Aug 302016
 

160830aWith the Vaude Lizard GUL 1P I was convinced that I had found the perfect ultralight tent for my running adventures in the wilderness and mountains of Sweden, Norway and UK but it turned out to be a big disappointment.

Finding an ultralight 3-season tent that fulfils my requirements isn’t easy and I have hastened slowly.  In my search I’ve tried tents from the brands Luxe Outdoor, Terra Nova and Nordisk, all with a weight of around a kilo or less. Last summer when I ran Padjelantaleden I used the Terra Nova Laser Competition 1 flysheet with an ultralight footprint from Terra Nova (no inner tent). Happy hour for the mosquitoes that easily got in but I had brought mosquito repellent so it was no problem really. Condensation was a bigger problem as the model doesn’t have any specific ventilation. In the nice weather I had throughout my stay in the mountains it was ok but I’ve tried the same combination in bad weather in Wales, although we were two in the tent at the time, and the condensation was horrible. A spacious one-man tents of 930g certainly, but somewhat tedious to pitch and I’ve never been really happy with the Terra Nova Laser Competition.

Since last summer I have been searching for a better tent and even glanced at tarptents too, but for adventures in the mountains I want to have a secure 3-season tent. A single-skin tarp doesn’t feel completely reliable in really crappy weather with strong winds, but I could be wrong. Finally, it was between three ultralight solo 3-season tents:

*Weighted by me with two extra pegs. Strange, but tents always seem to weigh more than stated in the specifications.

My choice was Vaude Lizard GUL and I ordered it at a good price (£ 355) from Amazon.co.uk. My friend Bernt Hedlund also ordered one but with a too short main/center pole. He had to send it back and get it replaced. Before my adventure in the real wilderness I pitched the tent a few times to check that everything was as it should and I slept in it a rainy night. It was water proof but there was a bit of condensation despite ventilation holes at the top and each end. I was thrilled with the comfort, the space in the inner tent and the space between the inner tent and flysheet at the entrance. Enough space for my needs. And the tent was very fast and easy to set up!

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In August I went to the very north of Sweden for a 10 day adventure in the mountains of Sarek, Stora Sjöfallet and Padjelanta (see story here). Already the first and second night brought rain and some hail. The tent was up to the test and without any problems. I soon got the hang of how my routines and clothes changes worked in the tent that you can barely sit upright in. The tent floor turned out to be absolutely fantastic, no reason to acquire an additional footprint. No other lightweight tent I looked at come close to the 10,000 water column! The third night was an ordeal with snow and hard wind for 20 hours. It was no problem to use my Primus stove inside the tent though and I could cook myself tasteful meals while the snow fell outside. Because the snow was wet I had to hit the canvas in order to remove the snow that lay on and pressed down the screen from time to time. Apart from a little condensation the tent kept me dry and nor was there any problem to merge it wet and pitch it again three hours later. Impressive how fast the tent dried. The biggest test was one day later when I had to pitch the tent in an exposed spot high up on a mountain side in very strong winds with rain and hail. When it finally stopped raining 12 hours later the wind increased and I had to stay in the tent for a total of 19 hours! As the wind snatched and tore the tent I never got any sleep that night and I couldn’t cook either. I worried about the durability of the tent. Would it keep water proof? Would the main pole hold? Thankfully I had put a large stone on each of the eight pegs which kept the tent in place and it didn’t break. At five o’clock in the morning, I decided to wrap up in the cold harsh wind and go to a mountain cabin 15 kilometers away. I spent the next night there in the cabin, phew!

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The next evening when I was pitching the tent the main pole suddenly went right through the fabric of the tent! I was first completely taken aback, then incredibly angry, and scared. What if this had happened in the middle of the night on the mountain in the fierce cold wind? This is an expensive 3-season tent and the fundamental main pole goes through the fabric after a total of seven nights, scandal! There fabric is enhanced where the poles of the head and foot end are but for the main pole there is no enhancement at all. Fortunately I managed to prop the tent with a walking pole for the rest of the journey since the weather turned nicer and the winds eased out.

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When I got home I contacted amazon.co.uk and told them what had happened and my disappointment. I made clear that I didn’t blame Amazon, or their dealer, as this simply is a serious construction error from Vaude! Amazon answered in two hours and offered me to return the tent with a full refund if Vaude didn’t leave a satisfying response. Amazons swift and positive replay was a great relief! I wrote an explicit e-mail with three photographs to Vaude, through their complaint form, and got an automatically generated response in both German and English language with a case number. Five days later I still haven’t heard anything more from Vaude and I added a disapproval message on their Facebook page. Today, six days later, I got an e-mail from Vaude. It’s amazing it toke them six days to produce the message as follows:

Dear Mr. Holmström,

thank youfor your Email.
Please contact your distributor in your country.
Have a look here: http://www.vaude.com/de-DE/Unternehmen/B2B/Internationale-Vertriebspartner/

Mit freundlichen Grüßen
Katrin Amaral

I then contacted Bios AB, which the Swedish agent for Vaude, and within half an hour I received an e-mail from Gabriel at Bios and soon after he even called me! That’s great service, but he told me that they usually just help Swedish retailers and items bought from them. However, he was indeed service minded and told me that he will contact Vaude in Germany and try to find a solution, but he couldn’t promise anything. I will give it one day more and see what they offer. If they would offer to pay the expenses of repair and reinforcement of the top of the tent I would be more than happy to keep this otherwise excellent tent, but Vaude’s nonchalance and total lack of customer satisfaction means that I don’t want to promote their brand nor keep the tent. I will probably buy a Nordisk Telemark ULW 1P for my future adventures.

Not surprisingly, the exact same thing (the main pole breaking through the fabric) happened to Daniel Roxvret during his epic Gröna-bandet-adventure a few weeks ago! And Bernt Hedlund (who had to have the main pole replaced) has only used the tent a few times and the fabric on top is already worn and it’s just a matter of time before the pole break through . Is it a design flaw or is it not? Anyone else experienced the same problem?

I do not recommend anyone to buy this tent, never ever!

/Niklas