The human race has over 40,000 years experience in camping. Be it in tipis, yurts, roman military units or the sturdy explorers' tents, they provided shelter from the elements long before we had motorcycles. You would think we've had enough time to make it a fully developed concept. Teething troubles should be over and we should be able to make flawless tents which are easy to use and last a long time. Add to it modern fabrics and more demand than ever for good quality tents… and we surely have all the ingredients for a perfect tent. Or do we?
I don't think there has been an age where there was more choice in tents than this one. The sheer number of brands and models is overwhelming. We used Hilleberg tents on our trip around the world as we had good experiences with them in the past. Their prices are bordering on insane… well, actually they are more than insane(!) but as we had a long trip ahead of us it seemed a logical choice. To be fair to the tent, it did provide us with a good shelter and survived many a storm… but there were also quite a few details which were much better on the previous models. We had several premature zipper failures because of poor tent design. Zippers were never designed to go around curves, yet in the Hilleberg and many others they are required to go around tight bends too. The outer door design, which had been changed from the previous model now lets water in. The inner tent has one big zipper all the way round, instead of the much better door the previous model had. With the new one basically half the tent falls open and mosquitos fly in and out by the dozens… The Staika is a poor design as water drips from the fly straight into the inner tent as the top of it isn't water proof.
Luckily grandma is very handy with a sewing machine and could rectify most issues, but she couldn't solve the fast disintegrating fabric which was destroyed in a matter of months by UV light from the sun… A new Hilleberg is shiny green, after a couple of weeks it becomes matt green and the fabric starts to feel coarse, that's when the decay starts. The ripstop cords inside the fabric do the same and a few months later just touching it will tear the tent open. In the end we used 4 Hilleberg tents on the trip, two of which were replaced under warranty… all fell apart because of UV radiation. The last one leaked at just about every seam too.
Looking for a replacement we heard similar stories from other well known 'high end' tents. 'Yeah, they used to be good but they are not what they used to be' is a reply we heard way too often. As we do a lot of camping it makes sense to buy a proper piece of kit but we simply couldn't find it.
As a temporary solution we decided to buy something cheap. A Vango proved to leak, an observation shared by a school group we were camping with. After a night of rainy weather I don't think any of the 20+ Vango tents was dry in the morning :-)
A Robens Challenger came next… well actually we bought one each, and so far quite like them! It's easy to pitch and pack, is light weight and yet room enough for one person plus bike gear. They do flap a bit in the wind but so far haven't let us down.
After two months though some of the black fabric covering the poles started to become white… Oh oh, UV degradation? We made some photos and send them to the Robens customer service department asking if this was just fading colour or actual degradation. They didn't answer my question but reverted me to the supplier… who didn't know either as they are not manufacturers after all. So we asked Robens again, again no answer... We'll keep using them and see what happens.
This has become a somewhat strange section as we have no answers or recommendations to give, simply because we don't know either. Canvas tents are good, or at least they were, but way too heavy. I'm sure there are good light weight tents too but if there is one which can be described as a long lasting proper shelter… we don't know. Send us an e-mail if you do and we can share the information on these pages!