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Exped Vela II Extreme Tent REVIEW

Not the lightest double wall tent at nearly 6 lbs, but it's storm-worthy and can shelter two people and loads of gear.

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by Chris Arrasmith | 2006-01-17 03:00:00-07

Overview

Exped Vela II Tent Review - 1
The Vela II Extreme offers plenty of storage space with two vestibules.

The Vela II Extreme is a three-season tent that offers good protection against rain and wind. Instead of a zipper to open the rainfly, simply slide it up the center pole for entry. When closed, this makes a large vestibule for gear and the lack of a zipper increases storm resistance and means less moving parts to break. The interior has plenty of headroom but the width is cozy for two big people. This tent is not freestanding. At a minimum, two stakes are necessary at the ends to hold it up. At about 6 pounds the Vela II Extreme is heavy for a non-freestanding tent, but does offer large storage areas and good storm resistance.

In Brief

  • Zipperless rainfly increases durability and storm resistance
  • Large vestibules on both sides for gear storage
  • Four zip-open mesh windows for many venting options
  • Heavy for a non-freestanding tent

Specifications

  Year/Model

2004 Exped Vela II Extreme

  Style

Double wall with floor

  Fabric Description

Rainfly: two-sided, silicone-coated, ripstop nylon (untaped seams); canopy: ripstop polyester, no-see-um mesh; floor: PU-coated, taffeta nylon with water resistance rated to 10,000 mm hydrostatic head.

  Pole Material

DAC Featherlite SL 7001-T6 seamless aircraft aluminum shock-corded poles

  Weight Full Package
As supplied with stuff sacks, stakes, guylines, tent and rainfly.

Backpacking Light scale Manufacturer claim
6 lb 8.6 oz (2.96 kg) 6 lb 1.6 oz (2.8 kg)

  Weight Minimum Package
Tent body and fly, 2 stakes, no stuff sacks or extra hardware.

Manufacturer supplied minimum Backpacking Light minimum
5 lb 14.4 oz (2.71 kg) Same as manufacturer minimum but with 0.25 oz (7 g) titanium stakes (no guyline change)
5 lb 14 oz (2.66 kg)

  Floor/ Vestibule Area

Floor area Vestibule area
34 ft2 (3.2 m2) 24 ft2 (2.2 m2)

  Floor Area/Backpacking Light Minimum Weight Ratio

0.36 ft2/oz

  Dimensions

  Inches Centimeters
Width 51 130
Length 96 244
Height 40 102

  MSRP

$299

Features

Usable Features / Ease of Use

Exped Vela II Tent Review - 2
Exped Vela II set up without the rain fly for improved ventilation on a warm night.

Like the Hilleberg tents, the Vela has poles that attach directly to the rainfly and an inner tent that is attached to the fly, but is removable. This configuration means that you pitch the tent as a unit, keeping the inner tent dry in foul weather. What's more, the inner tent can be set up on its own without additional hardware, making the Vela a very versatile package.

Tent setup takes a little practice because there are many strings and tension adjusters to learn; but, once familiar with the tent, I was able to set it up in about three minutes. To pitch, first install the three poles, then pull and stake the metal rings on both ends. At the head of the tent, both the rainfly and canopy have separate metal rings secured with a single stake. At the foot end, the rainfly clips to the canopy's metal ring with a small carabineer. Once the tent is standing, it's time for tension adjustment. I found that I could make the tent and rainfly much tighter if I staked each of the tent's four corners to keep the ends from sliding in when the tent and fly were tensioned. However, it is possible to pitch the tent using just two stakes in milder weather.

In warm weather, the tent can be set up without the rainfly by threading the center pole through the elastic loops on the top of the canopy. If rain is possible, the fly can be detached at the head and foot ends, then rolled up and furled to the center pole to maximize ventilation while keeping it at the ready.

The Vela II has entries on both sides. To enter, unclip the rainfly and pull the string on the inside to slide the zipper-free rainfly up the center pole, then enter through one of two main canopy doors. Each door features a zip-open mesh vent and there is an additional vent at the tent's head and foot. Also, there is a permanent vent in the top of the canopy with a corresponding supported opening in the fly to aid airflow. At the head, an additional door can be zipped open to allow for some small storage or for emergency exit (exit by sliding under the fly). Two mesh pockets on each side keep things organized inside the tent for a total of four internal pockets. A vestibule on each side provides lots of extra, protected storage.

Included with the tent are twelve stakes (six sturdy 'V' pegs and six lightweight 'U' pegs), four guylines, stuff sacks for the poles, stakes and tent, and repair items - replacement zippers sliders and an aluminum tubing pole splint. The guylines come in stuff sacks that remain attached when in use, and plastic tensioners mean no slipknots are necessary.

Optional Exped accessories include a tent footprint, snow and sand anchors, extra guylines, and extra stakes.

Weight / Sizing

With a minimum weight of 5 pounds 14 ounces, this tent is a little heavy for a two-person, non-freestanding tent, but it makes up for its weight with extra storage space and excellent storm protection. The width is ample for two, though a little cozy for two big people. There's about 1.5 feet of room at either the head or foot end for storage. The dual side vestibules offer additional storage for backpacks, boots, a dog (or two), and whatever else needs protection from the weather.

The 0.36 ft2/oz area-to-weight ratio is low compared to other double-wall tents we've reviewed, but does not take the vestibule area into account. If the vestibules are included, the usable area-to-weight ratio is 0.62 square feet per ounce. Still lower than most lightweight single-wall tents but competitive in the double-wall category.

Exped Vela II Tent Review - 3
The width is a little cozy for two big people, but plenty of length provides ample storage inside the tent.

Exped Vela II Tent Review - 4
Vestibules have plenty of room for a backpack and other gear.

Usable Space

The Vela II Extreme vestibules provide 24 square feet of storage space and the canopy provides 34 square feet of sleeping space. Because of the low canopy height at the head and foot, the usable living space in the canopy reduces to about 20 square feet when sitting up. This is still plenty of room for two people to face each other and talk or play cards while waiting out a storm.

Performance

Wind Stability

The Vela II Extreme performs well in windy conditions because of its low, tapered profile. Even without using the included guy lines, wind had little effect on the tent. I found that the best way to set up the Vela in the wind was to orient it crosswise so one of the vestibules faces into the wind. This way the wind runs the same direction as the main pole instead of hitting the rib formed by it. When setting up the tent in high winds, it is helpful to stake the metal rings on one end of the tent before putting the poles in to keep it from blowing away.

Because the rainfly goes all the way to the ground, I felt little to no breeze inside the tent on windy nights. It is important in the wind to stretch the rainfly tight using the string tighteners at the head and foot and the clip closure on the two sides. This will help keep wind from blowing the fly against the canopy.

Three guylines attached to loops on the rainfly center pole sleeve can help support the tent's apex. During this test the wind was seldom strong enough to make extra guying necessary, as the tent is already very stable. However, in very high winds, attaching guylines to these three loops and staking them in opposite directions helps keep the center pole from moving and keeps the rainfly taut.

Storm Protection

Exped Vela II Tent Review - 5
The weight of overnight snow made the rainfly sag and snow had to be knocked off several times during the night.

The Vela II performs very well in pouring rain. During the test, the silicone-coated nylon rainfly kept out virtually all moisture, although some condensation formed inside the fly on cold, humid nights

Sitting up in the tent during a rainstorm was no problem. There is plenty of room for two people to face each other and play cards and plenty of dry storage room in the two vestibules to keep backpacks dry or stow wet raingear away from sleeping bags.

Floor seams are taped, and though seams in the silnylon rainfly are not taped, I found no water leakage. Because the rainfly is zipper-free, rain protection is further increased. When pitched on wet ground, the polyurethane-coated nylon floor kept the tent nice and dry inside.

The fly had a tendency to sag with the extra weight of snow, and I had to knock the snow off several times during the night. This was expected based on the tent's design: no support pole between the ends and the center; a wide, low profile; and shallow wall angles. The clips attaching the rainfly opening to the ground got buried in the snow, making them hard to get to and open.

Ventilation / Condensation resistance

Ventilation options are numerous. There are zip-open mesh vents on both doors, at the head and foot, and in the ceiling. All five vents can still be used in foul weather because they are covered by the rainfly. I found that with the foot and door vents open halfway, there was condensation on the inside of the head end of the tent in the morning. This is partially due to the canopy being low at the head and foot ends of the tent, so your breath is close to the tent wall. By opening the vents on the doors farther, and opening the head end vent, condensation was reduced considerably, but so was warmth. On cold nights when most of the vents were closed to reduce drafts and keep heat in, I awoke to find a moderate amount of frost lining the canopy. While the fly vent helped, a second vent would help alleviate some of this condensation.

On warm clear nights, the rainfly can be rolled up on both sides to let the breathable nylon canopy vent even better. With the rainfly rolled up or removed, there is no longer any condensation due to breath vapor.

Because the rainfly doesn't breathe, condensation - liquid or frost - formed inside the fly every time it was used. This isn't a problem unless the fly sags and touches the canopy, so it's important to make sure the fly is tight enough to stay off the canopy when it gets heavy from morning dew.

Insect Protection

The Exped Vela II offers full protection from insects. When the doors are closed, bugs are left "out in the cold." The zip-open mesh windows on both doors provide good ventilation while keeping bugs out, but even with the fly pulled up there is very little view out of the tent.

Durability

Exped Vela II Tent Review - 6
Attachment points of the tensioning strings on the rainfly are high stress points.

The Vela II has held up well to abuse thus far. The floor is seam taped, and all seams are double stitched, and I have seen no problems with tearing or separation, even when pitching it on rocky, rough ground. Overall, the quality is excellent.

The only questionable area is the point where the tightening strings attach to the rainfly. These points take a large amount of stress when tightening the rainfly enough to keep it from touching the canopy. Because the tent is not free-standing, these points also take the brunt of holding the tent up. I have seen no tearing or problems with these areas and they are reinforced, but this area does have the greatest potential for damage.

Three of the lightweight "U" shaped stakes bent when trying to use them in hard or frozen ground. This can be avoided by using sturdier stakes such as titanium skewers.

Value

At $299 this tent is in the average price range of other double wall tents we've reviewed. Materials used are lightweight, durable and weatherproof, and contribute positively to the value. Weight is the biggest factor against this tent. Because it uses three poles, the Vela II Extreme is similar in weight to many freestanding double-wall tents.

Recommendations for Improvement

Exped Vela II Tent Review - 7
Large side-opening on stuff sack makes packing the tent harder.

When only using one stake in each end to hold the tent up, I found that the bottom corners tended to pull toward each other, affecting total floor area. To eliminate the need to pack extra stakes for the corners, sliding adjusters could be added on the tensioning strings so that when the strings are tightened, the bottom corners can be pulled out without moving the top of the pole sleeve.

I found the side-opening stuff sacks to be more cumbersome than regular top-opening sacks. The stake bag was much too large for the stakes and stakes fell out easily. With the large opening in the stuff sack for the tent it was hard to hold the tent in with one hand while trying to pull the closure string with the other. Also, the side opening made the tent an odd shape when packed. I would recommend top-opening drawstring stuff sacks for the stakes, poles, and tent.


Citation

"Exped Vela II Extreme Tent REVIEW," by Chris Arrasmith. BackpackingLight.com (ISSN 1537-0364).
http://backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/exped_vela_ii_extreme_tent_review.html, 2006-01-17 03:00:00-07.

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