“An inflatable tent? You’re taking an inflatable tent?”
“What if it blows away?”
“It might spring a leak!”
Just some of the comments I got when I planned to head off to Suffolk with Vango’s latest innovation, the Airbeam tent. Yes, you do get a pump, and yes you do blow it up – but it’s only the ‘airbeams’, which take the place of your usual poles in your average tent.
If you are at all familiar with the ways of those who enjoy holidays under canvas, you will be aware that Vango is one of the top names in outdoors equipment, and true to form, the Airbeam Velocity Tent lived up to the high expectations I had for it.
Exceptionally well made, with extras such as plenty of pockets on the inners, colour coded tabs for fitting the inner ‘bedrooms’, several ‘windows’ and ready to accept tent extensions to increase your space, the tent itself did not disappoint.
The makers claim you can get the tent (even the largest eight-man version) pitched in five minutes. It did take a little longer than that, but nevertheless, I managed to use the included hand pump to pump the beams in 10 minutes and we had the tent pitched in about another 15 minutes. With practice, I reckon you could do it in Vango’s ‘record’ time.
The beams are really solid once pumped, and are made of a really sturdy rubberised material that feels very stable. I had images of the beams getting punctured by a flying toy car or similar, but they are far too well made for that. The other benefit is that it is actually possible to easily put up this tent on your own – a bonus for single parents – or anyone who is taking the kids away on their own. I’ve spoken to several people who would love to take the kids away camping on their own, but are scared that they’ll never manage to get their temporary home pitched – this would take away all the worry.
It’s equally easy to strike camp – simply unscrew the plugs and the air is quickly released. The tent is easily packed away in its own holdall on wheels, and while it’s not exactly lightweight, the fact that you don’t have to include a bag of poles means it does seem less weighty than your average tent – again useful if you’re coping with the tent on your own, or are worried about the extra weight in your car.
We were exceptionally lucky with the weather – I could hardly believe we were in England! So apart from a little light rain I didn’t get a chance to discover how it would perform in howling winds or torrential downpours, but feeling how sturdy it was I have no reason to think it would be any less reliable than any other tent.
The only downside is that the new innovation comes at a price – you’re looking at nearly twice the price of Vango’s ‘traditional’ tents. However, if ease and convenience is worth its weight in gold, it’s probably a price worth paying.
The Vango Airbeam Velocity costs from £230 (for a two-man tent) to £760 for the eight-man version. Tent extensions and inner groundsheets are available separately.
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