Sunday, 14 June 2015

Trekkertent, Phreeranger EB Pt. 2

I mentioned that I was going to do a full write up about my new Phreeranger EB but in the end I had too much other stuff to do, mainly working so didn't get a chance. No photos yet but I'll try to add them asap.

First though a bit more information about the tent in general, the workmanship on the tent is faultless, I've seen worse from the well known premium brands. There isn't a loose stitch to be see anywhere on either the inner tent or the fly, the seams are nice and even with no raw edges anywhere. The inner tents on some of my original Phreerangers are worse in that respect. I don't expect anything to fail on this tent as a result of the materials used or standard of construction. If anyone is considering buying a shelter from Trekkertent you can be assured that there's nothing to worry about in that respect.

As I was having the tent 'custom built'to a degree I had a fair amount of input regarding the specification, after a few e-mails to and from Marc the spec I decided on was.

Flysheet
Design As Original
Green 40D Fabric
Full Main Pole Sleeve
Webbing With Sewn Pockets for Main Pole Location
Rear Vent Modification
Extra Guyline Points At Crossing Pole
Plain or Waterproof Zippers on Porch, No Stormflaps
Short Webbing/Alloy Ring Loops at Pegging Points 
Webbing Loops on Inside of Ridgeline to take Shockcord/Glove Hooks (Inner Attachment) 
Plastic Cable Tie Stiffener for Porch Hood
Velcro Hook Part on Door/Loop on Flysheet

Inner
White Fabric
Half Mesh Drop Down Door with Cover Fabric
Nice Deep Mesh Pockets Each End (Like on the Mythos)
Webbing Loops Front/Back at Apex For hanging a Torch
Webbing Loops on Ridgeline to attach Shockcord for Inner/Fly attachment 
Bathtub made from the heavier fabric,  heavy duty PU coated ripstop nylon with a minimum HH rating of 5000mm. 
5 x Webbing loops on bathtub to attach shockcord which I can simply loop over the flysheet pegs

That all probably needs some explaination as some of the things on the list had alternatives.

The Flysheet.

First the design of the Flysheet, on the standard Phreeranger that Marc had made there was the option of being able to vent the flysheet by unhooking the rear center pegging point and hooking the fly up to a plastic ring, this mod really need the extra zip at the rear of the inner which I didn't think I wanted so initially I said I'd go without the vent option. In the end I went for the vent on the fly only although I doubt I'll ever use it. I would say though that if you want the venting option then definitely have the extra corresponding zip on the inner, all or nothing on this one.

The second modified (compared to the original) feature was to replace the long webbing loops/alloy ring at the base of the flysheet with cordlocks that work with cord like ladderlocks do with webbing, I think Marc had adopted that approach on one of the regular Phreeranger flysheets. My Robens Mythos has them but in my experience they tend to slip so I really didn't want them. I could have opted for ladderlocks and webbing but in the end decided to keep it simple. I did compromise a bit by having the webbing/rings shorter than the original so that I could add cordlocks/ladderlocks later if I felt I needed them.

Marc asked what I thought of having the main pole located in eyelets on webbing rather than the sewn pockets that the originals used, again I decided to go for webbing with sewn pockets like the original, it's simple and field repairable, if an eyelet pulls out of the webbing there's no easy way to repair it, if the webbing pocket stitches fail they can be sewn up again or the webbing tied of with a piece of paracord. I've had eyelets rip out but never had a sewn pocket fail. Another main pole related suggestion was to have the pole sleeve closed at one end with adjustment by means of a ladderlock and webbing at the other. Again I decided against that as if I'm having adjustment I like it at both end so that the flysheet is an equal distance from the ground at both ends of the pole. My old family camping Equinox 350 had adjustable tapes at both ends of the poles but my new 4 person version only has adjustment at one end, it means you can't pull the fly down low at one side, I don't like that. Again I stuck with the original design.

The original Phreerangers didn't have a stormflap over the door zip but Marc had added one to the new regular Phreeranger flysheets, it was suggested as an option on the EB which I would have gone for but in the end Marc decided against it insted suggesting waterproof zips. I find waterproof zips a bit stiff so decided on plain zips with no stormflap,  to be honest I'm not bothered either way considering on my last trip with an original fly even 12+ hours of heavy rain didn't cause any problems with regard to not having a stormflap.

The 'webbing loops on the ridgeline' As a means of attaching the inner I simply wanted to use shockcord loops/glovehooks, the Mythos uses mini fastex buckles but you need to use both hands to clip them together, sounds simple enough but not so simple when you're kneeling under the flysheet trying to reach over the inner tent with limited space. On my old Phreerangers the hook is attached to the flysheet with simple shockcord loops attached to the inner, it's easy to reach up with one hand and by spreading the loop using two fingers loop it over the hook as it hangs down from the ridgeline. Easy as it is it does introduce another issue, hooks on the fly which can get caught up on each other or on the tension band when you're trying to pitch the flysheet. The alternative is to put the glovehooks on the inner but then it's less easy to get the glovehook onto the shockcord loop using one hand. I couldn't decide so asked Marc to sew grossgrain loops into the seams on both inner and flysheet so I can decide later which way to go about attaching everything. Marc supplied the shockcord and the glove hooks, I'll add shockcord loops to both inner and fly before deciding which one the glovehook goes on. Again I'd mentioned to Marc not to worry too much about the hooks/loops, as long as the grossgrain loops were fitted the rest I can do myself.

About the extra high level guyline points, Marc had added one at each end of the crossing pole on the regular Phreerangers, again we were going to go with that on the EB but again Marc decided that it wouldn't work so well on the front of the EB due to the porch design, again I wasn't too concerned anyway. I still have the upper rear tie out but probably won't use it. One thing that I did notice about the high level tie out is that it tends to twist the seam through 90 degrees, I've discussed this with Marc and personally feel that they would be better attached the same as the rear mid level tie-outs, the same method could be used at the front. I think if I had the option of front and rear tie-outs attached like the mid level ones I'd go for it but otherwise I wouldn't really worry if they were fitted or not.

In the end then the flysheet came out as expected and matched the spec I wanted apart from two very minor details. The first is the method of keeping the crossing pole in place, in at least one of my originals the open end of the sleeve is sewn closed halfway down, when the pole is fitted it almost sits in a pocket with the velcro really only securing it, also on at least one of the originals it's actually webbing with velcro sewn on rather than velcro on it's own that forms the tape keeping the pole in place. I think the webbing is actually better as it almost forms itself around the end of the pole and can't slip off, the velcro on the other hand is just that bit stiffer and looks like it could slip off the end of the crossing pole with the result that the crossing pole can at least partly slip out of the sleeve.

The second detail is relates to the door, at first glance the EB looks like it has a central section that zips open to create the door but really you have 3 sections, any of which can be unzipped as a door. On the original EB there were four webbing tape/alloy ring pegging points, one at each side of each zip. This means that the fly can be tightly pegged down even if you want to open one of the end panels. On the new EB there are only two webbing/ring points, one adjacent to the zip on each of the end panels, the center door section simply has a shockcord adjacent to each zip. I've spoken to Marc about this, if he's happy to do it I'll return the flysheet so that he can fit the extra webbing/rings on the door. My view is this, if you have four webbing tape/rings you can easily add a shockcord loop to each so you have the option of either pegging through the ring on the section not being used as a door and using the shockcord on the section used as the door looped over the same peg to relieve strain on the zip.

I have to point out that I could easily sort both of the above myself but would prefer to have Marc do it if only so that he can evaluate the alterations for himself.

As weight wasn't really an issue, I choose the heaviest fabric Marc uses, the same as used on the Edge, 40D high tenacity Ripstop Nylon 6.6 which is triple silicone coated both sides and has an HH rating of 3500mm. I think the pole sleeves are made from the same fabric as the groundsheets which is heavy duty PU coated ripstop nylon with a minimum HH rating of 5000mm but I'd need to confirm that.

The tent came seam sealed and very neat it is to, Marc also supplied his own shock absorber guyline tensioners, there are 3 fitted to each of the rear mid level guyline points and one to the high level point which I've removed. Marc suggested them as silnylon has a tendency to stretch when wet.

Finally the top of the center door section is attached to the tent using velcro, it has to be detachable otherwise the door wouldn't roll down from the top. Doors that roll down are great when there's snow as it keeps it from falling into the porch when the door is opened. I asked to have the soft 'loop' part sewn to the tent and the plastic 'hook' part sewn to the door, why? well I've found in the past that if the 'hook' part is on the tent and the door is open, every time you lean out or leave the tent the hook part catches on hats/clothing etc which is annoying (to me anyway)

One final thing and it's something that I've noticed on almost every modern tent I've owned, why are un-anodised poles so hard to slip into the pole sleeves? On the original Phreerangers if you laid everything out you could almost get the pole to slip right into the sleeve and out the other side. With more modern tents the pole tends to want to continually stick, I'll assume it's something to do with the fabric/coating although I have a feeling that on the original Phreerangers the fabric used for the pole sleeves was only coated on one side and the coated side was facing out rather than in. This isn't a criticism of Marc or Trekkertent, simply an observation, the new EB is no worse in this respect than most of the other tents I've owned recently.

The Inner Tent

I'm not quite sure if Marc had made an inner tent prior to me sending him my original EB, I checked all my inner tents from standard and EB Phreerangers and they're all the same size allowing for manufacturing tolerances. The inner tent was a must have for me as in spite of having 4 different inner tents I didn't have one that didn't have a leaking groundsheet.

I can't remember just what options were available, I think perhaps just the extra zip at the rear to correspond with the 'vent mod' on the flysheet. We did discuss whether to have a side opening door or a drop down door but if I remember correctly both agreed on the drop down as regardless of which end your head is at you can always access the porch. Again pros and cons whichever you choose, I could live with either option. I did ask for a plain door with mesh panel and a plain cover but in the end it came with full double doors, solid/mesh just like the original which is fine. You could save the weight of a zip and a bit of fabric by going for the single plain with mesh panel option but I guess it wouldn't amount to much. I did have a choice of colours for the inner, green, yellow or white, I felt green would be too dark, yellow attracts insects so white it was. The inner is made from lightweigh ripstop with a DWR. I also had a choice of fabrics and colours for the groundsheet/floor but choose the toughest available, again the same as the Edge which is mentioned above, heavy duty PU coated ripstop nylon with a minimum HH rating of 5000mm. The only colour option was black which was fine by me. I suppose given the choice I would have gone for light grey rather than black as it would reflect light better but in the end durability is vastly more important and I don't think grey was an option anyway unless I wanted a groundsheet made from the same fabric as the flysheet on the 3 season Trekkertent models which is silicone coated 30 Denier high tenacity Ripstop Nylon 6.6 (silnylon) with a hydrostatic head rating of 2000mm. With enough leaking inner tents I didn't even consider this as an option.

For internal storage I asked Marc to add pockets at each end which is the same as the Mythos, I could have asked for pockets all along the rear of the inner but as I only need somewhere for wallet, watch keys (maybe) and headtorch I decided less is more. With too many storage pockets I'd forget where things are.

Marc fitted 3 webbing loops at the apex, in line with the crossing pole so there's enough option for hanging a tent light. The inner hangs quite loosely which I think surprised Marc, he seemed to feel that it should be tighter but honestly it's just like an original Phreeranger, if he hadn't mentioned it I wouldn't have noticed at all, in fact even hearing his concerns I still don't see anything wrong, it's 100% fine to me and vastly better than the Power Lizard I had briefly.

The space inside is amazing, I can just squeeze two Highlander full size rectangular sleeping mats in side by side, it is tight but it wouldn't have been remotely possible in my TN Laser which was classed as a 2 person tent (the Phreeranger EB was classed as 1+ person) The headroom is fantastic, I should have checked the actual height but I can sit bolt upright without touching the apex of the inner (I'm 5' 10" and no I don't have a disproportionally short body) The amount of separation between inner and fly is excellent, the inner tent could easily be enlarged to hold 2 full size sleeping mats with space to spare and still not be close to touching the flysheet.

So overall opinion? obviously given that it's almost an exact replica of my all time favourite tent I'm delighted with it, design aside the workmanship is faultless and the materials used as tough as I'm ever likely to need. I won't say I'd never buy another tent but if I did it'd be another Phreeranger from Marc, as long as he wants to make them he has a potential customer in me.

I'll add the weights of the various components as soon as I finish my shift.


The rear tie outs with tensioners added, I've removed the top one since I won't be using it.


2 Full size sleeping mats, just about fit.

Loads of inner/fly separation 


One thing I'd change, the crossing pole sleeve opening needs sewn closed half way down so the pole is held in place. Also the velcro would be better sewn to a piece of webbing, as it is it's really to stiff and the pole can (and will) slip under it. I'd go for a webbing strap with a velcro tab like the originals.

Various door configurations










Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Trekkertent, Phreeranger EB

This post is just to show a few pic's of my new, complete Phreeranger EB made for me by Marc at  Trekkertent. I sent him an old one that I'd bought but couldn't use due to the coating and seam tape having come off the flysheet. The Phreeranger tents have been discussed at length here over the past few years and the question was always asked, what if you could get a new Phreeranger made from modern fabrics. It always seemed like a pipe dream but here it is.




I got the tent last Thursday but due to work this morning was the 1st chance I got to pitch it, I choose not to have guylines fitted as I'll add them myself but so far haven't had time. 

Obviously a full write up to follow.

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Robens Mythos Solo, Almost 'The One'

Robens Mythos Solo
















In my quest to find a new tent that suited me as well as the Phoenix Phreeranger I'd looked at a variety of single pole tents that had the pole run end to end rather than side to side as in the Terra Nova Laser and the multitude of clones that various 'Designers'?? have come up with.

I looked at the MSR Hubba HP but ruled it out as it was basically inner 1st pitching (unless you use the footprint work around) and was narrower than I wanted, the Vango Apex?? was dismissed for a variety of reason not least the sail like porch hood, the Macpac Microlight and Blacks Octane were ruled out for being too small. Then I saw the Robens Mythos Solo.
















This was interesting and although there were a few things I didn't like the look of I finally bought one. I felt that a new tent made from fabrics that were 20+ years advanced from the Phreeranger would offer a multitude of benefits.

When the Mythos Solo arrived I was impressed with how small it packed and how light the fabrics felt, the flysheet is virtually see-through. There were quite a few little features that I felt were eye candy rather than of any real benefit such as the overly complicated vents on the flysheet and the method of attaching the poles but I went ahead and pitched it.


Tent As Supplied
















The 1st thing I noticed when I started to pitch it was that the method of attaching the poles wasn't any easier or quicker than on the Phreeranger which has pole sleeves, the Mythos uses plastic hooks. IMO it's possibly faster to insert a pole into a sleeve and then place the pole ends in the webbing pockets at each end than it is to insert the pole into eyelets at each end and then attach to hooks, with the pole sleeve on the Phreeranger, especially the later continious pole sleeve it's a 3 step job, slide the pole through and place each end in the webbing pocket. In addition I feel that a pole sleeve adds strength to the pole and spreads the stress along the length of the seam, the hooks on the other hand don't support the pole and create stress points at intervals along the main seam, on top of that if a hook breaks how do you replace/repair it? you'd need to open up the seam with all that entails and stitch a new hook on. Additionally the use of webbing pockets rather than eyelets is stronger, I've seen eyelets pull through the webbing they're attached to which makes it almost impossible to pitch the tent, with the webbing pocket if it tears you repair it in the field by stitching it up.

Porch Door Opened Up

Pole Locates in Eyelets on Webbing, Choice of 2 Positions






























The corner pegging points are more hi-tech on the Mythos, the Phreeranger simply has webbing loops with an alloy ring, there's no adjustment at all, the Mythos uses lengths of dyneema running through a cordlock. The ability to re-tension the flysheet is probably necessary on modern silnylon type fabrics as they tend to stretch when wet although I find that the type of cordlock used on the Mythos is prone to slipping. The porch door opens right up to the crossing pole with a double ended zip which had luminous plastic caps on the dyneema pullers (all the zip pullers are dyneema which is a nice touch). The Phreeranger has a shorter zip that stops well below the crossing pole so it's easier to get in and out of the Mythos even though it's a slightly lower tent. Both sides of the porch can be rolled back to completely open the porch much like the Phreeranger. I found the webbing loops that you put the toggle through to secure the door to be too small for ease of use so added a short piece of shockcord. Looked at from above the Mythos is less symetrical than the Phreeranger, the rear of the Mythos doesn't extend as far out from the ridgeline as the front, this makes it narrower than the Phreeranger and obviously reduces internal space.

Adjustable Pegging Points
















There are 6 guylines fitted to the flysheet, all using dyneema and linelocks, in addition there is a webbing loop at each end of the crossing pole to allow the fitment of more guylines if required. The main pole guylines are attached to the fly at 2 points, the other 4 are attached to loops sewn into the front and rear of the tent.





































I mentioned the vents at the beginning, there are 2, one at the front and one at the rear, these are opened/closed by a zip and have what feels like a fiberglass rod in a velcro webbing pocket which can hold the vent open, the inner has matching mesh vents which can also be zipped open. IMO the vents are a bit over designed, too many zips and stuff which adds weight and complication.

Flysheet Vent

Flysheet Vent from Inside
















One final thing I noticed on the fly was the length of webbing running end to end to hold the pole in place, this has a fastex buckle at one end but isn't adjustable, I've no idea what purpose the buckle serves.
















The Mythos did come with very nice alloy DAC  V pegs rather than cheap skewers and the pole set was also DAC.
















The inner tent attaches to the fly using small fastex type buckles, the female end attached to the fly, the male end attached to the inner on webbing which allows the tension to be adjusted. Not only are these used at the corners but also along the ridgeline. There is a good sized mesh pocket at one end and the door opens to the side and stows away in a pocket, like many modern tents there is a half mesh panel on the door with a plain section that can be used to cover the mesh. The inner tent has an adjustable cord running across the apex of the inner tent below the crossing pole that can be used to hang a torch etc. In addition the inner tent has 2 mesh vents which can be zipped open, these match the vents on the flysheet. I think these are overkill to be honest, I can't see that opening the zip will increase ventilation much.



















With the tent pitched it was noticable that it was significantly smaller than the Phreeranger, although there's more width front to back at the apex, both on the fly and inner there's less headroom and the floor space is quite a bit narrower. I had intended to use the Mythos on a previous bike trip but with my motorbike kit including a pair of actual motorbike boots there simply wasn't enough room, after my last trip where I had problems with the Phreeranger groundsheet leaking I tried the Mythos again at home with the same kit I'd used and as I was wearing army boots which take up less space I could just about manage.




















Overall the tent is really well finished and has lots of 'nice to look at' features such as the fastex buckles used to attach the inner tent, the dyneema/cordlocks at the base of the flysheet, the clever vent system and method of attaching the poles etc but do they really offer an actual benefit? I don't think so. The tent also comes with a nice roll top stuffsack although it could probably hold 2 Mythos Solo tents.

So given that the Mythos is a modern tent with the benefit of 20+ years advances in fabric technology over the Phreeranger and taking into account that it's smaller how does it measure up as far as weight is concerned? Surprisingly not too well, as usual I only take into account the components that are unique to a tent, Fly, Inner & Pole set. Here's how the Mythos compares to the Phreeranger.

Mythos - Fly - 569g, Inner - 603g, Pole Set - 259g = Total 1431g

Phreeranger - Fly - 708g, Inner - 610g, Pole set - 233g = Total 1551g

Mythos Flysheet

Phreeranger Flysheet

Mythos Inner

Phreeranger Inner















Mythos Pole Set

Phreeranger Pole Set













































So 120g difference which isn't a lot really. That said I do like the Mythos Solo although I should have probably gone for the 2 person Duo given that I need extra space for bike kit. Am I surprised that the Phreeranger compares so favourably with a tent 20+ years newer? well yes and no, I'm a fan of the Phreeranger and I've already seen from experience how well it compares with more up to date tents but shouldn't there be a bigger difference? how much lighter would the Mythos be if they simplified it by reducing the number of zips on the unnecessarily complicated vents and dispensed with fastex buckles that could easily be replaced by lighter, simpler alternatives? I've no doubt that Terra Nova could have made the same basic tent but reduced the weight by using simpler but equally functional means of attaching the pole and inner and coming up with a simple but effective vent set-up.

In the end though it appears that Robens have dropped both the Mythos Solo and Duo from their range and replaced it with, you guessed it, yet another Laser clone!!!

I certainly don't or a least didn't regret buying the Mythos, it's as close as perfect for me as I've found but if new replacement Phreeranger parts had been available when I bought the Mythos I wouldn't have bought it, ( nor would I have bought a TN Laser, Vaude Power Lizard, Wild Country Zephyros 1 or Laser Comp although I will confess that while I really disliked the Laser I do like both the Zephyros 1 and Laser Comp) now that I have it would I still take the option of a new flysheet/repaired ground sheet from Trekkertent? Absolutely Yes.

The pics below are how I would have used it and show the kit I'd expect to need to store, this is all the kit I carried on my West Coast Trip.









Phoenix Phreeranger, Phreeranger EB & Phreerunner Re-Visited


I thought I'd take another look at the Phreeranger series of tents again as they're a bit of a current topic for discussion now that Trekkertent are offering new flysheets made from modern fabrics to replace old worn out original flysheets.

There are basically 4 tents in the range if you count the broadly similar single skin Gore-Tex Phreerunner, each version came in either Regular Flysheet form or in what was known as an EB version, the EB simply means Extended Bell (Bell being Porch) and it was a Phreeranger EB that I bought originally back around 1990, a tent that I sold around 2008 and have being trying to find a replacement for ever since.

The Phreerunner was pretty much identical but single skin Gore-Tex. It wasn't a lot lighter than a regular double skin Phreeranger but I think it may have been aimed at higher altitude mountaineering where the cold dry climate suits Gore-Tex tents and ease of pitching  a single skin tent would be a bonus, IIRC Mountain Equipment made a single skin Gore-Tex tent aimed at this sector.

I ended up with a Phreerunner as I had a saved search on ebay for Phreerangers, the Phreerunner turned up and I bought it. When it arrived it was in nice condition given the age and came with various swing tags etc in addition to original pegs and pole splint. There were also some additional skewers that may or may not be as supplied originally.



















The main body of the tent is Gore-Tex with the porch being made from Ripstop nylon. Although it's similar to the Phreeranger the porch extends a little further and the rear a little less. The other noticeable difference once inside the tent is the increase in space as there's no inner tent. The inner door is the same as all late model Phreerangers in that it had a double drop down door. There's little difference in weight but when packed I think the Phreerunner is a little bit more bulky thanks to the heavier/stiffer Gore-Tex fabric.

Porch extends further out than the Porch on the Phreeranger

















Rear extends out less
Good Sized Porch


Increased Inner space compared to the Double Skin Phreeranger



Where is she now?

I haven't used the Phreerunner so don't know if it performs as well as it looks, I just kept on using the 2 un-taped good Phreeranger flysheets that I have.