You've probably made it this far in life without the need for luminous zippers on your tent but then again, perhaps it's just what you've been waiting for all these years. It's one of the features on the Exped Venus II Ultralight tent that Bart and I put the test over new year. Its first outing saw grey, grim and gusty weather so apologies for the lack of glossy, magazine-esque photos.
The Venus II is a spacious two-person, three season backpacking or cycle touring tent. The first thing we absolutely loved about the tent was the space inside -with our sleeping mats laid out side-by-side there was still lots of space either side for the bits and bobs we brought indoors. The overall feel of the tent was very roomy, especially for the size of the folded package and the weight of 2.1kg. Bart could comfortably sit upright inside and he is of course much taller than me. The second thing we loved were the two doors and porches which I think is a huge advantage in a two-person tent - it means you can each have your own porch space for organising your belongings and bags. It also means you can get out during the night for a pee without clambering over the other person. The porches are both large with plenty of room for backpacks or panniers. They provide good shelter for cooking in wind and rain - we certainly tested that in the few days we were away.
The outer and inner are attached and pitch together, though it looks like they can be easily separated by undoing simple toggle attachments. There is excellent separation between the two. The tent has three poles and the ends of the sleeves are colour-coordintaed, as are the luminous zippers. The longitudinal pole extends for several inches over the doors at each end and this is what gives the tent its two large porches. It's pretty straight forward and quick to erect although there are a lot of pegging points and guylines ... and I mean a lot! On the plus side that all adds to strength and stability in high winds. The guylines are luminous and have small mesh pockets attached to them. These pockets are a clever wee place to wrap the guylines away when you're folding the tent up so they don't get tangled but also act like little flags so you don't trip over your lines because you've not seen them. How many times have we all done that!
The materials of the outer and the inner are the superlightweight fabrics that we are used to finding on lightweight tents these days. The groundsheet is a bathtub shape and the flysheet extends fully to the ground, making this tent excellent for bad weather camping. Despite strong, cold winds at new year, it felt snug and not at all drafty. The inner doors are partly mesh which is fine enough to keep out the midges in summer. There's a handy paracord line along the inner roof for hanging up torches, wet things and smelly socks. Actually there are lots of little loops all over the inner so you can get very creative about what you hang there. One thing to say about the tent is that it has a surprisingly big footprint. You'll love the internal space and the huge porches of this tent but you're going to need a reasonable sized pitch to put it up on.
It's marketed in the UK as a three season tent, although on some online forums it's described as four season. We only had the tent out for a few nights but we had a lot of wind-driven rain over the few days which didn't cause the tent any problems and there always remained good separation between outer and inner. We also had some pretty high winds with some severe gusts during the night. Again it performed well and remained solid and strong. It's currently retailing on Ultralight Outdoor Gear for £450. We are really delighted with its design and function, and can't wait to get away on a longer trip with it.
One word of caution about this tent. Don't go camping in it with any friends of a nervous disposition ... when you wake up in the middle of the night, those luminous zippers look just like a pair of scary, beastly eyes!