This is a mini-review to go with our series on tunnel tents. It reviews the Exped Aries Mesh tent. Some of the illustrations are from the manufacturer's web site, used here with acknowledgement.
The Exped Aries Mesh is a straight two-pole two-man double-skin tunnel. First, the specifications.
|Poles||2, DAC Press-Fit 9 mm TH72M|
|Fly Fabric||40 d PU-coated, UV-resistant, ripstop polyester|
|Listed Weight||2.67 kg (5 lb 14 oz)|
|Tent Weight||2.92 kg (6 lb 7 oz)|
|Pole Weight||392 g (13.8 oz)|
|Stakes, Weight||13, 166 g (5.8 oz)|
|Stuff Sacks||105 g (3.7 oz)|
It would seem that the listed weight is rather less than the measured weight. It is not clear what the listed weight was meant to include.
This is a fairly 'stock standard' two-pole two-man double-skin tunnel tent, but built with Swiss attention to detail. For instance, the pole feet go into webbing pockets lined with spare repair sleeves rather than simple eyelets. It is not all that lightweight, but it is quite rugged. That includes the mesh inner tent - the mesh is also quite rugged. However, the mesh will not stop a breeze, which is why this tent is listed as a single-skin tent.
The fly fabric is listed as 'flame retardant.' This is to comply with laws in some states. It's an extremely stupid idea as the flame retardant won't prevent a melt-down but is reported to reduce the fabric strength quite severely. Too much political correctness. The groundsheet is listed as being waterproof to 5 m water head (which is good).
The interior of the tent has reasonable floor space for two, and very reasonable headroom. The rear end of the tent does slope down, making the very rear less useful for sitting, but there seems to be a fair bit of floor space in the middle with high headroom. The sides go straight up and the middle is wider than most, so the middle region is quite usable. You would certainly be able to pack a lot of gear down the sides of your mats.
The tent pole stuff sack is a work of art, with separate pockets for the poles, the stakes, and the spares. The 'spares' include a repair sleeve, a slider for the zips, self-adhesive repair fabric for the fly and the groundsheet, and some spare mesh for the inner tent. The stakes are fairly wide-angle with folded-over ends which are comfortable to the hand. The aluminium is a bit soft, making it a bit difficult to hammer them in. The literature says 16 stakes; I am fairly sure I found 13.
The guy ropes are about 2.5 mm diameter, with sparkles for visibility at night. They have toggles as shown here. You need to slacken the tension off the guy with one hand to slide the toggle along the string, but that is easy to do. You can see the toggle here and in the photos below. You can also see in the photos below a yellow 'flag' on each guy rope. Actually, the 'flag' is a little nylon pocket into which you can stuff the coiled-up guy line. Very tidy people, the Swiss. Also, I am sure the flag may help prevent others from falling over the guy!
You can put a bit of lengthwise tension on this tent, which is good for handling storms. Also very nice is the way the guy ropes are used: they are 'doubled' (like mine) as shown here. That is, they attach at two points: low and high. That provides a lot of support to the tent poles when the wind goes side-on.
There's a loop of light webbing with a welded ring threaded on it. You can just make out the ring in the photo here (the stake goes through it). On the rear corners, the webbing goes back under the metal ring to thread through another (plastic) ring (not pictured) and then to anchor the corner of the groundsheet. The webbing looks kinky: it has two strands of bungee cord inside it to maintain tension. I will express some doubts here: I would not bother with the bungee cord at the rear end, but it doesn't matter as you can pitch the tent tight enough that the load goes on the webbing. At the downwind end, the anchors are plain loops of webbing: one loop on the side panel and one loop on the corner of the door.
The tent poles are fairly stock DAC ones, although the 9 mm diameter is definitely rugged. The 'far end' is captive inside the pole sleeve, making it easy to thread the poles, but you can only do this from one side. What is interesting is how the 'free' end is retained, as mentioned right at the start. You slacken off the tension webbing, thread the end of the pole into an aluminium sleeve inside the webbing pocket, and then tension up the sleeve with the webbing. All of that is visible here. The cute trick is that you can extract the aluminium sleeve and use it for emergency pole repairs if you need to, and the webbing is still adequate to hold the end of the pole. Swiss ingenuity.
There is only one vestibule on the tent, but it is large enough for cooking in comfort. It would be a little cramped if you had to store two packs there as well, but you could manage. It might be a little tricky if the second person needed to exit to the loo while the first person was cooking, but that problem occurs with most tents.
There is provision for ventilation, as may be seen in the two photos above, but it is a bit limited. The ventilation over the door can be unzipped - why is not clear. The hood there is stiffened so the hole remains open. The rear end vent is similar but not zipped. What is neat is that you can close the ventilation down a bit, as shown here. Now, if they had made the downwind vent mesh without the zipper and the up-wind mesh zipped, you could reach out and alter the hook and loop attachment. That would have made a bit more sense. Odd.
Ideally, I would have liked to review the Sirius II instead of the Aries mesh, as the Sirius is a genuine four-season double-skin tent. However, it is not marketed in the USA. So we have the Aries Mesh: a three-season tent. As you might expect from a Swiss company, it is well made and rugged, although you do pay for the strength with the weight. Could you use this tent in the snow? Yes, keeping in mind that you may need to block spindrift from entering.Disclaimer: The manufacturer provided this product to the author and/or Backpacking Light at no charge, and it is owned by the author/BPL. The author/Backpacking Light has no obligation to the manufacturer to review this product under the terms of this agreement.