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(The Gear Loop) - Heimplanet has long been at the forefront of the seriously robust inflatable tent movement, producing visually interesting, architecturally-arresting geodesic tent designs that can be pitched in a matter of minutes with a pump.

The ingenuity comes in the form of a spider-like exoskeleton of inflatable tubes that cover numerous models like the enormous Mavericks base camp, the smaller Backdoor model and this, the hardy Cave.

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Rather than dealing with fiddly poles, the user simply attaches the tent’s inner to said inflatable tubes (dubbed the Airframe) via a series of toggles and then gets pumping. Within moments, the tough tubes start filling with air and the tent takes shape.

From here, you can either use it as is, or clip on an additional weatherproof layer to keep everything warm and dry.

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Previously suitable for 3 Season use, the collaboration with Icelandic extreme weather experts 66°North ushers in a true 4 Season option, packing the same ease-of-use inflatable characteristics but throwing in solid protection from wind, rain and even snow storms thanks to a reinforced flysheet.

It’s also decked out in retina-singeing orange, a nod to the emergency snowstorm shelters found in the Icelandic tundra, with reflective 66°North and Heimplanet branding emblazoned across the bright white tubes. If you’re one to lose your tent at a festival, this could be the perfect purchase.

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Our quick take

Equally an exercise in style and design as it is in sheltering occupants from the harshest of wintry conditions, we can imagine folk plumping for the 66°North x Heimplanet The Cave XL 4-Season Tent based solely on its looks. And we wouldn’t blame them.

It’s also very easy to live with and takes very little time to put up. Although we found the initial set-up more of a rigmarole than the accompanying paperwork suggests, as attaching the inner tent and flysheet via the toggles is a bit fiddly, escpecially with cold hands.

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The asking price is fairly steep too, but there are plenty of large air tents out there that don’t look anywhere near as good but cost almost as much. The fact this is such a statement arguably commands that price hike.

What’s more, it’s properly weather-proof and we can imagine both the structure and the fabrics used being able to withstand some pretty hairy conditions. It would make a great base camp option for hardy explores, for example, or quite simply the coolest tent at a summer festival.

66°North x Heimplanet The Cave XL 4-Season Tent review: tough inflatable shelter for ventures to the extremes

66°North x Heimplanet The Cave XL 4-Season Tent

4.0 stars
For
  • Looks great
  • Plenty of room inside
  • Can withstand hellish weather
Against
  • Not for lightweight back-packing
  • High price point
  • You have to carry a pump

In the Loop

Everything you need to know about the 66°North x Heimplanet The Cave XL 4-Season Tent at a glance:

  • Airframe exterior structure
  • Fly sheet made from 100 per cent Polyester 66D 210T Ripstop. HH of 5,000mm
  • Inner tent made from 100 per cent Nylon 40D 240T ripstop, breathable
  • Overall height: 127cm / 50 inch
  • Weight: 4.8kg / 10.6 lbs
  • Pack size: 40 x 32 x 23cm / 16 x 13 x 9 inch
  • Ground area: 5 sqm / 54 sqft
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Design and features

The design really speaks for itself, because there’s not much else on the market quite like a Heimplanet tent. It’s almost impossible to miss it when pitched on an exposed hilltop, or in the Arctic wastelands.

If you’re a fan of covert wild camping missions, this is definitely not the tent for you. Large, round, more orange than Donald Trump's face and with bright white tubes covering its exterior, you can spot it a mile off and it’s highly likely to draw the attention of anyone thinking of dobbing you in to the authorities.

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That said, we think it looks awesome, and this new Icelandic orange colour scheme really suits it. Even the circular front entrance port has a thick band of white around the zip, and makes it really obvious where the door is… even at night. 

Inflation is via one of the various valves that are dotted around the foot of the airframe. These are all connected by thick rubber tubes and each has its own locking mechanism. With all mechanisms open, it’s possible to inflate the shell via any of the valves.

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Alternatively, you can lock these off and pump up individual beams, should air escape from a certain area when pitched for an extended period. These locking mechanisms also act as a regulator system, ensuring all the beams are inflated correctly.

The name says it all really, because inside, it’s just a cavernous space for folk to sleep and for kit to be stored. There’s nothing in the way of fancy rooms or dividers, so it really is a case of throwing everything inside and getting on with it. There is a small porch when the flysheet is applied, however, which is useful for muddy boots. 

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Performance in the wild

We took the 66°North x Heimplanet The Cave on a mission to the deepest darkest depths of Dartmoor, where we had (legally, we must add) gained access to some privately owned farmland to get as far away from civilisation as we could.

While simultaneously testing the new roof tent option for the latest Land Rover Defender, we pitched this bright orange number as a secondary shelter. Thankfully, the weather was mostly on our side (although temperatures dipped below freezing at night), but we were glad for the vehicle, as the tent proved heavy and awkward to carry over big distances.

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It comes in its own stuff sack, which is fine when fresh out of the box, but as soon as you attach the inner tent and the weather-proof flysheet, inflate it and then attempt to pack it away, that stuff sack suddenly becomes large, bulbous and weighty.

Compared to some of the specialist, lightweight backpacking tents we’ve tested, this ends up looking and feeling like a bit of a monster and would certainly take up the majority of space in even the largest trekking backpacks… but then it is massive inside.

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Impossible to miss when in place, the interior is equally as imposing, with a neat circular ground area providing plenty of room for three adults to comfortably sleep, or more at a push.

Sleeping under the stars

It’s possible to sleep inside the inner tent, without having to attach the waterproof outer, which will not only save a heap of time when setting-up, it will also reduce the overall bulk in your stuff sack when it comes time to move on, as you could ask another member of the group to carry this to share the load.

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Alas, you need some warm and predictable weather to take advantage of this, so we had to opt for the full package, seeing as it was both cold and there is always a high chance of rain in the West Country.

We managed to stay dry, but the temperature dropped considerably overnight and despite the 5,000m HH-rated ground sheet, the cold most certainly found its way up through the ground and into the inflatable mattress we had thrown inside.

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More the fool us for not packing a proper camping mat, but we might have hoped for more in terms of protection from ground cold. This could come in the form of some thermal insulation or reflective element to the ground sheet, but maybe we are asking for too much.

This was probably the only minor gripe, as the included pegs and guy ropes were both excellent for retaining overall shape and keeping the tent in place when the wind whipped up. We could easily see this withstanding some potent storms, such is the quality of that airframe structure.

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Another slight let-down (pardon the pun) is the fact you have to A) purchase a pump separately and B) cart it around to your desired camping spot.

Heimplanet offers both a small double-action mini pump and a much beefier double-action floor pump. The latter is merely a rebranded pump that you’d find with any inflatable stand-up paddle board or similar and we question the £45 asking price. You can pick them up for £20 on Amazon, but they likely won't pack the correct screw-cap connection for this tent.

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To recap

There’s no denying that everything produced by German outdoors firm Heimplanet looks phenomenal, and the additional input from 66°North only increases this visual element and further ramps up its robustness. The geodesic thing of beauty is simple to erect, feels sturdy and is surprisingly cavernous. Alas, it’s also expensive and large/heavy when deflated.

Writing by Leon Poultney.