First impressions of the Venus III
I know I promised to write a bit more about the Venus III tent. So now that I have time, here’s a bit more. If you want to see all the photos we took, have a look at this post.
The tent came rolled up in a black carry bag, sort of like a stuff sack. We took a couple photos of the contents. Basically, there’s the tent, a bag containing pegs, poles and an accessories kit (which I haven’t yet opened but appears to contain a repair kit). Rolled up, it’s about the size of a small duffel bag. With a bit of rearranging, I think it will fit OK on the back of a bike rack.
The poles are colour coded so that dummies like me can figure out where to stick them. The tent has little coloured tabs at the point of insertion. Red poles go into the red-tabbed sleeve. There’s a single grey pole, and unsurprisingly, it goes into the grey-tabbed sleeve. This grey pole serves as the ridge for the top of the tent.
I also got a footprint for the tent. Exped claim their tent floors are super-tough, but to be honest the floor feels a little flimsy to me. I’m glad I got the footprint too.
The footprint didn’t come with any sort of anchoring mechanism (ie pegs), so we improvised by using rocks and dog toys. If we hadn’t, it would’ve blown away and that would’ve been the end of it. I’d also like to point out that it didn’t come with any instructions. Now, I know that a seasoned camper would know everything there is to know about using a footprint, but I am neither seasoned, nor a camper. I found this video after the fact, which helped a little, but I would’ve preferred to have seen its installation from the get-go, rather than just focusing on affixing it after it’s already been deployed. I know it might seem self-explanatory (put groundsheet on ground, put tent on groundsheet), but there was a bit more to it. There are tensioning elastics on each corner, but no instruction on how to use them, what to attach them to, or how tight to make them.
The footprint conveniently has a small label at each pointy bit that says “door here”. We saw this, marvelled at its handiness, then promptly plonked the tent down so its doors were not aligned with the door ends of the footprint. I did say we’re not seasoned campers, didn’t I? 😳
The tent itself came with these useful instructions:
1. Unpack: Unroll the tent fly side up and secure with two pegs at the footend. In strong winds open both door and rear vent to prevent ballooning and the tent from flying off.
2. Poles: First feed the parallel poles and then the ridge pole gently into their corresponding colour coded pole sleeves until seated in the opposite sealed end. Then insert the pole ends into the tension pocket and pull tight.
3. Tension: Secure with pegs in the corners and vestibule. Tension the premounted guy lines forming a star pattern that radiates from the tent’s centre. In high winds use additional pegs and guylines found in the accessory bag.
1. Rainfly only setup: unhook the canopy and feed the poles into the sleeves, insert pole ends into the tension pockets and pull tight. Secure corners and vestibules with pegs.
2. Canopy only setup: Unhook the rainfly and feed the tent poles through the elastic loops of the canopy. Insert the pole ends into the webbing loops found in the canopy corners. Tension the canopy by attaching a guyline each to the centre of both poles and anchor with two pegs.
1. Stakes: Remove all stakes and release the tension of the pole pockets
2. Poles: Push the poles out of their sleeves (never pull). Fold the poles from the centre out. Clean and dry the poles before stowing them in the accessory bag.
3. Pack: Canopy and rainfly may remain hooked together. Spread out the tent, fold the vesitbules inward, then fold the long sides of the tent in thirds so the width corresponds with the packsack size. Place the full accessory bag at one end of the folded tent as a rolling aid and roll tightly into the packsack.
And that is the extent of the setup and teardown instructions. Did I mention we’re camping n00bs? Important questions go unanswered. Things like: What’s this doohickey? And what’s this doodad do? Important information such as “colour-coded .. yellow coloured loops placed on the leeward side for easy orientation during setup”, would’ve been better included in the setup information than as an aside in the “features” section. As it turns out, I’ve found out much of the information by trawling Exped’s site for videos. In fairness, the videos are great, and they do a great job of explaining things, but explanations should be in the user manual! The user manual should consist of more than a half-A4 printed sheet!
Things like how to tighten or release tension of the damn poles! It’s assumed that we already know this stuff, but… WE’RE N00BS!!!!!!!!!!!!!
And how to use the guy line stuff sack and tensioner doodads:
An explanation of the difference between the red tent pegs and the yellow ones!
I know a picture says a thousand words, and a video probably says ten thousand, but this sort of information should’ve been included with the tent. Even experienced campers didn’t come out of the womb knowing all this stuff. Exped, do you understand what I’m saying here???
OK. Now that I’ve got that out of the way… setup of the tent was mostly painless. We couldn’t figure out how to increase or release tension on the pole boots (again, the video… sigh…), so we struggled a bit with getting the poles into their receptacles. No wonder mum was delighted with her achievement:
It was at this point we realised the tent was out of whack with the footprint.
Once it was up, we realised that the floor wasn’t particularly tight and it was somewhat misshapen as a result. A bit of faffing about rearranging the base and knocking some pegs in and bumbling around, and we got it looking a bit better. Next step: inflation of the sleeping mats! I think these did come with useful instructions (I can’t find them just now), but I had already seen the mat-inflation video, so we had a pretty good idea of how to set it up.
Without much in the way of directions, mum figured out how to inflate the mat, then had a well-deserved rest on it.
After we sat in the tent for a bit, gloating about how wonderful our tent-erecting skills were, we set about pulling it all down again. This part was actually pretty straight-forward.
Despite the weight of expectations, and the sneaking suspicion that the tent would never again fit back into its stuff sack, we were pleasantly surprised. Not only did it fit back into its stuff sack, it did so without much effort.
This is the part that impressed me most. Pretty much every tent I’ve ever used has never fit back into the factory packing. So Exped can definitely chalk this up as a feature worth bragging about.
I did take some photos of the inside of the tent, but they turned out pretty crap. We’ll be putting the tent up again this weekend and actually sleeping overnight in it, so I’ll be sure to take some more photos and to better document the process (videos coming at ya!). I’ll also make a point of bookmarking the videos on my iPad so that we can refer to the videos whilst actually performing the setup.
All in all, I think we spent about 30-45 minutes figuring things out and putting the tent up and getting it just right. With practice, I’m sure this will be reduced to under 10 minutes. I’m not convinced we’ll be able to do it in under five minutes like the Exped guys, but I can live with ten minutes.
First impressions of the tent itself are very good. Despite my n00bness, I can see that the tent is well-designed, robust and looks like it will be perfect for our needs. I’m glad we decided to go with a freestanding tent instead of one that needs guylines set up all over the place to put tension into the fabric. There’s plenty of room inside for two sleeping mats and lots of stuff. There’s room at both the foot and head end of the mats, so there’s no bumping into the fabric of the tent in our sleep. And the vestibules on each side ensure we can get out for a midnight pee without tripping over the other person. So far, so good! 😀