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Reviews > Shelters > Tents > Exped Aries Mesh Tent > Test Report by Chuck Carnes
A R I E S M E S H
T E N T
Initial Report: April 23, 2007
Field Report: July 9, 2007
Long Term Report: September 6, 2007
Name: Chuck Carnes
Height: 6 ft. 0 in (1.83 m)
Weight: 175 lb (79 kg)
E-mail address: ctcarnes1(at)yahoo(dot)com
City, State, Country: Greenville, South Carolina USA
I love the outdoors – I’ve spent time camping in the outdoors since I was born, and have been actively hiking and backpacking since then. I consider myself a lightweight hiker, usually carrying 20 – 30 pounds (11-13 kg) for hikes up to a week in length. I hike at an easy pace, averaging 2 mph (3 kph). I am a one-man tent camper for now. I like to carry a single trekking pole when I hike to help relieve stress to my legs and knees. I like to get out on the trail as often as I can.
Model: Aries Mesh
Year of manufacture: 2007
Listed Min. Weight: 4.8 lbs (2.2 kg)
Listed Packaged Weight: 5.9 lbs (2.67 kg)
Actual Packaged Weight: 5.7 lbs (2.59 kg)
Actual Packaged Length: 10 in (25 cm) x 22 in (66 cm)
MSRP: $250.00 US
PRODUCT DESCRIPTION (taken from web site)
Perfect for backpacking, mountaineering, or spring ski touring, this 3-season tent provides complete 2-person protection at less than 5 pounds. The robust design is inherited from proven expedition tents, yet lightweight components make it a welcome addition to your pack. The polyurethane-coated rainfly shelters you from all forms of precipitation, while the no-see-um mesh canopy keeps air moving to prevent condensation.
+ Polyurethane-coated ripstop polyester rainfly
+ No-see-um mesh canopy with ripstop polyester roof panel increases ventilation and reduces condensation
+ Exotec aluminum poles
+ Tent canopy suspended from poles
+ Waterproof coated nylon floor with 5K mm water column performance
+ One large vestibule; canopy can be unhooked and pushed back for extra floor space
+ Flat pole sleeve on fly improves aerodynamics
+ Sliding pole tension pocket for easy and quick set-up
+ Rainfly or canopy can be erected separately
I N I T I A L R E P O R T
April 23, 2007
The Exped Aries Mesh tent (from here on out phrased as 'tent') arrived in excellent condition. The tent comes in it's own stuff sack and the dimensions of the stuff sack is 22 in (66 cm) long and 10 in (25 cm) round. I really like the way the stuff sack is designed with a side opening versus a top opening. It's easy to loosen the draw cord and pull open the sack to reveal all of the contents. Included are two sectioned poles which are held together by shock cord and the tip ends are finished smooth to prevent tearing or ripping while going through the pole sleeves. Also included is a smaller stuff sack that holds the 16 aluminum stakes, 8 guy lines, extra tent material, a replaceable zipper and a small section of tent pole for repairs.
After taking an inventory of the package contents I proceeded to putting the tent up. The two, sectioned poles are the same length so there is no confusion on which pole goes where. The poles slid very easily through the pole sleeve and into the built-in pockets on the opposite side of the tent; this makes it fast and effortless. After the two poles are in the sleeves, four stakes are used to erect the tent; two at the front vestibule and two at the rear. As shown in the two pictures above, this tent has two vents; one at the front vestibule and one at the rear. The vent in the front (shown in the first picture) stays open all the time. There is a stiff plastic rod that keeps the arch shape in the open position. The rear vent (shown in the second picture) also has a stiff plastic rod that keeps the vent open but this vent can be pushed and held closed by a hook and loop tab. I have also included a floor plan of the interior space and its dimensions above.
Once the four stakes are in the ground, the tent can first be tightened by a tension strap at the two pole ends where they were manually inserted. The picture above shows this area. The pole fits nicely into a stiff pole sleeve to keep the pole end from slipping out. This can be ensured by pulling on the web strap and tightening the poles to the sleeve. At the end of this sleeve is a web loop for a stake to be placed through to help secure it to the ground. Now the guy lines can be attached and pulled out to add more stability to the poles and tent under harsh conditions. In my opinion, the guy lines are not needed unless stability is needed for harsh conditions. Typically, guy lines are used to pull the rainfly out and away from the inner mesh of a tent; to keep it from touching the mesh if dew or rain is present. The distance from the mesh canopy to the rainfly is approximately 6 in (15 cm). This is plenty of room for slight sagging if the guy lines are not in place. If the tent is pulled tight with the two front stakes and the two rear stakes, it seems that the rainfly will not sag.
The two pictures above show the tents interior. The first picture is looking into the tent from the vestibule opening. As you can see this tent has a bathtub style floor with reinforced corners and rises approximately 7 in (17 cm) up the side of the tent to prevent any rain water from splattering into the interior of the tent. Also seen in the first picture is a red web strap along the bottom. This strap is connected to the pole sleeves on the exterior so that the rainfly can be erected on its own; this happens at both pole locations. I will cover the separation of the rainfly and the inner canopy a little bit later in the report. The second picture is inside the tent looking out towards the vestibule. Notice the odd shaped door that can be open fully except for a small area at the top left that connects at the zippers ends. The door can be rolled back and secured by a small toggle and loop. Also notice how straight the sides go up before they start rounding to make the volume of the interior. This gives a lot of room inside and the user can sit close to the side wall without touching the mesh walls. The interior height of this tent, as noted above, is 37 in (94 cm) high. This height is carried for the length of the ridge of 43 in (109 cm) which is the distance between the poles
The interior of the tent really has a lot of features to it. Shown in the first picture above is a piece of cord that runs the length of the ridge line. It's a simple feature but can be very valuable when the user needs a place to hang wet items, a head lamp, a watch or any other light piece of gear that can be hung. As seen in the second picture, this tent has two, front corner mesh pockets; one at each front corner. These pockets are very big in size and can fit a lot of different smaller pieces of gear.
I want to explain the versatility of this tent and why I like it so much. Shown in the first picture above is the connection between the mesh canopy and the rainfly. The mesh canopy has a series of webbed loops with plastic toggles on the ends. The rainfly has a plastic ring at the same increments as the webbed loops and toggles. This picture was taken looking from just outside of the entrance door of the canopy, up above the door and under the rainfly. The web site does not show this very well but here it is seen how the rainfly and canopy connect and how they can be separated. This tent can be erected with just the rainfly or just the mesh canopy. If the tent is erected with the canopy and rainfly connected together, it is possible to unfasten the toggles at the canopy from the rainfly and push the canopy out of the way. This could be useful if more room is needed under certain circumstances when only a shelter is needed. From what I can tell, it is not possible to erect the mesh canopy by itself and then add the rainfly to it if a rainstorm were to be passing by. The reason for my observation is that the poles are slipped through the webbed loops of the canopy and if the rainfly is needed then poles would have to go through the sleeves of the rainfly. However, I see no reason why the rainfly could not be placed over the already erected mesh canopy and staked down at the corners as needed to wait out a passing rain storm.
In the second picture I am showing that there is a nylon pocket just inside the vestibule door. This is a great place for a pocket. When you don't want to put something in the tent at the moment but you don't want it sitting on the ground, this is a great little place for it and it's very easy to get to if outside of the tent.
Likes and Dislikes
So far I like just about everything about this tent; all the features and ease of setting it up. I really like the versatility of the tent and the hoop design to give more room on the interior. To me this is a very top notch tent and I am looking forward to getting in the field with it.
There is really nothing that I dislike about the tent. I am not crazy about the weight of it but I can tune it down if I want to fast pack it or something like that. One thing that I did notice is that I am not able to close the rear vent from the inside of the tent; there is no opening in the mesh to be able to access the vent from the inside. I haven't figured out the guy lines yet but I will by the Field Report.
F I E L D R E P O R T
July 9, 2007
The Aries in the Bush of Africa
The Exped Aries makes a great tent in the field. During my field experience the Aries was used on two trips. One was a two night trip to Jones Gap with two of my sons where the temperatures during the day were around 80 F (26 C) and dropping to around 60 F (15 C) at night. The elevation at the camp site was 2,487 ft (868 m). Packing the Aries for the first time in a backpack showed me that it was going to be easier and take up a lot less room if I put the tent in a compression sack. The stuff sack that is provided with the Aries is okay if the user is going to carry it to a base camp or something like that but even for a 5,800 cu in (95 l) pack, the tent in the provided stuff sack was still a little to bulky and took up a lot of the room in the pack. Once I got to the camp site I pulled the Aries from the sack and proceeded with the set up. I did not take the instructions with me thinking that I would not need them. It turned out that when I got to the rear of the tent and needed to stake it down that I could not remember how the stakes were supposed to be placed in the elastic straps to make both, the fly and the tent, tight. I fiddled around with it and got both of them tight so I guess I did it correctly. One of the good things about the Aries is that the guy lines are designed for one of them to go through two loops on the sleeve that the poles go through and can be pulled very tight and staked down. If the site is somewhat flat, this makes it easy to get the fabric of the fly tight to keep it from sagging.
As I mentioned, I took my two sons with me so that meant having three pads and three sleeping bags in the tent. Prior to our trip we all three got in the tent and laid down but this was without the pads, and we had enough room. Once we were at the site and inflated our pads and put them in the tent side by side, they overlapped quite a bit. There was no room for gear inside the tent so the gear stayed in the vestibule area. For me and my kids, getting in and out of the tent in the middle of the night proved to be fairly easy with the reflective zipper pulls. We found them easily and was able to get out quick when nature called. The inside side pockets worked great. We were able to put items in them that we needed to get to quickly and be able to grab them from the vestibule by unzipping the mesh door slightly, reaching in and grabbing what we needed and zip the mesh door back closed to minimize the chance for bugs to get in.
The ventilation of the Aries is well designed in my opinion. With all three of us sleeping in humid weather, I really expected some condensation to develop on the inside. To my surprise we did not experience any condensation build up during the night. I made sure that both of the vents were opened at each end of the fly before we turned in for the night.
The second trip was a four night trip to Old Mkushi Village in Zambia, Africa. It was their winter there so it was a bit cold at night. The days ranged from 70 F to 80 F (21 C to 26 C) and the nights ranged from 40 F to 50 F (4 C to 10 C). The elevation there at the camp site was 3,845 ft (1,172 m). The set up for the Aries here went a little bit better. After laying it out and starting to stake it down I realized that the area was not flat and in fact it was more like a bowl shape. I had no where else to set up so this was going to be it. I was able to get the front of the fly pretty tight but the rear was a bit of a challenge. As shown below, I had to come up with a way to keep the fly off of the mesh tent body and this was my solution.
I tied the guy line to a branch that was growing and then staked the end of the guy line while keeping the branch pulled tight. This seemed to have worked for the most part. The fly wasn't tight like I would have liked it but it kept the material away from the mesh.With the temperatures dropping to 40 F (4 C) at night, every morning we had dew form on the tents. Most mornings the dew was heavy and a good shake of the tents would get most of the dew off. After the sun would come up and shine on the tent, it would dry very quickly.
I slept solo in the Aries on this trip so I had plenty of room to spread out my gear on one side and my bag and pad on the other. Again, I really liked having the gear pockets at the front of the tent and also having the gear pocket in the vestibule. It was nice being able to grab snacks, flashlight, water bottle and stuff that I needed to get to real quick, out these pockets and not have to go digging in a stuff sack inside. The zippers worked great even after being in the dusty African bush. I think every time I opened the mesh door that I unzipped it differently everytime but it was easy to do with one hand and never had trouble with snags.
Overall, I am very pleased with the Aries and the convenience that it provides in its design. It is very easy to set up and take down and it provides very spacious room for a solo sleeper. It was a bit tight for me and my two boys but it did the job for the short time that we were in it. My next endeavor is to remove the inner mesh tent and set it up alone. Then to set up just the outer fly at another time as the design of this tent allows the user to do. I would also like to see how easy it would be to join them back together as one tent while the outer fly is still erected.
L O N G T E R M R E P O R T
September 6, 2007
For the Long Term phase of this test I was able to take the Exped Aries Mesh tent on a one night trip to Paris Mountain State Park in South Carolina where the temperature was a balmy 80 F (44 C) that night. I packed the Aries in a day pack and put it in the bottom of the pack which fit nicely in a 2,000 cu. in. (32 L) pack. After hiking a bit and getting to the campsite I set up the tent and retrieved my sleeping bag and pad and got everything set up.
I had heard the night before on the news that there might be a possible shower so I left the fly on. I was wanting to try it out without it but I did not want to have to wake up in the middle of the night and try and put it on. It was very warm that night so I was curious to see how much ventilation I would get from opening the vestibule door and the back vent. I didn't have much of a breeze that night but I did feel like some air was flowing through and not just hovering in the tent. I woke up a few times during the night from being quite warm with my sleeping bag. At one point I did hear the wind kick up and was expecting it to rain but it never did. By morning it had cooled some and there as no sign of condensation or any type of moisture inside or outside of the tent.
I can't say that I have discovered anything new since my field report. The Aries worked great on this outing although it was only one night. I am still impressed with the size of the tent for one person. As seen in the picture above, I have plenty of room for myself and my gear beside me. I am getting better with set up time and knowing how to pick a good spot on the campsite so that I can get the fly tight. The stakes have held up very well and so far I have not bent any. There were a few times that I could tell if I hit the stake anymore that it was going to bend so I left it sticking up a bit. The zippers still continue to function well and I do like the color coded zipper pulls. This helps tremendously at night when getting in and out of the tent. I think my favorite feature is the string that runs the length of the ridge line. I have used this the most when hanging socks or clothes and even my headlamp to use as an interior light. It's up high enough that it illuminates the whole inside of the tent. The only thing I would like to see changed is a side entrance instead of an end entrance. This made for difficult times to get in and out but it was okay since I decided I like sleeping with my feet at the door. The Aries has become my favorite 2 man tent but I will only use it during solo sleeping.
This concludes my Long Term Report. Thank you Exped and BackpackGearTest.org for this opportunity.
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