Another take on Australian weather.
Australia is the flattest, driest continent on the planet. There are relatively small areas above the treeline where, like other countries, the weather in winter brings challenges. However if your country has peaks over 3000m and is closer to the poles then you will in all likelihood have more severe conditions than Australian high country. Also, if because of altitude or distance, you cannot get to a decent coffee shop within a days walk from that area you might consider the ruggedness of your lightweight materials.
Another take on the Wilderness Equipment ‘First Arrow’ tunnel tent.
The guy who designs Wilderness Equipment (WE) is a bit of a legend in some circles. He has designed packs and equipment for Australian Special Forces, Australian Antarctic expeditions, various mining companies, governments etc. His stuff is known as bombproof expedition worthy gear. His expedition backpack harness with two independently rotating hip wings is rated by many people as the best in the world with daylight second - if carrying a lot of weight is what has to happen in your line of work. It is never light though. WE expedition equipment is designed to survive very rough country for extended periods of time for many years. Many people over the years have exhorted Ian to come up with a range of gear with lighter materials. For the last 15 years I have got responses usually along the lines of ‘equipment needs to last more than a couple of years of serious use’, ‘… ok for recreational users’… sustainability of products is better for the environment is another one. He has an ‘institutional’ range of gear for schools etc that is for beginners. This article is the first I have heard that the reason for the weight of expedition type tents as being ‘for novices’. Seemingly it is quite the opposite. ‘Novices’ generally do not buy expensive expedition tents that are twice the price of other, already expensive, tents in the store. Similar size expedition type tents from Macpac and Hilleberg are of a comparable weight and are using similar materials.
All WE designs using his engineering background are worth looking at closely and have many outstanding features.
The WE First Arrow is a case in point.
... another look at the specs... Stripped down for carrying 2.95kg sans ti pegs and 9in stakes. The WE site has 3kg listed as min weight which maybe is with pegs. This is the biggest of the tents tested. External width at 171cm (67.3in) height 120cm (47.25in) middle pole approx 95cm, end pole at 70cm (27.5in) Not sure how Caffin measured the interior in his review. My ruler says 110cm (43in) height at the peak, 90cm middle, 62cm (24in) at the foot end. 155cm widest internal to 110cm at the wide point of the foot end. So about 51cm each at the shoulder for 3 - tight and 2cm each less than Hilleberg 3 person - but ok … with height of 110cm x 155cm at the business end stretching to 90cm at the centre it allowed 2 big blokes and one 5’9” to cook and eat sitting up with a bit of care for two wet nights a few years back.
... another look at the design... I owned the Macpac Olympus and it is and was a very good tent despite the original design being from around the 80’s - like the WE. Here is why I sold it and bought the more expensive WE tent.
Like most high middle or non tapered tunnel designs the ventilation in the Macpac type tents can be a serious problem and a pain. It left a lot of condensation in the tent which froze or dripped onto the inner. The First Arrow is a tapered ie a rising roof design which is a very much drier tent.
“... the continuously rising shape of the tent to the high point in the cut-away eave provides the best possible still air convective ventilation and a direct exhaust path for cooking vapours rising from the vestibule. Even at low wind speeds the low pressure created over the main vestibule positively sucks air through the tent. With other designs the top part of the tent must flood with warm moist air before it reaches down to vent level.” … I would add wetting the inner in the process.
The venting is very clever system protected by ‘eyebrows’ that also do double duty as tension spreading for the multiple guy ropes for very stable end to end tensioning. The flow thru of this system is so efficient that this tent also excels in humid tropical downpours.
The ingenious vestibule design allows one or two entries or the entire front flap to zip down. The huge entry space allows for such easy entry and egress that helps make the livability of this design a joy to use. No more shuffling around when the second person needs to exit while the first person was cooking, a problem that occurs with most tunnels according to Caffin.
Like the Hilleberg and Macpac tents WE uses thick hard abrasion resistant guy ropes – less worries about guys abrading on rock ‘pegs’ and at 5000m base camps where average wind speed can be 40knots for days on end - these type of conditions are beyond an overnight winter storm at 50m above tree line – you might even describe it as 5th season perhaps.
WE’s guys are attached with doubled 4mm shockcord to better control wind forces and loosening guys. They are reflective for the entire length – higlighting guy ropes at low vis.
Like Macpac the guy attachment point is one very wide piece of fabric doubled over not two small ones.
Ian at WE is obsessive about new materials and ideas. Every few years there are updates and small redesigns. Gone is the silconised nylon fly to be replaced by a 30d ripstop polyester with silicone elastomer facing and polyether based PU back coating. A deep, unstressed tub floor, 100d nylon with 8,000mm HH coating that is folded not cut and sewn at the corners. These types of tubs are not light but they will handle rough sites where light materials won’t.
Scandium poles – marginally better performance than alu but, unlike carbon, will tend only to crease and fold when stressed too far that may allow for pole sleeves to rescue the situation.
Features like good big hardy zippers and decent pole sleeves like Macpac and Hilleberg that will stand up to some abuse that will inevitably occur in sub zero conditions at altitude with a decent alpine breeze where it just taken 2hours to travel 150m and the penalty for failure is extreme.
Like the Macpac it is easy to unclip the front end of the ground sheet to roll it back. In the WE this makes a very large vestibule space that two can sit and prep.
Custom alterations - eg snow skirts can be sewn in.
In many people’s view the Wilderness Equipment First Arrow is a premier expedition tent with design features that make it superior to others of this genre in important areas – albeit more expensive than most.
It seems to be a common thing that good designers are not necessarily the best marketers. Wilderness Equipment would be better known if the founder was more ‘accommodating’ and didn’t p!ss reviewers off so often and was able to explain his product to those selling it. Maybe engineers think that just because they have a good product it should sell itself.
First Arrow too much tent? WE also do a smaller 2 pole version - the Second Arrow tent - a 2 man tent about the same size and weight as a Hilleberg Nallo 2 or Macpac Minaret.