Turn your day in the outdoors into a weekend adventure with our guide to tents, mats, sleeping bags, stoves and more essential kit. Part one: Tents.
1) The North Face O2, £275, thenorthface.co.uk
When a tent weighs less than half your sleeping bag, it’s clear there’s clever architecture and minimalist design at play. The 02 tips the scales at just 1.02kg, giving it instant weight-weenie appeal, yet it has withstood strong winds and heavy rain.
While it’s technically a two-man tent, you have to be on good terms with your partner because it’s fairly intimate inside. At this weight and pack size, however, it’s a great option for a solo trip, with room to sleep and to store your backpack alongside your sleep mat and away from the reach of the elements.
The inner goes up first, followed by the tarp-style outer, so kit will get wet if it’s raining. However, the O2 is swift to erect and the pegs are strong enough to hold the tension in the tarp, even if they’re sharp against numb fingers. It was interesting to note too how insects swarmed and settled on the yellow end rather than the grey – if you want to avoid midges it’s a guide to which colour to wear!
Verdict: Easy to carry, easy to erect and brilliant for solo trips, but a squeeze for two people.
2) Vango Sirocco 200, £180, vango.co.uk
The longer you spend at your camp spot, the more you’ll come to appreciate the space the Sirocco offers. Not only is there proper room for two people to lie side by side, but the height (about 1 metre inside) amplifies the impression of size.
Suspended side pockets help with the arrangement of kit, and the useful porch swallows a pair of backpacks and boots. Robust in the face of rugged Northumberland weather, the Sirocco took slightly longer to pitch than the O2, but the colour-coded poles helped, and second time around it was much swifter.
On dry nights you could easily choose just to put up the inner (for insect protection) or the outer layer to keep off the dew. The reflective guylines are a thoughtful touch to avoid tripping campers at night, and the pegs have a welcome strength to them.
It rolls up to 45x18cm and weighs 2.78kg, so it’s not the lightest tent on the market, but split the tent between you and your hiking companion and neither of you will pay much of a weight penalty, with the bonus of a good-sized tent when you pitch camp.
Verdict: Great space for a genuine two-man tent
3) Nigor Didis 2 £549.99, nigor.eu
Welcome to the tardis of the tent world. The Didis 2 is simply vast for a two-man tent – it offers so much space that we checked then double-checked that we had the correct model. From a competitive pack down size of 50x14cm it expands into a tunnel tent with a footprint that measures 165x430cm, yet it still weighs less than the Sirocco.
The sleeping pod is a more modest 220x135cm but with its height in excess of 1-metre it feels spacious and the vents help to keep a breeze moving through and avoid condensation. It’s the porch that’s gargantuan though, at 175cm long and up to 165cm wide (it tapers to a narrower footprint).
This creates a vast storage area, and while there’s no groundsheet it’s comfortably big enough for two people to sit in and eat, without encroaching on the sleep area. Pitching is straightforward with three colour-coded poles, and it erects as a single unit so there’s no chance of the inside getting wet while you’re putting it up.
Split the weight between you and your backpacking buddy and you’re onto a winner here, albeit at a hefty price.
Verdict: Astonishing levels of space for a two-man backpacking tent at such a low weight make this an exceptional tent.
Check out part two of our backpacking feature, taking a look at backpacking rucksacks.