Vango's Equinox 450
This is the tent I’ve been looking for for a couple of years now. We’d previously been managing with a very inferior version of the same sort of tunnel style family tent. Two years of sporadic use had and it had seen better days. Weekends away camping with friends had given me a pretty good idea of what I didn’t want: a behemoth of a tent that fills half your boot and requires three people and an hour of precious away-time to erect. I wanted something that will fit comfortably into our luggage when travelling abroad, something that’s big enough to accommodate a family of 4 in multiple compartments, and something that can be erected quickly by just one person.
The equinox 450 fulfils all these criteria with whistles and bells! It’s just 6.7kg, has a large sleeping compartment which will easily sleep two adults, a travel cot (also light weight) and a couple of bags, there’s a modest sized porch which will allow cooking inside if necessary, and then there’s a small kiddies compartment which will accommodate our two young boys. Although I'm 6 foot 5 I can almost stand up inside and my wife manages just fine.
The blurb says that it takes 15 minutes to pitch. I don’t think it even took me that long the first time I put it up. After a few pitchings it’s more like a 5 minute job now to put the four poles together and thread into their colour coded sleeves. My one gripe is that it comes with only the barest number of pegs necessary to pitch – you need extras if you want to use any of the included guy ropes. That said, the pegs provided are good quality and very light weight which is a plus. I really liked the fact that the inner remains attached to the outer so that you can pitch it in one go, keeping the inner dry if raining (a pet hate of mine, especially in 'mountain' tents which this clearly is).
The floor plan of the 450
Inside the tent are a series of straps which you can clip together and tension if the weather dictates. They effectively give each of the three poles a whole load of additional rigidity. They get in the way a little, but are easy enough to negotiate once you get used to them, and you can easily stow them when the weather is calm. There are even stow pockets to keep them tidy! Talking of pockets, there are plenty of these dotted about inside the tent, including a series of vertical pouches for keeping bits and pieces in if you are staying put for more than a night, and also a pair of generous pockets to stow the inner zipped-doors in when open instead of the normal faffy toggle affairs. There are a series of windows close to each of the two inner poles. These windows aren’t actually openable to the outside world, but they do let in light and there is a flap of material for each one that can be velcro’d into place to effectively ‘close’ the windows.
One thing which may put some off is the fact that the inner porch area does not include a ground sheet of any description. However you can purchase, for an additional £40 or so, a footprint groundsheet which covers the entire footprint of the tent, giving you a groundsheet in the porch and protecting the groundsheets under the sleeping areas. Add another half kilo or so onto your overall weight for this handy bit of kit. There are a few additional benefits to getting one of these footprints: if you lay it out on the ground before pitching the tent it is possible to see very clearly where the tent will go - important if you don't have much flat ground to choose from. It keeps the tent clean whilst you are putting it up if erecting on muddy ground, and likewise, allows you to put it away clean, keeping the muddy footprint in a separate (provided) bag.
In rain and wind it has so far stood up very well indeed, the torsion straps keeping the tent rigid in high winds, and with no sign of any leakage so far. Result: one very happy camper.
Retails at around £240-280, which represents very good value for money.
Pack size: 50cm by 26cm
Pitching time: 15 minutes (I was able to pitch it much quicker than this!).
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