Apparently most review-writing bloggers do it in return for free stuff or even actual folding wonga, if you can believe that. I could argue that this compromises the impartiality of the resulting writings and stake out the moral high ground by telling you all that any reviews I might occasionally do are unsullied by the taint of financial reward, therefore pure and objective, and that I do it like this out of sheer righteousness. Actually it’s just because I’m a bit crap about asking for freebies. Like most of us, I’d be more than happy to sully myself slightly with a wedge of cash in a brown envelope, given half a chance.
All a bit academic in this particular case though, as I can’t see an organisation as large as Decathlon being interested in giving away a pile of camping gear in return for a rave review from some wittering alpine blogger with an audience of half a dozen anyway. I should really have tried I suppose, but the time required was probably better spent making a pot of tea, if we’re honest.
A stocktake of the available camping gear in the loft earlier in the year revealed a lot of perfectly serviceable kit, most of it completely unsuited to my current solo needs. Mansion tents with enough space for table and chairs plus sideboard, wardrobe and staff accommodation are all very well, but not ideal when you’re trying to put one up on your own and still have enough time actually to go and do whatever activity you had planned in the first place.
Time, clearly, to flog it all off and get back to the basic camping experience. Which means a trawl round the web followd by the inevitable trip to Decathlon, cheapo sports kit emporium extraordinaire, and a tour of their Quechua range of pop-up montage-in-a-minute instatents.
These things are available in various forms ranging from rudimentary one-man shelters to mini-mansions allegedly sleeping a family of four, though bear in mind that the assumption here is that your children are all under ten and a bit stunted to boot.
Packed down, your tent comes as a flat disc rather than the usual sausage shape. You take it out of the bag, whip off the restraining strap and the thing pings up (smacking you in the face in the process, as a rule) into – ta-daaah! – a fully put together tent complete with inner bedroom bit. Nail it to the floor and off you go.
Unlikely as this sounds, it actually works. Honestly. Though it has to be said that the official estimate of two seconds is possibly a tad optimistic, especially for the bigger version with porch space and muddy boot storage. But I could probably get it down to five minutes, assuming I don’t try putting it up on the stoniest emplacement in the world next time. And remember to bring the mallet.
In terms of size, these tents aren’t bad as long as you follow the basic camping rule of picking one designed for one more person than you intend to accommodate. You may wish to consider the porch space issue as well – personally I like to have a place for stashing gear (boots, coolbox, via ferrata kit, comfy chair, stray cat etc etc) and lurking in should it decide to rain, so I went for the XXL version, a good move as it’s positively palatial for one person, and the height of the porch means you don’t have to do that undignified crawling in and out thing, which is a serious bonus.
Ah, I hear you say, but does it actually pack down into its disc shape after use and go back in the bag? Or do you have to wrestle with it for three hours before stuffing it in the back of the car in a fit of pique? This was a bit of a concern, and it has to be said that the instructions on the bag are frankly rubbish. The various instructional videos on YouTube aren’t a huge amount of help if you’ve got the two-man model either, as they all refer to the bigger one, which doesn’t seem to work in quite the same way. But you kind of get the picture.
Folding the 2XXL up is merely a matter of doing up three colour-coded buckles, followed by one small wrestling move in order to twist it into a figure eight and fold it in half. Once the retaining strap is on, it goes back into the bag in a remarkably docile fashion, leaving you free to push off and do the day’s via ferrata before the crowds get to it.
The downside to all this is the packed size of the thing, which is a disc measuring about 80cm across and weighing over six kilos. You’re not going to be yomping along the Tour de Oisans route with it tied to your rucksack, that’s for sure. But assuming you’re doing your camping out of the back of a car this isn’t an issue, as it fits easily into the back of something as small as a Twingo and still leaves more than enough room for the rest of the kit. You might have a problem if you’re driving a Smart car, but I’d suggest that if you’re running around in something as ridiculous as that then the size of your tent is the least of your worries.
All in all, this could very well be the perfect tent for basic weekend camping trips. It’s on sale at the moment with 20€ off the original price, so nab one now.
Make and model: Quechua 2 Seconds XXL
Available from: Decathlon stores or online here
Price: 120€, reduced at the moment to 100€