My quest for a new lightweight one man tent continues unabated. One of the difficulties for a fussy buyer such as myself is the fact that it’s actually rather difficult to track down and see suitable tents. A dearth of local stores means its difficult to compare tents in the flesh so when I read that the Backpackers AGM meeting was to be accompanied by Backpackinglight and UltralightOutdoors exhibiting I decided to head down the M4 on a sunny Saturday. On arrival I could see a menagerie of tents but quickly spotted the Laser Comp and a Vaude Power Lizard pitched and ready to compare with Terra Nova and Vaude both having rep’s on hand.
First up was the Vaude PL which looked immediately larger than the Laser. Inside it was surprisingly spacious in all directions. Lying down I probably had a couple of feet spare at the end while width was just enough for two at a push. The single porch was also spacious enough and given the 1 kg weight the package was impressive. The groundsheet was more robust than I expected but the fly and the poles (7.5mm) were noticeably thin, with the thin poles seeming to easily distort in a slight wiggle rather than a straight hoop (if that makes sense) although the internal ‘power cord’ did deliver more stability. One thing I also noticed was the fly was not particularly taut towards the ends -a little baggy. The Vaude rep admitted it could do with a couple of extra pegs but even then it was difficult to get the fly taut.
I then wondered over to the TN tents to have a poke around the Laser Comp – and pokey it was, coming directly from the VPL. Although slightly lighter the LC was noticeable smaller on the inside – definitely more cozy – not necessarily a bad thing but lying down you notice the tent inner not far from your nose! The porch was a similar size to the VPL though with slightly thicker poles the structure seemed a little more rigid and the fly seemed a little tauter. I questioned the TN rep about the fiddly pole cover but his only response was that you don’t really need it, but since it also provides additional buying points for the pole then perhaps you do.
Wandering back over to the backpacking light stall I decided to have a chat with Bob who has made some positive comments on the VPL. He kindly offered to let me pitch his own VPL which was relatively easy once I workd out how to insert the end-poles. Again it was difficult to see how you could get a really tight fly at the ends. Bob proceeded to offer a discount if I wanted to purchase his barely used VPL but on the basis it was a less than inconspicuous orange/yellow cover. He clearly wanted a green tent for the same reason I wouldn’t want an orange one, thus I politely declined!
Alpkit were also exhibiting and had on show a prototype one-man, two-door lightweight tent. It’s a single pole design but with the pole running end-to-end rather than across the middle. The pole also has a couple of mini-spurs coming off a single joint to give more width to the tent. Headroom was a little low and is due to be addressed by tweaking to ensure the highest point is aligned with where you would naturally sit. With a target weight of 1kg, two-doors and an expected price of £150 it will an interesting addition to the market when launched next spring. I’ve since noticed it has appeared in a news release on Outdoors Magic.
So where am I now. Well the VPL impressed me with its space/weight ration but felt a little flimsy and flappy. The space was almost two big for one – it was on par with my current North face Tadpole two-man tent, but less than half the weight. The Laser Comp feels more like a proper one-man lightweight tent for hunkering down, though the limitations and idiosyncrasies are well documented and the pole cover an unnecessary faff. Which kinda leaves me in a bit of a quandary. Do I plump for the LC and go through the ‘experience’ as most others have done, or take a serious look at the Scarp 1. I’d been awaiting Robin’s report on the Scarp which was largely favourable but as he admitted it was far from a serious workout given the benign weather that weekend. Although a little heavier than both the VPL and LC the size of the Scarp looks just about right. The integral corner end-poles should mean it’s a more solid tauter structure with the optional cross-over poles offering extra rigidity in winter. But then again the purest in me is still drawn a little towards the minimalist Laser Comp. Oh, what it must be like not to be a Libran!!