First off, let me say that the Helix 300 tent from Vango was never intended to be a high mountain tent. It’s aim is to provide a good quality backpacking tent at a reasonable price, and that’s exactly what Vango have achieved with the Helix 300.
Initial impressions were that the packed size and weight of the 300 might not place the Helix high in a league table of backpacking tents. It weighs in at 2.53Kg, and the packed size is 41cm x 15cm, so it’s certainly not small. That said, the Helix 300 is a three person tent, so the weight can easily be shared between the three of you. It splits neatly into three loads if one person takes the poles and pegs, another takes the inner, and the third person takes the fly. I actually really like the fact that the tent bag is quite large, and it has a wide opening too, as this just makes for stress-free packing, even if the tent is wet.
It’s an inner-pitch first, which is never my preferred option for a backpacking tent, but on my own I easily managed to slot the poles in, peg down the inner, then clip the flysheet on in under 5 minutes. With three people working together this time could easily be halved with a bit of practice. I did find it quite hard to get the poles in the correct place using the flysheet seams as a guide, especially on uneven ground, but with a bit of tweaking a reasonable result was achieved.
One feature I’m not sure about are the two forward facing corner straps – they have buckles attached as though they should be adjustable, but are actually just fixed in place. However, I just pulled the straps out as far as they would go, got the tension correct between the two front corners, and pegged it that way with good results.
I’ve used the Helix 300 in a variety of situations, including on backpacks in the Dyfi Hills and the Aran range in Snowdonia, at campsites in Cornwall, and at a music festival in Shropshire, and on ever occasion I’ve been impressed. I know I wouldn’t expect the Helix to stand up to full-on mountain storm weather, but this is an entry level tent after all.
There are well-placed mesh vents to cut down on condensation, and large side pockets for stowage. I also like the headroom which allows plenty of space to sit up in the tent. The porch is just about big enough for a rucksack or two, but you’d struggle to get three in there. One slight niggle is the zip, which Vango have added velcro to as tabs at three points. This just gets caught in the zip itself, and soon got tatty on my tent. I’d have been happier without the velcro, but that is just a minor complaint.
All in all, I think this is a great addition to the Vango range of backpacking tents. With a RRP of £130 it’s well within the budget of many first time backpackers, and will certainly appeal to DofE groups.