Saturday, 18 September 2010

Vaude Power Lizard UL, Take 3

I’d decided the Power Lizard wasn’t for me so I’d offered it for sale on a few places but although I asked £250 including shipping and being open to offers there was no real interest. Having looked around I still couldn’t see anything else, no surprise as I’d been looking for quite some time prior to deciding on the Power Lizard so I decided to just keep it and try to sort out some of the things I don’t like. In the end in spite of the hype it isn’t really any better IMO than the Laser I had last year. I didn’t like the Laser for a variety of reasons.

At least on the Power Lizard the inner can be removed although the use of toggles and rings makes it more awkward than it needed to be. The worst ones as I mentioned before are the ones at the botom corners of the fly and at each end adjacent to the top of the end strut. For some reason while most of the fittings on the inner are toggles the ones at the corners are rings, this wouldn't be a problem if it wasn't for the fact that the toggles are attached to the fly with webbing thats only just long enough to allow you to push them through the rings. I've experimented with glove hooks on the fly, simply tied to the existing webbing and it makes hooking the inner on so much easier. I'd like to fit the glove hooks using thin shockcord without permanently altering the original fittings but it might not ne possible. At the ends adjacent to the strut the ring is attached to the fly but it's on a very short piece of webbing and suffers from the same lack of flexibility as the toggles on the bottom corners. When the fly is tensioned it's tricky to get the toggles through the rings. The toggles are attached using flat elastic but again I've attached glove hooks to the fly simply by tying them to the existing rings. The other attachment points aren't too bad as theres more room to work but the inner is very tight across the tent where it attaches to the webbing running from each end of the main pole. The webbing has rings attached, the fly has toggles but I'll simply add a shockcord loop to the existing ring at the porch side through which I can place the toggle.

I've already tried it out and it makes a big enough difference for me to be worth doing.

As I'm intending to remove the inner I'll need a footprint to keep the groundsheet clean and dry I haven't decided what to use. Silnylon would be my preferred option but it adds weight, temporary double glazing film is lighter and cheaper so perhaps I should try it 1st. If I use silnylon I could sew it into a bathtub form which would permit me to use the fly only but as the tent is pretty low I'm not about that. It would come down to how much weight I'd actually save by taking my Ti Goat Ptarmigan bivvy rather than the inner tent, I'm not counting the weight of a footprint as I'll be taking it anyway.

In the end as far as I'm concerned the Power Lizard is a better option only because I can remove the inner, in addition it's a bit lighter, about 200g IIRC. In every other respect the Laser is as good or better and while Vaude have attempted to address some of the criticism levelled at the Laser the solutions have in most case resulted in compromises elsewhere. I didn't have a Laser to hand for a direct comparison but my general observations and reasons for my comments are dealt with in the following paragraphs. Do bear in mind though that I couldn't do a direct comparison.

Vaude Power Lizard UL v's Terra Nova Laser

The Power Lizard was touted as a Laser with the problems sorted and on paper it looked good, it avoided the pole hood by using locking pole clips which simply hooked on to the pole once the pole ends had been inserted into the eyelets, it was claimed that locking the clips together with a Vangoesque internal tension cord improved the stability of the pole/tent. The end struts were 2 piece which helped reduce packed length and were fitted on the outside of the fly rather than underneath the fly. The inner was also removable to avoid getting it soaked when packed with a wet flysheet. In addition it provided extra space and was claimed to be more suited to those over 6’ tall, that wasn’t a particular concern of mine at 5’ 10”.

Someone said ‘In theory there’s no difference between theory and practice but in practice there is” and that proved to be the case with the Power Lizard. With regard to the method of locating the main pole I didn’t find the clips to be any quicker in the end than the pole sleeve/hood on the Laser. On the Laser once the pole is fitted and tensioned from the outside using the tension cord on the pole hood you’re finished. On the Power Lizard you fit the pole, then attach the clips but leave them unlocked, then when the fly is fully pegged you need open the door, tension the cord, close the door again and lock down the clips so in reality it isn’t any quicker, just different. I didn’t notice the pole on the Laser being particularly un-stable and in any case the design of the clips suggests that it won’t take long until they don’t actually lock anyway, as it is even locked you can move them without too much effort. The clips even if they do offer a marginal improvement in ease of use or stability introduce another problem. Due to the way the clips are spaced the fly takes on a hexagonal form directly under the pole which in turn prevents the fly zip from following a natural curve, instead it’s forced to follow the same hexagonal form which places extra tension on the zip especially adjacent to the 2nd clip down from the apex, you can easily see the teeth on the zip being pulled apart at this point. Finally even if the fly tension had been improved it only really affects an area 3-4” either side of the pole, the main areas of fabric are still just as prone to flapping as those on the Laser. One final thing to consider is that as the pole isn’t a standard diameter and the clips are a unique design repairs are going to be more difficult/costly and should you need to use the pole repair section to fix a break close to a pole clip the clip will no lomger fit. In the end all things taken into consideration the pole clips don’t in my opinion actually improve on the sleeve/hood used on the Laser, they do however introduce their own problems.

Zip being pulled apart adjacent to Pole Clip

Laser end Tape which hold the position of the Strut relative to the main pole

I found it difficult or at least time consuming to get a taut pitch on the Laser, unfortunately I found it equally difficult on the Power Lizard and it comes down partly to how the end struts are located. On the Laser the inner is fixed but the end tapes/pegging points are part of the inner. The struts are located in pockets, one on the fly (Top) and one on the end tape (bottom) in addition they’re held in place by a shock cord. Once you peg out the end tape the position of the strut and distance from the main pole is fixed, on the Power Lizard this isn’t the case as although the strut is located top and bottom there’s nothing to hold it at a set distance relative to the main pole, the bottom of the strut is free to move around and only really stays put if the end that protrudes through the eyelet penetrates the ground. This means that when you peg out the fly and fit the main pole you need to reset both end struts to the correct distance and angle before you can get a taut pitch, I found I needed to readjust the end strut position and angle more than once at each end and readjust the fly sheet pegging points a similar number of times before I had everything pitched to a reasonable standard. The end strut guyline runs from the vent hood at the top of the strut down at approx 45° to the pegging point which is a plastic ring then back to the bottom of the strut. The plastic rings are too small to allow you to use aluminium ‘V’ or ’Y’ section pegs but also means that when you try to tension the strut by angling it back towards the pegging point there’s even more tension trying to pull the bottom of the strut back towards you which is the last thing you want because if the bottom of the strut slides back towards the peg the top gets pulled forward towards the main pole and the end of the tent collapses. While it may be slightly easier to insert the struts the disadvantages greatly out weigh any advantage there may be. I personally didn’t like the 1 piece struts on the Laser as I felt they were too long for packing but in the end I feel the 2 piece struts on the Power Lizard are a weak point given the amount of tension they‘re under. On both the Laser and Power Lizard the stability and strength of the end struts is critical as the they take a greater share of the loading than any other pegging point, if they fail in strong winds the tent is likely to collapse as most of the tension will be lost and the main body of fabric will lose any wind shedding ability that it had, effectively becoming a sail. The Laser design does a better job of ensuring that the strut is set correctly and keeping it that way.

Short Toggle attached to Fly lower corners

Result of packing as 1 when the fly is wet

The issue of whether the inner can easily be removed or not takes on less significance if by making it removable you make the tent more difficult to pitch. I considered a removable inner a key point but as it takes me so long to achieve a taut pitch I’m unlikely to detach the inner anyway, had I intended to keep it attached on the Laser my opinion of the Laser may well have been different. In any case Vaude have chosen to use a combination of toggles/rings to attach the inner and it simply serves to make the job more difficult than need be. Shock cord loops and ‘S’ or glove hooks would have been perfectly adequate and vastly easier to operate, instead the toggles at each corner of the fly are attached with very short webbing loops which makes the rings difficult to attach, the adjustable straps at both ends of the porch side don’t actually do anything as even fully tightened the head end of the inner is as wide or wider than the fly. It would probably by possible to swap the toggles/rings for shock cord/glove clips but it would have been better if Vaude had concentrated on making things easy to operate rather than looking nice.

The Power Lizard of course has been touted as being more suitable than the Laser for 2 person use due to having more width and suitable for taller people due to having greater internal length. On the 2nd point unless you sleep stretched full length there’s little advantage as the headroom is just the same as the Laser at 95cm, extra length comes primarily through extending the inner relative to the fly which reduces both inner/fly separation at the ends and loses the under fly storage space that you have at the ends of the Laser. For 2 person use the Power Lizard is only wider from the mid point to the head end otherwise it’s the same width as the Laser, the footprint of the Power Lizard being asymmetric. The Laser on the other hand has a door on both sides (only 1 porch) which is something worth considering for 2 person use. In addition the Laser has bigger mesh panels at each end and the fly can be pulled up from inside the inner tent to increase ventilation if required which should reduce condensation especially when used as a 2 person tent. In attempting to optimise internal space the inner/fly separation on the Power Lizard is reduced generally with as little as 25mm between fly and inner at the head end corner on the opposite side from the porch. I suspect that most people buying a Laser or Power Lizard are buying it primarily as a solo tent and the reality is that both have pro’s and con’s when used as 2 person tents.
Inner/Fly separation on the Power Lizard

Inner/Fly separation on the Laser

Lastly there’s the weight advantage, the Power Lizard comes in at between 150-200g lighter than the Laser, changing the pegs from those supplied will more than likely tip the balance in favour of the Power Lizard as it comes with 8 decent ti skewers rather than the ti toothpicks supplied with the Laser.


  1. Very interesting review. Why don't manufacturers pre-release items to bloggers to test out thoroughly and find issues? I didn't go for the Power Lizard as it seemed to share the characteristics of the Laser. In particular being potentially noisy and flappy in strong winds. The Scarp has neither of those drawbacks, although it is heavier.

  2. Looking at the Scarp from a construction point of view even without seeing it in the flesh it looks to me to be vastly superior to the other transverse single pole tents available, your experience together with that of Martin confirms it.

    It may be heavier but what price a few 100g, I may well have to go the Scarp route eventually.

  3. Mac E - I bought 2 Ti V pegs from backpacking light for the end guys on my Power Lizard. I didn't use the plastic ring (as you have said previously - they are too small). Created a loop in the existing guy and pegged down with the V pegs. Out last night in fairly strong winds in Southern Uplands - seemed to work fine compared to the supplied pegs which I have seen pull out in strong winds.

  4. Cameron Mcneish really rates this lizard as he and his wife used all through the last TGO..,

  5. Everyone has their own likes and dislikes but in the end apart from personal preference the one I had leaked and didn't in my opinion improve on the TN Laser it simply placed the compromises in different places.

  6. On my Power Lizard the material which connects clips for the main pole with the tent started to tear after first few uses. The wind was not too strong. The tear is minor, and the tent will be still functional (hopefuly) for some time.
    I am thinking if the main pole might be to long (as I have heard that some side poles came to long), but I don't know what the size should be... On the other hand, if the tent should be waterproof, there has to be tension in those points...
    Whatever the reason, I am unsatisfied that my such un expensive tent has this charasteristic. Has anyone else noticed this problem?