The most important part of any camping experience is the tent – if you don’t have adequate shelter from the elements you could be risking your life, or worse, your Wife may hate it. You never want to hear the words “We’re never going camping again!” and so you’ve got to get the foundations right.
The Big Khaki
I’ve had the BlackWolf Turbo Lite Twin 300 for about 2.5 years now and it I expect it to be the centre piece of my family’s camping experience for the next 10 years. It’s a big tent, perfect for the family, but it’s not without some downsides. That said, I love it and am happy to have invested in a quality product that I know is going to be around for a while.
The Turbo Lite 300 is a 3 room tent with large 300x180mm front awning. The centre room is a massive 300 x 300cm and each bedroom is 300 x 180cm. It’s a great size for Mum, Dad and the kids and my only concern is it’s big and heavy when packed up.
It’s the biggest tent in the BlackWolf range and yes it only comes in Khaki/Tan. Boring I know but at least no one can accuse you of not blending into the view.
Think Twice, Buy Once.
Going back to the start, I picked up an ex-display (without seeing it out of the bag) Turbo Lite Twin 240 in late 2012 for approximately $350. That’s cheap! I thought I got a bargain until I took it camping for the first time and noticed some damage that was going to effect the lifetime of the tent (the store had screwed the webbing to the floor to hold the tent down and there was damage to the tent walls). I also didn’t realise that I’d bought the older model without the pitched awning. After many late nights “researching” I decided I had to take it back and upgrade.
I ended up putting a 2013 (new design) BlackWolf Turbo Lite Twin 300 on lay-by for approximately $900 AUD – more than double what I’d originally paid for the demo Tent and double what I’d budgeted for! The peace of mind of having a brand new tent and the upgraded awning made sold it to me but the best thing was the increased size. The centre room of the Twin 300 is 600mm wider in each dimension compared with the 240, and each bedroom has an extra 600mm in one dimension. That’s a couple of square metres extra space, and for only ~$80 more than what a Twin 240 costs!
This tent is definitely going to last longer than the sub $500 family tents on the market. Therefore it’s important you take the time to make sure you get the model that fits you for the next decade or longer.
It’s a Turbo tent, which refers to the speed with which it can be set up and is comparable to other Instant-Up tents made by other manufactuers. Most of these brands claim 2 or 3 minutes to put up their tents and it’s not far from the truth. I can have the 300 up in 5 minutes but getting the fly on, the awning poles in and all the guy ropes and pegs hammered in is pushing 20 minutes. Maybe I’m not the fastest but I’m definitely not slow. Still, it’s a big tent and there are no folding, elastic joined carbon rods to bend or break and it’s pretty simple to put together, so definitely a step up from the non-instant tents out there.
Building It Up
The 20mm aluminum frame is strong and with all the guy ropes I’d have money on it being the last tent standing on the beach in a storm. The tent also comes with some – 40 to be exact – nice thick pegs which I haven’t been able to bend yet. The guy ropes are also all stored in little zippered pockets on the fly which is really neat.
The first thing I notice when I look at tents in store now is how thin the walls and fly are compared to the Turbo Lite material. The polyester walls on the Blackwolf are thicker and feel much more durable than most other tents and the fly is made of 150D ripstop Polyester.
The other benefit to upgrading to the newer model was a change of floor material. The 2012 design used a crinkly – I’m guessing polyurethane – floor that reminded me of a cheap tarp. The 2013 model however uses a 500D Polyester which is a luxury to stand on and a pleasure to roll compared to the older material. This change makes the 300 easier to roll up and tighter than I could have rolled the old 240.
It’s worth noting though that these are not canvas tents. They are probably the closest you can get without the added weight and bulk that goes along with canvas. A tent this size made of canvas would be extremely heavy and a 2 man job to transport and set up.
Tearing It Down
While we are talking about packing up, the Turbo Lite 300 comes in a heavy duty bag that is approximately 150cm long and probably 400 x 400cm on the side. It’s huge, but everything fits in easily. There is even enough room for me to throw in the front and side awning panels that are an optional accessory and close it without a sweat. I did say it’s huge though right? It only just fitted into my Lancer with the seats folded down and I did spend $40K on a ute just so I could transport it! That picture to the right is when it was new. The bag bulges a little more than that now!
The Add Ons
The awning is a great bonus because, let’s face it, in Australia and particularly Queensland, it can get pretty darn hot in the sun. So it’s awesome to have a shady area for a few chairs and an esky. I had said to myself with this awning I won’t need to buy a gazebo.
In reality though it’s not quite big enough to have room for 4 sitting plus a kitchen/cooking area. Last month I bought a gazebo to use on day trips where I don’t have the tent so I’ve managed with only the awning for 2 years. I’ll be taking the gazebo next time though because some extra shade is always good.
Side and front walls for the awning are available to purchase and retail for around $70 and $99 respectively. I happened to win the panels for my tent which was great because I don’t know that I would ever have convinced my Wife to let me spend $250 on an already quite expensive tent. In saying that, they are really handy early in the morning or late in the afternoon when the sun shines straight under the awning or for blocking out wind. I particularly like being able to put the walls up if I need to leave the campsite and wheel my BBQ, esky, chairs and other valuable items under the awning and zip up the door so it is all out of site. It’s probably not necessary but it gives me some peace of mind to know there is a thin polyester wall between my stuff and a potential thief.
See if you can get a good discount on them when buying your tent, or even 1 thrown in. It’s going to be easier to spend the money upfront then reach into your pocket and get them later.
If there’s a next time…
If I could ask the designers for one thing it would be windows that open and close from the inside, as it would be easy to design, cheap to implement and stop me having to get out of the tent at 3am to adjust/close the gusseted windows because the tent has cooled 10 degrees and an icy breeze is now blowing through the windows.
Some more ventilation could be beneficial. Opening the large doors and windows should let plenty of air through if there is a breeze but when it’s still the tent can get quite warm. This is normal for a tent but some more roof and floor vents similar to those in the Tanami and Mojave tents, couldn’t hurt in the higher end models.
Hopefully I’ve summed up what is a pretty solid tent and well worth the investment if you intend to do a lot of camping as a family, or a couple who likes their space. It’s too big to take camping if I’m going by myself or if space is at a premium, say on a boat, but for your main camping duties it can’t be beaten. Oh and my Wife approves so camping is still a regular occurrence 🙂
EDIT: I forgot to mention that the first time I took out the 300 I had an issue with the zipper for the room dividers getting stuck. I returned it to my place of purchase and about a week later the BlackWolf rep had looked at it and directed the store to give me a replacement inner. Great service and excellent warranty.