MSR Zoic 2 Tent
Toby Archer enjoys the living space on offer from this summer-oriented backpacking tent, but he's not sure it's the best choice for the UK's full-on wet weather.
The Alpkit Viso 2 is a two-person, three-season tunnel tent that is ideal for car camping, travel or backpacking on a budget. Its outer-pitch-first design is perfect for UK conditions when you'll often be sticking it up while it's chucking it down with rain. A large main sleeping compartment and spacious porch make this ideal for multiple days for two, where living space and gear storage is important. But perhaps the biggest selling point is its price - for a two-person tent of decent quality, £149 is very good value.
The Viso 2 weighs in at 3317g (our weight, with everything packed), which is reasonably heavy for a two person tent, and for this reason I wouldn't recommend it for a backpacker counting grams. If you only rarely - if at all - intend to carry it on your back for any great distance, then the weight is less of an issue. For car camping, for instance, its heavy weight is compensated by its size. This is a tent that you could comfortably live in for an extended period of days - it's more than just a minimalist, small-as-possible roof over your head for the night.
With a max inner height of 110cm, headroom is generous for a small tent of this style, and compared with a more pitch-sided model the hooped tunnel design helps maintain a reasonably consistent amount of headroom throughout. The inner is 240cm long and 135cm wide at the door end, although tapers to 110cm at the opposite end; for larger campers, that's good news.
Inside the main sleeping compartment there are two storage pockets, one at each side of the inner entrance - great for storing stuff like matches or headtorches, and both can easily be reached from the porch. In addition you get two hanging rungs inside the inner that can be used for hanging lamps or a washing line for drying wet clothes.
On the outer of the Viso 2 you'll find two vents at either end of the tent that can be either opened or closed using velcro. I've always just kept these open to keep air circulating and condensation to a minimum, and they seem to work well. Having used this tent in a variety of weather and temperatures, I've not yet had a problem with drippy ceilings in the morning. There is also a guyline that runs from the outside of this vent to keep it open and under tension when it's a bit windier outside - a sensible addition for UK use.
The inner is equipped with the usual mosquito net and both doorways are large, so moving in and out involves little faff.
You can easily have two people in the porch area cooking a meal together and have no worry about spilling food inside the sleeping compartment - and for me this is a big selling point of the Viso 2.
I've pitched this tent on many occasions, and after some practise I now find it quick and easy. The first time was in the Scottish North West and probably the worst conditions you could hope for when it comes to learning to pitch a new tent - strong winds and rain! In those conditions the Viso 2 seemed a very awkward and unwieldy tent to pitch, however the next time I came to use it I had a drastically different experience, it was very straightforward, so I'm putting that initial experience down to conditions.
As this is an outer-pitch-first tent, that's where we will start. There are three poles, two shorter poles and a single longer one for the middle. Each are colour coded and can be easily matched up to their appropriate slots if you look for the coloured tag at the end of each pole slot. Threading the poles is simple, each end of the pole slotting neatly into a single eyelet attached to a strap that runs along the floor of the tent. Not too much pressure needs to be applied to get the remaining end of the pole into place. Once all three poles ae in place it is simply about pegging out either end of the tent and adjusting the tension to the desired level.
The inner sleeping compartment is attached at the base using quick release buckles, then hung from a number of eyelets inside the outer. One thing that is noticeable once this is done is that it's quite hard to get the inner reasonably taut.
Something interesting that was pointed out to me by a friend is you can actually leave the inner attached to the outer and pack it away like this. The next time you come to pitch you simply stick in the poles and clamber in. I tried this and it did work rather well and cuts pitching time down, although if it's raining there is a greater chance you'll end up with a wet inner. I thought it was pretty clever and have continued to pack the tent away with the inner attached.
Although this is a midrange tent, the fabric use has impressed me greatly. The outer is constructed using a 68 denier, 3000mm hydrostatic head (HH), ripstop polyester. This fabric has provided a good degree of waterproofness, I've never had it wetting through, although I've not had the chance to test it in a proper downpour. The inner floor is rated at 70 denier, 8000mm HH, again enough that should you need to pitch on saturated ground, it should be up to the job; its bathtub construction helps in this regard too. The inner mesh lining is 20 denier polyester which allows condensation to escape through the lining and be vented so you don't end up with a went tent in the morning. Lastly, the porch groundsheet is a standard tarp material that will take wear from boots, cooking spillage and whatever else you trail in.
This isn't some geodesic bombshelter that you'll be taking into the mountains, it's a midrange, car camping, travel or low-end backpacking companion that will be up to the job in most situations, so long as it's not out in the very worst winter weather, and provided you don't intend to carry it on your back for long hiking days. This year I went to the Outer Hebrides for a week with a smaller and drastically more expensive 4 season mountain tent. Next year's trip I'd probably not take that, but instead the Viso 2. As a living experince it's far more spacious, and a quarter of the price. It's not the lightest tent in the world, but certainly makes up for this in roominess. It packs down to a reasonable size, if you wanted to reduce weight it would be possible to ditch the groundsheet and if you were really keen then you could even ditch the inner, although this would only be suitable during good weather. The £149 price tag seems to me extremely good value for a very capable tent. In short, if you're watching pennies more than grams then this is a great tent for two people to share for an extended period, and if you;re car camping alone the viso 2 is positively palatial.
Viso's 2 pole tunnel structure creates maximal living space and head room without the weight gain for a more comfortable bikepacking adventure. Pitching is simple – ideal after a hard day's hiking. The triangualised configuration helps to spread the load along the poles, and guy ropes stabilise the tent against the wind. Viso is outer pitch first, but the outer and inner can also be pitched together and you can use the outer on its own as a bivvy shelter on faster, lighter adventures.
For more info see alpkit.com
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