Tuesday, 7 September 2010
Vaude Power Lizard
I mentioned previously that I had ordered a new tent, I’d managed to sell a couple of tents that I wasn’t going to use and that provided the funds to try something else. I wanted a 2 skin tent which ruled out the Tarptent Rainbow which otherwise looked like it would suit me best, I liked the MSR Hubba HP but considered it too heavy, the Tarptent Moment looked nice but appeared to be too narrow at the head and foot and again was only a single skin, the Scarp is well liked but again too heavy, I’d already tried a TN Laser which I disliked so that ruled out the Laser Comp. In the end against my better judgement I bought a Vaude Power Lizard UL as it seemed to offer the best space for weight, that I got it at a very good price sealed it.
I don’t particularly like transverse hoop tents, while they should be more wind resistant than longitudinal single hoop designs they don’t in my opinion make the best use of the space and I found the Laser particularly awkward to pitch. Much has been said about the Power Lizard but there seems to be more speculation than facts and so far the only reviews I’ve seen have been by Maz (The Journeyman Traveller) and Robin (Step by Step).
Packed as Supplied
In a nutshell the Power Lizard takes the Laser design and addresses some of the issues that I and others had such as the pole hood and fixed inner. The packed pole length is smaller as the end struts are 2 piece aluminium tubing rather than 1 piece carbon fibre which is a bonus and the inner can easily be detached.
The tent arrived yesterday so was checked over when I finished work. The 1st thing I did was to measure the end struts as it’s been reported that some tents are coming supplied with struts 545mm long when they should in fact be 530mm. Mine were the long ones but rather than go to the trouble of sending them back I simply cut them down to size using a small pipe cutter. The supplied pegs are similar to the 5g ti skewers supplied with the TN Voyager and as such are acceptable unlike the 2g skewers that came with my Laser, there are 10 pegging points in all but I only received 8 pegs but that’s no big deal. The fabric is very light, especially the inner tent and although the groundsheet feels tough enough I’ll be using a footprint anyway. I read various comments about the inner tent fabric with some reports claiming that it’s a very fine mesh, I have to disagree, the inner is an extremely fine ripstop, much lighter than the mesh used elsewhere on the tent.
I detached the inner tent as I wanted to pitch fly 1st which is how I would normally pitch my Phreeranger, the inner and fly pack down very small if the poles are stored separately and the whole package feels really light.
Pitched Fly 1st, Useable as a Single Skin Tent?
I pitched it for the 1st time fly only and I’m not sure if it’s any easier to pitch than a Laser, the end struts can be fiddly to locate in the webbing pocket under the vent hood and it’s advisable to double check that they are in place before you start to tension the fly as it looks like it would be possible to force the strut right through the fly. When attaching the clips to the main pole I seemed to manage to press the red locking part of the clips closed (locked) while attaching them to the pole, as Maz mentioned it would be an idea to mark the center of the main pole to make it easier to get the center clip in the correct place. The guyline on the end struts is attached to the fly where the pole locates top and bottom and runs through a plastic ring through which you place the skewer but unfortunately the rings are too small to allow you to use an alloy ’V’ or ’Y’ section peg.
End Strut Pegging Point, Too Small for 'V' or 'Y' Section Pegs.
As the pole isn’t fixed in the vertical position the guyline can slip through the plastic ring which causes the strut to drop forwards, an additional problem is that because the guyline runs from the top of the strut, through the pegging ring and back to the bottom of the strut any tension you apply to pull the top of the strut out to tension the fly is transferred through the ring to the bottom of the strut pulling it back towards the peg. On grass this isn’t a problem as the bottom end of the strut protrudes through the eyelet on the bottom tape and actually penetrates the ground thereby keeping the bottom of the strut fixed. What would worry me is if you were pitched on firmer ground or loose gravel or on grass with either hard ground or fine gravel underneath (or even on snow/ice or very soft ground for that matter) there’s nothing to stop the pole slipping back towards the peg allowing the strut to fall forward releasing the fly tension and causing the fly to drop down onto the inner.
Like the Laser and I suspect most transverse single pole tents it’s one thing getting it standing and another thing to get it taut. Like the Laser there’s an awful lot of unsupported fabric which I suspect will flap around in the slightest breeze, as far as I can tell the Tarptent Scarp and Moment have a seam/seams running from the center of the main pole to the end struts which I assume creates a catenary line and as such keeps everything tighter. That introduces a line/lines of stitching but as the Power Lizard is taped anway it shouldn’t have been a problem.
Inner Tent Attachment Tapes, Adjustable at the Porch Side
Once the fly was pitched I attempted to attach the inner, now on my Phreeranger the inner attaches using hooks sewn to the inside of the fly and shock cord loops attached to the inner, this makes it very easy to hook the inner in place, on the Power Lizard it’s toggles on webbing attached to the inner and rings on webbing or flat elastic on the fly. I find it more difficult to get the toggles through the rings than it is to attach shock cord loops onto ‘S’ hooks, the attachment points are fixed length apart from the ones at each end of the porch side, these use the same toggle/ring method but there’s a small ladder lock buckle to tension the inner. To be honest I think the attachment method is over engineered, shock cord/glove hooks would work every bit as well, would in my experience be easier to use and I suspect would be lighter. I think it’s simply a case of webbing/toggles/rings looking more professional rather than any actual advantage.
Pole Tension Cord
Tension Cord Line-Lok
There’s a version of Vango’s tension cord (TBS) running underneath the pole on the inside of the fly, it passes through webbing loops sewn in to match the position of the pole clips on the outside, a large Line-Lok is used to tension the cord/pole but I swapped it for a mini Line-Lok which does exactly the same job.
The inner tent is made from a very fine ripstop and the door has a piece of fine mesh along the top, there an elastic loop and toggle about midway down the door to hold the door back but it really needs to be lower down as the door tends to unroll itself at the lower end.
Inner Door Rolled and Fastened
At the apex there’s a loop for hanging a torch although most mini lanterns or torches I've seen have a loop for hanging rather than a hook so I'd have thought a hook on the inner tent rather than a loop would have been a better idea. The inner has 2 x mesh pockets on the porch side of the inner at the head end and there's one other small webbing loop on the side of the inner adjacent to the flysheet door but I haven't figured out what it's for.
Inner tent Fitted
Loads of Space, The Inner can be Detached from the Webbing strap and pulled Back to Increase Porch Space if Required
The inner tent is very spacious both width and length, there’s plenty of space on each side of my full size CCF mat and with the mat pulled up to the head end I have room to lay my ULA Conduit across the inner tent at the foot end. Initially I thought the porch was small but I could easily set up the MSR Reactor and still have plenty of extra space.
The Foot End, The Head End is Even Wider
Porch Width at the Head End (Narrower than the Foot End)
The headroom isn’t great, I’ve read that people 6’ + could sit upright at the high point but I’m only 5’ 10” and sitting on the groundsheet with my back straight my head is pressed into the inner tent, I can only assume that there’s plenty of headroom for people who are 6’ tall if they’ve got disproportionately long legs and a torso 2’ long.
Buckle to Reduce Tension on the Fly Zip
The zip on the fly door is one way which may cause concern for some but it doesn’t bother me at all, there’s a small plastic Q/R buckle at the bottom to take the tension off the zip and the rain flap covering the zip has an edge binding of lycra which keeps it tight to the fly.
Lycra Binding on the Fly Zip Rain Flap
Someone mentioned that the rain flap had a tendency to catch in the door zip and that it could easily damage the fabric, I didn’t have a problem at 1st but eventually it did catch and the zip did in fact almost cut through the fabric, I suppose it doesn’t matter too much as it’s not really part of the flysheet. Like the Laser the method of hooking the fly door back isn’t all that satisfactory as it hooks back underneath the fly and attaches to a ring on the inner tent so any rain/condensation on the door is transferred to the inner tent, Robin’s idea of using a small plastic clamp (or clothes peg) looks like a better method.
One thing I noticed was the way the end struts stress the fabric underneath the end vent hoods, There’s a seam running horizontally under the hood where a piece of mesh is stitched to the plain fabric, the seam is really stretched here and the stitch holes are opened up noticeably, as I mentioned I’d cut the strut length down from the supplied 545mm but initially only removed 10mm. In the 1st pic the poles are still 5mm over length, when I noticed the tension on the seam I reduced the length to the proper 530mm but the problem still exists. I think they should have had a length of webbing running from the top strut pocket to the bottom eyelet to take the tension off the fly fabric, the way it is I’ll be surprised if it isn’t a weak area.
Stressed Seam, Pole Still Too Long After Removing 10mm
Seam Still Stressed Although Pole is Correct Length
The guylines at the end struts come with a very basic looking plastic runner, at the price I’d have expected Line-Loks instead of runners similar to the ones that come on a £25 tent from Argos, the main pole guylines don’t have a runner at all so I’ve fitted mini Line-Locks to all the guylines.
Cheap Runner, Now Replaced with Mini Line-Loks
Striking the tent was easy enough and this time I left the inner attached to the fly as I wanted to see how easy it would be to pitch all in one. Pitching was fine but nothing special, the 1st attempt took over 10mins but much of that was spent adjusting/readjusting the end struts and end pegging points to get the tension right, a 2nd attempt took just over 5 mins, by way of comparison I could unpack - pitch - strike- repack my F10 Nitro in under 5mins and that involved threading 2 poles (the Nitro being a tunnel design). I expect that it’ll improve as I become more familiar with the tent although given the conditions today it’s likely to take me significantly longer in less than ideal conditions.
So what’s the verdict? Well it’s about 700g lighter than the Phreeranger but I still dislike transverse single hoop tents, they’re just to difficult to tension properly in my opinion and the amount of unsupported fabric means that they flap around quite a bit unless like the Scarp/Moment they have a seam/seams running from the apex of the main pole to the end struts. The pole clips seem on paper to be a good solution to the pole hood on the Laser but I’m leaning towards the view that they’re simply different with their own set of problems. The end strut location is again different to the Laser but if it wasn’t for the bottom end of the strut actually sticking into the ground the pole may slip under tension and collapse forward as the guylines slips through the plastic ring, that’s just speculation though. The plastic ring on the end strut guylines will need a loop of cord attached if I want to use pegs other than those supplied and given that the security of the end struts is a significant factor in keeping the tent upright I’d like to be able to use something with more holding power than a thin ti skewer although the skewers are fine for the fly pegging loops.
Update/Re Think on Pegs and Strut Location
I mentioned above that I only received 8 pegs but I'm pretty sure I read somewhere that they came with 13. I figured on needing 10 pegs, the extra 2 being required for the pegging points at the ends of the main pole. Thinking about it there are also 2 webbing loops at each of the end strut lower locating points, I wonder if these should be pegged to prevent the bottom of the strut slipping out of position. If so that makes 12 pegs plus a spare would be 13.
To be perfectly honest I don’t particularly like the Power Lizard for many of the reasons that I disliked the Laser, how long I’ll keep it is anyone’s guess but I certainly won’t buy another transverse hoop design. The problem is that while it’s significantly lighter than the Phreeranger it doesn’t offer any more useable space, is more difficult to pitch taut and has less headroom but I’ll give it a shot anyway as the main reason for buying was for the weight saving, I might even get to like it :-).