We took the Jack Wolfskin up to Northumbria for a 3-day hike along Hadrian’s Wall in May 2012, with weather that varied from 3C at night to a surprising 18C in the day, and with both sun and rain in large helpings. Here’s what we found out about this model of tent, and why it’s a better buy for campers who are looking for a bit more than a bivi tent without carrying any more weight.
Comes in a tight waterproof stuff sack that keeps everything dry and compresses really well. The one thing I changed was taking out the poles, which were just too wide to sit horizontally in the backpack. I stuck them in the side of our rucksack, leaving a very small rolled-up tent that was about as compact as the sleeping bag I was using. Weighing in at just 1.55kg, you can also strip out the enclosed maintenance kit of patches and glue to remove around 50 grams from the total.
Putting it up
Two poles – one clearly smaller than the other – go in two hoops. A nice touch is that you can stick the poles in from either side of the bivi: this might seem like a small thing, but when you’re tired and it’s dark, you don’t want anything to slow you down, and that includes searching for the one slot that you can put a pole in, or putting the pole in with the wrong end sticking out.
The bivi pegs out as one piece, but you can easily roll up the flysheet and clip it back above the entrance to make a mesh tent that would be perfect for warm nights. Sadly you can’t remove the fly sheet altogether, because it’s stitched in to the inner along the pole slot. Guy ropes aren’t an essential, so on a calm night there’s very little required to get this up and ready. Because it’s a bivi design, you know that the outer tent is fully protective, so there are no big concerns about sagging in places: just get it up, and get in.
Rain: Brilliantly weatherproof, even in rain and wind. On our first night, which was dry outside, it picked up some minor condensation in the porch, but this had burned off about an hour after we got up, leaving the tent dry enough to use the next night. A downpour on the final night left the inside of the tent bone dry and completely comfortable, even on contact points.
Wind: Because it’s built as a tunnel with a large vent at your feet, there’s a tendency for the wind to take this route if you’re lying in there with the door open. This means you should position the bivi cautiously on windy and cold nights, because if you want to cook and eat you’ll need the door open to do it. With the flaps down, the problems subsided.
Living and sleeping
Despite still being in the bivi category, this felt genuinely spacious inside. It felt wide enough to fit in two small people, at a push, and was large enough for an unpacked backpack and all the scattered contents. At the foot end, you really can’t see much: the inner mesh lining sags down to swallow your legs below the knee – an effect that’s more cosy than it sounds. At the head end, there’s two shoulder’s width across and enough height to raise yourself up by your hands.
Changing clothes inside was technical, but not too hard once you get the position right: we found that lying on your side was actually easier than on your back for most operations. The door opens in a small triangular flap that’s fine for a crawl space but not large enough to really sit in: what space there is between the inner and outer is just about big enough for a pair of boots and your cook stuff – better than you’d get in your bivi, of course.
What we thought of the Jack Wolfskin Gossamer
If you want the lightest way to camp out without giving up on a few essential creature comforts, then this is a brilliant step. At just £85, this is an incredible deal: I’ve always found Jack Wolfskin’s design and build quality to be superb, and to be able to take these assets into the bivi class at under £100 is nothing short of miraculous. Simply put, you’ve got all the space you need in here. If you don’t mind cooking and eating through a small opening while lying down – and the fact that you’re considering a bivi says that you don’t mind – there’s no reason why this couldn’t be used year-round in any weather.
The ability to roll back the outer sheet and use the netting inner as a mesh tent, leaving you open under the stars, means that it’s as good in beautiful summer weather as it is in ghastly hill top storms. The Jack Wolfskin Gossamer is a great package that we’d be happy to recommend to anyone.
The Jack Wolfskin Gossamer Tent is available for £85 from cotswoldoutdoor.com