2012-10-20

Rotten gets a new tent - Alps Lynx 2

I've been using my Bass-Pro three man special since the summer of 2006 when I bought it to attend the Parry Sound Sport Bike Rally where a bunch of friends and I camped out for a couple of days to enjoy the festivities surrounding the event (get drunk and toast marshmallows while watching people do wheelies past the campground).

Bass Pro Special
Admittedly, I know little about tents, as much of my time spent in the army was in canvas and aluminium modular tents, and under shelter halves. Each soldier carried one half, and zipped together and suspended from the trees made a water-proof cover provided you didn't pitch it over top a bathtub shaped hole in the ground. I like to think of it as a kitchen cover for the mosquitoes, who could feast on those within to their fill, inviting neighbours and friends to come join in on the feast. This tent was light, and had much more mesh than I was used to, and as a 3 man tent, it boasted more than enough room for me and all my bike gear. I had it sent up in the purse, but lugged it all back home on board my bike. In those days I was packing the kitchen sink. And the kitchen.

The kitchen.

On last year's trip across the Trans Labrador Highway and Newfoundland, that old tent saw some heavy use, the first of which saw us pitch camp on a construction site lot in the middle of a Quebec forest along the North Shore enroute to Baie Comeau and Manic Cinq.

My two riding partners, Chris and Darlene had opted for lighter, newer 1 man tents, and while they had pitched them before, my experience and the simple cross pole dome style tent had mine up in no time allowing me to snap a couple of shots of the action.

They have the double hoop design that relies on the hoops being guyed to support the mid section of the tent,  and I found that in the dark, and on rocky ground, the free-standing dome, while large and heavier, was the better choice.






Again, in the morning, I had mine packed up and ready to roll before they had their gear sorted out, but then I also had the largest panniers and perhaps had a wee bit more road experience in terms of packing.

As I recall, Darlene wasn't at all happy with how she'd loaded her gear in her Wolfman soft panniers, and repacked them that morning while waiting for breakfast.



Crossing the Saguenay river with loaded bikes.

Later that night at Manic Cinq, we found that a thunderstorm was rolling in, and as the motel was full up, we were invited to pitch our tents on the graveled parking lot, although our friends Geoff & Viv kindly let us wait out the worst of the deluge from the comfort of their motel room, later on during a quiet moment, we dashed out and began to set up our tents on the gravel surface. Once again mine was up fast and first, the free standing dome clearly superior to the stake out type, although mine probably bulked 2/3 more than theirs.

The parking lot at Manic Cinq
 During the night we had yet more rain, and the hoop and guy system sagged in as related by Chris, and had to be retensioned to improve the drainage. My chief complaint was the snoring going on beside me. ;)

It's a heavy load on the bike, but the trip was well worth it.


Churchill Falls, Labrador
 The town of Churchill Falls, Labrador boasts a damn tour, or rather a tour of the hydro-electric dam, and visitors with tents are encouraged to pitch them on the field in behind the communities sole church.



But the weight of that tent, along with the other gear that I'd packed for this adventure, was partly to blame for losing control of my bike and planting it in the only ditch I could find in Northern Quebec. I'd dropped a gear, tipped the bike in, rolled back on the throttle and really enjoyed the feeling of the rear end power steering it's way around the gravel corner, that is, until I hit washboard with the front end, and it began to oscillate wildly from side to side eventually ending in a tank slapper at full lock and I was off the bike sliding in the gravel as we both rushed towards the only man made ditch on the seemingly the entire stretch of road.

Everything could be repaired but my injured pride.
Okay, this bike was now so heavy, that riding it adventure style was just not in the cards, although the wheelies were quite impressive.

Kickstand puck anyone?
Yep, even mother earth was complaining, but never in my prescence, always when I'd turn my back and go for those beautiful shots of Gros Morne Coastline.

Enter a new bike, lighter, smaller, faster than the venerable old 2004 Kawasaki KLR that now had over 88,000 kilometers on it. I traded up to a 2009 Suzuki DR650E, but gone were my racks and ammo can panniers, gone was the spacious corbin flat seat that saw me ride 1,600 kilometres in a single ride.

2009 Suzuki DR650E

Here it is loaded up for the Canadian Superbike doubleheader championship races that my friends are I camp out at every year along Turn 2 inside track.

The tent isn't on the bike at all. I was getting worried, as I had cold weather gear loaded, my sleeping bag all in the lower canoe bag, then my self-inflating air mattress in the dry bag above, rain gear strapped ontop of that, and many more odds and sods in the top box like toiletries, heated vest, flip flops, spare visor and the like. It was getting crowded on here, and when my buddy Dan offered to loan me his old North Face tent that he'd had since a boy in New Brunswick which he'd replaced with a North Face Rock 22, I didn't turn down his gracious offer, and spent the three days in his tent as opposed to hauling my own. I was pretty depressed, as I loved the handling and dirt characteristics of this lighter bike, but clearly I was going to have to learn how to pack lighter still, yet still be able to handle inclement weather, as from past experience I have been shivering with cold on August and July nights. I had to find a solution that was both inexpensive, yet would be a good investment for the future.

It would have to be:

  • Lightweight and in the backpacking class, while not ultralight
  • Roomy, for I'm 6 foot, and a big guy with lots of gear
  • Have a vestibule for boots and things that I wanted to keep out of the rain
  • Freestanding - this is a must with no compromise.
  • Aluminium poles for strength and weight, preferably straight without fancy hubs and things so the erection, repair or replacement is straightforward
  • Clip type hooks to fasten to the poles as opposed to sleeve type
  • A gear loft - I fell in love with my gear loft and having a tube of after bite and a flashlight up there
  • A strong, water proof, bathtub style floor. I prefer the Outfitter style that has the heavy tarp style floor, but couldn't source one in my price range.
  • Buckle on tent fly - you try setting up a tent in a windstorm in heavy rain on a rocky surface. This feature lets you erect the thing, buckle on the fly, and load it with gear while waiting out the rain to see to the guyying out the fly later on.
  • 1/2 to 3/4 mesh as most of my camping is done in warm to hot weather unless of course you count Newfoundland.
What I came up with was a few like the REI Quarterdome, the MEC Camper 2, North Face Rock 22, among others. A name that kept coming up was Alps Mountaineering that gives boy scouts a great discount when purchasing their gear.

There were reviews and videos aplenty, and I found myself considering other styles of tent such as the Chaos 2 and the Vertex 2, even their Extreme 2 as it was a four season tent, but those two seperate easy to sort out poles kept coming back to my mind, and I thought the Chaos had too much mesh, while the Vertex looks like it was a bit too close for a hot, humid summer night. 

I finally decided I'd go with the Alps Mountaineering Lynx 2, and placed an order through Amazon.ca for one which arrived at the local post office on Friday and was pitched on my sister's lawn that very same night as I knew that there was no rain in the forecast, and that if I was able to pitch it for the very first time in the twilight before sunset, and take it down in the dark that followed armed only with my Petzl Headlamp, it would be a good test for actual use later on.

Even my nephews commented on quickly I had the tent set up on the finished lawn, but I also found that I had a few questions regarding where the tent was supposed to pegged, and two spots on the fly that looked like they need a wee guy line to properly tension the rain fly away from the body of the tent, and I found that while shipped ten light duty aluminium pegs, I'd need two more with a six to eight inch loop of cord attached to the rain fly to guy out the two ends.

The floor is the same material as the walls, and as I'm used to the rugged tarp style floor of my older tent, was a bit nervous about standing on the floor of it without a floor saver, even on a finished lawn, so in my mind a floor saver is a must, especially as my dog loves camping and is no stranger to motorcycle rides.

I'd heard of people taking down the tent from the inside while leaving up the fly, as if in a massive downpour of rain, so that was how I did it that night, and it came down easily and qucikly, although I did have problems deciding how to fold and store the tent, and I'll have to repack it again to get it to it's proper bulk in the included tent bag.

It's almost exactly what I was looking for, roomy enough to me not to feel claustrophobic, yet small enough not to blot out the scenery. :D

Strangely, it bulks almost as large as my older tent, but is 1/2 the weight or better than the old one which I'll let my nephews use when moto camping next year with them. After I treat the rain fly for that wee pesky leak  that developed on my last night on Newfoundland.




Mine is in a Sage and Rust colour, but the tent pictured here is identical.

I've ordered some tent pegs off of eBay in an aluminium triangular design similar in appearance to the MSR Groundhog style as the included pegs are the type that need to be straightened after they hit the first good rock or three, but at half the price, in the amount of 20 of them. I also found the ALPS footprint for the tent and have that on it's way as well, but may resort to Tyvek or the Canadian Tire Blue tarp that we all know and love.


Under $10 on eBay.ca
The Alps footprint has some lovely grommets on it for use as a dining fly etc. 


Well, I managed six years before opening up a hole in the bathtub floor of my old tent, so when my nephews erect it for the first time they'll find a nice patch of duct tape on the floor to keep the ants and water out. Hopefully I'll fair a bit better with the new tent, but if not, I have this kit to see to any field repairs.

And of course, a tent repair kit for those mornings when you wake up hungover.


Does anyone know where I can get a couple of cheap aluminum poles that I could use to support a dining and cooking fly?

I'll be sure to post up and update later on once I test drive this puppy and find out how it performs or fails to.

Cheers!

2014-08-16 Update

The tent saw me from Ontario to Prince Edward Island and around the Gaspe, through Quebec, home again and out to the Canadian Super Bike double header championship weekend at Mosport, and in that time it's seen days of showers, and stayed bone dry inside except for what water I skilled or tracked inside with me. I have enough room for my sleeping bag and mattress and my riding gear inside. 

What can I say? It feels a bit chilly in 6 degree Celsius weather, but once the doors are zipped up, it retains heat well and warms up by morning with body heat. 

Gear placed in the vestibules stays dry with the exception of ground water. 

It goes up fast! In a downpour in Drummondville Quebec I had it up and staked out in under five minutes. I packed it away wet that morning, then two days later put it up wet at the racetrack and it dried out nicely in a few hours. The following day it shrugged off a five hour (going on six) rainstorm perfectly. 

What don't I like about it?
It packs up larger and heavier than I like for Moto camping.
The two vents in the rain fly work, but water collects a bit in the sag. (This was after significant rainfall)
The rain fly has two vents near the top, and when open, water can pool there for a awhile.

 When the rain fly is zipped open, it allows rain to drop directly onto the tent floor. This is the single worst feature about this tent, and if they were to do a redesign incorporating a cross bar to prevent the water dropping straight down onto the tent floor when the rain fly is open, I'd happily purchase this tent again. Imagine a muggy, rainy day when you cannot open the side of your tent higher than a foot and a half for ventilation. Argh! (See the design of the Northface Rock22 to compare)

The pegs shipped with it are sub quality and prone to bend when you hit the first rock. It's missing two pegs and guy lines for the extreme ends of the fly, but there are two sewn on loops there. Six feet of para cord and a couple more pegs sort that out nicely, although it should have been included from the manufacturer.

The eBay pegs are great, although I broke the head off of one when I hit a rock and kept pounding. Lol. The stock peg would have become a pretzel. 

Of the group I'm camping with this weekend, it's the smallest tent, and there is only one better, and that one is far too large to fit on bike. 

I'll post more pictures once I get home. 

Oh, I met a guy with an MSR Hubba Hubba that was absolutely disgusted that the rain fly made contact with the tent mesh and let water in as a result. He rode and camped from South America to Alaska and was going to throw it away when he shipped his bike back to Switzerland. 

Overall, price and performance give it four out of five stars. 

I'd buy from Alps Mountaineering again. 

The short guy line on the rain fly is the one I added and provided a peg for.

Setup in Nouvelle QC along the Gaspe Peninsula

Suzi calls it her home away from home

After riding three hours in the rain, it went up in under five minutes in the rain and provided waterproof shelter in the constant rain that night. 

I spent the night in it at the 2014 Vintage Festival at Mosport, and it rained yet again, and had the opportunity to compare my tent to the North Face Rock 22 that my buddy Dan bought on a recommendation from his Mt. Everest climbing brother-in-law. The Rock 22 is 3/4 mesh to my 1/2 mesh, but has a much smaller aperture resembling textile to screen. The fly has grommets that clips on to the ends of the aluminum poles, and best of all, incorporates a single short pole that goes on over top the two domed poles to extend the fly's  vestibules out enough so that rain, even with the fly open will be shed and not gain ingress into the tent, something I've mentioned does happen with the Alps Lynx 2,as the fly opens to well over the open tent, and in a downpour water ends up sprinkling a portion of your sleeping bag and flooring. Not much, but enough to be cognisant of it.

North Face Rock 22
The tent pegs shipped with his tent are very similar in quality to the Alps pegs. 

The North Face Rock 22 also packs smaller an lighter, at a cost of about $225.

I think the Alps Lynx 2 performs very similarly, and I am happy with the purchase after having spent seven nights at six different camping spots in weather ranging from hot summer evenings to cold downpours at 6 degrees overnight temperatures. 

I'm still going to give it four out of five stars for design, price, and performance. 
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