Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Karrimor Elite Ridge 2 - New Tent, and ideas for improvement/modification...

Had a game of guess the tent on Facebook, many thought it to be a higher end brand such as Terra Nova etc...
So, having had my Vango Tempest side by side with my friend Simon's semi-geodesic The North Face 'Sphinx' again a few weeks ago; I started to think how comfortable I am in the Tempest 200 and whether there was scope for an alternative, given my usually low budget...
Pitching the Vango Tempest can be an arduous process. It isn't difficult per se, with a little practice and patience it is perfectly possible to pitch adequetly. However, you do have to pitch it very precisely for it to stand well in stronger winds and so that the fly sheet isnt constantly against the inner. The TBS system works very well to combat both issues, but I still find them arising. The peg out loops on the corners are an annoyance too, as they are webbing loops which are too thick to sit well when using my titanium 'v' pegs. 

The space inside is also relatively limited due to its low profile and slope from the very front of the tent to the back. I find myself having to crouch uncomfortably to even sit upright. Having to sit constantly in an uncomfortable position when cooking in the porch is notoriously annoying. When sleeping also, my head nearly always touches the inner somewhere - and im not a big guy, in height or width!

So; Simon's tent stood up alot better without what would border on obsessive levels of care in pitching, flysheet remaining firm in its placement and overall structure of the tent hardly budging in stronger winds. There is more head room across the whole of the tent, and seemingly; more width.

So I looked around for semi-geodesics for the above reasons.
So, I looked around for a while at various websites and finally thought that the Karrimor Elite Ridge 2 was worth a punt on the Field&Trek website. Now In my, and many other people's experience, the quality of modern Karrimor kit is questionable at best. I've had Karrimor boots that lasted only a couple of months, a rucksack upon which the shoulder straps broke in a similar time, a pillow in which the stuffing started separating. There always seems to be huge reductions on the imaginary RRP prices too. That is probably explained by the fact that Karrimor is now owned by Field&Trek and Sports Direct. It's easy for them to make things sound like a good deal because they invent the RRP and then sell it at whatever they originally intended. This tent for example, has an apparent RRP of £219.

Having said all of that, there are some items of Karrimor gear that seem alright by my reckoning. The dry bags have never failed me, and I haven't had to reproof them yet. The down jackets are apparently good for the price, as are the higher end waterproof jackets. So, I was hoping that this tent would be in the list of products that perform to the level that their ficticious RRP's suggest that they might.

First test of the Karrimor Elite Ridge 2, on Great Langdale campsite.
I would have much preferred to have been able to set out on a wild camp for the Elite Ridge's maiden voyage, but time constraints and the weather dictated that it would be a less than wild night. In terms of the surroundings at least. After a few drinks and some food in The Old Dungeon Ghyll Hotel, we set about pitching our tents late on, at about 11pm. The rain had been nothing less than torrential, and the winds; gale force. As such, it was a difficult first pitch.

It is sort of demonstrative of how simple a tent this is to erect. I had only practiced once before, in the garden and that was simply putting the poles in place. No guying or pegging involved at all. The tent was soon up and holding fast in the strong wind, under which my Vango Tempest seemed to cower. The only 'problems' seemed to be that it was difficult to get the seams to align with the pole placement fully, and to get the flysheet close to the ground enough for me to think that I had done a good job. I played with the adjustment on the flysheet webbing pegout points, but could not get a 'close to the floor' flysheet pitch. It didnt really matter in the end, as the rain stopped soon after we finished pitching.

Overall, it was a simple and straight forward tent to pitch, and did not budge all night. It was still as solid in the morning as it had been initially. The two 'issues' that I encountered while pitching the tent got me to thinking about how I could potentially modify it. I had already changed the stock guy lines for 3mm dyneema, with mini line loks. I had also tied some loops of dyneema cord through the webbing pegout points where the poles sit in the inner, and on those attached to the flysheet to make it easier to peg them out taught.

I dont think that there is much that I can do to alleviate the problem with the pole and seam alignment other than fiddle with how tight I peg the tent out etc while setting up. It didnt seem to affect the integrity of the tent structure anyway. The other problem of the gap between the flysheet and the floor however, may eventually cause an issue - so I headed to google.

Finding an American tent manufacturer called "Nemo Equipment" was where my searching led me. There are some bits and pieces that I will probably now be ordering, ready to make the modifications. I will post any updates on my blog, here, with pictures to demonstrate what I am doing.

Overall, as stock - the only thing that reeeaaaally  needs changing at all is the guyline material. Only to something stronger and less likely to absorb water and slip under tension.