I turned to camping rather late in life, only a year or so ago, with an escapade to the Isles of Scilly with my sister. While the trip and the islands themselves were fantastic, my cheap tent certainly was not. I had the bug though, and despite working in the hotel game, I found a real buzz from being able to book a week's holiday for the princely sum of £6 to £8 a night. On return to the mainland, and armed with a £200 donation from my father in law, we set about searching for a tent.
We quickly stumbled upon the Outwell Classic range of tents, as the local Yeomans camping store in my village has a vast display. I also have to admit I was somewhat seducted by the names of their tents, Bear Lake, Wolf Lake, Indian Lake, Norfolk Lake, Trout Lake - all conjuring up images of camping in the Canadian wilderness with only a fishing rod and a campstove for company. One day.
However, having gone to both Yeomans and one of the large "Go Outdoor" camping stores down in Loughborough, what we really liked about the Outwell Classic range is the fabric they are made of. The fabric is called Outtex Airtech, and is a polycotton, perhaps a little bit more in keeping with a more traditional tent. However, the tent felt comfortable to sit in when it was very warm outside as it is a more breathable fabric - and many of the polyester tents are stifling inside during the hot weather.
The density and weight of the fabric also seemed to be more stable during windy weather, whereas the polyester ones can feel like they are going to blow away...I also liked the very high quality zip in groundsheet, which is made from a very thick plastic, which looked like it could weather rough ground for many years to come and we also wanted a tent that we could stand up in easily and again the Bear Lake delivers this as it is 210 cm high in the centre. For these reasons, despite the premium cost price we decided that the Classic range, and the Bear Lake were most appropriate for us, and at £500 we felt this was reasonable value for money especially if it gives us both long holidays in Europe, UK and Ireland, and short breaks in the UK for the next ten years or so.
We actually looked at its big brother, the Bear Lake 6, which was only £100 more expensive at the time but rejected this on the grounds that there were only two of us, and we were unlikely to share our sleeping space with another couple! However the beauty of the Bear Lakes is that they have quite an extensive living and storage area so it would be possible to take a smaller tent for friends to sleep in but still have enough room to socialise.
We shopped around quite extensively to see if we could get the tent any cheaper online or at the big stores, but we were unable to do so. Our neighbour who worked at Yeoman's advised that it was likely that the tents were going to go up significantly in price, as camping was taking off again for reasons of recession and a weak pound etc. He was not wrong, at today's prices on Yeoman's website our tent is priced at £719, and that is with a £180 discount from the RRP! We certainly bought it at the right time.
The tent itself can be transported in two large bags - one for poles and the ground sheet and one for the outer flysheet and inner flysheets - the bedrooms. The weight of the tent is quite significant at around 46 kilos for the two bags, so unfortunately the tent will be unlikely to be going anywhere where a flight is involved, but we didn't feel this was a downside as we would choose to travel to Northern Europe using our own car.
It is never a good idea to go camping without having erected the tent at home first, or you could find yourself trying to erect the tent for the first time in the pouring rain and quickly falling out with each other. There is a downloadable video to help you visualise how to pitch although the other half is quite adept at tackling this sort of thing on his own. The tent is pitched as flysheet first, and as it is a tunnel tent, this is a matter of threading the sets of curved poles through the outer loops, standing each pole vertically and securing in rough position, before threading through the straight poles in the other direction, which give the tent rigidity, before zipping in the groundsheet, and then pitching fully....then zipping in the two "bedroom" cubicles at the back of the tent - the benefit of this method of course does mean that you can have some form of shelter quite quickly.
This tent is certainly a bit of a looker, and on our first trip out, to a campsite in the Humber we had a couple of families stop us to ask what we thought of the tent - we were of course mere newbies to this whole camping thing but we didn't let on..! However, it was to show its superiority that night, I slept like a baby, and never heard the rain at all, but when I woke up, I found I was in an almost deserted campsite, most of the people around us had packed up in the night as the weather was that severe - we definitely made a good choice!
Since that trip, we have made a few more short break trips, and the tent, so far is holding up very well. We have no real signs of wear and tear and have camped during other wet weekends. We have managed to buy a bit more camping gear, including a kitchen sink type unit, and better camping stove etc and due to the size of the tent, (650cm by 320 cm) we are able to store all our belongings very easily and without feeling cramped by the space even for a longer trip. I am very much looking forward to a longer camping holiday on the European mainland next year, and I will certainly be keeping my eye on the Outwell Classic range as we feel we could benefit from a slightly smaller tent for short UK trips
Tent Dimensions: 37 x 95 cm / Poles: 31 x 93 cm