Kathmandu Lansan Ultralight ($599.98)
Choosing a hiking tent has always been an exercise in compromise. If you were to conjure up a dream tent, it would be light but roomy, simple but with ample features, versatile yet strong, cheap but long-lasting. Unfortunately no manufacturer has yet come up with a tent that ticks all these boxes.
Instead, designing or choosing a tent is an exercise in balancing different trade offs. What’s more important: pockets or an awning? Resistance to high winds or ability to set-up solo? The list is endless, and usually you’ll only find out the strengths and weaknesses of the tent you buy once you’ve used it a few times. So deciding what to buy without testing first is navigating a minefield of unknowns, and relying on a substantial amount of guesswork.
So it helps to prioritise your wish list. In the case of Kathmandu’s new Lansan Ultralight tent the priority is right there in the title. It’s a lightweight tunnel-design hiking tent for one or two people that opts for simplicity over added extras. At 1.72 kilos, it’s not quite the lightest on the market, but it’s pretty good for what it offers. I’ve previously reviewed the luxurious Northstar XT 4-season tent, which was brilliant for strength, space and pockets, and had a taut, cavernous interior, but at 3.55 kilos it was simply too heavy to lug on strenuous, solo hikes.
The Lansan Ultralight dispenses with anything not absolutely integral. At 125cms at its widest point, it’s roomy enough for two, but you’ll struggle to fit fully-loaded hiking packs inside or under the vestibule. This is a tent that prioritises practically over comfort. As the blurb on the manual says, it’s not “a theme park with poles”. It’s a tent more business than pleasure.
The fly fabric is 20D Nylon Ripstop WR Seam-sealed, with a waterproof rating of 1500mm, making it light and adequate for most conditions, but not four-season. I’d be more than confident of it holding up in a decent downpour, though, provided the fly is tensioned correctly (more about this later). The maximum internal height is 97cm, so there’ll plenty of crouching going on inside, but again, just think of the weight you’re saving. Overall length is 310cm. The poles light but sturdy – 9mm alloy, with 14 alloy pegs that weigh next to nothing but will bend over time. Replacing pegs is easy though. More impressive is the strong, 70D seam-sealed floor, with a 10,000mm waterproof rating – good for a light tent.
The Lansan Ultralight is ultra-easy to pitch. There are just two poles, helpfully colour-coded with the inner sleeves. You can pitch the tent with the fly already attached (useful in rain) or throw it over after the inner is up. You can also sleep in just the inner, should you be blessed with fair weather.
The inner won’t stand up by itself once the poles are inserted, which can be frustrating, meaning you’ll need to peg down at least one end before the tent can take proper shape. It has the ubiquitous velcro tags to attach the fly to the poles, which I’ve always found annoying (fiddly to do up and you never remember they’re attached when you pack up and wonder why the fly won’t come off). But you probably only need to attach the velcro in windy conditions. The fly clips onto the inner on the four corners, which makes perfect sense, but I was mystified by the purpose of the four “front fly-inner webbing tension straps” which clip the corners of the fly back to the inner and seem to be redundant, despite the claim that they “remove any wrinkles and achieve a perfect pitch”.
Now that I mention it, achieving a perfect pitch with this tent is not easy. At least not at first. I took it on a two-night hike to Mount Bogong in the Victorian Alpine National Park and on the first night failed to achieve adequate tension around the fly, meaning dampness intruded where the fly rested on the inner. It was a concerning moment, but I figured there was a good chance it was me who was at fault, not the tent. So I vowed to try harder with my pitching on the second night.
Choosing a flat, grassy spot near the stately Cleve Cole Memorial Hut, I pitched the tent slowly and methodically, as though being assessed by a humourless instructor for a pitching licence. It didn’t take too long to remove those cursed wrinkles and achieve the perfect pitch, and it was done by stretching the fly hard outwards, pegging down the bungy loops with a lot of tension and using all guy ropes. So it can be done. I stood back and admired my work, and it occurred to me that this really is a quite elegant tent.
For a start, there’s the classic look to the sloping roof (because one pole is shorter than the other, presumably to save weight on both pole and fabric). You get plenty of light inside, and for such a light tent it’s surprisingly roomy. We even got two adults and a nine-year-old inside one night. Admittedly it wasn’t something we’d necessarily want to do again, but it shows it can be done, and amazingly we all got a pretty good sleep. It does get warm once the sun comes up, and condensation will always be an issue unless adequate ventilation is provided, and in this tent’s case that usually means opening the door. But again, this is a no-nonsense tent designed to keep you dry and safe, not a climate-controlled cabin. The door zip is well-made and doesn’t get jammed easily (jamming the door zip is something I’m usually an expert at). Packing up is easy, especially as you can leave the fly attached if you wish.
While I didn’t get a chance to test out the tent in high winds or heavy rain, I would be more than confident it would be quite capable to stand up well to both, based on the materials used, the high-quality construction and the smart design. It could do with more pockets (one internal pocket for a two-person tent is at least one pocket too few) and less fiddly tension adjustment, but overall the Lansen Ultralight Tent is exactly what it says it is: a light, simple, no-fuss but stylish tent, built to last and suitable for all but the harshest of hikes.
Packed size: 14cm x 125cm
Packed volume: 7.2L
Overall dimensions: 310cm x 125cm
Floor area: 2.7m2
Fly fabric: 20D Nylon Ripstop WR Seam-sealed
Floor fabric: 70D Nylon Taffeta WR Seam-sealed
Inner fabric: 15D Breathable Nylon Ripstop WR
Poles: 2 x 9mm DAC Featherlite NSL alloy
Pegs: 14 x alloy
Repair kit: Fabric patches, pole sleeve, fly buckle