There’s a critical design flaw in most of the double walled tents sold in the US. If it’s pouring rain and you go to set up your inner tent first, it’s likely to be soaked before you can cover it up with the rain fly. I’ve seen this happen to people who don’t get much practice setting up their tents quickly – ranging from beginners to quite experienced backpackers – and it’s not pretty.
Contrast this with European tents from Terra Nova, Hilleberg, Vaude, Force 10, and others where the outer rain fly can be pitched first or the inner and outer tents can be pitched together. That seems like an elegant solution to the problem and one that would be embraced by US consumers. But with the exception of Tarptent’s double-walled Scarp 1, I can’t name any US-based double-walled tents, off the top of my head, where the inner tent will stay dry if the tent is pitched in pouring rain.
Sold in the USA
That’s why the introduction of the Wild Country Zephyros 1 tent to the US market caught my eye. The Zephyros 1 & 2 tents have an inner tent that can be pitched at the same time as its rain fly, or attached after the rain fly has been pitched. What makes it different from similar tents is the price. With an MSRP of $120, the Zephyros 1 costs one-third to one-four as much as its European competitors, making this hitherto premium (rain) capability much more affordable to backpackers abroad and in the US.
But there’s a catch. Designed for the UK, the Zephyros 1 is best used for backpacking in the cool, wet weather of England and other maritime climates that receive frequent rainfall. While it can be used during the cooler spring or autumn months, the Zephyros 1 doesn’t have the ventilation required to cope with the very hot and dry, or hot and humid weather that many of us experience during US summers. That’s a showstopper for most US camping and backpacking consumers, where the need for vast expanses of noseeum mesh and cross-ventilation are paramount.
Regardless, the Zephyros 1 will still appeal to US consumers who want to buy similarly designed (but outrageously expensive) Terra Nova or Hilleberg tents, but want to pay less.
Based on a hoop or tunnel design, the Zephyros’ rain fly is suspended from a collapsible alloy pole that is bent into a U-shape under tension. The tent’s interior space is split in two between an inner tent and a vestibule which runs the length of the tent.
The top of the inner tent is suspended inside the rain fly using wooden dowels that slip through plastic rings oriented underneath the reinforced center pole tunnel. The resulting air gap helps mitigate the transfer of condensation between the rain fly and the inner tent based on the standard design principles underlying double-walled tents.
Size-wise, the inner tent is long enough for someone 6′ tall to lie or sit up it, however the fabric at the ends looms a maximum of 18″ above one’s face and feet which is a little claustrophobic. The height of the ends can be increased or decreased by shortening or lengthening a webbing strap that connects the inner tent to the outer fly and is supported by a short fiberglass pole.
The vestibule, which takes up about 1/3 of the tent width under the rain fly, is simply open space. Tent vestibules are a very desirable in regions with inclement weather and substantially improve the livability of a tent in harsh conditions, providing space for wet gear storage or covered cooking in bad weather if done with good ventilation and great caution.
How to Pitch the Zephyros 1
First, stake out the corners of the outer fly. Next run the collapsible aluminum pole through the center pole sleeve and secure the ends in the side grommets on the tent’s center line. The grommets are located at the ends of a webbing strap that runs under the inner tent and keeps the hoop under tension. Before proceeding, make sure that the inner tent lies on top of this webbing strap.
Assuming the inner tent is already connected to the outer fly, reach under the fly and find the corners of the inner tent which are (also) guyed with elastic cord loops. Un-stake the outer fly corners and re-stake the inner and outer corners together using the same stake.
Locate the 2 fiber glass poles included with the tent that are used to provide more head and foot room at the ends. Insert a pole into the top and bottom pole sleeves sewn onto the outer fly and inner tent. Be careful not to lose these poles when dismantling the tent – I ended up losing one but replaced it with a piece of bamboo of the same length.
After inserting the fiberglass poles, stake out the guyline attached to rain fly above the fiber pole, re-tensioning the corner stakes as needed. Repeat for the other end of the tent.
Finally, stake out the tie-outs along the center pole on both sides of the tent to provide better wind resistance and stability.
Switching to the inner tent:
There are two toggles on the outside of the inner tent floor, half way down each side. Insert these into elastic keeper loops attached to the webbing strap that runs under the inner tent. This stretches out the inner tent side ways for maximum internal space. In addition there are two webbing straps located at either end of the inner tent. Pulls these taught and stake them out, outside the protection of the rain fly, in order to ensure maximum inner tent length.
Next reach into the fiberglass pole and sleeve apparatus at the end of the tent and locate another webbing strap connected to the top pole sleeve. This webbing forms part of a pulley-like apparatus which raises or lowers the ends of the inner tent, providing more or less head room and foot height for the occupant. Pull it as taught as possible – don’t worry it will still maintain an adequate air gap between the inner and outer tent in order to prevent internal condensation transfer to the living quarters.
Next adjust the ventilation as desired by opening the inner tent door all the way and/or rolling one side of the rain fly up and attaching it to a toggle on top of the inner tent. If you require insect protection, keep the door of the inner tent closed. The top 1/3 of it is made out of bug-proof mesh.
The Inner Tent
The inner tent on the Zephyros 1 is a bit of a disappointment, but you need to keep in mind that this is an economy tent. While the pentagram shaped floor provides extra space beside your sleeping pad to lay out gear or maps, the inner tent has no internal pockets to organize gear, the height of the mesh window is fixed, and the inner tent does not have a bathtub floor with deep side walls, so you should probably use a groundsheet if you plan to sleep on wet ground.
Adding several small pockets to the interior walls of the inner tent or a zippered panel of solid material over full mesh door to regulate temperature would greatly improve the tent’s functionality. The same holds for the addition of a seam-taped bathtub floor several inches in height along the inner tent walls.
The total weight of the Zephyros 1 tent is 50.4 ounces (1435 g).
- Collapsible Alloy Pole: 6.2 ounces /178 g
- Pole Bag: 0.3 ounces / 10 g
- Inner Tent: 16.7 ounces/474 g
- Outer Rain Fly: 22.6 ounces/640 g
- Tent Bag: 1 ounce / 30 g
- 10 x Aluminum v angle Stakes: 3.5 ounces / 100 g
- Stake bag: 0.1 ounce / 4 g
As a US-based backpacker, I’m not that impressed by the Zephyros 1 despite the fact that it can be pitched in pouring rain without getting the inner tent wet. Regardless of the price, it still lacks the minimal features that I need in a single person, double-walled tent including:
- weight under 3 pounds
- excellent ventilation for use in hot and humid weather
- a fast pitch without a lot of fiddling
- a waterproof floor without needing a ground sheet
I just can’t get excited about a tent that is missing these qualities or features, despite its other benefits, and I’d happily pay another $100 to $200 to obtain them.
That doesn’t mean that the Zephyros is a terrible tent, but I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone unless you’d already decided that you want one of the similar European tents referred to earlier (Laser Comp, Atko, PowerLizard, or Helium) but don’t want to dish out the large amount of money required to purchase one. If that describes you, then the Zephyros is a steal.
- Inner tent stays dry when pitched in heavy rain
- Reasonably lightweight considering the price
- Pitching the tent requires a lot of fiddling
- Poor ventilation in warmer weather, even with the side door open
- No bathtub floor. Requires use of a groundsheet
- Rainfly zipper jams frequently
- Only 1/2 of the rain fly can be rolled open
- Tent stakes provided with the tent are terrible. Replace immediately.
- Capacity: 1
- Peak heightL 37″ (95cm)
- Floor area: 15.2 sq ft (1.4 sq meters)
- Vestibule area: 8 sq ft (o.7 sq meters)
- Packed Size: 5.5″ x 20″ (14 cm x 52 cm)
- Poles: 1 Superflex alloy
- Rain fly: PU 4000 mm
- Inner floor: PU 6000 mm
Disclosure: Wild Country’s US Distributor provided Philip Werner (SectionHiker.com) with a Zephyros 1 loaner for this review. This post contains affiliate links.
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