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Reviews > Shelters > Tarps and Bivys > Appy Trails Mark III Tent > Test Report by Mark McLauchlin

Appy Trails Mark III
Initial Report 15th April 2009
Field Report 27th June 2009

Long-Term Report 30th August 2009
By Mark McLauchlin
First Setup


Reviewer Information

Name: Mark McLauchlin
Age: 30
Gender: Male
Height: 1.76 m (5’ 9”)
Weight: 80 kg (176 lb)
Email: mark at swanvalleyit.com.au
City: Perth, Western Australia

Backpacking Background

I have been hiking since 2006 with most of my hiking consisting of day walks averaging 16 - 22 km (10 - 14 mi) and short overnight trips where possible. Most of my hiking is along the Bibbulmun Track and Coastal Plains Trail. I consider myself to be a light hiker with an average pack weight of 13 kg (29 lb), which I am working to reduce. I generally sleep in my tarp tent or huts that are often scattered along the various hiking trails.

Product Information
unpacked
Manufacturer: Appy Trails LLC
Year of Manufacture: 2009
Manufacturer's Website: www.appytrails.com
MSRP: $99.95USD
Listed total weight: 1 lbs. 2.7 oz. (530 g)
Measured total weight: 1 lbs 3.05 oz (540 g)
Listed pole weight: 4.4 oz (120 g)
Measured pole weight: 4.4 oz (120 g)
Listed stake and stuff sack weight: 3.2 oz
Measured stake and stuff sack weight: value too low to measure.

Product Description
The Appy Trails (not to be confused with Happy Trails) is described by Sam Below, owner, as a 1 lb. 2.7 oz. 3.5’ tall 3 man backpacking floorless, tent. It is constructed from Solid 185T polyester which is Pu1000 coated.
Quoted from the Appy Trails website some of the features are:
• Single-wall design boasts low weight, while its single centre pole architecture creates a stable and tight structure.
• As a backpacking style tent, full vestibule space is built in.
• The fabric is ideal for single-wall tents, not water repellent but water proof coated polyester, T190.Rear Vent
• Only one tent pole, light and compact, and also lessening the need to carry weight by having the options of mounting using cord or pole found at site or hiking pole.
• Tensioned fabric makes the tent quiet in heavy winds.
• Stuff sack slightly oversized for ease of stuffing. Compression instructions included.
• Comes with stakes, stake bag, guylines, stuff sack, instruction/care card, information sheet
• All seams factory sealed
• Average minimum weight specification is based on tent only

Initial Impressions
The tent is relatively light weight for its design and construction and compacts nice and small into its supplied stuff sack. Its colour (green) blends in nicely with the surroundings, unlike some other quite pronounced colours. Interior space is large as you would expect from a 3 person tent and entry and exit door is large enough so even the taller hiker will be accommodated for. Great looking tent which seems to be very functional.
Ridgeline
There are a few areas that I will pay particular attention to over the test series, these include:

Ridgeline – as can be seen from the image to the right the fold and sew of the material seems to be causing the ridgeline to ‘bow’ upward rather than a downward v shape, this has the potential to collect moisture or water which I feel could be a problem.

Door entry – numerous attempts have left me unable to remove the sag in the side wall of the tent where the door is. This is quite obvious and although may not cause any performance issues does reduce the interior space and does not look aesthetically pleasing.

Rear Guyline – Two comments here, firstly I am unable to get the clip on the guyline to hold fast, resulting in the rope slipping continually, I ended up having to tie a knot in it. There are no instructions for the use of this, however my understanding is that it should just pull taught. I will send an email off to Appy Trails (Sam) for further advice. My second comment is that perhaps the guyline could be made of a reflective material as it sits quite high and could lead to accidental tripping.

Main support pole – The pole itself is good, as mentioned above, however due to the small diameter of the aluminium it easily sinks or is pushed below the surface of the ground when the tension is increased when putting up the tent. Perhaps this is leading to some of my sagging issues. In an attempt to overcome this I have tried to place several different objects under the end of the pole, e.g. my hiking shoe. However this then raises the height of the pole which then creates a gap between the side walls and the ground, not to mention the possibility of damage to the shoe.
Front vent
Front Vent – This observation is purely that at this stage, however still worth noting. When looking directly at the vent from the front of the tent the right hand side of the vent is sewn lower that the opposite. The effect this has is that the vent does not sit open correctly, potentially causing issues associated with lack of ventilation i.e. Condensation. I will fire off an email to Sam at Appy Trails for advice.

Setting it up
The erection process is nice and simple, the instructions provided are very helpful and easy to understand. The first setup took me a little longer as this was my first attempt, probably 5-6 minutes, subsequent to that I have got the timing to under 2 minutes, which I feel is good.

Appy Trails suggests a few basic steps;
1. Lay the tent out on the ground, in a suitable area (discussed in more detail in field report)
2. Starting from front to rear, firstly steak the two front corners.
3. Insert the centre Aluminium pole into its retainer.
4. Pull up the rear of the tent, and stake, by the guyline. The tent should now stand.
5. Stake out the remaining points and apply tension.

Customer Service
This is not generally an area worth its own subheading however in this case due to the excellent assistance I received I wanted to talk about it. Upon receiving my first Appy Trails tent I noticed several manufacturing defects (not listed in this report) which have been addressed in the replacement tent. The replacement was sent out a few days after reporting the concerns to Sam and within a week of that the replacement arrived. For an international tester this is great comfort in knowing that the manufacturer is very customer focused and responsive. Great service all round.

Summary
This is a nice, simple and lightweight tent designed for the minimalist who likes maximum room and protection from a minimal weight. I am excited to see how it performs out in the field.
 

Son in tent


This concludes my Initial Report. The Field Report will be amended to this report in approximately two months from the date of this report. Please check back then for further information.

 


Field Report
27th June 2009

Appy Trails by Avon RiverField Conditions

During the Field testing phase I have slept in the Appy Trails for 5 nights on various hikes that have been along the Bibbulumn Track. Gringer Creek to Canning Hut was one of the highlights which covered 60 km's (37 miles) over two days. The first day I departed at 9:45 am and arrived at a place known as Nerang, 15.7 (10 miles) km from the start, where I ate my lunch and was back on the trail by 1:15 pm. I arrived at camp for the night at Mt Cooke just before 6 pm for a total distance of 29.3 km (18 miles).

The following day was a little difficult; my body was nice and sore. I departed around 8 am and headed towards Monadnocks where I stopped for lunch. At this point my total distance travelled was 42.6 km (26 miles). I moved on from Monadnocks and arrived at Canning hut at 7 pm, this was a long days hiking. The original plan was for this trip to be 4 days, however at the half way point I suffered an injury that would leave me having to get off the trail and return home totally devastated.

During this phase of testing I did not encounter any significant amounts of rain, there was however a few small showers. The shelter held up well and did not leak water from what I could tell.

Field Performance

Sleeping in a shelter without a tubbed floor and bug proofing has been an enlightening experience for me and has definitely shown a different perspective on getting close to nature. Is this something I like? Well not as much as I had hoped it would. The bugs and creepy crawlies were definitely an issue for me, however I did find that if I made camp later in the evening this was not such an issue. I do still prefer the extra barrier between me and the bugs. I will be attempting to make a bivy sack and hopefully will be able to use this in combination with the tent and report back in the Long-Term report phase.

The amount of room in the Appy Trails is definitely a bonus, I found there to be heaps of room for the solo hiker and gear. Unfortunately my wife does not hike so have not been in a position to test this with two people. However looking at the remaining space after my gear is setup I do not see there being an issue. The high point of the tent and angle of the side walls provides for excellent use of interior space and is truly a great design. I like the fact that I am able to comfortably sit up inside the tent and get dressed without having to struggle for head room. The foot end of the tent is also high enough that my feet and quilt did not touch the walls or roof which is especially important in single wall tents as they are more prone to condensation.

The lack of ventilation and the resulting condensation were of concern which is also probably exaggerated by moisture from the ground due to the absence of a sewn in floor. On numerous occasions I noticed heavy water (condensation) beading on the inside of the tent which did fall on my gear making it a little wet. After the first night in the Appy Trails I decided that I needed to use a ground sheet and that Tyvek would be my weapon of choice. This did seem to make a difference in the condensation levels in the tent, perhaps it acts as a barrier to keeping the moisture from rising. I will keep using this and see how it performs.

Erecting the Appy Trails continued to be an easy and pleasurable process with the exception of rear guyline which I still struggle with. The process should be as simple as pulling up the guyline adjuster and then staking out, however the adjustment continued to slip which creates a lack of tension in the line ultimately resulting in the tent becoming unstable or even falling over. To combat this I resorted to having to tie a knot in the line. This will be a comment that I would like feedback to the owner of Appy Trails, Sam Belew. There are many other types of adjusters that I have seen and used which do not behave the same. Correcting this issue would be a great improvement.

Packing the Appy Trails is a really simple and easy process. When out on the trail I never spend much time rolling or packing my tents with a great deal of care as I know they will be out again later that day or night. The Appy Trails was no different, it was simply stuffed into the supplied stuff sack and packed away, the poles and stakes were packed separately. The stuffed size of the Appy Trails is great, it fits nice in two of the packs I have taken out with me and is definitely an advantage. I would like to test the use of a compression sack to see if the contents can be compacted further making it smaller again. I will try to get my hands on a compression sack and report on this during my Long-Term report.

The biggest issue that I have with the Appy Trails is that the fact that after 5 nights there is still a very pungent polyester smell which is almost suffocating. After my last trip I washed the tent in the bath tub with luke warm water and hung out to dry under my patio, to avoid direct sunlight, hoping that this would reduce if not completely eliminate the smell, however this wasn't the case. Perhaps over time it will improve.

Summary

I have enjoyed testing the Appy Trails and will continue to use it through to the Long-Term report, post that my mind is still not made up. I truly believe that with a few minor enhancements Appy Trails will prove to be a very successful tent. The Appy Trails Mark III has shown no signs of wear or deterioration during the testing I have done since April and I hope that this continues.

Pros
Light weight.
Compact pack size.
Easy to setup and pull down.
Relatively roomy.
Great design.

Cons
Rear Guyline adjustment mechanism does not hold tension.
Ventilation continues to be an issue.
Polyester smell is very noticeable.

This concludes my Field report for the Appy Trails Mark III.

Thank you to Appy Trails and BackpackGearTest.org for the privilege of testing the Mark III
 


Long-Term Report
30th August 2009



My final two nights in the Appy Trails during this phase of the report were on separate over night hikes. The first was in the Helena National Park where the temperature ranged from 18 C (64 F) during the day and reached a low of 7 C (44 F), gentle winds and no precipitation. The second night out was along the Avon River where the temperatures were much the same, winds were a little more aggressive and there was slight precipitation during the night.

There are a few items I mentioned as Cons in my Field Report which I would like to comment on again and hopefully put the potential buyer at rest. I have been corresponding with Sam Belew from Appy trails during this phase and feel confident that two have been addressed. Subsequent to the submission of the previous report Sam sent me out a replacement tent, which I used on the last hike as stated above. Sam was interested to know where the Polyester smell was coming from as there were no reports from other hikers about this, so we investigated further. From this end I washed the tent several times with warm soapy water, dunking the tent in the bath tub and lightly wringing with hands. It was then hung out to dry under the patio away from direct sunlight. Sam was working with his wife to see if they were able to smell it and both came back with nothing at all, very peculiar. The best conclusion we were able to come up with was that perhaps the smell was introduced by one of their cats, if you know what I mean. This may have happened while Sam was quality assuring it before shipping out to me. The replacement tent shows no signs of the same smell at all, in fact there is none at all. I will close out that Con with a very positive customer experience whilst working it though with Sam.

The other Con that I would want to re-address and close out, is the issue with the rear guyline adjustment not holding tension. Again Sam and I worked through the issue with numerous emails back and forth. Sam send an image of what the setup should look like to compare mine, they were the same. Something that was not similar is that mine was bent out of shape, I would suggest that was my fault at some point of playing around with it. I ended up straightening the mechanism, which then later snapped due to being weaker around the bend. I then replaced it with one the same. So in hindsight this could have been resolved earlier had I been familiar with this type of adjuster and had I not been so rough on the tent, but hey isn't that one of the reasons we test these things?

In one of my emails to Sam I mentioned that I would like to test the tent being used in a compression sack, also discussed in the Field Report, and Sam's reply was something I hadn't thought of which turned out to be a great idea. Here is exactly what he said;

"I'd forget the compression sack and just keep pushing the tent into the bag. With a little effort (fist it down tight!) it will shrink to a 6 1/2" long tube. Then twist the bag and pull it on backwards. When done try pushing it together like an accordion. You shouldn't have much "give" left in the package then."

The below images show how effective this works out to be, why did I not think of that.

 
Appy Trails stuffed then rolled back over. Comparison of the two stuff methods.
Appy Trails stuffed then rolled back over. Comparison of the two stuff methods.

Summary

I enjoyed using the Appy Trails, it was a new experience for me as all my previous tents have a sewn in floor and bug netting. I feel that this experience has given me some good foundations and more of an insight into how single wall tarps work, their advantages and disadvantages. My Cons have been addressed and the Pros still stand. My tent shows no signs of wear or damage, that were the tents fault, during its use in varying conditions. Overall I am very happy with the Appy Trails Mark III and would recommend it to anyone that is looking to lighten their load while not reducing their comfort. Well done Appy Trails.

I would like to say a big thanks to Sam Belew for all the assistance he has provided to me during the past four months, it has been invaluable and a great learning experience. Customer service and pride in his products is something you definitely cannot fault Sam on.

This concludes my Long-Term report and the test series for the Appy Trails Mark III.

Big thank you to Appy Trails and BackpackGearTest.org for the privilege of testing the Mark III

 

Read more reviews of Appy Trails gear
Read more gear reviews by Mark McLauchlin

Reviews > Shelters > Tarps and Bivys > Appy Trails Mark III Tent > Test Report by Mark McLauchlin



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