Kit review: New Vango Helix 200 tent
Photographer Mike Bolam spends many nights in the great outdoors during his various quests to take beautiful pictures of wildlife, landscapes, sun rises and sunsets. He needs a tent that is lightweight, easily portable, simple to put up in tricky places and waterproof.
I gave him the new Vango Helix 200 to test. This is Mike’s report:
I have a lot of camera equipment to carry when I’m heading off for a night or two in the countryside, so a lightweight tent is a must. The Vango Helix 200 weighs only 1.8kg and also fits neatly into the side pockets of my medium-sized rucksack.
This meant that I began a recent trip to Arran for a work assignment with a smile on my face, especially as I planned to pitch the tent on the island’s highest mountain Goat Fell.
Straight out of the bag the Helix 200 is very quick to pitch and although I’m not a huge fan of inner-first systems, pitching the fly (outer) takes no time at all. The added attraction would be that you could leave the fly off if you’re lucky enough to have warm dry weather.
Like most small tunnel tent designs, a single peg in the ground is enough to keep everything where you need it while you get the poles in place. The pegs are lightweight aluminium/alloy and have a blunt point, which I find is better for finding a route through stony ground – and also prevents you poking a hole in your tent.
There are lighter and stronger pegs out there, and if weight matters, you might just save a few grams, but you will pay extra for these. Otherwise, those supplied do the job well.
The tent comes with Vango Powerlite® 7001-T6 Alloy Poles, which are high quality and lightweight. I like that Vango have colour-coded the front and rear poles although it would be difficult to confuse which is which given the difference in length. The pole sleeves on the tent are generous so it’s a simple case of sliding in the poles and then attaching the ends to the tent with the bare minimum of wrestling. (Not all tents are as easy as this.)
The tent inner is well made with adequate storage pockets and the stitching looks well finished and reinforced at all the stress points. The fly is solidly made of hexagonal rip stop and is rated to an HH of 5000mm. It will never rain this much, not ever, but it’s a good measure of quality. On the one occasion that it did rain – and it was a proper cloudburst, with torrential rain and hail – everything stayed dry.
Another sign of the quality is that even with a minimum of ventilation the inner was not troubled with condensation.
The outer fly attaches to the inner sheet with clips adjacent to the pole fixings. A couple of Velcro patches allow for accurate positioning over the inner. This may be a potential weak point in sustained high winds and heavy rain, but it is double taped, and assuming everything else is battened down I doubt it will be a problem.
Over the years, I’ve pitched hundreds of tents and it’s the speed at which you can make your home for the night that is the most important. I liked that the Helix 200 was a straightforward tent to put up and easy to trim and tighten down.
I’ve also pitched the Vango Helix 200 in different condition, in calm weather and in a fairly strong wind, and other than making sure nothing important blew off the top of Goat Fell, it really only takes a couple of minutes to set up and secure.
When pitched on a flat surface the Helix is easy to trim and tighten down. The Line Lok® guy tensioners work well and hold fast, although I did find them a bit annoying to work at first.
Up on the hill, where flat pitch real estate is at a premium you need to spend a bit more time getting the fly tight. I pitched in a fairly steady, strong breeze and the fly was flapping slightly along the bottom edge. If the wind had been any stronger, the tent flapping may have kept me awake.
Another point to note is that the tensioners will not damage the fly when in storage, like some other types do, because there are no sharp edges on the moulded plastic.
The zips are securely sewn in and have sensible pull loops so they can be easily used even if you have gloved or cold hands. My only gripe would be the baffle as it does get caught in the zip if you’re too hasty to get in or out. If Vango had made it just a bit deeper/stiffer this could have been avoided.
For a cosy little tent the storage at the porch end is adequate, with just enough for two rucksacks and boots.
Packing up the tent was also easy to do. How many times have you tried to stuff a tent back into its carry bag only to find you still have bits that will not fit in? The Vango Helix 200 comes with a generous enough bag and I found it a quick and easy process to take down the tent and pack it into the carry bag.
In conclusion, there are lighter and much pricier two-man tent options are out there, but the Vango Helix 200 is a great compromise and at a really good price.
Thanks to Mike for his superb photographs.