Vaude Mk II (Long) 2008 - Review

I've been a fan of Vaude tents for a long time, so when my 10 year old Mk II LE got badly damaged on Barra in 2008 and needed to be replaced, the logical conclusion was to buy another one. That said, it wasn't an easy decision, and I got a lot of advice from the Sea & Surf Forum with all sorts of alternative suggestions from the sublime to the totally impractical.

Vaude pioneered a cunning system whereby the poles attach to the tent using a system of hooks and bungee cord - it works extremely well and as the inner is attached to the fly, the whole tent can be pitched very quickly and the inner stays dry if it's raining. It's also very easy to do it single handed. No threading poles through sleeves, or trying to drape a fly over the poles - a horrible job in wet, windy conditions on your own. The entire pole set is bungee'd together as well, which is an excellent idea.

The Mk II comes in standard and long versions, the "long" being ideal if you're over 6' tall. Internally, it measures 230 x 165 cms. The standard version is 215 cms. With 120 cms head room, there's also enough space to sit up comfortably in it. It's billed as a 3 person mountain tent, which translates as lots of room for 2 and positively spacious for one!

Weight is 4150 gms, (3850 for the standard version) and it packs down reasonably well. Pole sections are 45 cms so will easily go into a hatch. It's supplied with decent enough aluminium "v" shaped pegs.


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(Pic: Vaude)

It's got 8 pegging points and 6 guy points. You might want to change the guys and sliders to something better than the set supplied. Something like Clamcleat's reflective fluorescent guylines and their Line-Lok tent cleats, which I recommend, although it's another £15. A pole repair section is also provided, but check you get this as there are stories of it being missing.

Downsides? Well, Vaude clearly wanted to ensure lots of ventilation and in truth my original tent would suffer from condensation on the inside of the flysheet - all tents will have that - easily fixed by leaving the door open a little at the top as the flysheet "peak" protects from rain. This newest version has mesh ventilation panels at the base of the fly, and the fly is raised quite a lot off the ground. The vestibules also have mesh "windows" / vents.

The result is indeed excellent ventilation - so excellent that it can be a bit breezy inside and the groundsheet lifts as the wind blows through the mesh and under the fly. Rather nice in a warm climate I imagine but rather less so in Scottish or Alpine conditions, especially in winter. The groundsheet is only anchored at the corners and it would help if the centre pegging point also anchored it at the same point.

Otherwise, build quality is excellent, and the materials used are good quality with really nice detailing such as tape tags on the zips, pockets in the inner tent and mini fastex clips to allow the inner to be removed fully or partially. The inner can be used on its own - or the fly could be just used as a shelter if needed. It's totally waterproof and never leaked, even in some monsoon like conditions in what laughingly passed for summer here in Scotland in 2009. Some people have had poor experiences with the waterproofing qualities of the groundsheet, but mine was fine.

However, during the year I used it, I experienced a succession of broken poles (perhaps a bad set?), and then it collapsed in a F6 on Berneray at the end of July. This is meant to be a quality, up-market tent aimed at the serious user, so that sort of performance really is unacceptable.

In fairness, Vaude had replaced the entire original pole set on request, sending them up to Barra for me, which was good service! It subsequently turned out that the replacement set was intended for the lighweight version, and the standard one at that. We cobbled together a set to fit. I'd have thought the forces acting on the material would be the same though, and it was fully guyed at the time.

That was a bit disappointing as my original Mk II (also the long version) was totally stable in similar conditions last year and under normal conditions barely moved, even without it's corner guys being used. (It had such inherent integrity that I'd quite often only pitch it using two pegs to anchor the vestibules). The latest version really needs to be fully guyed all the time. I'm no expert in tent design, but I suspect the latest poles may not be up to the job. The way the poles sit relative to the tent also seems very slightly different between the original and the later 2008 model. The later design seems to have the poles canted into the centre of the tent, and maybe this gives less overall structural integrity.

Surprisingly, Vaude insist they've not had word of anything similar, and although I've found a few reports of poles breaking (as indeed they will occassionally on any tent) I've not come across any other reports on the web of Mk II's collapsing as mine did. Impressively, it did come back up, but the poles had bent quite badly. At least they hadn't broken! I had to cut short my holiday though, as I couldn't take the risk of being out on exposed islands with an unreliable tent.

This discussion references significant problems with pole breakage on a Mountain Hardwear Trango 2 and the later Vaude Hogan, Mk II and Power Atreus models. Page 4 includes pictures of the poles from my 1998 Vaude and those from the 2009 Power Atreus, which are similar to those on the MkII. There is also informed comment on the relative strength and performance.

As a general point, take great care not to let the poles "ping off" the locating pegs - that's a sure fire way to cause stress fractures as they whip free and resonate in the junction pieces which hold the set together. This is of course true of any aluminium pole under tension. It's also worth taking great care to make sure the poles are rinsed after use in a salt laden environment such as we experience when sea kayaking - and essential if they have had any actual exposure to salt water. They will corrode and become brittle very quickly otherwise.

Vaude's UK customer service is superb and they were enormously helpful in resolving the problem amicably. I ended up with a Power Atreus - sadly, it's not been without its problems either.

I have to say that although my original Mk II was excellent and virtually bombproof, a view echoed by many on various websites, I'm not convinced that it's been improved over the years if the most recent one I had is anything to go by. If this is going to be a serious contender as a 4 seasons / "mountain tent", then it needs the mesh panels at the bottom of the fly removed, the fly should come down to the ground and it needs decent poles. In short, return it to what it used to be. If the trade-off is a little extra weight then so be it.

A friend has a slightly earlier model which has the mesh "windows" in the vestibles but without the mesh panels on the flysheet. It is far superior to the one I had, and also seems to have noticably better poles.

It's better to have a reliable and robust tent than save a few hundred grams and bear in mind that the consequence of tent failure on a remote island or mountain is very different from the same failure when camping beside your car. This is, after all, intended to be a serious mountain tent intended to be used at altitude in challenging conditions.

Perhaps the addition of all that mesh and use of light weight poles is driven by some marketing / sales feedback about weight comparisons and condensation, but if people are whinging about condensation, then tell them not to cook inside and open the top of the external doors slightly to vent the fly. How hard is that? It's the advice that a well known Nordic tent-maker gives in their instructions and Vaude are well up with them as regards overall quality and reputation.

The tent was supplied by Chevin Trek in Otley. They supplied it at a very keen price, and handled the supply of the Power Atreus reviewed here.

Update - July 2015. On viewing the Vaude website I see that the design seems to have reverted to the original. At least the numerous mesh panels seem to have gone, and the flysheet appears to be more akin to the original in that it seems to go further down than the one pictured above. Without seeing one for real I can't confirm whether the tent is any better as a result.

Mike Buckley, August 2009. Last revised July 2015.

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