As you may well be aware, Nath and myself are not averse to a spot of wild camping, especially in the Dartmoor area, and often in horrendous weather. In the past we have both camped in various tents, including the reasonably sized Vango Mirage 200, the smaller Vango Banshee 200, and recently we have both gone over to using the DD-Hammocks Ultralight Tarp set up, for additional weight reduction. And this was before Naturehike had approached us to check out their Ultralight Backpacking tent, The Cloud Up 2.
Now there are positives and negatives for all of these products and we will look at them one by one.
The Vango Mirage 200 is a sturdy tent, and surprisingly big for a two-man tent. It's one of those rare two-man tent's that comfortably fits two, plus gear, and with a large vestibule, you even have the option to keep gear outside to create even more space. Being a larger tent isn’t always a good choice though, especially when you are planning on carrying it on your back whilst hiking and backpacking for any considerable amount of time.
The Mirage weighs in at 3kg, which one man does not want to be carrying on his back. On bigger journeys (as we did when we went hiking and wild camping on Cadair Idris in Snowdonia) we made the call and separated the tent beforehand, splitting the weight and sharing the burden of the additional weight.
As with most Vango Tents, its easy to put up, (the outer skin can be put up first and the inner attached after), and at £150 its not a bad price either. All of the seams are factory sealed, giving a durable water resistance and the doors are double skinned, giving the option of leaving just the inner mesh skin up to increase ventilation and airflow whilst preventing insects from invading your space. Its door is situated at one end, and the vestibule opens from both sides, giving a choice of entry in driving weather.
Although a fantastic tent, and good when sharing, we rarely choose to share a tent, and so the Mirage is often left behind.
The Vango Banshee 200 has been my main tent for over a year now. Reasonably priced at between £90 - £140, it's not a bad price for a recognised and durable brand. It is advertised as weighing 2.14kg, although when we weighed mine it actually came out at 1.95kg which is not too bad for a two man tent, but then, it's low lying, small camping footprint doesn’t really offer you great room for two men. I use it as a one-man tent and its just about enough to fit myself and my gear.
Its also not very long, a taller hiker would probably touch both ends, but as I sleep in the fetal position, that has never bothered me too much if I’m honest. Being dark green and low to the ground, it is a great tent for stealth camping, but the flip side of that is that it is dark and dingy, and, being not very tall, the joys of trying to pack your gear and sleeping bags away in the morning are frustrated somewhat by having to hunch over to do so.
Being a tunnel tent, with two hooped poles pulled in different directions for low-level stability, it does mean that the door of the Banshee is situated at the side, and I’m not entirely sure that this is a great thing. Having climbed into the tent during pouring rain, I have dragged all my wet gear in and straight onto my sleeping bag and roll mat. There isn’t a lot of room for keeping wet things separate, and even the vestibule is a pathetic size, barely enough to put your boots under, and certainly cooking under it has proven difficult in rain and wind. The tunnel design may be a great way to save weight, but, putting this up can be a bit of a ball-ache in softer ground, as you have to peg one end, then pull tight to peg the next. I have had fun pulling one end out then the other in softer ground, going around in frustrating circles.
In the adverse weather that we are often subjected to, it has stood up to the test, taken a battering and has kept me dry. It was a good deal when I bought it and I must say that it feels like it could last forever. However, with both Vango tents, the pegs that are supplied are quite flimsy looking tent pegs, cylindrical in shape, and have easily buckled, and are also easy to twist around in the earth when under pressure. My pegs with the Banshee have become quite gnarled and bend in no time at all.
Both of the Vango tents also have the following benefits. Each tent has the capability of packing together in one bundle, allowing you to leave the inside skin clipped to the outer, saving time and the hassle of getting the inside skin wet if you're putting it up in the rain. and both tents have a nice sized stuff sack, with the opening down the side as opposed to the end, which makes packing up so much easier than trying to force your hastily rolled up tent into one end of a tube bag. Both tents have various inside pockets on the sides to keep valuables or torches safe and easily attainable in poor visibility.
Following Nathan’s lead, we have both recently purchased the DD Hammocks 3x3 Superlight tarp shelters, priced at about £70 and weighing in at an amazing 490g’s (excluding tent pegs and guide ropes). This tarp is a massive weight saving option for any keen through hiker. The beauty of the tarp shelter is that there are no poles, so you can use your hiking poles, (which most hikers already carry) to get this one set up. Being a tarp, there is plenty of options for variation, and it is a common addition to any hammock camping. Again, its olive green colour means that it is a great stealth option. Unfortunately, the DD Hammock Ultralight Tarp only comes with four pegs, yet these are of good quality, lightweight but sturdy, and it didn't take long to source some more to add to the package. You need at least twelve ideally.
Another of the great things about the tarp shelter is the amount of room you have inside. I couldn’t believe it when I first stuck my head into Nath’s tarp whilst wild camping at Dartmoor’s Bellever Forest, and for me that was one of the clinchers. Another, obviously is the weight, but also the size of your pack when all put away, about the same size as a pack-a-mac coat, and this can easily fit into your backpack with no real inconvenience or reshuffling of your backpack’s contents. As I mentioned, it is surprisingly roomy in the tarp, but being open to the elements does mean that you will require a decent bivvy bag. Being open to the elements also produces another set of challenges, too.
Tarp camping is ok when conditions are fine, but as Nath found out in Bellever Forest when he found himself floating in a freshly made pond during torrential rain, or when we were both crawling with summer insects during our stay on Hound Tor, tarps can also be very uncomfortable. With no mesh to keep out creepy crawlies, and no ground sheet to protect from rising water, tarps are not as comfortable as tents, so many may prefer not to bother down this route. They are a great emergency shelter, and if you fancy the adventure then they certainly bring a great deal of that to the table.
Well, on top of our own journey of tent exploration, trial and error, we have been fortunate to have been approached by a company called Naturehike, known for manufacturing affordable backpacking equipment and tents, a company, who somehow stumbled across our videos and for some reason chose us to offer a brand new tent of theirs to test out and make a series of review videos. Skeptical, I asked what the catch was, they replied, no catch, I just have to give them a review on Amazon, and post links to their tent and website on our videos. They asked us to be honest in our review and to let them know if we found any faults as they pride themselves on learning by their mistakes and are honing and adapting this tent from feedback from the public.
It's worth noting at this point that in the same week we were also approached by another company to test out a backpack, but the photo they sent of the backpack was completely different to the one shown in the Amazon link they sent, and their conditions for our review was that a) we would have to purchase the backpack first and b) give them a five stars review on Amazon. I swiftly informed them that I would not agree to those terms and that for the integrity of our channel any review I gave would be honest. Needless to say, I never heard back from them.
Anyway, I digress. The NatureHike Cloud Up 2, (a two-man Ultralight tent) arrived within days of our correspondence, and I promptly took the tent to Nath’s to give our initial unpacking review. As it was advertised as a two man tent, I also took my Banshee along, as well as some scales, with the aim to compare the two. After all, if the Cloud Up 2 is any good, it will surely be replacing the Banshee.
We were both a little dubious of the tent, having been sent it for free, and so we were pleasantly surprised as we started to look a little deeper.
The first thing we found was that the weight of the Naturehike was 200grams lighter than that of the Banshee, weighing 1.74kgs against the Banshee’s 1.95kgs. Upon looking inside the tidy yet compact packing sack, we soon found that there are a few other areas for potential weight saving, including the bag that the additional groundsheet comes with, and the groundsheet itself for that matter could be left out if you really wanted to. Without the ground sheet the tent weighed in a 1.48kg’s so another 240g’s saving should you choose to go that route. On our first hike and wild camp with the tent, I even managed to fit the entire tent bag into my backpack, something that the Vango had never managed to do.
Having looked at online reviews from previous owners of the Cloud Up, we saw that there were a few areas in which the company had improved their product. Most notably was the two guidelines on the side of the tent, to help keep the tent upright in battering winds (the thing does look a little sail-like when erect) as well as the addition of a more breathable mesh to the inner tent to reduce condensation. As mentioned earlier, the tent comes with an additional ground sheet, as the bottom of the tent, despite being waterproof is incredibly thin and does seem likely to puncture. In fact, it makes you wonder if the groundsheet had also been an additional afterthought after original tests and feedback. Perhaps puncturing the original groundsheet was a common occurrence.
The free-standing structure of the tents lightweight skeleton poles clips into the four corners of the inner skin, and then from there the inner is clipped to the skeleton and hangs down from it. The skeleton straddles the inner sheet, and the limbs off of the spine are attached by a small Y shaped connector, which many viewers who have tried and tested the Cloud Up previously commented is the ‘first thing to go’ when put under any stress. Whether this has been amended with the latest version of the tent remains to be seen.
When the outer skin is put up around the skeleton, the two skins are separated by about 80mm, plenty of air gap. It wasn’t until a few weeks later, that
I also realised that the skeleton would also clip into the additional groundsheet, meaning that the outer can then be put up first and the inner could be clipped into that, beneficial for keeping the
inside skin dry during installation in bad weather. However, unlike the Banshee, the two skins cannot be left together when for dismantling ease as the poles hold the two together. It does look like
you could use the outer and groundsheet only, and do away with the inner tent completely if you so wanted, saving even more weight from your pack. This tarp style set up comes in at 1.32kgs. What I
did like about the tent’s flysheet was the clips used to connect to the ground sheet or the inner. Easy to use and with a simple sliding toggle to easily adjust the positioning and tightness of the
outer skin over the skeleton.
Now the colour was fine for me, (if you ever watched our Q&A video you would be aware that red and grey is my favourite colour combo) but several viewers from our initial review video commented on the colour being too stand out for any stealth camping, and I can see their point. It’s a light grey, and when up it is a tall structure too, so could easily stand out from a mile off, and Nath pointed out to me whilst testing it out on Dartmoor, that the thing lit up like a lightbulb when I had my torch on in the inside!
However, the light grey tent made for a far lighter interior, especially compared to the dark Banshee that I was used too, and I was surprised by just how roomy it was inside, especially the height. I could easily sit up in the tent, with plenty of clearance too. It would easily fit two people in, but again, a struggle to fit two rucksacks in there too, so as a one-man tent and as an alternative to the Banshee, I was beginning to sway. At first glance there didn't seem to be any internal pockets for keeping torches or valuables, but whilst giving it its first test out on the moors, I discovered a pocket up above the door, although it didn't feel as stable or deep as the pockets in my Vango.
The tent pegs seem really impressive too. Similar to the lightweight pegs that come with the DD Hammock Tarp, but these are a Y-shaped spine. They are only aluminium, so I am sure that they could bend, but the Y design certainly makes it easier to puncture the ground and greatly reduces the chance of twisting out.
So far the tent has impressed us, and at £120 it is a good contender against the likes of the Banshee, and its great weight and internal space, it is also comparable to the MSR Hubba Hubba and at a quarter of the price (of course, that is only on paper, we have yet to see or test an MSR Hubba Hubba so there are surely going to be many additional features and of a far better quality) it could be a cheaper alternative.
For a better look at the tent, please feel free to check out our videos, Our First Look
Review, The First Test On Dartmoor where it stood its ground against some increasingly turbulent wind throughout the
night, as well the third video where I put the Inner Up First and show the Tarp option. Follow the links below to find the official UK Amazon Nature Hike Store. For more of our gear videos check out
the Hiking and Wild Camping Playlist from our site, or the Gear We Use page from our website. And if you haven't already, please subscribe to Summit or Nothing for more great Outdoors, Hiking and Wild Camping content!
And if you are reading this before November 30th 2018 – then you are in time to join in our massive NatureHike Cloud Up 2 GIVEAWAY. After a little bit of debating between Naturehike and myself, the kind people at Naturehike have kindly donated another tent to offer to our viewers and subscribers as a prize. So, check out our video here and make sure that you subscribe to our channel and that you drop a comment below that video, and we will draw one lucky winner on November 30 th! GOOD LUCK!!