big enough to cook in (if you're feeling brave - the fabric's not fire-retardant), I reckon the Tilley Titan twin-burner with grill will fit in there no problem.
- The air-vents are adjustable, held open by the semi-rigid spar or closed with the velcro tabs. A nice touch here is the gusset inside the vent, designed to prevent wind-blown rain from working its way up the fly and through the mesh onto the inner. This is a feature that the door-vent on my Force Ten Spindrift would benefit from.
- All pole-sleeves are continuous.
- It's a "pitch inner first" tent.
- The groundsheet, which looks to be durable, is bath-tub style and it's properly reinforced and taped at the stress-points.
- There's an all-round valance to which peg-out loops are attached, but there are also tabs between the fly and the valance, so the fly could be pegged out with the valance tucked away if not required.
- There are 4 long fixed storage pockets in the inner, and a basic removable gear-loft too.
- They say it's a 2-person tent, but it would take 3 adults + gear at a push.
- There are many tie-in points to fix the underside of the fly to the poles to reduce flapping.
- There's a spares-pack containing: 1 guyline with a runner, 1 spare peg, 2 spare pole-sections, 2 pole-repair sleeves.
As Mike pointed out, the pegs are heavy steelies and the poles aren't up to much, but minor details like that can be addressed (I've plenty of spare ally pegs, and some redundant ally poles which may fit after a bit of jiggerypokery). The guylines needed re-tying but that's to be expected on cheap tents, it's only a 2-minute job to fit them properly.
One more thing, something that I've never seen on any other tent - the porch poles pass through sleeves on the underside of the fly. This makes them a bit fiddly to insert, especially as the sleeves are quite narrow.
Anyway, it's up on the lawn awaiting the rain that we're bound to have because the hedges need cutting.
Here are a few pics:
It's a biggie. I've included a 5'3" stroppy teenager to give some idea of scale.
It's broad across the beam.
Looking up one of the vents.
The valance pegged out. Note the extra tabs where the valances meets the fly, they're for tying back the valances when you don't need to deploy them.
Quick-clip fly attachment with tensioner.
Looks good, eh? It's a nice colourscheme, no?