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.

Monday, 11 August 2014

Exploring the West Coast (Scotland)

Just back from a 4 day short trip exploring the West Coast around Applecross/Ullapool. Went on my own on a 19992 DR650 which was ideal for the roads in the area.

First day was from Troon to Applecross going across on the Dunoon ferry, through Inverary, Glen Orchy, Ft William, Lochcarron etc.

On the Dunoon Ferry, Looks Like Rain!!

Glen Orchy

Clunie Dam, Raining Again but a Chance to get 'Off-Road'

Back In The Sunshine 
Rain Again? Surely Not.
Bealach na Ba

Applecross Campsite

Potatoes On the Boil

Day 2 took me to Torridon , Lower Diabeg, Poolewe, down to a disused WW2 coastal battery at the mouth of Loch Ewe and from there to Ullapool.

Turn Left Past The Applecross Inn and Keep Going

Turn Left At Torridon, 9 Miles Down and 9 Back to Lower Diabeg

Lower Diabeg

Looking Towards Torridon on the Road Back from Lower Diabeg

Beinn Eighe

WW2 Coastal Battery, Loch Ewe

Memorial to Those Who Lost Their Lives on the Arctic Convoys, One wreath was to those lost on the HMS Maharatta 

Broomfield Campsite
MSR Whisperlite Intl, and Trangia 27 Kettle, 25+ Years Old and Still Going Strong
Loch Broom

Day 3 was the start of the return route, I went from Ullapool across the country to Muir of Ord, Beauly, along Glen Affric to Cannich and from there to Drumnadrochit and on to Ft William.

Tim & Nick, Father and Son from North Dakota, talking Bikes in Drumnadrochit

Cooking Under the Flysheet in Glen Nevis

Relaxing, lying on half of the 'Footprint' 
The Best Motorcycle Boots I've ever had, Haix Goretex Lined, German Army Issue. Waterproof & Breathable 10/10  

Still Raining

Standing Water in the porch at @5.00am After 12 hours of persistent rain followed by a Thunderstorm.

Stopped Raining at Last.

The last day saw me leave Ft William and go by Glencoe, a detour down to Loch Etive and back then continuing along Loch Lomond, over the Erskine bridge and down to Troon via Greenock, Inverkip etc.

Stopped for Lunch at Glencoe 

Glen Etive

Glen Etive

Glen Etive

The advantage of having going lightweight when backpacking was that my gear fitted in a 35L roll bag and small ammunition box which I'd bolted to my luggage rack. That might seem like a fairly large amount of kit but on a motorcycle I need to carry tools and spares that I wouldn't carry when walking. I also took real cooking kit including a Petrol Stove (I can use fuel from the bike) so that I could actually cook rather than use freeze dried meals.

My gear was all stuff I've used in the past, still using the Phreeranger in spite of having bought a TN Laser Comp, Wild Country Zephyros 1 and Robens Mythos Solo since I last posted on the blog. I also used my PHD Ultra Minim, a Multimat Self inflate mat and MSR Whisperlite. The only problem I had was after the thunderstorm in Ft William, the sewn-in groundsheet on the Phreeranger isn't waterproof but I've always managed using a Silnylon footprint. Unfortunately during the 5.00am thunderstorm the ground couldn't take the amount of rain and with about half an inch of standing water it got between the footprint and sewn-in groundsheet and then soaked through to the inner. Thankfully my kit remained dry (the important stuff anyway) as I was on the sleeping mat, only my bike jacket and trousers were slightly wet. It's something that needs sorted properly though but in the meantime I'll have to use the Robens Mythos Solo even if it is a significantly smaller than the Phreeranger.