Some reviews write themselves. I could just say “I absolutely love this tent” and leave it at that, I really could. But hey, you say, we need to know why. So ok, here are some reasons!
I’m on my first solo camp and it’s something of a test, of new kit and of myself. I’m reluctant to use the words ‘wild camping’ as the safety of my van is less than two miles away; a very firm Plan B should my tent blow away or wolves draw near, licking their lips. I’m perched on the shore of Llyn y Fan Fawr, the big sister to the Llyn y Fan Fach of legends, and under a wide, grey sky. I trekked here under blistering sunshine, but the heat of the day has already given way to a business-like wind and one end of the tent is being pinned down by my new rucksack while I peg the other. Robens’ claim is that the Arrow Head can withstand 165km per hour gusts. I zip up my hoodie and hope so.
Outdoor World Direct tents
The Arrow Head, which is delivered to me by the lovely people at Outdoor World Direct, is Robens’ lightweight backpacking tent, new for 2019 and part of the Route entry-level range. And lightweight it is, coming in at just 1.5kg, including the alloy poles, yet without a hint of flimsiness. I’m suspicious that 1.5kg will get heavier and heavier as I trudge up the flanks of Mynydd Du, but no – it’s really barely there. The pegs weigh about as much as small pencils.
The blurb says ‘fast pitch’ and it is, my test run in the back garden taking about 10 minutes (I get the poles the wrong way around). Now a dab hand, I pop it up in about eight, those pegs sliding easily into the ground without a mallet (too much extra weight for this backpacker). To be very picky, the peg hooks are small and initially offer a reduced grip for the guy ropes, but this is quickly resolved with a spot of clever angling, which, judging by the wind whipping up, is much needed anyway.
I choose the Arrow Head for the sole reason it has full side entry. I’m not usually claustrophobic but, having crawled into a few end-opening, narrow tents in camping showrooms, I’m anxious about feeling entombed. I pitch sideways, parallel with the shore, and my view is satisfyingly wide-screen. Having been so utterly preoccupied with the door and the weight, I hadn’t much focused on other features but, here in the landscape, I see how fittingly the Magma Orange fabric sits in its setting, bright enough to spot from a distance yet earthy enough to complement nature’s colour scheme.
Room for a little one
Inside is a treat. I’m 5’3″ and this tent has room to spare; easily long enough for a six-footer, although he or she would admittedly fill it end to end. With my feet to the tent’s tail, I’m the perfect size to sit upright in the generous apex. All those poor tall people would only be able to sit upright with crooked knees, but as there are few advantages to being my height, I don’t feel sorry for them for long.
Lying cosily in my sleeping bag, with my rucksack as a pillow, my head is just next to a large, useful pocket in the inner tent fabric. One of the best-thought out features, however, is the ample storage between the inner tent and fly sheet, with more than enough room to keep trail shoes, stove and water bottle dry.
Now, about that wind. As the blackness inches down Brycheiniog’s sheer slopes and creeps closer, that wind is swirling to a near gale that won’t relent til dawn. The noise is terrific, ruining my ‘sleep 10 hours straight outdoors’ claim. I drift, wake, drift and wake to canvas-rattling* gusts, and wonder again about those wolves. But my new Vango sleeping bag is so startlingly warm that I settle to more drifting than waking until the blackness blends to the fresh grey of morning and the gusts subside.
A brisk cup of tea sets me right and I pack away, the tent rolling smoothly down to its original 48cm x 13cm and gliding into the bag. I trek back to the van, smug I didn’t need to action Plan B yet wondering how the Arrow Head would have stood up – literally – had it rained. The following weekend I find out, pitched in the relative luxury of a Camping and Caravanning Club site at the foot of the Roaches (hot showers! Toilets!). After an evening with my hiking bestie under glowing skies, I wake to the sound of a downpour. My tent’s standing up just fine. I question again if there’s a lovelier sound than rain on canvas* and drift back to sleep.
This is my first one-man tent but I am a seasoned tent owner (collection now standing at five) and I honestly can’t imagine there’s a better choice for a first-time, slightly furrow-browed backpacker looking to test her or his mettle on a windy mountainside. It ticks every box; weight, ease of pitching, comfort and appearance, all the while inching open that little world of solo camping, and freedom. Can I imagine myself backpacking for days? I’m not sure, but I’m not sure I need to. Sometimes, a one-hour trek to possibly the most magical spot on Earth is all one girl with a tent needs.
My Robens Arrow Head tent was kindly gifted by Outdoor World Direct, a leading family-run, Yorkshire-based outdoors retailer. It costs £79.99 from their online store and you can also follow them on Facebook and Instagram.
* Ok, polyester. HydroTex Core polyester, to be precise, at a tough and durable 75 denier.