So I’ve always been a fan of First Ascent gear, from their clothing to their sleeping bags however with them going into back packs and tents I must admit I had some reservations. On their back packs I cannot comment much as I don’t have any of them; however I do have some of their tents. I have read some reviews on the tent range and people were in two minds about them, I only have good experiences with the ones I have and to me the Lunar is quite bombproof and value for money and quite water proof.
I saw the new Helio tent and after actually seeing the size and weight I was very impressed by it and made an investment in one. It claims to be the same size of a sleeping bag, well it is, not that I could ever get it folded quite as small as the original packaged tent. I was also impressed with the thickness of the ground sheet – slightly thicker that will defiantly be a lot more hard wearing than some of the other light weight tents I own, pity that I did not see a food print being available as this would prolong its live and if designed correctly it might just be able to pitch it fly first. This is a function I like from the MSR range especially in wet weather.
Now I’ve been able to test the tent in some Drakensberg weather, an 18 hour constant rain in the Cathedral Peak area and freezing cold and ice on the escarpment on a recent 5 day mini traverse and I just need to test in a typical berg wind storm. I am sure it would stand as it’s quite low and if pitched correctly the 6 guy lines should keep it well secured to mother earth. I did notice that the tent pegs is also a y design however a little bit shorter than the first pegs, most probably to save weight, how it will do in a heavy wind pulling on them will be interesting to see as, so far they held fast pretty well.
Pitching the tent is very easy with just one 8,5mm aluminium pole that pushes into the tent corners into grommets and fastens with clips to the tent and then line up the tent fly sheet and pull the fly sheet tight and secure with the guy lines and stake out the vestibule. The fly sheet also fastens with the use of grommets onto the tent poles – making me think that with a suitable food print you could use it as either a super light tent set up or enable you to pitch fly first in rainy condition. Hopefully First Ascent reads my post and with their next upgrade to this model adds a food print in. What I like about the tent is that the side’s pulls out with a tent peg and a guy line, this keeps the wet fly sheet away from the inner tent keeping you dry for a lot longer especially if you should roll onto the tent sides.
The tent is surprisingly roomy on the inside and I had more than enough room for all my gear and plenty of room for me to sleep, a true one man tent is just too small for you and your gear. I really enjoyed the head room at the entrance as I could pack my whole bag while inside out of the rain. The steep sides should allow snow to slide down and rain defiantly did not come through the fly sheet even after 18 hours I was still bone dry on the inside. There are two vents on the front and back helping to vent moisture out and the sides of the tent is fabric wit the top section being mesh again to help with ventilation. I had some moisture build up on the inside of the fly that harmlessly ran down again due to the fly being pulled well away from the inner tent. The only thing I did notice was that the fly gets tied onto the tent pole by means of short fabric ties and it did look like water was dripping from them onto the tent but again not enough to cause water issues in the tent.
In all I would say it’s money well spent, it’s light at only 2.45kg, yes I know you can get lighter tents – they do come at a much higher price, you could maybe cut a few grams with changing the pegs to carbon, it folds small, I could stuff it under the lid of my Osprey and you would not know I even carried a tent. So far I can recommend it as a good tent for the Drakensberg for someone on a budget as it’s not going to break you bank balance. I cannot yet commend on its performance in strong wind however I think it should do well with what Mother Nature through at it.
The tent spec’s as from First Ascents web page:
Flysheet: 210T PU Polyester – Water head: 3000mm
Inner: 68D 210T Breathable Polyester
Mesh: Fine B3 mesh
Door: mesh with window
Floor: 150D PU Oxford Polyester – Water head: 5000mm
Pole: 8.5mm Aluminium dual hub pole
Pegs: 16mm Aluminium with reflective cord
Guy ropes: Reflective ropes
Includes Repair Kit
Enlarged awning to store gear and shelter from wind
Weight (Kg) 2.45
Best Use Camping, Hiking, Multi Day Hiking
Packed Size 39×15 Cm
Dimensions (80+210) 139/119110cm
Flysheet Water Column 3000 Mm
Floor Water Column 5000mm
Guy Ropes Yes
Guy Ropes Type Reflective Ropes
Peg Type Aluminium
Pole Type Aluminium