Summary first, explanation later!
I really like this tent, I’d give it 4 out of 5. If I gave ratings.
I have had a long history of avoiding Vango tents. The first backpacking tent I ever bought was an Equinox 200. I took it out for a test run; a pole snapped and I discovered that the TBS straps had been stitched the wrong way around -so they locked in the wrong direction!
I sent it back to the shop who returned it to Vango for repairs. It came back ‘repaired’ I discovered that they had done nothing and it was still as useless as before. I got my money back and bought a Terra Nova Solar 2. This tent was £100 more, 2kg lighter and still in great shape today, 18 years later!
This experience and sleeping in other people’s Vangos over the years kept me away from the brand.
Recently I bought equipment for my school’s outdoor education program. I needed the full works from tents to maps to boots.
I was wary of Vango for the reasons outlined above but I had seen a lot of people were giving them good reviews. The Tempest 300 is on the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award recommended kit list.
I took the plunge and bought some for the school.
I wanted to try the tent so I could iron out any niggles or pitching problems before handing them over to students so I took one from the store on a camping trip with my two children to Kilchoan in Ardnamurchan in Scotland.
The tent went up easily, I skimmed through the instructions in the bag -they seemed fairly sensible and straightforward: Three poles, colour-coded to pole sleeves on the fly. In common with all tunnels, peg one end, pull taut, peg the other end and the guy.
The tent pitched quickly and all in one. The porch groundsheet clipped in and pegged out. Once the tent was up I tightened the peg adjusters and then the TBS2 Tension Bands which prevent sideways movement of the poles adding stiffness.
Over the next three days we experienced bursts of heavy rain and prolonged winds with strong gusts. The tent took everything in its stride. I always left the top of the porch door open and rain never got in. A breeze blew through the tent from the open vent at the back and out of the top vent and porch meaning that there was never a drop of condensation on the inside of the fly -this is a pretty rate thing in these conditions in my experience.
The tent is marketed as a 3 person tent. We used it with three people but two of them were under ten years old. The tent definitely would not fit three full-length (180cm) Thermarests inside, they’d overlap. We used two of these and a ‘body shape’ Neoair and they just about fit. The porch was fairly generous. We had waterproofs, wellies and a stove and plenty of room to move, put on or take off the waterproofs (one person at a time) in the closed porch. It would have been considerable more cramped with three large backpacks stowed in there. When it is used by the school the space should be OK. Three teenagers will take up a little less room (except for their kit, which will be strewn everywhere!).
Overall I was very impressed with the tent. We had plenty of room, it was definitely strong enough for the wild West-coast Scottish weather and pitched easily. I’m glad I chose that model.
Things I liked:
- Enough headroom and ‘foot room’
- Colour-coded, alloy poles (I HATE fibreglass poles! Nasty, bendy rubbish)
- Easy, all-in-one pitching with no faffy adjustments needed
- The list price is reasonable for the quality of tent. (And different retailers discount heavily)
- Good ventilation (Which could be reduced if needed by closing the rear vent)
- Sturdy design put up with wind and heavy rain
- Little touches like the loop on the porch door zip made it easy to grab
- Plenty of pockets inside
Things that could be better:
- Not a ‘Three MAN’ tent (I’m 1.88m tall -three of me wouldn’t fit) Three teenagers would be OK or Two men would have luxury
I’ve recently added another stove to my little collection. When I began backpacking, about 18 years ago my gear was budget brand and heavy. Through the years I have upgraded and changed. The first stove I had was a solid fuel ‘hexy’ stove which cost about £4 with several fuel tablets. I still have and occasionally use that stove. Soon after I moved to a gas stove, a Coleman I think with extendable pot supports. It worked well and still does but it rarely sees daylight these days.
Moving from gas to liquid fuel
I began to get fed up with gas stoves because when its cold, they don’t work very well. When the gas can is getting empty, they don’t work very well. When its windy, they don’t work very well. I bought an MSR dragonfly for my overseas backpacking trips. Its lot heavier than any gas stove but I liked it because it works superbly in almost all conditions -I once had difficulty priming it on a hot day in the Spanish Pyrenees, but other than that no problems. I also like the fact you can see how much fuel you have left so running out isn’t as much of a worry. This was my main stove for the majority of my backpacking trips.
Going lighter, going back to gas
I began to re-evaluate my pack and its contents and decided I couldn’t justify the weight and space taken up by the dragonfly and its fuel bottle. The smallest, lightest stove I could find without paying silly money was an MSR pocket rocket. The reviews were positive and the stove is tiny.
The Pocket Rocket is a really good stove, its powerful and gets water to a boil in a decent time and it weighs only a few grams. I had moved from using a pan in my cookset to a titanium mug to save weight. A 100g gas can, lighter and several drink sachets fit nicely inside the mug leaving only the stove itself outside making my new and improved (solo) cookset a heck of a lot lighter and smaller than the petrol stove, fuel bottle and pan it replaced.
The stove is a fairly basic style and as such suffers the same problems as most other stoves (wind and gas pressure). This means I have ended up with a collection of part-filled gas cans!
Adding weight, solving problems
After another trip frustrated by wind increasing boil times to annoying levels -and being unable to cook in the tent porch I started to research ‘stove systems’ (MSR Windburner, MSR Reactor, JetBoil etc). They were all faster to boil and much more fuel efficient so the added weight of the heat exchanger was balanced by the better fuel use.
After reading a load of reviews and having a long-term love of the brand I settled on the MSR Windburner. My third MSR stove!
I’ve only been able to test it a couple of times and deliberately sited the stove in the breeze. The first time I used it I was amazed, I poured in enough water to make a coffee and it had boiled within thirty seconds. I’ve used it again to make coffee and with enough water left over for instant noodles. Again, the boil time was superb (I wasn’t geeky enough to time it!).
(Disclaimer: I’m not paid by MSR and I’ve bought all these things myself. That said, if MSR would like to give me free things they should feel free to do so…)
Pros and Cons
Basic gas stove:
Pros: Lightweight. Dead easy to use. Small pack size. Cheap
Cons: Best used out of the wind. Almost useless in really cold weather
Liquid fuel stove:
Pros: Super-powerful. One fuel bottle lasts a very long time (great if you need to cook for a group or boil all your water)
Cons: Heavy. Slow to set up. Takes up a lot of pack space. Expensive
Gas stove system:
Pros: Fast! More gas-efficient than the ‘normal type’. Continues to perform as the can empties.
Cons: Heavier and bigger than the smallest ‘normal’ gas stoves. Expensive