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Black Pudding Gaiters

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MSR Elixir 1 – First Impressions.

How many tents do I need?
Looking through my posts on here, that would be a very good question.
The short answer: You can never have too many tents!

For my birthday, I was lucky enough to receive the green MSR Elixir 1. Much more discreet than the red and grey option.
Unfortunately, as we are still in lockdown, I can only do a ‘first impressions’ review based on a couple of pitches in the garden.

As it’s name implies, the Elixir 1 is a one person tent but has loads of space and headroom, almost on a par with some two person tents.

MSR Elixir 1 packed
MSR Elixir 1 pack size compared to Robens Arch 2

Ok, at a total weight of 2kg, it isn’t much lighter than my Robens Arch (2.3kg) and the pack sizes are fairly similar (I may look in to get a compression sack).
I can shave off some weight by using my MSR Ground Hog pegs and, if the weather is decent enough, I can leave the 130g footprint at home.

So, the first pitch.
This was a new one for me.
Every other tent I’ve used pitches the outer and inner together with the poles on the outside of the tent.
The Elixir is different, the ‘standard’ pitch is inner first then put the fly over the poles. The poles themselves are also different from the ones I’m used to, two of them are joined together by swivelling hubs.
Being freestanding, I can pitch the Elixir then pick it up and move it to another spot. Might be handy if I accidentally pitch not facing the views!

The pitching instructions are printed on the inside of the stuff sack but it’s fairly straight forward.
The footprint goes down first, then snap together the main poles and the smaller middle pole. The poles, clips and buckles are all colour coded; match any grey bits to the grey pole and the red bits to the red pole.
Spread the inner tent (the one with all the mesh) over the footprint then put the grey pole in to the two grey coloured grommets then put the red pole in the red grommets. The inner tent has a number of coloured hooks, attach those to the corresponding coloured poles and the tent pulls itself in to shape. Place the separate red pole across the top then pop the ends in to the holes on the inner.

Inner of MSR Elixir 1 tent
Inner only

The tent can be used in this inner only configuration and I do like the idea of spending a barmy evening under the stars without a pesky flysheet spoiling the view.
Whether I’ll ever get the chance with the unpredictable English weather is another mater!

To add the flysheet, just place it over the poles, making sure the outer door is on the same side as the inner door!
The grey and red version of the Elixir makes this even easier by making the door a different colour to the rest of the tent.

Once everything is nice and tight and pegged out, it’s done!

I was surprised how quickly I pitched on my first attempt. It wasn’t perfect but I imagine I could complete a standard pitch in around 5 minutes.

Green MSR Elixir 1 tent

Hopefully, the stardard pitch will be the most used way of putting my Elixir up. I wouldn’t fancy putting the meshy inner up first in heavy rain and risk it getting soaked. I’m having Castleton flashbacks here!

It is possible to put the outer up first with the footprint and I tried this for my second garden pitching experiment.
Yes, it’s a bit of a faff and takes a little longer than standard pitch but it can be done and will keep you and your stuff that bit drier.
Put the poles up in the footprint in the same way as before then put the rain fly on. Once the poles are in the holes of the fly, go inside and clip the inner tent on to the poles and make sure the centre, perpendicular pole goes through both inner and outer.
Putting the poles through the corresponding holes of the corners of the inner is a little awkward but the order you attach the poles shouldn’t make a difference.

There is a third way of getting the tent set up which is outer first and involves some sort of tent origami.
I’ll save that for another day.

There is plenty of space in the porch area for kit or cooking. Additionally, the door has three settings; closed, partly open, fully open. Handy for cooking in less than favourable weather.

MSR Elixir 1 porch
The three ‘door settings’

Speaking of rain, on paper, this tent appears to be shockingly un-waterproof. The fly has a hydrostatic head of 1500, the groundsheet 3000. In comparison, my Robens Arch is twice that value.
Generally, the hydrostatic head value is a good indicator to the protection you get but it isn’t quite so black and white. The fly sheet design, thread count, and fabric used also contribute.
The inner has a good size bathtub floor that should also keep things nice and dry.
As I’ve only done a couple of lockdown practice pitches in the garden, I can’t comment (one for a follow up review!), however, all reviews I’ve read online say there’s no leakage problems and offers plenty of protection from the wind and rain.

MSR Gear loft
Gear loft

Inside the main body of the tent, the first thing that strikes you is the space. For a one person tent it’s cavernous, although you pay for it in the extra weight. I’m about 5 foot 11 and can easily sit or kneel up inside.
To the front and back are handy storage pockets for keeping a mobile phone and other odds and ends.
The ceiling houses the ‘gear loft’ storage pockets and 4(!) loops for lights or a makeshift clothes line.
Another nice little touch is the glow in the dark zip pulls on the tent door.

Light loops Elixir 1 tent
Light loops

So far so good! Obviously the real tests are yet to come. Fingers crossed I won’t have to wait too much longer

Terra Nova Wild Country Zephyros

I’ve a nice, growing collection of tents, the large Vango, the cheap and cheerful Coleman and the current favourite, the Robens Arch.
Two of these are two person tents weighing in at around 2.3kg.
The Wild Country Zephyros is a smaller, lighter (1.5kg) one person tent (note this is a review for the earlier, model not the 2020 compact version)

Wild Country One Person Zephyros tent

The Zephyros is a cheaper version of the sister company’s Terra Nova Laser. The Terra Nova tent is a lot, lot lighter but also several hundred pounds more expensive (RRP £170 and £450 for the current models in April 2020).

Stuff sack, Wild Country Stuff sack
Back pole and the ventilation. Curtains closed!

Pitching the Zephyros is easy. The fly and inner go up together which is great when pitching in bad weather.
One long Superflex alloy pole runs across the middle of the tent and two smaller poles sit at the top and bottom ends to give structure, stability and help provide ventilation.
It can be put up in around 5 minutes or so.
On the subject of poles. the tent comes with a repair kit which includes a sleeve for fixing a damaged pole….alternatively, it makes a great pea shooter!


Outside, the tent is a nice green colour, nothing too garish! The flysheet has 4000mm hydrostatic head flysheet,it has fully taped seams and a 6000mm groundsheet.
The guy lines are reflective which is a nice touch for when you’re wandering back to the tent at night.

Inside, there is plenty of room. I’m about 5 foot 11 and I can sit up right. There’s not a huge amount of space in the porch area but a 75l rucksack can be tucked in to the side and it’s not too bad for cooking. I’ve also found you can extend the porch by popping the door up with a stick or walking pole to make a basic shelter.
There’s a few other little nooks and crannies for putting boots etc but, unlike many tents, there’s no handy pocket on the inner for leaving say, your mobile phone or head torch etc.

A cute little feature is the ‘curtains’ at either end. Well, OK they are really covering the ventilation but, providing there’s enough air circulating elsewhere, it does help keep things a little darker. These can be opened and closed from inside the tent.

Colour coded poles, reflective guy lines Wild Country
Colour coded poles and reflective guy lines

The bath tub inner is not very deep compared to my other tents but I’ve not noticed that being an issue yet. One slightly strange design feature is the outer door rolls back in to the inside of the tent which can make the inside damp if opening the door after a rainy night.
While we’re discussing negatives, it is a little bit susceptible to condensation, nothing too bad but more than my other tents. I imagine this is to be expected in a smaller tent.

This is a very popular tent, so there’s loads of videos, forums and reviews for this tent.
You can pick up this model for under £100 (April 2020) if you hunt around , and for that price, it’s not a bad bit of kit!

Testing the Coleman Cobra 2 at Hulme End

I’ve  used a one person Coleman Kraz tent  in the past. A decent, cheap starter tent. I picked up another Coleman, the 2 man Cobra, for £70 on an Amazon Black Friday deal.

Before purchasing, I took some time to read reviews across a number of websites. It seemed a very good price for a decent tent.

Coleman tent in bag

It arrived in it’s   waterproof stuff sack.
At 48 x 18 x 15 cm, it’s small enough to fit easily into my rucksack. 
The pitching instructions are sewn in to the carry sack so no chance of them getting lost although, to be honest, it’s simple enough to pitch without much help.

Coleman Cobra tent instructions.

Whilst not the lightest tent  at  a little over 2kg, I was happy with it’s weight considering the price paid and the amount of room. 
Being  a  two person tent, it  gives a little extra space for one person. I certainly wouldn’t want to try and put two adults in it!

There is just the one door on the  left hand side, another reason not to put someone else in the tent, the person on the ‘wrong’ side would have a bit of a scramble to get out.

Being a wedged tunnel design, the  Cobra has two good size storage areas away from the inner tent.
I keep my 80l rucksack and all my kit on top of a drybag (to keep the kit off the grass) in the non-door side. Everything is out the way and remains perfectly dry.

My first attempt of pitching was done in the back garden. It was very simple.  Peg out out the back, push the colour coded poles through the corresponding coloured mesh sleeves, put the poles in to the flysheet eyelets, clip the poles to the flysheet, bring the tent forward, then finally finish pegging.
First pitching took under 10 minutes. I was happy with that!

I do like the mesh pole sleeves, much easier to use than the equivalent on my Vango
The inner and flysheet are attached so go up as one.  I much prefer this over inner first,  especially in bad weather.

Putting the Cobra away was simple. Simply put the poles and pegs in to their respective bags and roll the tent around them.
The stuff sack has a taco style wide opening, making getting the tent in very easy. The compression straps to shrink the size down.

Coleman Cobra 2 tent in Hulme End campsite

The tent’s first trip out  was to the Hulme End Campsite in the Peak District. A basic site with a couple of toilets and a  washing up sink. No showers or reception area, simply pay the owner £5 when he turns up in his 4×4 (at around 4pm when I was there).
It was the middle of  September. The kids were back in school and so there was plenty of space in the large field. I pitched on the right hand edge near the far end.
Once again, the tent went up easily.

After firing up the Jetboil for a quick coffee, I headed out for a walk around the local villages, passing through Warslow and Butterton. This route was mostly along roads but they were very quiet and it was a nice way to see the local area. A GPX file of the route is available on Viewranger.

Colman Cobra 2 tent at night

I had dinner at the Manifold Inn, located near the entrance of the campsite site. I managed to get the last table, it’s well worth booking if planning on eating here!
I started with a plate of hams, olives and a big slice of ciabatta bread.
Main course was pie, chips and veg. I certainly didn’t leave hungry!!

Stuffed to the gills, I went back to the tent. I attached my  phone to a power bank, placed it in one of the Cobra’s  mesh pockets and settled down for the night.
It was surprisingly dark in the tent and the site was lovely and peaceful.  I snugged down in my sleeping bag and a very good sleep soon followed.

Inside Coleman Cobra 2 tent at night

I woke to discover it had rained quite heavily over night but no problem for the Cobra with it’s 3000mm hydrostatic head flysheet and  5000mm groundsheet.  
The ventilated  mesh inner tent did a good job of keeping the mini beasts and condensation at bay.  One minor quibble is the headroom. I’m about 5 foot 11 (1.8m) and I wasn’t able to sit up properly but try find a 1 or 2 man tent with decent headroom! The Cobra is 77cm at his highest point.

Despite having my Jetboil and some porridge with me, breakfast was taken in the Manifold, I went slightly off piste and went for a large cafetiere of coffee and a black pudding toastie.

Back at camp, I wiped down the rain off the outside of the tent, removed the poles and pegs and lay it on the ground.  After putting the peg and pole bags in the middle of the flattened tent, I folded the sides in to the middle and rolled it all up. Everything went in to the stuff sack fairly neatly.

Everything got chucked in the back of the car and I drove to the Hulme End pay and display car park just around the corner. In retrospect, I think I could have left the car at the campsite. Oh well….
I’d planned a 6 mile circular walk from the car park (which is available as a GPX file).
The route started on the Manifold Way, a tarmac path and cycle route.
I left this path and followed the road south to the caves at Wetton.
After a quick comfort break, I crossed the river and walked north.
There were two options, follow the Manifold Trail back to the car park or take a right and follow the water at the base of Wetton hill. I chose the latter.
The last part of the walk was along quiet roads, leading back to the car park and The Tea Junction for a well deserved coffee!

View from Manifold Way

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