Helsport Isfjell 2 Tent
Our house on the road is the super-light-weight Isfjell 2 Camp from Helsport. It is big enough to fit two, plus all the luggage and (while we're not in it) the bikes as well, though we are yet to see how this actually goes. It is a decent size at 430cm x 155cm x 105cm (l-w-h), whereas the weight including pegs etc, is a measly 3.7 kilograms! Made from Helsport superlight® Polyamide ripstop silicone elastomer (65 g/m2) and including snowflaps, it's size in the compression bag is roughly 37 cm long.
Note: Helsport does not produce the Isfjell 2 anymore, but the Fjellheimen X-Trem is it's successor and very similar
Firstly, we love our Helsport tent and for many reasons:
- colour is great as you are always hidden when wild camping
- strength and durability is second to none
- lightweight, bundles up small and dries ever so quickly
- erecting is simple and really quick, once you get the hang of it (we keep the inner tent attached nearly the whole time). Since the tent has the poles on the outer fly, there's no getting the inside wet if raining before putting the fly over: we only consider these types of tents for the traveling we do. It is a big bonus
- it has handled the most extreme conditions from blizzard snow storms, torrential rain to hurricane winds. We've had all the guy ropes on the tent once only and it was as sturdy as a rock, while most of the other tents where collapsed or had their owners lying on them to stop them from blowing away.
- the big vestibule at the front is fabulous for storing all the Ortlieb bags (for two people) and cooking stuff
- the snow flaps are well designed and so sturdy we have used them while camping on concrete and using stones to secure the tent down: has worked perfectly every time (even in a bit of wind)
- Customer service cannot be faulted. Helsport will replace anything faulty free of charge and send it to wherever you want in the world. We are still getting gear from them: zips and poles, even though our warranty has run out. Their standard guarantee lasts five years and they will keep replacement parts in stock for ten.
- and the best part, it is still going strong after 7 years (450+ days of camping)
Now the down points, and there are only a few:
- we've had to silicon the stitching up in a few places, where there's a lot of stress, but this has worked fine
- the tent isn't really suitable for very hot weather (+20° C in the night)
- airflow in hot temperatures is not good (though likely for most tunnel tents)
- we have gone through 14 odd poles, which is on average one per month of camping.They don't hold up well in (again) extreme hot weather conditions. But as I said, Helsport have sent us replacements free of cost up till now.
Aaldrik received a present for his 36th birthday, that being a Helsport Dovre sleeping bag. Size is approx. 80 x 220 cm. Weight including compression bag; 1.3 kg. Temperature range Extreme -10ºC/ comfort -2ºC. Made from Airtex, Polyamide microfibre with Helsport no-slide, Polyester/Tactel on the outside and Airtex, polyamide microfibre on the inside. Filling Thermoguard 4000 (900 gr.) Son is still sleeping (like a log) in her Marmot sleeping bag completely filled with goose down. Somewhat heavier than Ali's but very small to pack and nice and warm.
We think the temperature guides mentioned on our sleeping bags are a bit dubious as when sleeping in -°C, the bags haven't kept us warm and we have needed our clothes and sleeping bag liners too. It is a good thing that we don't make a habit of that. But for an all year / all season sleeping bag, these will do. After 15 years though, and with two and half of them being pretty constant use, the down in Sonya's Marmot sleeping bag needs refilling.
Helsport Dovre Synthetic Fill Sleeping Bag
+ easy to clean and dry; lightweight; built in hood keeps you snug in cold conditions; still performs even if wet or damp; quality stitching and fabrics; durable. - not warm enough in any below zero °C temperature.
Marmot Goose Down Sleeping Bag
+ Goretex shell; very, very warm and comfortable; excellent quality zippers and stitching; feet opening feature; packs up really small; lasts forever; can refill the down if you like. - difficult to clean and dry; becomes and remains damp easily in humid conditions.
We have both used compression bags for each of our sleeping bags, so they don't take up too much space either. We started off with one from Helsport and one from Ajungilak, but these have been replaced by two Sea to Summit eVents compression dry sacks in August 2010.
The Helsport compression sack is very strong and still looks great, though it doesn't compress as well, due to the bulkier fabric. The Ajungilak one on the other hand started to come apart at the seams and is not at all waterproof. It does compress the sleeping bag really well and considering it was cheap at under €10, it has done well.
Most of the well known brands on the market such as Hydroseal, Granite Gear and Sea to Summit make good quality compression sacks. They are a definite must for any traveller really and it all depends on whether you want them waterproof or not as to how much you will have to pay.
Helsport Compression Sack
+ very sturdy; showed no signs of wear and tear after 36 months of constant use.
- doesn't compress as well nor as evenly as some other brands; bulkier form.
Ajungilak Compression Sack
+ lightweight; compresses really well; inexpensive.
- need to be replaced after two years of constant use.
Sea to Summit Compression Sack
+ extremely strong, waterproof
- have to experiment packing the sleeping bag, because air gets caught inside the compression sack.
We also bought two Black Bear silk sleeping bag liners for sleeping in when the weather gets warm or simply as an extra layer when it's cold. We are glad we did: silk liners are great. When it is cold, they are just like putting another layer on and when its hot, its nice just to have something to cover over you. We bought the Black Bear brand because they were the lightest we could find at the time and they were made of silk. Again there are lots of good quality, lightweight, silk sleeping bag liners out there on the market. Take a look at Sea to Summit or the Silk Sleeping range for a start. One thing we would change this time round is the colour. Get something dark and steer away from white.
The Travel Hammock Silk Sleep Sack is a versatile option as well if you like to have something light to cover you when you are staying in hostels and not in your tent.
+ keeps you warm in the cold and cool in the warmth; light weight and stuffs in anywhere.
- extra thing to carry and you don't use it every day; can be expensive.
To sleep on: An Ultra Lite and Pro Lite Therm-a-Rest mattress, 680/550 gr. respectively (swapped for a Therm-a-Rest Pro Lite W for women in Bordeaux and another Pro Lite in Barcelona), both approx. 51 x 183 x 2.5 cm. Added to the traveling swag are two Therm-a-Rest Lite Chair Kits: you can fold your mattress into an extremely comfortable chair. Very handy if you don't know how to sit in front of your tent any more...
Although the Therm-a-Rest mattresses are the best in the market, they are probably not meant to be used continuously for several years. We love them and take good care of them, but we think that the constant use and the use as a chair (folded) causes the mattresses to delaminate ocasionally. But, unfortunately, there is no alternative to a good night's sleep and a good chair all in one. Fortunately for us, Therm-a-Rest has replaced all our faulty mattresses so far at no cost...
Recently, we have bought two Therm-a-Rest mattress sheets; they are a little on the heavy side, but they protect the mattresses against dirt and oily substances and prolongs the life span of the mattresses. After we bought these, we haven't had any problems with delamination of the mattress.
+ comfortable; great insulation against cold; versatile by making a chair as well; light weight and small to pack; customer service is brilliant - expensive compared to alternatives
Together with our compact Yeti travel pillows we think we'll get should get many a good night's rest.
Many just stuff clothes in a dry sack or coat, but after a few trips of doing this, we decided to invest in a travel pillow. At the time, Yeti was the lightest and most compact, but there are many other similar products available now: Cocoon or Thermarest for example. All you need is just the slightest elevation to make your nights sleep a lot more comfortable. We wouldn't be without them now and they can double as the shock support around your camera in your handlebar bag. Nothing like a dual purpose for travel items.