At the end of our Zartusacan road trip last year we had to say a sad farewell to our old and trusty tent. After what must have been 20 years and hundreds of nights away it finally gave up; it was no longer waterproof and, let’s face it, was really quite holey. So we asked the receptionist in our hotel on the night before we flew home if we could make use of their bin, and decided we’d get a new one.
Camping in the Avenue of the Giants.
We bought the Quechua Arpenaz 4.1 family tent from Decathlon after doing lots of research online and in camping stores. Our wishlist was short but seemingly difficult to meet; we wanted something standing height, with separate living and sleeping areas, packed into a bag small enough to strap to the pillion seat on my motorbike, could survive road trip style camping trips (being put up and down regularly), that came in at under £100. To be honest once we’d spotted this one, over on friend Shell’s Camping with Style facebook page, we quickly found that it was pretty much the only one on offer that fulfilled our brief. We didn’t actually see one in person before purchase, but I think because a friend had reviewed one I felt confident that it would do the job, and am pleased to report that it is about to get a positive review from me.
Quechua Arpenaz 4.1 Family Tent.
This two-room tent is designed as a four-man family tent, and I would say that is an accurate description – you would indeed get four people in one line in the bedroom area and everyone’s gear in the living area with just enough space to spare for sitting. It would make a great little home from home for a couple with two small children and maybe even a dog. We find the Quechua Arpenaz is a great size for two. We can sleep and have our personal gear in the sleeping area, and use the living area for, well, living – a couple of camping chairs, the cooking and other camping paraphernalia (although always cook outside a tent, never inside), with enough spare space to make it feel roomy. When car camping we can have what we need inside the tent without feeling like we are living out of the car, and when we use this with a motorcycle we will have plenty of room for all our bulky clothing, helmets and boots, without sacrificing sleeping space.
Camp set up on the first night of our NC500 road trip.
We’ve recently returned from a week road tripping up in Scotland. Oh Scotland how beautiful you are! We camped for five nights in a row, each in a different seaside location, and so have been able to give the tent a proper real-life test on the kind of holiday we bought it for. This was a car road trip this time around, so we chucked the tent in the boot of the car along with everything else and headed north. And we can confirm it’s been a good choice – £80 very well spent.
Setting up the Quechua Arpenaz in Ullapool.
Pitching the tent is a two-person job, for sure. I mean, I have pitched this on my own (at the muddiest camping weekend I have ever been on), but it didn’t really go so well. It was possible, but it was frustrating and difficult, and I vowed that weekend to just use my small two-man tent when I’m on my own in future. With two of us we can pitch this in around 20-25 minutes from start to finish, we could probably be quicker if we wanted to, but this is okay when you’re not rushing. It’s a simple set-up; there are three colour-coded poles to insert into the flysheet and then keep in place with some metal pins joined to tapes that run along the base. You then peg out (we did the poles first, then the front and back), and finally sort out the guy ropes. The inner and front groundsheet do not require pegging, they simply clip (and velcro) to the inside the flysheet and each other.
As with all tents it can take a little trial and error to get the fly sheet to the correct tension depending on the shape of the ground on which you are pitching, but once we’d worked out the tent’s characteristics we had a good pitch every time. For example, when pitching the first couple of times we couldn’t get the expected shape at the back, but soon learnt the three pegs to the back of the fly sheet needed to be in a specific line for the whole tent to stand and look right.
The back of the tent. Pegs in line.
The Quechua Arpenaz is a very basic tent in terms of feature; this isn’t a fancy or top of the line tent by any means. But that’s all you need when road tripping – somewhere to pitch and sleep. But there are a few things that demonstrate this is a well thought-out tent. The double flysheet above the living area provides ventilation and reduces condensation, the basin groundsheet for the living area helps stop water getting in from the sides and into the bedroom area, adjustable tapes between the pole fittings make it easier to put those metal pins in the ends of the poles when pitching (and take them out again), and the light coloured flysheet means the tent is nice and bright on the inside (although this could also be a downside if you want to sleep in!).
Camping by the beach in Fortrose Bay.
On the website it states, under durability, that the tent resisted “winds up to 50km/h (force 6) when tested in wind tunnels on rotating plate” – and I can absolutely confirm this to be true in real life testing! When camping in Lancashire we were dealt at least that kind of weather – gusts of up to 60 or maybe even 70mph on the first night – and the tent still stood by the morning. Part of this will be down to the fact I used much better pegs than those that come with the tent (those thin short pegs that come in tents these days are rubbish, invest in some better ones, especially if you anticipate difficult weather or hard ground – something like this or this), but it will also be the design of the tent. The wind would almost flatten the tent, and I would lay there willing to pop back up again with all my might, and it did – every time. We had a couple of windy nights in Scotland, too, although nothing quite like that. I hope to never camp in weather like that again if I can help it!
Being blown around in Lancashire. Yes, one guy isn’t pegged in… I fixed that very quickly!
Likewise on the waterproofing. Decathlon say they tested the flysheet in a shower at 200 mm water / hour / m² (which counts as tropical rain) and in field tests, which isn’t as high as some more expensive tents but is still pretty good. And in real life Lancashire and Scottish rain I can confirm it is indeed waterproof – no problems there.
The Quechua Arpenaz packs down into a reasonably small bag, a lot smaller than bags for other tents of similar size that we came across when doing our research, that is around 60 x 24 x 24cm (35 litres) and weighs just under 10kg including (original) pegs and poles. The pack size was important for us as we wanted to be able to fit it inside the duffel bag we use for all our camping gear when we travel by motorbike (this one by The North Face), but being small it is also handy when car camping as it doesn’t take up the whole boot space. Oh and if you are wondering, yes we managed to roll it up and put it back in the bag without too much stress. Not every day, because we had no need, but at the end of the trip at least!
Plenty of space to relax out of the rain.
I am well aware that the Quechua Arpenaz is a big tent for two to take road tripping. When you’re tired and breaking camp on the final morning in the pouring rain, having done the same thing for the five previous days, it is easy to wish you just had one of those small dome style tents that takes five minutes (so just like the one this replaced…). But the benefit of that standing height and plenty room for bulky kit far outweighs the longer pitching time and heavier pack size, and the fact that we could sit comfortably inside reading books and editing photos while the rain and wind did its thing outside meant it was easily worth the extra time and effort.
Camping by Loch Broom, Ullapool.
I shan’t be backpacking with this any time soon, I won’t even be attempting to pitch this one on my own again, but for motorbike and car camping this tent is ideal. And it’s one that we can use should we decide to go and find a campsite for a long weekend or even a week – I can just see it with a carpeted footprint at the front, some bunting, and other cosy touches to turn this into a home from home for a proper holiday.
So the question now is… where to take it next?! Suggestions below!
Find out more about the Quechua Arpenez over on the Decathlon website.