size 65cm x 50cm x 45cm
Outer Polyester, PU-coated, 6,000mm hydrostatic head; inner breathable polyester; groundsheets polyethylene; poles Wrapflex glassfibre
Outer 245cm x 250cm; porch 240cm x 250cm; inners sleeping 210cm x 210cm, chef 230cm x 180cm; height 235cm
THIS coming year promises to be an interesting one for tent campers. From what I have seen to date there are some neat new tents about to hit the shelves. And I have been lucky enough to test some already.
One of the most interesting is Coleman's £399.99 Evolva X3 that appears on this month's front cover. It is the company's first foray into modular systems and the designers have worked hard to get it just right for family campers. The idea is to supply accommodation that can fulfil a variety of needs - expanding or contracting as the style of camping dictates.
The X3 comes as a central living area with extended porch. Three of the four walls can be removed to create a gazebo for those garden parties (picture 1), or to zip in the supplied three-berth sleeping compartment (picture 2).
Optional three-berth sleeping (7.3kg) and chef's (6kg) annexes can be purchased at £99.99 each, although all the retailers that I have spoken to believe that campers will purchase a complete kit at £549.99 - saving themselves £50.
The modular system is fairly easy to pitch - especially when compared to a similar size dome tent. The extra compartments are attached once the basic X3 has been assembled. This makes handling component parts straightforward and an easier process in windy conditions. It also means that pitching can be abandoned at any stage after the main tent has been erected, and resumed once it is convenient to do so.
The tent is eye-catching. Each extension from the living area is shaped like a Gothic arch for headroom and stability. It also boasts large windows throughout - even on to the sleeping compartments. Not only do these turn heads, they also keep the inside of the tent light and airy.
To pitch, fibreglass poles are slipped through pole sleeves to connect with the metal connecting nodes before being placed under tension to create a sturdy frame. The nodes are tied to the outer.
The wall panels can then be unzipped to add the sleeping compartment in whatever position is best for the pitch in the prevailing weather. The fibreglass poles that are used for the annex also make up the frame to create a self-standing unit. This is an especially useful trait in the chef's annex - pitch it away from the tent if you want to keep food preparation and mess separate from the sleeping quarters, or use on its own for al fresco meals at home. The back can be closed off using a mesh panel.
The heavy-duty zips used to connect annex to main tent are easy to use and are well protected underneath by the overlapping groundsheet.
Highs and Lows
Modular systems are not new. However, Coleman has managed to create an easy-to-pitch versatile tent at an affordable price. Gazebo, tourer, and family home - the Evolva provides you with three tents in one useable package.
If that is not impressive enough, the company has added neat touches that you just would not expect at the price. Besides the groundsheet zip protection you have other impressive design features like the windows and ventilation. Coleman spends a lot of time and money making sure the condensation problem is reduced to manageable levels. Here, we have oversized windows throughout that can be fully opened to catch the breeze.
Then there are the low-level mesh panels that can be adjusted from the inner tent. And that big roof vent that can be adjusted by quarter panels - if you are tall enough to reach them.
But the big news on accessories is the CoolAir Port found in the Evolva's porch. This ground-level opening takes an optional £19.99 Cool Window Fan (picture 3) to further increase ventilation on those warm, windless days.
This is just one of the new electrical accessories introduced by Coleman - and other key tent manufacturers like Outwell. While this fan is battery operated, many of the new electrical appliances designed for tents make use of a mains hook-up.
Other thoughtful features include a hanging rail in the chef's annex - you could use this to hang clothes in what would then become a rather luxurious dressing room, bathroom or nursery for the younger camper. Then there are the porch's roll-up doormat and door wings - the latter helps stop water ingress and provides additional support.
It is early days to find any negative points - I had the only prototype tent for one night in our Camping exclusive. But, if any complaint were to be levelled it would be concerning the tent bag. I would prefer to see the tent supplied in a number of smaller bags rather than a big valise. The bags would be easier to stow and transport - as well as gentler on the back when carrying between home, car and pitch. CG
This tent review was published in the December 2007 issue of Camping magazine. To order our latest issue please click here.
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