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 Contents

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 :-).


  1. When I read you were getting a new tent I guessed it was a Lizzie! It's a frustrating tent - great, light, strong but so many small flaws. The zip flap does catch & mine is now torn. It probably does not matter but it's annoying. You do need more than the supplied number if pegs & I use V stakes at the pole ends meaning cord loops. If you tension the pole ends last by pulling on them at the top by hand then sliding the line lock down that creates a tauter pitch but I don't know how much tension the fabric can take. I don't like it either but it's still a genuine palace that weighs 1kg...

  2. Was it that obvious ;-)

    Do you use the V pegs on the end struts or the main pole?

    I think I tension the struts the way you mention, once they're seated I hold the top of the strut and pull it back while sliding the Line-Lok down, it does look like the strut is ready to burst out of the fly though.

    Agree about the space/weight, I thought about making a sil nylon footprint to use it fly only but it's more than likely that my Ti Goat Ptarmigan bivvy and a footprint would weigh more than the inner tent.

  3. The fact you cannot tension the inner across the ends particularly effectively annoys my OCD! How are you finding that? The groundsheet of the inner seems remarkably tough for the weight - certainly doesn't seem to le like it would need a footprint which did concern me about the Fly Creek. However, even in repevt of that I've not needed one. I also find the inner sags like the veil on a four poster bed! The chap I hill walk with loves it & it's great as a backup 2 person tent to carry when staying in huts or refuges.

  4. Comprehensive report. It has been on my mind to get one of these purely for the weight saving and the fact that it will take two persons head to toe.

    Vaude have this thing about not supplying enough pegs. They do it so often it's more than a packer who cannot count.

    Most Vaude tents have the zip/material grabbing fault.
    I would get rid of the plastic O rings for another method so that any peg can be used. This seems a bit of a stupid design in my book.

    The tensioning system is the same as my Odyssee. It's better with a small line lock. I changed all my cheapo sliders for linelocks. Again i don't know why they don't use linelocks considering that the person they are marketing it to is a racer. OMM etc. and the price of the thing.

    That seam is a bit of a worry though, how will high winds effect it?
    I would probably contact where i bought it from and send an email with the photo's attached and find out what they think about it. Just in case of failure in the short term.

    I think i will keep the Odyssee a little longer. I was considering the Scarp 2 as well.

    Thanks Mac E

  5. @Maz Funny you should mention tensioning the inner across the ends. I tried it out last night and this morning found that the inner was damp at the head end opposite the porch, it's very close to the fly at this point even though the tension strap is fully tightened to pull it towards the porch.

    There are a few other things but I'll address them later in an Update.

    @Alan I would be reluctant to use it as a 2 person tent unless both occupants lie perfectly straight as it looks like it would be easy for the person away from the porch to press the inner against the fly. In addition (just like the Laser) you can't sit straight up from a lying down position or you'll force the ceiling up against the fly, you need to sort of lean towards the middle before sitting up.

    The lack of pegs isn't really an issue but I feel that if you provide x amount of pegging points you should supply the same number of pegs, at least they fitted all the guylines unlike Terra Nova.

    Good point about the seam, I'll send an e-mail and attached photograph to both the retailer and Vaude UK.

    The Scarp seems well liked but then again so is the Laser/Laser Comp. If you're considering a Scarp get in touch with Martin Rye, he's had one longer than most, even prior to the mk2 model with the new spec flysheet.

  6. I e-mailed Vaude about the tension under the end vents and to their credit they got back to me very quickly indeed. They asked me to check the strut length advising me that they should be 530mm and if not to either return them or cut them down. I replied that I'd already done that and sent them a photograph illustrating the way the seam was being stressed. I had another reply within half an hour saying quote 'it looks about right to me, to be honest'

    Good to know then.

    I took the opportunity to photgraph the strut in situ alongside a ruler to indicate that it is in fact 530mm so if the seam rips the problem won't be mine. Good thinking Alan :-)

  7. Mac -I have a Power Lizard since early February. I have used for several backpack trips, and I have carried out some simple mods as Maz's post which help and have since posted an initial review - although not as detailed as your first class review here. I like the tent and have used it for solo and duo trips. I will get some more nights in before I post a more through review


  8. Hi Mark, thanks for adding your comments, I'm glad you did as now I've found your blog :-) I must read up on your experiences with the Power Lizard.

  9. Cameron McNiesh did a video review and likes it. PTC has a orange one to try on a munro summit sometime and he will get annoyed to hell if the poles are too long and he wont have a hack saw in his pack on a wild camp. The problem with it like the Akto, Laser and comp is unlike a Scarp which has sections of material cut to make a fly with very or no slack the Lizard has no tension on the fly like a Scarp, and will falp more in the wind than a Scarp. Still I reckon it is a good tent over most. Tarp Tent Rainbow has clip in panels Richard and the shape you like. The panels stop condensation drips and the weight is low. Sort a two skin tent but not. Scarp 1 for me and a DuoMid if I am prepared to walk a bit more to find a sheltered spot in strong winds.

  10. Agree with what you're saying about the way the Scarp and Moment are cut Martin, there's simply no way to tension the large areas of fabric otherwise as the hems being tighter/less stretchy tighten up long before the rest of the fly.

  11. It's good to hear that Vaude had responded in a positive light and quickly.
    If there is a need to reduce the pole length then the retailers should have a mod note with every sale.
    As your comments have said we don't carry hacksaws on the fells and that would be piss me off somewhat.
    I still would take some action with the seam. I probably would smear it with silicone. (No need to buy seam sealer at around £7 for a tiny tube. Bog std builders clear silicone is the same at £5 or less for a large tube. Then leave it for 24hrs before use.)

  12. Hi, very concise information, so thanks for that. I have just purchased the updated 2011 model and can say that vaude have addressed all the problems that you have stated. Its a fantastic tent and such a bargain from Cotswold outdoors.

  13. Glad you like the Power Lizard, I'd actually choose a TN Laser if I was forced to choose between the 2 and I'm certainly not a fan of the Laser.

    Of course everyone has different likes/dislikes and the important thing is that you're happy with the Power Lizard. Good to hear thar Vaude have addresses some of the issues although I suspect that some can't be easily resolved as they're a consequence of the actual design.