What makes a good packboating tent? For me doing a bit more Scottish sea kayaking than packrafting these days, super light weight is not that crucial. Better to have something easy pitching and spacious in which you can sit out some rough weather if need be. And then when some packrafting does turn up, have the ability to use just the fly or inner to save weight and bulk. On occasions I’ve use a cheapie tent’s inner as a mozzie dome, just as long as I remember to keep it weighed down before frying up the brekkie on a windy morning in Shark Bay.
Black Diamond Lighthouse and other tents
I now realise I used my yellow Bilber-based ‘breathable’, single-skinned Black Diamond Lighthouse (a Hilight now) quite a lot: North Wales, the Spey, Rannoch in winter (top right), Suilven, C2C (left), Morar (below right), France and on the isles. Although you could say there is little to separate it from a £15-Argos cheapie, I clearly liked the simplicity of that tent, except that it was a bit short for my length. But using it again packrafting the Ardeche, after four years it became either a condensation trap (which it occasionally was, as all tents can be), or was no longer waterproof without a packraft canopy and despite reproofing. And in the wind it can keep you up all night. So out it went.
I’ve also bought oir rented inexpensive REI ‘Domes (right) while in the US, and once I gave up on the leaking Lighthouse I got an Exped Venus II UL which met my new 220-cm long and inner and/or outer pitching targets. I used it on the second Spey without having to sleep diagonally as in the Lighthouse, while enjoying enough room to move about. The Exped was well-made but pricey and anyway, it got nicked on a ferry to Morocco.
A couple of mates have used the legendary Hilleberg Nallo for years, so when I found one cheap in the US I gave it a try. Sure, the Nallo (left) may have been OTT in an ATGNI sense, but with its reputation and residuals, I knew I’d not lose on it.
I liked the Hillie’s all-in-one pitching (unlike the Exped), the options to pitch outer (with footprint), inner only (or an optional inner mesh that was also included). This made it as potentially as light as the Lighthouse, but much roomier. I also like the easy pitching once you untangled it plus roomy front end and porch
I thought it would fit the bill, but caught out one winter’s night on the Postman’s Path on the Coigach (below) proved that, while it may stand up to 60-mph blasts like they say, its unsupported form flapped like the flags outside the UN building after an expresso lock-in at Starbucks. My hardcore mate crammed himself into his bivvy bag (left) and had a quieter night, even if he could barely move. On a windy nor’western night, for all that money the Nallo was no quieter than my Black Diamond.
On top of that, the Nallo may claim to have a floor that’s 220cm long (a minimum requirement for me) and have a huge porch, but the way it slopes down at the back where the blowing wind presses (right, and in the video below) meant I still ended up with an annoyingly damp end to my sleeping bag. Just like the Lighthouse.
I’ve since read that Hilleberg recommend pitching a Nallo porch into the wind, but as this discussion suggests, that seems rather counter intuitive – unzip the door and the thing will fill like a sail while blasting you with horizontal rain as you get in and out.
They say the Nallo-style tunnel design gives the lightest weight for volume, but those unsupported flanks make a racket and inside my Nallo was always a saggy affair (right), however I pitched it (left). While paddling the Slate Islands I took the chance to get some good ebay pics and sure enough, flogged it for more a little more than it cost me.
It was good to try the Nallo experience for free but now I had a better idea what I wanted for my current camping prefs: the Nallo’s good attributes but not in tunnel form. I considered four-pole mountain tents like the famous Quasar or more obscure Crux X2 Storm, but the entries were small, they didn’t do inner or outer only, and prices were a bit high for my low level of usage. Crux’s foam spacers to separate the inner and fly to enable better airflow was an interesting idea – or an admission that condensation was a problem.
Looking around, the 3-pole arrangement of something like the ME Dragonfly (left) seemed a good compromise to unflappability, even if those exterior pole sleeves could catch the wind and shake it around (same problem on the Nallo). But I discovered the Dragonfly had been discontinued years ago in the small-porched non-XT form. More tent spotting uncovered Vaude’s Odyssee used a similarly stable 3-pole set up while having many of the other features I sought.
Vaude Odyssee L 2P
So here it is. For just £185 on amazon in 2015, Vaude’s Odyssee seemed like a bargain. Now it’s £280 rrp but as I write this it can still be found for under 200 quid online. The Odyssee ticks all the boxes for my sort of camping out of boats or riding a moto.
• Inner and outer attached helps speedy all-in-one pitching
• 3-pole system copes in strong winds and makes a taught, flapping-reducing pitch
• Almost self-supporting so can be easily repositioned or pitched on hard surfaces which can’t be pegged
• The steep back end may catch more wind but means the full 220cm inner length can be used. This is a great feature – no more diagonal agonies or damp sleeping-bag foot from pressing against a sloping inner as on the Nallo
• You can pitch just the outer, saving 715g*, if insects, moles or temperatures aren’t an issue – and I’m pretty sure you can pitch just the inner (saving 956g) as a mozzie dome
• Scrunches into a football-sized bundle and the poles break down to 44cm for compact packing.
All these attributes along with the reasonably light weight – ready to go at 2.6kg (+ Exped footprint) and the price make the Odyssee 2P a great-value and versatile 1 or 2 person tent. It’s only 280g heavier than my Nallo, and while I presume the fabrics are inferior (“30D ripstop Polyester Silicone/PU coated 3000 mm; floor: 70D Polyamide PU coated 7000mm”) it cost one quarter of what my Nallo would have cost new.
The inner ‘washing line’ and loops to attach an optional roof net are handy, as are the three pockets by the door. The 75-cm deep porch is smaller than the Nallo but roomy enough, and the zip arrangements make it easy to control ventilation and maintain privacy. I’ve not had any condensation, but that must be just luck and breezy nights. Even with wind, the Nallo was terrible for condensation, partly because the flysheet ran right to ground level. The other night, gusts over 20-25mph in the Odyssee woke me up and I lay there thinking recirculating thoughts of she cannae hold until I remembered the ear plugs and soon fell asleep. I’m told most modern, post-cotton tents with < 4 poles will make a noise in strong winds. As long as you know it’s as well lashed down as can be and can take the hammering, just turn on, plug up and pass out.
First time out one peg bent when pressed in by foot. I replaced them with a dozen bombproof MSR Groundhogs with nifty pull-out loops (right; about 30 quid!).
The Odyssee takes about ten minutes to pitch without hurrying and with some faffing with the footprint (from the old Exped), and will stand with a minimum of two pegs staking out the porch. Two more at the back help good tension, and using every dang loop and all six guys needs 16 pegs – you’re now ready for a gale and I suppose a pole will snap before it rips (there a pole repair sleeve included).
Other small annoyances are the two long poles catch the fabric pocket seams at the back – make sure the pole ends sit fully in the pockets or you’ll over-tension them when clipping in the front end. And the pole-end locating pegs sometimes come away on the elastic cord which can be fiddly to reposition with the cord knot. I’ve fixed that with a dab of rubber glue.
I’ve only had normal rain so far, no real storms and can’t comment on durability, but I don’t do that much tent camping so the thing ought to last.
Can pitch inner or outer or both
Roomy inner in all dimensions
Stable 3-pole set up
More boring old green
Doesn’t erect itself