* Prices may differ from that shown
This summer I got a bit carried away in the Millets sale and not only bought myself a new tent, but also bought a new small tent for my two nearly grown up boys. The tent that tempted me was the Vango Alpha 300; the original price was £75 but it was reduced to £40 in the sale.
The Vango Alpha is sold as a three man tent and is very conveniently sized for a small tent that can easily be thrown into the boot of the car. My tent is a royal blue colour with orange luminous guy ropes and peg elastics that could easily be seen on a dark campsite. The tent has black trimmings that give it a smart look and is a dome style tent with a small porch area.
The sleeping area measures 80cm by 210cm and really is only big enough for two people, despite the labelling of a three man tent. As usual with small tents like this, the headroom is not enough to stand up in to change clothing etc. The height is 130cm at the highest point of the dome (about 4 foot 3 inches) - which means that a lot of stooping takes place inside.
The living area measures 190cm at its longest (triangular shaped) point by 180cm wide, which is large enough to store luggage but not large enough for a third person to sleep in. It has two plastic windows with privacy curtains which can be folded back for light. The groundsheet for the living area is attached to the sleeping area and attaches to the flysheet with toggles - in what is known as the 'bathtub' design that effectively keeps out flood water during heavy rain showers.
The whole tent folds up into a small carry bag which weighs just over 4 Kg and is 64 x 16 x 16cm
~~ Erecting my tent ~~
This tent is the type that erects the inner tent first. Unfolding the inner tent, you need to thread the two straight poles diagonally in a cross position through the pole sleeves. These are not colour coded but it is pretty obvious which ones to thread as the third pole has a bend in it.
The long poles are then inserted into the keys at each end and the inner tent is attached to the poles with clips.
Next you throw the outer tent over the inner tent and thread the longer bent pole through the porch area at the front and bang in the pegs and guy ropes.
The tent was quick to erect and fairly easy. It is always a bit fiddly to insert tensioned poles into the key attachments with just one person but it is not impossible. With a bit of running round from one side to the other I easily erected the tent on my own in under 15 minutes.
~~ Minuses ~~
I personally prefer a tent which allows you to erect the outer skin first. If you are pitching in rain or with an imminent storm it is very reassuring to be able to quickly put up the waterproof outer fly sheet and then chuck everything inside in the dry - to put up the inner tent at your leisure.
Alternatively, more modern tents are integral and the inner tent automatically erects inside the outer fly sheet with no decisions to be made. For a small tent, the original price of £75 is fairly pricey and I would have expected a bit more modernity in the design.
The porch area is a bonus, but really only useful to store bags. It is too small to cook in if it is raining, and not bit enough for a third person to sleep.
I would like to list the lack of headroom as a minus - but I have yet to find a small tent which has height enough to stand up inside, so this may be unfair. It does mean that anybody with a bad back will suffer from the continual stooping.
A minor irritation is that the pegs supplied are a bit thin and weedy. I have seen better quality pegs in my time. The poles made out of fibreglass - more expensive tents have steel poles less likely to break and shred but this is normal for cheaper tents.
My final minus is that this tent is advertised as a three man tent, which is really stretching the truth. Looking at web reviews I can see that I am not the only person who thinks that this tent is really only suitable for two people, not three.
~~ Positives ~~
On the positive side, this tent is easy to put up - one person can easily put it up on their own in just under 15 minutes, and two people can erect in just under 10 minutes.
The design has had some thought put into it, with the bathtub style groundsheet and inner tent storage pockets for mobiles, valuables, personal bits. I like the addition of a hook for holding a lantern or torch inside tent; something which is commonly found on larger models, but not always on the smaller designs.
Ventilation is good with an interior insect net on sleeping compartment to avoid excessive condensation as well as keeping bugs out - and a big vent in the porch door for summer air.
The colour of any tent is important - a canvas which is too light can wake you up at 4am in the summer, but this tent has a dark blue colour which keeps it moderately dark inside even in daylight hours.
In terms of portability the tent is nice and light to carry with a sturdy carry bag.
~~ Conclusion ~~
This tent is well made and a convenient size for a short camping trip. It is moderately waterproof and the design would keep some of the bad weather out.
For £40 I think this tent is good value for money, but there are better bargains to be had at the moment. For just a little more money it is possible to get a tent with a much more modern design - for example a sewn-in bathtub groundsheet rather than one which is held up by ineffectual toggles.
This is a basic tent which really is a 2 man tent and not a 3 man tent as advertised.
It is not a terrible design; it has not failed or broken - but I would recommend a little more research to hunt out something more modern. For just £10 or £20 more it is possible to get a much more technically designed tent that will give a better camping experience