(The Gear Loop) - In times gone by, tents were relatively simple - if a touch cumbersome - affairs. A waterproof outer layer enveloped an inner layer, which kept draughts out and prevented condensation build up. The whole assembly was supported by a scaffolding of flimsy poles that would invariably snap at the most inopportune of moments.
The worst part of all was that this entire assembly would weigh as much as a baby elephant and lugging the kit anything beyond a few simple kilometres would require the lungs and legs of serial summit-seeker Nims Purja.
Today, with advances in technology and fabrics, the classic double layer set-up has been ditched in favour of space-age textiles, innovative designs and composite tent poles that even the most heavy handed camper would lose a fight with.
This new theory has also allowed tents to go on a crash diet, with some only weighing a couple of kilos. The Mark L 3 Person from Vaude is one such example of this next generation of of ultra-lightweight, weatherproof 3 season tents.
Weighing in at 3.3kg and sleeping three people (snugly), the Vaude has several unique features that really caught our attention.
Overall, the Vaude Mark L 3P is a solid 3 season tent that sleeps three adults at a push and two in comfort. We loved the innovative take on a traditional set-up process, which eschews the standard separate inner and outer in favour of a pre-attached design.
The “bone-marrow” tether system to attach the outer to the poles is a huge time saver, while its ability to flex slightly in strong winds and rain keeps the worst of the weather out.
The twin entrances and vestibules make living in the tent very comfortable as there’s no scrambling over each other to get in and out or access kit. We would like to see the vestibules have some sort of floor to keep kit from getting wet but then it’s superbly lightweight and packs down exceptionally small. Adding these things would likely add bulk.
As a light 3 season tent for spring/summer jaunts, it’s superb, although we’d argue things could get a bit soggy if used in more extreme conditions.
Vaude Mark L 3 Persons Backpacking Tent
- Copes well with wind
- Lightweight and small
- Excellent Ventilation
- Lack of bathtub floor
- Cosy for three adults
In the Loop
A quick look at what the Vaude Mark L 3 Persons Backpacking Tent has to offer
- Clever external pole system
- Lightweight and easy to pack down
- A hydrostatic head of 3000mm
- Sleeps three
- Vestibules at both ends for kit
- Breathable ports to stop condensation build-up
- Tough aluminium poles and outer
The first thing you’ll notice when pitching is that inner is already attached to the outer, meaning there’s no cumbersome process of wrestling the outer over a framework of flimsy poles when it’s blowing a gale or tipping it down.
Instead, Vaude has used a silicon-coated three-ply nylon for its outer, which brings a range of benefits. The primary is that the tent has exceptional waterproofness, with the lightweight flysheet boasting a hydrostatic head of 3000mm, while still maintaining great breathability to ensure condensation build up inside the tent doesn’t soak everything.
Another benefit to this silicon coating is that the material is more resistant to rips and tears than an untreated nylon.
Typically, when talking about more traditional tents, poles would slide through an outer and be suspended above the inner, ensuring the two layers did not touch and transfer moisture. Vaude throws this concept out the window and has replaced it with a much more straightforward and sturdy design.
To pitch the Mark L 3P, the fabric is first laid out flat on the ground and secured down using the included lightweight pegs. The first thing that struck us when erecting this tent was the lack of anywhere obvious to insert the aluminium poles.
However, having read the instructions after five minutes of head scratching, it transpires that the poles are anchored into each corner of the inner/outer, which is then effectively hung form the poles using a unique cord fixture that wraps around this exoskeleton and gives the tent its shape.
This means the whole thing was up in five minutes flat (if you read the instructions, people), making it one of the quickest and most straightforward tents we’ve ever pitched. A bonus was that it was all manageable solo too, unlike other tents that seem to require several hands and the ability to be in two places at once.
A large part of this is down to the design of those very light but durable aluminium poles, which consists of a continuous H-shaped assembly that the fabric hangs from. The inner/outer combo is then attached to the framework by way of a clever and flexible “bone-marrow tether” system (Vaude’s words, not ours), which is a bungee-style cord that loops around the poles to hold everything up.
The added bonus here is that the inner/outer can move independently, allowing it to fend off high winds and rain without impacting on the structural rigidity of the tent. It's also possible to remove the inner tent once erect, should you just want to use it as a shelter of sorts.
Adjustable guy lines with reinforced attachment points are then used to stretch out the inner/outer to maximise the internal space, while storm cords are further added to anchor everything down in bad weather.
This isn’t the most spacious three-person tent we’ve tested, and it’s definitely on the cosy side when fully occupied with three fully grown humans. But the inclusion of two vestibules for kit and two entrances at either end at least offers a bit of storage and easy routes in and out for everyone.
We probably wouldn’t want to spend extended periods with two other people, but considering it’s designed for lightning fast treks where travelling light is essential, it feels ideal. Quick to pitch and easy to pack away, it's perfect for thru-hiking or trips with multiple stops planned.
One complaint we did have however, is that the triangle shaped vestibules weren’t the best shape for storing kit. Rucksacks invariably ended up leaning on the outer, as they had to be piled up to fit properly.
On top of this, we’d love to see a groundsheet included, because if the ground is wet, anything on the ground that’s not in the tent will get wet too. But then that would add weight to the overall package.
We’d also like to see a bathtub style floor, which sees the harder wearing and more waterproof material employed on the floor continue up the sides to provide further weather protection from the sort of horizontal snow and rain found in Scotland and Wales.
Ventilation isn't a problem though, because in addition to the excellent ventilation hood, the doors have a mesh panel that open with a zip to allow for even more airflow. Or if you find yourself in the Highlands in summer, keep the midges out.
Further creature comforts include several pockets on the walls of the tent to store small items, like a torch and maps. Another feature that we spotted (and appreciated) was the use of a darker material at the sleeping end of the tent, which not only helped keep morning light out but also nicely separated a "living" area from a place to get rest.
The innovative construction, which eschews a traditional inner and outer set-up for a single skin and an exoskeleton pole structure, makes this one extremely small and lightweight 3 season tent that's super simple to put up. We found it did a great job of fending off the worst of the weather, although it was a bit tight for three and the vestibules for storing kit aren't the most watertight.