On test – Vango Force 10 Helium 100 (2012) tent

Vango Force 10 Helium 100 tent
Vango Force 10 Helium 100 –  camp by Doxey Pool on The Roaches, Staffordshire.

An interesting new tent arrived on my doorstep last week – Vango’s all new 2012 model Force 10 Helium 100.

A solo shelter much like a Terra Nova Laser Competition or Vaude Power Lizard which pitches all as one but for less money. It’s due to launch imminently and in the meantime I’ll be giving this shelter a bit of a hammering out on the hills and moors.

It’s RRP is £220 but I suspect you can knock at least £40 off that when it finally goes to retail. The tent all in comes in on my scales (just a quick check though) of 1.22kg – stuff sack, poles, pegs and repair kit included. There is going to be a lighter version available which uses carbon poles (this model I’m testing uses alloy) but will cost somewhat more.

Even so, it’s weight isn’t to be scoffed at and it does indeed have some impressive specs considering it’s price.

Vango Force 10 Helium 100 tent
Still nights and cold frosts – no particular condensation issues occurred. 

SilNylon flysheet 20D 5000 hydrostatic head (HH), groundsheet 6000 HH and a 70D polyester inner. As you can see in the photo’s the main tent arching pole is angled too to aid stability in tandem with Vango’s TBS Pro Tension Band System.

Internal height is around 95cm and length when lying down is around 210cm. The inner tent door opens high and wide and consists of 2/3’s nylon with a upper mesh panel making up the rest to aid airflow. You’ll find at the foot and head ends other mesh coverings too to help with condensation.

Obviously I’m not going to go into too much detail about the tent just yet – I’ve only had it five minutes per se but I’ve already took it out for a few nights and have been mightily impressed.

Vango Force 10 Helium 100 tent wolfscote Dale
As you can see here, the porch is a little small.

Bar the fact it packs down small, it’s also incredibly quick to pitch for such a tent. The main pole glides easily through a built in sleeve. Initially, I thought this may prove to be very awkward as the sleeve itself is not much bigger than the 8.5mm alloy pole it’s intended for and of course it’s angled too. But this never proved to be a problem.

The prop up rods at either end slip in from the outside into corresponding sleeves and a couple of pegging out points later the tent is pretty much up. You even get half decent pegs with this shelter (short alloy V’s) and none have these have curved or bent despite some hammering into frozen ground.

Inside you’ll find a small porch which isn’t too deep to be honest. Only about 40cm at it’s deepest but the actual inner tent is very roomy for a solo shelter of this type. Surprisingly so in fact! Even when sat cross legged on a inflated mattress my 5’11” frame could sit upright in comfort with only the top of the inner touching from time to time and lying on my back there was ample room around my sides too.

There are guying out points for the main arching pole but I’ve yet to use these despite encountering gusts of 35-40mph max only the other evening. Instead, I took advantage of the tension band system which soon steadied the tent from flexing and moving.

It really does make it rock solid much like the Vaude Power Tokee UL I recently reviewed but more so due to the angled poles. It doesn’t mean the rest of the tent is not affected by the winds though. The flysheet will still flap a little but so far no more or less than other similar designed tents (which seems to be all the rage of late!). You also have the option of adjusting the flysheet’s height from the ground or making it that bit more taught with line locks.

All said and done, I’ve enjoyed using the tent so far and if it has any immediate selling points it’s it’s weight, price and size for a solo lightweight shelter. Aye, it may not be everyone’s cup of tea and they may prefer less or perhaps something meatier. But as it is, I’ve grown quite fond of this tent already and would be inclined to say it could be a winner for Vango who’ve really upped their game of late.

I’ve not suffered any major condensation issues thus far either, despite some still and cold nights with thick frosts and it does seem rather tough for what you get.

Vango Force 10 Helium 100 tent Wolfscote Hill
Making backpacking easily accessible.

If anything what the tent sums up for me (without wanting to prejudice any final thoughts on this product) is that it epitomises all that’s now within reach for those on a budget interested in lightweight backpacking who don’t want to sacrifice too much on comfort. It makes me grin from cheek to cheek in truth.

I’m not saying pedantic gram counters or outdoor gear obsessives will take this shelter seriously at all – but those who don’t wish to spend hundreds of pounds on the latest lightweight gear but who wouldn’t mind saving a bit of pack space or weight for those overnighters and multi day hikes will love it (besides it’s always about enjoying the outdoors, right?).  And I think that’s most outdoorsy people, in truth. It’s about making such gear and enjoying the outdoors in comfort easily accessible.

After all in a rucksack that’s stuffed with kit that weighs around 9kg or more you’re unlikely to notice 300-400g difference on that in truth – and here you have a shelter that could possibly give you comfort and shelter for little over a kilo and will likely cost under £200!

Which I think is fantastic for those who want to take up backpacking on a budget – or at least take it more seriously after whetting the appetite.

I do have some minor niggles (isn’t there always) which are personal as well as objective for other users. For example there are no internal mesh pockets which are always handy for quick to hand essentials and the TBS cord can get in the way a little if used. But so far, I’m really quite impressed with what Vango have come up with. More on the Vango Force 10 Helium 100 in the coming weeks then….

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