We took the Macpac Ultralight 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, 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.
The bag has two sturdy straps to tighten up the tent once it’s packed up, and the poles are short enough to lay horizontally inside a standard size of rucksack, so you don’t need to split up the contents of the tent to arrange them more efficiently in your pack. Weighing in at 1.6kg, you can also strip out the mending kit if you need to strip another 20 or 30 grams out, too.
Putting it up
Erecting this tent is a five-minute job, but new owners should be prepared for another five or ten minutes to adjust all the tensioning straps properly. With a single pole and only one hole to put it in, the basic structure is foolproof. The inner tent and flysheet are pegged out as one, so there’s even less to worry about out. Even though you can put it up as a once-piece, it’s still easy enough to unpeg the inner tent from the flysheet if you want to dry them out separately.
Guy ropes are pretty much essential to maintaining the structure, so it’s not advisable to ignore them and save a few minutes. The only problems we ran into involved tensioning the flysheet so each panel lay flat; despite fiddling round and moving pegs we couldn’t quite get the drum-like tension we were after in one corner.
Wind: We camped in some quite harsh winds on a Cumbrian hillside, but the MacPac stood up well. There are no large gaps for the gusts to force themselves under, and because the tent is pretty taut once you’ve tensioned it properly, there was no movement going on at all.
Rain: A nighttime downpour that lasted around five hours didn’t make a dent on the tent. The inner of the flysheet was left completely dry, and even the parts of the inner tent that had been in contact with the flysheet while I slept didn’t absorb any moisture.
Living and sleeping
The porch area is pretty generous for a tent this size. Half of the flysheet folds back giving you a triangular opening that’s just big enough to sit in and cook out of the wind. This seems to be a real advantage over bivi tents, which can’t deliver this kind of practical living space. Inside the tent, a kite-shaped floor area is easily big enough for a 6-foot man to lie in with a large backpack next to him. We brought all our kit in the tent overnight and had plenty of space for it. While the inner tent is quite baggy, it is just tall enough to sit in, or lie on your back with feet up as you get changed inside – once again, a feature that’s lost with the compact style of most bivi tents.
What we thought of the Macpac Ultralight
Sturdy, light and roomy. MacPac can justify their £250 price tag on this tent, as it’s clearly been designed and built with a demanding camper in mind. Although the profile of the tent may appear fussy, basic use is simple enough: to get the most from it we’d advise plenty of practice with tensioning and peg positions, With a few more tries, we got the whole structure as hard as a snare drum, so it’s worth persevering. If you’re thinking about a small and light way to sleep, but aren’t ready to surrender luxuries like spacious porches, the chance to cook out of the wind and change your clothes in relative ease, then this is the perfect design.
The Macpac Ultralight is available to buy for £250 from cotswoldoutdoor.com