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Reviews > Shelters > Tents > Exped Aries Mesh Tent > Test Report by Michael Wheiler

  EXPED ARIES MESH TENT
Test Series
By Michael Wheiler
Last Updated September 9, 2007

Aries 1

Skip To The Initial Report: April 24, 2007
Skip To The Field Report:  July 3, 2007
Skip To The Long Term Report:  September 9, 2007


INITIAL REPORT
April 24, 2007

Personal Information:

Name:    Michael Wheiler
Age:   51
Gender:   Male
Height:   5'10"  (178 cm)
Weight:   175 lbs (79 kg)
Chest:   42" (107 cm)
Hip Measurement:  34"  (86 cm)
Shoulder girth:   48" (122 cm)
Location:   Southeast Idaho
Email:   jmwlaw AT ida DOT net


Experience

I have about 39 years experience hiking, camping, and backpacking.  I have been active in the Boy Scout program as a youth and as an adult leader.  I was a Scoutmaster for seven years with an active monthly outdoor program.  Since being retired from that position, I still try to get out monthly. 
In the last two years I have been able to climb three of Idaho's highest peaks.  I am would classify myself as a mid-weight backpacker as my packs tend to run between 35-50 pounds (16-23 kg).

Field Testing Environment:

Most of my camping, hiking and backpacking occurs in the southeastern Idaho area but spills over into western Wyoming and western Montana.  I occasionally get into the mountains of central Idaho as well.  The areas I frequent generally range from 5,500 ft (1,600 m) to 8,500 ft (2,600 m).  The weather in southeastern Idaho is fairly typical of a high desert plain.  Spring weather is generally windy and wet.  Summer weather is usually dry, hot, and windy as might be expected in a high desert plain.  Average temperatures from May through September range from 38º F (3
º C) to 86º F (30º C).  However, we have been known to have frosty mornings even in July.
Product:
 
Item:  Aries Mesh tent
Manufacturer Web Page:  http://www.orgear.com
Color:  Green exterior with a yellow interior
Year Manufactured:  2007
Date Received:  April 17, 2007
Manufacturer Suggested Retail Price:  $250.00 US

Product Specifications Per Manufacturer Unless Otherwise Noted:

Capacity
2 person
Season
3
Shell Material
Tear resistant ripstop polyester fabric with a thick polyurethane coating; fully taped seams; UV resistant, durable water repellent, and flame retardant
Shell Weight (fly & poles)
3.2 lb/1.4 kg
Minimum Weight (fly, canopy, & 2 poles)
4.8 lb/2.2 kg (per web site)
4.9 lb/2.25 kg  (per hang tag)
Poles
2 Exotec aluminum poles of equal length with rounded ends and adjustable shock cord.
Packaged Weight (fly, canopy, 2 poles, 16 stakes, 8 guy lines, 3 sacks, 2 floor straps, & repair items)
5.9 lb/2.67 kg
Packaged Weight As Determined By Tester 5 lb, 15.3 oz/ 2.70 kg  on a Neopost SE57 IJ Digital Postal Scale
Floor Area
29 ft²/2.7 m²
Vestibule Area
13 ft²/1.2 m²
Maximum Height
43 in/1.10 m (per web page)
39 in/1.00 m (per web page drawing and hang tag drawing)
37 in/0.94 m (per tester's measurement)
Packed Size
20 x 7 in/ 50 x 19 cm (per hang tag)
16 x 5 in/40 x 13 cm (per web site)
20 x 8 in/50 x 20 cm (as measured by tester)
Inner Canopy Material
Superfine polyester mosquito netting with a roof of condensation repelling ripstop polyester (all materials are UV resistant and flame retardant)
Floor
Bath tub style waterproof polyurethane coated taffeta nylon floor with 5,000 mm water column performance
Zippers
YKK zipper sewn flat face out, hot air taped and protected by a non-snag flap with reflective glow in the dark color coded zipper pulls

Manufacturer's General Description (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."  Exped claims that set-up time for the Aries Mesh is 2 minutes.

Examination and Set Up:

The Exped Aries Mesh tent arrived via UPS in perfect condition.  After opening the cardboard box, I found the tent and accessories were contained in a side opening stuff sack with a draw cord closure.  This is the first time I have seen a side opening stuff sack.  See photograph below.  Inside the stuff sack was the tent and two small green storage sacks.  The 2 poles were housed in one and the 16 stakes, 8 guy lines and repair items (self-adhesive, matching patches, one spare pole section, one zipper pull and window supports) in the second.  There was a hang tag with instructions in three languages.  The warranty on the English version of the hang tag indicates that all Exped products carry a limited 5-year warranty against defects in materials or workmanship.  Any warrantable defects "will be replaced or repaired at no charge, at Exped's discretion."  The hang tag reminds users that Exped's outdoor products will not stand up to abuse and the warranty will be invalidated by any such abuse.  The tag goes on to state, "Exped products are designed to be lightweight and functional, not heavy and indestructible."

Aries 2
Stiff Tension Pocket

Aries 3
Side Opening Stuff Sack

The instructions also outline the features and specifications including the tension pocket (see photograph above), the cord line tensioners, adjustable hoop vents (see photograph below), and the aerodynamic shape.  Exped claims that the round tunnel shape and tensioning options on the Aries Mesh keep it stable in high winds. There are two pole sleeves in the shell.  The Aries is designed with five guy line loops on each pole sleeve.  According to Exped, the lowest guy line loop, at 16 inches (41 cm) above the ground, offers the greatest support because "this is the point at which poles begin to yield to the wind."  The instructions also provide guidance on ventilation:  "Ventilation is critical to the prevention of condensation inside any tent as well as your well being in hot climates.  Adjustable hooped vents at both ends increase draft.  Mosquito netting canopy increases air flow.  Tent back panel can be rolled up exposing the canopy for venting. ... The gap between ground and fabric on the side with the tension pockets can be increased to achieve the chimney effect and increase air flow.  Generous space between rainfly and canopy reduces condensation and prevents both parts from touching."  See photograph below.

Aries 4
View of Vestibule Area and Bath Tub Floor

Aries 5
View of Front Door, Interior Canopy and Clothes Line


Aries 6
Front Hoop Vent Over Door

Aries 7
Rear Hoop Vent With Hook and Loop Closure

Since I already had plans for an over-night trip to test a sleeping bag, I deferred tent set-up until the evening of April 20, 2007.  I did read the instructions on tent set-up provided by Exped:  "Spread the tent and with 2 pegs, stake at the rear end.  Slide the poles into the sleeves from the entrance side.  (Recommended motion is to pull the sleeve over the pole, rather than to push the pole.)  Place the end into the tension pocket and pull tight.  Stretch the tent and place the remaining stakes.  Use the guy lines if necessary, forming a star pattern that radiates from the tent's center."  The instructions also note that the rainfly and the mesh canopy may be set up independently.

With these instructions in mind, after backpacking into my campsite and as the sun began to fade, I started to set up the tent in a slight snow storm.  I pitched the tent in accordance with the hang tag instructions.  The Aries set-up fairly easily.  I didn't time my pitch time but will try that after I am a bit more familiar with the tent.  The Aries looked like what I expected after viewing the manufacturer's web site.  I'll report more on my overnight experience with the Aries in my Field Report which should be posted in approximately two months.

The Aries is designed for the user to sleep with his or her head near door.  The gap between floor and canopy at other end too small to comfortably sleep with your head at that end, but it can be done.  I attempted to measure the distance between my face and the canopy while laying with my head toward the rear of the tent and found it to be approximately 6 inches (15 cm).  When I raised my head to get up, my head touched the canopy each time.  The rear of the tent is also narrower in width than up near the door thus giving the user more shoulder space in the front of the tent.  The rainfly is attached to the canopy with loops of webbing and plastic toggles.  There is approximately 5 to 6 inches (13 to 15 cm) of space between the rainfly and the canopy when the tent is pitched tightly.  As mentioned above, the rainfly and canopy can be pitched separately which allows greater versatility in use.  The Aries has two hoop vents at each end of the tent (see photographs above).  The rear vent can be closed by way of a hook and loop closure.

The interior of the Aries has a number of excellent features,  the bath tub style floor provides extra protection from wet weather.  There is one large mesh storage pocket near the front of the tent and another on the same side in the vestibule.  There is a clothes line which runs the entire length of the ridge line in the tent and is adjustable with a plastic toggle.  The front mesh door can also be opened and secured with a cord and plastic toggle.  The rainfly extends out over the front of the tent to  create the vestibule.  As with many smaller backpack tents, the entry into the vestibule is a little tight with the width of the opening at only 28 inches (71 cm) at the bottom and 17 inches (43 cm) near the top.

Aries 8
Vestibule Zipper With Glow In The Dark Pull Tab

Aries 9
Pole Sleeve With Guy Line Loops

Aries 10
Guy Line In Pouch With Line Tensioner

The guy lines are packaged individually in yellow mesh pouches (cord stuff sacks) so as to "prevent tangling."  The pouch is actually attached to the guy line and remains on the guy line when attached to the tent.  Each guy line has a pre-tied loop at one end and a gray plastic piece with three notches cut into it which Exped calls a "cord line tensioner."  According to Exped, this feature offers "the simplest means of securing a line to almost any object all without clumsy knots!"  Each guy line is interwoven with a silver thread for better visibility.

Initial Impressions:

I like the available interior space and all of the creature comforts with the large storage pockets and built in clothes line.  I've never owned a hoop style tent before and I really like core space this design offers.  Set-up was easy even in a snow storm with darkness pending.  While the Aries is heavier than my other backpacking tents, it also offers more features and has more versatility.  Having spent some time inside a few tents during extended rain storms, I like the yellow interior color of the Aries because a bright interior is more appealing to me on gloomy days.  Although the Aries is designed as a three season tent, it can be anchored very securely with multiple stake-out points and guy lines when necessary.


FIELD REPORT
July 3, 2007

My first field test with the Aries was on April 20, 2007 near Table Rock Campground at an elevation of 6,126 feet (1,867 m).  There was 1-4 inches (2.5-10 cm) of snow on the ground.  I pitched the Aries in a light snow storm with gloved hands.  I had no difficulty with tent setup.  See photographs above.  There was plenty of room inside the Aries for myself, my backpack, my inflated sleeping pad and sleeping bag.  I slept in a Sierra Designs Cirque sleeping bag rated to 0º F (-18º C) degrees.  I used a Therm-a-Rest Prolite 4 self-inflating pad.  It was 41º F (5º C) at bedtime with a mixture of light snow and rain falling.  Humidity was at 75%.  There was no wind.  By morning it was 31º F (-0.55º C).  Although the exterior of the tent was covered with snow, I found no moisture on the inside mesh lining of the Aries in the morning.  Since I needed to return home early, I had to pack the Aries wet.  The Aries fit well in its carry bag and in my Lowe Summit pack with plenty of room for the rest of my gear.  When I arrived at home, I hung the Aries on a line in the storage room in my basement and it was dry by the next afternoon.

I next used the Aries on May 4-5, 2007 at the Grand Teton Council Boy Scout Jamboral (a mini-Jamboree) near Blackfoot, Idaho (elevation 4,079 ft/1,243 m).  Due to parking restrictions no vehicles were allowed into the camping area and I packed in about 1/4 mile (0.4 km) with a 41.5 pound (19 kg) pack.  Again, the Aries fit well inside the Summit pack with more than enough room for the rest of my overnight gear.  Since I was carrying the tent entirely on my own, I removed all but 2 of the guy-lines and all but 12 of the pegs to decrease the actual carry weight.  When I arrived at my tent site, I laid the pack on the ground and went to assist with moving some fallen Lodge Pole Pines from our campsite.  I watched in stunned disbelief as a service truck ran over my pack.  The weight of the truck squashed the eggs in a plastic backpack container.  Amazingly, with the exception of a light tire track on the pack, the rest of gear (including the pack and the tent) was fine.  This was the third time I pitched the Aries and setup was very easy.  Although I didn't use a watch, I estimated that the tent was up in about three (3) minutes.  Again, I used the Cirque sleeping bag and a Therm-a-Rest Pro 4 self-inflating pad.  I also stowed my pack inside the Aries.

It was a cold, windy night.  The wind was strong enough that the Council was considering not doing the firework display.  Even in the fairly strong winds, the Aries was easy to set-up.  By dark, with the drop in temperature and the strong wind, I needed all the clothes I packed and my gloves.  It was 41º F (5º C) at bedtime.  By morning the weather was worsening.  The temperature at 6:30 a.m. was 34º F (1º C) with increasingly high winds (9-30 mph/14.5-48 km/h) and light rain.  Humidity was at 49.5%.  The Aries stood strong all night even with wind gusts up to 30 mph (48 km/h).  See photograph below.  I noticed very little noise made by the tent material during the windy night.  I did not guy out the Aries for extra protection.  Even though the humidity was relatively high for southeastern Idaho, the venting worked well with the windy conditions.  After a close inspection of the Aries in the morning, I found no moisture in the mesh material inside the tent.  Again, due to the rainy conditions, I had to pack the Aries wet and dry it at home.

Aries 11


LONG TERM REPORT
September 9, 2007

During the last two months, I used the Aries five additional nights.   On June 8-9, 2007, I used the Aries on an overnight backpack trip with my daughter Traci to Lower Palisades Lake (elevation 6,131 ft/1,869 m).  This is an 8 mile/13 kilometer round trip hike.  I was carrying a 45 pound/20 kilogram pack.  The Aries stowed easily inside my pack and I carried the full tent as my daughter wanted to try one of my other tents.  The temperature during the day was 63º F/17º C.  It had rained just before we started the hike but the cloud cover disappeared and the temperatures began to drop.  When we reached our campsite, the tent set-up easily with the exception of bending a couple of the thinner stakes when I struck a rock under the ground with the stake.  It was impossible at this campsite to find a non-rocky location.  Fortunately, my Therm-A-Rest ProLite 4 fit well inside the Aries and the ground was fairly level which made sleeping at this location more comfortable.

EXPED 12
The Aries near Lower Palisades Lake.

The Aries easily
held myself, my pack and other gear inside the tent as I did not need to stow the gear in the vestibule.  By morning it was 31º F/-0.55º C.  Humidity during the night ranged from 54% to 79%.  There was little to no wind.  When I awoke in the morning, there was dew on the exterior of the tent but no noticeable condensation build-up inside the Aries.

I next used the Aries on June 22, 2007, after I spoke at the Cedar Badge graduation ceremony at Treasure Mountain Scout Camp near the Tetons (elevation 6,300 ft/1,920 m).  Pitching the Aries has become almost second nature and the tent is up within only a few minutes after I find an acceptable location on the ground. 
At bed time, it was 47º F/8º C.  The humidity was 51%.  There was no wind.  In the morning, I found a significant amount of dew had collected on the exterior of the Aries and there was moisture in the mesh as well.  In as much as there was no wind that I noticed, I'm not sure if the moisture build-up was related to a lack of ventilation due to the position in which I pitched the tent or something else.  Nevertheless, because I was in a hurry to get home, I took the Aries down wet and re-pitched it again in my back yard when I got home.  After the Aries had dried, I took it down again and stowed it in the stuff sack.

On July 5-7, 2007, I used the Aries for two nights near the Teton Range (elevation 6,688 ft/2,039 m).

Exped 13
The Aries with a view of the Grand Teton in the background.

Temperatures were warm during the day but we had fairly significant thunder showers late each afternoon.  Each time, the tent was exposed to a great deal of rain for a short period of time and each time, all of the contents of the tent were protected and dry after the thunder storm.  I was able to position the Aries so that the vent and front door faced the prevailing winds.  I used both the vent and the door for ventilation.  Both mornings I awoke to find no condensation build-up on the interior of the tent.  Both nights, I slept by myself with my pack and other gear inside the tent (rather than in the vestibule).  As usual, I experienced no problems pitching, using, or taking down the Aries.

Finally, I used the Aries one night the latter part of August while day hiking near Hawley Creek (elevation 6,430 ft/1,960 m).  The weather was warm and dry. 
There was a slight breeze from the southwest and I pitched the tent so the vent and front door faced directly into the prevailing wind.  I left the door to the tent partially unzipped so as to expose the mesh portion of the door and allow additional ventilation.  The was no moisture on or in the tent the next morning.  Once again, I experienced no problems of any kind with the Aries.

CONCLUSION


While I still tend to favor free standing tents for their simplicity and versatility, I am very impressed with the Aries.  It has performed well in snow, rain, wind and warm weather.  The ventilation design has worked well.  It is easy to setup even in windy conditions. The interior is bright and roomy.  The interior is roomy enough for me and my gear.  I did not have an opportunity to use the Aries with another person.  However, due to the fact that I was able to place my backpack and other gear next to me in the tent without any difficulties, I believe the Aries will house two persons comfortably.  I have noticed no wear or tear and the Aries has been easy to dry after housing me in the snow or rain.  The side opening stuff sack has made stowing and removing the tent very easy.

Return to the top of the report.

I would like to thank Exped and BackpackGearTest for giving me the opportunity to test the Aries Mesh tent
.






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