Vango Helium Superlite 200

, October 12, 2011

Update: now replaced with the Helvellyn 200 model from Vango

When I was first handed a Vango Helium Superlite tent my prejudice told me it should be a budget, average performance tent. This was totally unjustified.  Sure Vango make some cheap tents, but as this review explains, they also make some high performance tents at a great price – £280 in this case.

I have slept a total of 29 nights in this tent over 3 expeditions during summer 2011; A cycle touring trip around Northern Scotland, a Coast to Coast MTB epic and a three week cycle touring trip through Europe.  I have been attacked by midges, buffeted by gale force winds, hammered by torrential rain and left to stew in 35-degree heat.  In this range of conditions the tent has kept me warm and largely dry.

To me the key performance indicator of a tent is that it keeps me dry. The biggest test of this: 2 days of near continuous rain in Slovenia, the tent passed. After a brutal night of rain I woke, and in my usual wet routine, got dressed in the tent into my cycling kit. This requires some contortion due to the tents compact size but is possible.  With waterproofs on and kit packed into dry bags I dived out and was able to drop the tent in 2 minutes. Pannier on and I hit the road.

In windy conditions the tent also performed well. I was not overly convinced as to the merits of the inbuilt internal tensioning system.  The majority of the time I disconnected the clips inside the tent inner which are supposed to allow the tents shape to be adjusted, favouring the additional room inside as a result of disconnecting the internal straps.

Camping by the Helmsdale, Scotland

In hot, humid conditions, like most tents, the Helium struggles.  Even with the flysheet left open there just isn’t sufficient ventilation to keep the humidity down and to prevent condensate forming on the inside of the flysheet.  Ultimately this is my main gripe with the tent, but really it’s a minor point on what is a fantastic product.

After some serious use, and not being overly cautious, the tent is still looking good.  The small alloy pegs are still straight.  The anodizing on the poles has worn off in places, the material around the zips is beginning to thin, but nothing to seriously effect the performance.  All in all, this is a light (1120g), tough and great value product.  I would happily choose this tent for future expeditions.

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