Living With An Oztent

When we were looking for a tent our requirements were fairly simple – we thought.

Number one priority was speed. We spend fifty percent of our time on the road and we wanted a product that could go up fast late at night and get packed away in the blink of an eye in the mornings

The second thing we looked for was durability. The thing had to be tough enough to handle the extreme temperatures and conditions of the desert, the tropical rains and jungle of the far north and the biting cold of the most southerly parts of Australia. And finally we wanted more room than your average dolls house. We were looking for a product that could be pitched two hundred times a year and handle whatever we threw at it.

Buying an Oztent involved hours of research online and as much time erecting tents in camping shops and poking and inspecting fabric and frames.

The New Tent
oztent setup in outback

When you spend nearly a thousand dollars on something like a tent you really want to be able to use it straight away. We realized immediately that we would need a ground sheet for our tent. While the heavy PVC base is pretty robust we knew that to get any real longevity from the tent we needed more protection on the ground. Bang – another eighty dollars.

Oztent recommend that you purchase a fly with your tent. In their words “… to keep the tent cooler and as a protector from bird droppings and tree sap. It is useful in areas of high condensation. It is also great to keep the tent drier in wet weather but it is not necessary for waterproofing the tent.” Another one hundred and twenty bucks.For us having to spend 20 percent more to make the tent serviceable ($1000 tent + $200 for a groundsheet and fly) didn’t leave a great taste in our mouth.

Putting it Up – Pulling it Down

Let me start out by saying the Oztent is a fairly large package as far as folded up tents go. At two metres long and nearly seventeen kilograms this thing really needs to live on the roof of your vehicle. The roof rack on our troop carrier is over two metres high and getting the bag on and off can be a bit of struggle. Nothing backbreaking just something to consider.

We bought the optional caravan connector ($50) and rigged the car so we could attach the tent to the side or rear.

These things really can go up and down fast. Get the bag down, groundsheet in position, lay the tent out, stand it up and peg it. Couple of minutes, one person, bang, all over. Packing it away is the same. Oztent claim it is a 30 second tent and if the bag is unloaded and you don’t have a groundsheet to lay out and you are not going to peg it down it is probably only a 20 second tent. These things really, virtually fall up and fall down.

Is It Tough?

In a word – no. Initially we figured the hinged aluminium frame would be the weak point but after folding and unfolding it hundreds of times we saw no sign of fatigue, bending or stress. Impressive. On the other hand the fabric was the real downfall. Oztents literature states it is “Made from high quality waterproof Rip-Stop Poly-Cotton Canvas and a heavy duty heat sealed PVC floor.”

One thing to careful,l as the owner of an Oztent, is trapping bugs inside the travelling bag when you pack it away. The fabric seems to offer no real resistance to being eaten by insects and we developed numerous holes as insects chewed their way through 3 layers of tent to the outside of the bag. We ended up storing camphor blocks inside the bag in an effort to stop things invading while the bag was empty. Speaking of the bag – it seemed unable to withstand extreme UV well. It faded badly while it lived on the roof of the car

The seams and stitching of the tent seem be pretty strong. We spent some extremely gusty nights in the tent and pegged it down really tight, putting plenty of pressure on the whole unit, while the wind really belted us. The seams where the awning attaches to the room were the only signs of damage, with both corners beginning to tear. Long term without attention I believe the awning would completely separate from the tent.

Six months into using the tent a seam in the roof began to leak condensation and the roof seemed to be passing moisture. We purchased some canvas spray-on seam sealer and this seemed to make the seam watertight again. Pretty disappointing.

The corners of the floor began to show excessive wear where frame hinged and the fabric seemed to fray from rubbing against the aluminium.

With extended use small holes seemed to appear without explanation. While insect attacks and sparks from campfires could account for a few holes we never came up with a satisfactory answer for the many holes that could develop overnight or while travelling in the bag. Eventually we got tired of patching it.

For the price we expected a more resilient product. While the frame held up well the fabric used in the bag and tent let us down on more than one occasion and became a major reason we stopped using the tent.

Comfort

Overall the liveability of the Oztent proved pretty good. I am about 188cm tall and providing the lower centre loop at the rear was pegged out I could sleep comfortably.

By sleeping with our heads at the rear of the tent we avoided dragging dirt onto the bed and took advantage of clear nights by looking up through the rear mesh window to the stars. Nice touch.

We bought the RV2 and with a footprint of 2 metres x 2 metres this was fine. With a double bed on the floor enough room was left for books or torches each side and enough room to get a foot on the floor to exit the tent. At 1.9metres of headroom at the entrance the Oztent feels a little like an amphitheatre and offers enough height to get in and out without discomfort or scrambling about on all fours.

Cold nights seemed no better or worse than in most tents. Cold is easy to remedy – get another blanket. We suggest the groundsheet is essential for cold weather to act as an added barrier between the ground and you.

It was when things heated up that the Oztent really failed us. The basic design provides for poor ventilation. The sloping rear window and very tight mesh means that airflow is virtually non existent. Even when facing into a strong breeze we couldn’t get the air to move through the tent. The side windows are small and located high up the walls and offer virtually no assistance with cross ventilation and consequently cooling.

If you are looking for a tent for locations where the night temperatures exceed 25 degrees you may find these tents uncomfortable.

Bug Proof

I have to admit that I prefer the freedom of sleeping in the open without a tent. However, this isn’t always practical or preferable when spending long periods of time outdoors. At some point a camping trip can become a lifestyle and a tent can provide protection or privacy that a swag on the dirt can’t offer.

We have both had Ross River Virus and neither of want another mosquito borne virus. Likewise if you are camping out and it begins to rain, I mean really rain, somewhere to hide is sensational.

On the other hand the only time I have ever been bitten at night that I know about was recently when a centipede got me in the armpit. Great fun. It was in the Oztent about 10pm. We suspect he came along for a ride from Broome that morning. Can’t blame the tent for that – should’ve shut the door.

The Oztent was terrific at keeping even the smallest insects out when it was new. It seals well, zips and covers work well and the mesh is so small nothing can get in

Six months down the track with a few developing holes and it was a different story. Insects are fantastic at getting in but pretty lousy at getting back out and a few fat, blood filled mossies can ruin a nights sleep.

Our experience with insect resistance runs hand in hand with our experience of the fabric quality.

Conclusion

We never tested Oztents service or warranty while we possessed their tent. It was impractical for us to return it via their dealer network because of our transient lifestyle, our location or the fact that we needed to use it and couldn’t wait around and have it sent away for examination.

Oztent warranty the product for two years which says something about their confidence in their product. We really used our tent and we figured it lasted for 14 months before we gave up on it.

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