Unable to fulfil my ambition of backpacking along The Ridgeway in five-days and, with a week off work to savour, I spent a couple of nights at Brook Farm campsite in Long Sutton, South Somerset.
This was my first opportunity to use my latest tent purchase, the Vango Ark 200+.
Within the region of 4.5kg in weight, this tent is far to heavy for backpacking(!). But I saw it as a reasonable upgrade from my Vango Alpha 250 [purchased in 2014] and I was also fortunate to find it available for under £100 in a recent sale.
Pitching was quite straightforward, as I presume most Vango tents are. All that threw me initially was the need to pitch the outer fly first… Before scrambling inside the attach the inner.
That may sound more complicated and it was certainly a different arrangement to my previous tent. Once the outer is pegged and tensioned, the inner basically clips around the inside – meaning you can also fold, pack and store the tent (when it’s dry) without necessarily needing to separate the two. Next time I need to use it, I can pitch it as if it were one.
There are three poles used to frame the tent. Each one spans the width (not the length or on the diagonal), as this is more than a tunnel tent. Each of the sleeves is colour-coded, so that the two poles with the grey sections near the middle and the only ones that fit in to sleeves with a grey tab at each end. The other sleeve has black tabs for the other pole.
I found the ventilation to be quite good between the inner and outer fly (maybe it looks like overkill in this photo) and I didn’t suffer any condensation issues on my first night, when it did actually rain. But following night number two, when it was dry but surprisingly cold, I awoke to find water dripping in my porch area.
Speaking of the porch; it’s an incredibly spacious area and one of the main reasons I was interested in this model. Few porches allow sufficient room to sit and prepare a meal when the weather outside is awful. Especially when you’re 6ft1in tall!
I could throw all of my kit in here and still find plenty of space in which to sit cross-legged and without my head touching the roof.
You can see I kept the windows ‘open’ to allow light in. I also used the side door predominantly for access, rather than the front door. But I could open both up and allow for excellent airflow, shelter from the sun and without feeling too much heat.
Temperatures have recently risen to around 25ºC in the daylight hours and, even first thing in the morning, when the sun was up, I found the sleeping area to be almost unbearably warm. Even with the mesh window exposed towards the top of the door. When I come to upgrade from this one – and, hopefully, not for a few years yet – I hope to find a tent that offers ventilation at each end.
Given the choice, I prefer to pitch on the west side of a field, so that I am warmed by the morning sun (I don’t function well with a cold start) and then later head to bed without feeling too hot. This isn’t always possible but, I try when I can.
I was hoping this tent would be significantly longer in the sleeping department that my previous model but, once again, I found myself having to sleep (remember, I’m 6ft1in) on a slight angle. Otherwise my feet or my head would touch the material at either end. There was plenty of room around me for rucksacks and clothing.
I had considered buying a three-person tent but I’m not convinced they’d be any longer and I didn’t want the extra weight and width. Fortunately, I don’t expect to be sharing this space anytime soon!
As I mentioned; with this design, the inner tent clips to the outer. There’s one loop at the top of the centre that doesn’t appear to be accounted for. I would like to have found a hook available for suspending a lantern, which would only work here if your light has a hook of its own.
I’m pleased to say I didn’t notice a single mouse creeping in to my porch at night, which is what usually happens when I’ve been camping with any previous shelter!
This “threshold” section beneath the side door is flexible, with the overlapping layers of material likely to separate. In future, I think I strip of duct tape should be able to hold it over a long weekend.
I’m very happy with my purchase of the Vango Ark 200+. I would’ve preferred a darker and perhaps less ambiguous green colour (like my Alpha 250) but, this is what was available in the sale and, as I’ve said, I won’t be using this for wild camping.
I enjoyed my three-day and two-night stay at Brook Farm in Somerset. It’s only an hour’s drive from home, in an area I often bypass in pursuit of Dorset, Devon and Wiltshire. It’s a small site with limited available pitches. I was the only ‘proper camper’, with all other visitors having arrived in caravans.
I met Richard, the owner, who was very friendly and relaxed about the need to take money off my hands (booking to check availability is essential). Water points weren’t far away and these were probably the flattest and most level pitches I’ve found at a camp site. There is only one each of the shower, toilet and washing up sink but, on such a small site and with many people using caravans, it doesn’t have to be a problem and I didn’t find myself waiting in a queue even once.
It’s possible to walk along the River Yeo (River Ivel) from a track running beside the farm entrance. I’ll tell you more about that adventure another time! On the first night or evening, I was slightly disturbed by a passing helicopter – but that’s more the fault of RAF Yeovilton and may not be a regular occurrence.
Camping Tips and Tricks?
There was a fridge available on site but I’ve also been camping in places where they are not accessible. My own method is to leave my small coolbox in a shaded place during the day. My car is a favourite, provided I’m not driving off and, with UHT milk inside, it often works well for up to a three night stay,
Overnight, it can live in the porch of my tent. Chilled and away from the wildlife.
I kept things very simple this time and opted for a pot of porridge, meaning all I had to do was add milk and stir (actually, they instruct you to add water, which doesn’t taste bad but I found that milk tastes even better). Using a recyclable pot meant I didn’t have to scrub the pan of my stove.
I’m less impressed with the Lifeventure mug, which I’ve now owned for a couple of years. It does keep my hot drinks warm but the lid doesn’t close tightly and, unless I remove it, I ended up scalding my lip before I’ve actually taken the first sip.
I hope you’ve found this useful. All questions are welcome.