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9 things I’ve learned about Vango

Written by Fiona

August 25 2016

Scottish company Vango celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. I was invited to visit Vango and given the chance to find out more about the outdoors brand, learn about its history and have a wee glimpse into the future. Here are some of the things I learned.

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1 Lots and lots of people own Vango tents

Vango has been around for 50 years and were a leader in tent design and creation from the start so many people do own a Vango tent. Today, even in a tough and busy market place, Vango has a 34% share of the UK market.

I own at least four Vango tents and have tested many more. Anecdotally, I also know many of my friends have Vango tents.

2 My neighbour is very proud of his Vango tent

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When I returned from my Vango visit this week, my neighbour, Smiley Richard, pointed proudly to an orange bag at the front of his garage. “My Vango tent. I got it in about 1983 I think. I still use it. It’s brilliant. Still going strong. And it has a label that says it was made in Scotland. I like that,” he said.

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A builder working on Smiley Richard’s house passed by. He said: “I had a Vango tent for decades. It was brilliant. It ended up dying when someone accidentally drove over it. But it did our family proud for a long, long time.”

3 Many big names love Vango

Vango tents have been much loved and used by some big names.

Chris Bonington and Doug Scott used Force Ten Tents on an expedition to scale South West Face of Everest in 1972.

Doug Scott and Dougal Haston used Force Ten Tents on second expedition to scale South West Face of Everest in 1972.

Chris Bonington, Peter Boardman, Joe Tasker, Doug Scott and Georges Bettembourg used Vango equipment on the British Kangchenjunga Expedition in 1979.

Alan Hinkes used Vango equipment to reach the summit of all the world’s 8,000m mountains.

To name a few…

4 Vango supports others

The brand is proud of its partnerships with The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, The Scout Association, The Shelter Box Trust.

Vango is also a partner with Britain on Foot and The Camping & Caravanning Club

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5 There are Vango tents for all

Looking around the huge Vango display warehouses in Paisley it was clear they have a specific tent to suit every need. I knew there were a quite a few different Vango tents but not this many.

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There are dozens and dozens of tents in different shapes, sizes and colours. In the recent catalogue I have counted:

  • 39 Technical tents
  • 33 Adventure tents
  • 27 Family pole tents
  • 29 AirBeam, tents
  • Plus awnings for campervans and caravans.

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There are lightweight and technical tents, weekend tents, festival tents, family tents (from small to the size of small houses) and tents that attach to the side of caravans and campervans.

There are also tents that offer better ventilation, stronger structures, more living space, bedrooms for every family member, tall porches and tents with fun fabrics, including sweeties and stars.

6 Vango tents still have a triangle heart

The first Vango tents are what I would call a traditional triangle shape. Like the one my neighbour owns. It’s the shape you would draw if asked to draw a tent.

These days there is a wider variety of shapes, including tunnel and geodesic, but most Vango tents still employ the triangle frame structure somewhere in the tent.

In fact, if you look at a geodesic design, it’s made up of lots of triangles.

See the TBS in action.

See the TBS in action.

Vango uses an innovative TBS (Tension Band System) in many of its tents.  Because triangles are best for strength yet people prefer tunnel shape tents for space, the TBS allows triangles of strong cord and fabric to be employed inside tents of different shapes.

TBS PRO – Lightweight Tension Band System is a lighter weight version of the tried and trusted TBS system that utilises a cord system instead of webbing to stabilise tents in adverse weather conditions.

Plus there’s TBS II – Versatile Tension Band System that combines the cord and web together to provide more head room as well as tent stability in adverse weather conditions

7 There are many more Vango tent innovations

The Vango tents have changed, developed and been innovated over the decades. More recently there’s been a tent extensions addition. These are porches and tarps to add to existing Vango tents. This adds versatility to a tent.

I was told: “Many people have a tent but sometimes they want a bit of extra space. So rather than having to buy a whole new tent you can now add to the tent itself.” What a great idea.

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Tent extensions.

Tent extensions.

Tents are not just green or amber at Vango. The latest colour is anthracite. I was told: “This colour is different but discreet.”

Anthracite coloured tents.

Anthracite coloured tents.

The Solis range of tents have lots of ventilation. They are for use in warmer conditions. But, cleverly, the lower part of the tent fabric is solid to stop air drafts, while the rest of the tent wall is made of vented mesh fabric.

vango 2013-icon-A3 back systemAirBeam, which took 519 prototypes and 16 years to develop for sale, is an inflatable tent pole technology an replaces traditional poles for quicker pitching.

Vango has expanded its tents range to awnings for caravans and campervans. This has been hugely popular in recent years. These awnings utilise AirBeam very effectively.

8 Vango started out making canvas for sails

Vango actually started out as a canvas merchant called Andrew Mitchell & Co. It was owned by the Moodie family from the west of Scotland and dated back to 1898. Mitchell & Co dated back to 1898.

In 1963, the Moodies acquired the tentmaker, James Mcllwraith & Co, which was based in the town of Govan. This makes sense to me: Canvas maker meets tent maker to create tent designer and manufacture.

My neighbour's 1980s tent.

My neighbour’s 1980s Vango tent.

Alastair Moodie headed up Mcllwraith & Co and I met him at Vango this week. He told me how the name Vango came about in 1966. Alastair is still a keen follower of all things outdoors and Scottish and he referred his friend Cameron McNeish as Cammy.

Alastair said: “We realised in the 1960s that we needed a name that everyone could easily say and spell. Mcllwraith is not easy to say let alone spell. We were losing money because people could not spell the name correctly to make payments.”

Vango is an anagram of Govan. (I knew this already but many people still do not.)

Originally a tent designer and manufacturer, Vango has expanded to design, and sell others products including sleeping bags, rucksacks and camping furniture, as well as, more recently, footwear.

Vango is now fully owned by AMG group. A buy out of the final 25% of the Moodies took place recently.

9 Vango looks to the future

There are number of exciting products being developed at Vango.

Listening to feedback from consumers, Vango is keen to find ways to make tent storage better. They have already made a few changes and additions but the next development is SkyTrack.

SkyTrack is like the sort of tracking rail you might use in your home for lighting. The SkyTrack fits close to tent poles/AirBeams and has SkyHooks to which you can add lighting and storage units.

Derek Scott, Vango marketing director, said: “SkyTrack is an integrated solution for tents and is far stronger solution for storage and adding things like lights to the tent. It is also convenient and easy to use.”

Future ideas, Derek suggest, might include insulated tents, self-erecting awnings and powered sleeping bags. If you have any ideas for development, Vango would love to hear from you.

Vango blog 2: More things to know about Vango innovations

See my Vango reviews for the past few years

Vango Nemisis 200 tent

Vango Venom 400 sleeping bag

Vango Latitude 400 sleeping bag

Vango Helix 200 tent

Vango AirAway awning (early AirBeam version)

Vango Hurricane 200 tent

Force 10 Spindrift 300 tent and Force Ten Endurance 1300 sleeping bag 

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