Tent heaven or the nearest I have ever come to tent heaven can be found on the third floor of an old mill in the Calder Valley of West Yorkshire. It’s home to Springfield Camping and is the kind of shop that you really could live your entire life exploring. Lots of nooks and crannies selling the kind of objects that occasionally have you scratching your head as to what function they could possibly serve, a knowledgeable staff to help you out and some surprising bargains. I spent about two hours in there this afternoon investigating three main things that I need for the upcoming trip from Greece to Portugal; tents, sleeping bags and camping mats.
Over the years, especially in the run up to the 2010 trip along the Eurovelo 5 to Italy, I spent much time discussing tents. Follow this link to read the internal debate that I went through and which ended up with me buying a Vango Helium 100 tent for the cycle. It was a good tent. I think it probably still is although it remains in the hands of an Anglo-American guy called Sean who used it for his trip along the Adriatic coast two years ago. I never really insisted that he hand it back as I’m sure he has (or rather I hope he has) continued to put it to good use. It had one main problem; size. Far too small. I barely had room to sit up when inside and had precious little space to store the panniers, especially on the very rainy evenings that the whole of Europe experienced back in August 2010. As you were probably well-protected in your nice houses and flats, my only protection was the tent. Until Rome, when the sun finally decided to shine…
Fast forward three years to spring 2013 and I’m on the hunt once again. With size my only issue with what was otherwise a very good choice, I feel a certain amount of brand loyalty to Vango / Force Ten (the names have confused me a little over the years and it was only explained to me this afternoon that they are indeed one and the same company) so it’s in that direction that I am first investigating. Initially I was looking at the Helium 200 tent but it is barely different in size to the 100 – we are talking tens of centimetres rather than even half a metre – and still suffers from the height issue. The guy at Springfield Camping has perhaps come to my rescue and suggested I consider the Force Ten Nitro Lite 200+. It’s a real beauty and address the size issues that I have with the Helium. It also has the tubular extension just outside the door of the inner tent – the bit that distinguishes the 200+ from a plain old 200 – which adds acres (well, not really but you know what I mean…) of covered storage space, perhaps even enough for the bike to be stored overnight, albeit with one wheel probably sticking out from the door. Although the tent is no taller than the Helium 100/200, it does have three supporting poles rather than just the one which means that the highest point when inside is actually most of the interior space rather than just one position half-way along the tent. It’s light – just 1.8kg – and packs down to a very portable 42 x 13cm. So it ticks most of my boxes. So what’s the problem? well, is it too big when erected? Do I need all that interior porch space when I am cycling 5,000km along the Mediterranean coast. Surely it won’t rain so much, will it? Could I get away with just the Nitro Lite 200? But with little difference in the price between the two, I am being too fussy for my own good?
Your thoughts are welcome… I will make a decision later this week sometime. If I am not able to go back to Springfield camping while staying up here in Yorkshire, I can buy via their website and have delivered. A few more pictures below: