Rewind 5 years and I spent a remarkable week in Poland with my friend Chris paddling and wild camping down the River Obra in Poland (http://www.songofthepaddle.co.uk/for...re-on-the-Obra). As canoeists, walkers, cyclists and even leisure campers, some of the things that made our trips so memorable (the unsung heroes if you like) are the pieces of equipment we took with us. In Poland for example, I took my trusted Vaude Taurus 1 tent. I've owned it for almost 10 years it has NEVER let me down and if I'm honest I don't even remember using it.....and that's the point really. Good equipment allows us to focus on the things we all love doing best and in my case that is canoeing and camping. Poor quality or badly designed equipment inevitably takes our focus from the things we love doing and leaves us with memories of frustration and disappointment. As a result, many of us form close relationships or bonds with equipment we use, recall your first car or current canoe or even your favourite paddle and you know what I mean. They become emotive. So fast forward 5 years and I was going back to Poland to do a similar trip and this time, like a raconteur lothario, I was taking a new squeeze. Gone was the trusted partner of 10 years, the Vaude Taurus 1, I had upgraded to a slinky younger model, the Vaude Invenio Ultralight 2, http://www.vaude.com/en-GB/Products/...-2P-green.html. Not only was doing the dirty on my old flame, I was also asked to write about the experience. . . . . . .
First things first I believe in straight talking when it comes to equipment and am happy share my views, good and bad, on the features of any equipment I review. Secondly, I am unashamedly a Vaude fan. Like I said, 10 years of faultless service from my old tent has brought me to that conclusion. Vaude are a quality German manufacturer well known for innovative design, a proven track record in mountaineering equipment production and an ethical company with strong links to environmental sustainability all of which resounded with me back then as it does today.
So time to dish the dirt on my new squeeze
What did I like?
Improved ground sheet.
If I had one criticism of my old Vaude was in very wet conditions the ground sheet could become damp. No such problems with the Invenio. Vaude have clearly address this issue as the new groundsheet is bombproof
Due to the single spoke and hub design of the poles, I was amazed how quickly this tent went up. I regularly pitched the tent at the same speed as a one man tent with a much simpler design. Excellent
Pole and hub design.
Not only does the feature speed up pitching time the hubs themselves are well designed and incredibly easy to clip into the fly and detach also.
Y beam alloys pegs. Very light, incredibly strong, no sign of bending even on stony ground. That said, for £400+, I would have liked a spare!
Guy lines and retainers.
Vaude guy lines are unlike others I have seen. The guy lines themselves appear to be made of a very firm, almost wire - like material that give you the confidence that if used in anger are great. Because the guy lines behave very like wire, when wrapped around the guy tensioner they don't untangle or get in the way when first unpacking the tent.
I have used the tent in hot conditions where the excellent ventilation was a god send. Firstly the 4 way zips on both vestibules offer the first level of ventilation. Secondly, mesh panels unzip at the top of the inner door to reveal a no seem mesh to let more air in and provide fantastic external visibility when inside the tent.
Thirdly, the roof of the inner tent contains two ceiling panels that retract using a sliding toggle to reveal more no seem mesh. Only tent I have seen this feature on. Loved it
Lastly velcroed ventilation slots in the tent roof provide further ventilation or can be closed as suits conditions. In combination, all of these features make the ventilation on this tent first class.
Storage space, liveability and practicality.
This tent is a dream when it comes to practicality. There are large storage pockets on all 4 inner tent walls providing loads of storage space where you need it. A central guy line run down the centre of the inner for hanging clothes, head torches, glasses etc.
The two retractable ceiling panels double up as further storage space in the roof of the tent too. The no see-um panels throughout the tent inner offer excellent visibility to outside the tent and in conjunction with the 4 way zipped doors all great external visibility when inside the tent. Lastly the design of the tent itself make every inch of the tent work for the inhabitants. The steep walls partnered with the hub design means there is no "dead" space that can't be used. Four adults could comfortably sit cross legged inside the tent to play a game of cards on a rainy day without stooping or crouching to avoid a curved tent wall.
Two huge vestibules with four-way flysheet zipped doors. The vestibules on this tent just add to the already amazing practicality. Personally I use one vestibule to store my rucksack, cooking equipment etc. allowing me one clear entrance to enter and exit the tent. 2 entrances also provide options for entry and exit dependant on wind conditions also. The four way zip s further provide options for set up or ventilation or external visibility
What I would change?
Price . At £480 this is not a cheap tent, however, if you shop around this is available from £330 and in my opinion at £480 it would be too expensive but at the £300 mark reasonable for the quality of the tent. Don't get me wrong, I like the tent and the cost per use, if compared against 10 year of faithful service that my Taurus delivered, will represent good value for money but when I looked up the price, there was definitely a sharp intake of breath.
Pack size. Despite being an Ultralight tent, the pack size is too big. This is particularly disappointing because it could be easily resolved. The flysheet with attached inner pack down to a very reasonable size but the problem lies with the poles. The poles are pre connected using a hub and spoke design which is both easy to assemble and speeds up pitching time considerably. My frustration comes as a result of the size of the pole sections. When folded down, the tent bag will only be as small as the longest pole section and in the case of the Invenio this is too long in my view. Shorten the section length and pack size fails to be an issue. I ended up removing the tent pole from the tent bag to give me more flexibility when packing.
Lack of pegging points for inner tent / door. The tent has two huge vestibules so with the flysheet doors open you have access the inner tent door to the sleeping compartment. When opening the inner door, you are required to use 2 hands. Using one hand, the zip always snagged due to lack tension on the inner tent floor. I would hold the bottom of the inner tent towards the ground and it would open. If Vaude were to simply attach a pegging point at the bottom centre of the inner to provide more tension to the inner, you would be able to open the inner doors with 1 hand. Sounds a small thing but when using the tent for longer periods and taking equipment like sleeping bags, roll mats etc. in to the tent you have to put them down to open the tent.
My week away with my new flame was wonderful and undoubtedly the trip was enhanced by the use of the Invenio. So I come to the inevitable comparison with the Taurus 1 and there really is only one winner - The Invenio. This left me in the unenviable position of holding the always awkward " It's not you, its me" discussion with my Taurus. The thing is when I was 10 years younger I wanted something different and that something was the Taurus. The reality is I love that tent but I have moved on. Over time we all look for something with a bit more refinement, quality, stature - someone to take home to meet the folks if you like, and that is the Invenio. I had 10 years out of the Taurus but the ultimate compliment I could give the Invenio is I could see myself with the Invenio even longer. There simply isn't a scenario in which I think the tent will struggle. Itís a good looking tent, easy to set up, materials are high quality, hard wearing and sustainably produced. Furthermore, its hugely comfortable, flexible and practical so by the end of my holiday the thing that I remembered was the trip not the kit.