When I first mentioned that I was reviewing an inflatable tent, the scoffing and snickering in the room was audible… however, not to be deterred by the doubters, I cracked on with the review and have found it to be very very good indeed!
Where most tents nowadays rely on solid poles to maintain their structure (be it metal or carbon fibre or some other space age super strength nano-particle uberduper material), the Vango AirBeam® range of tents relies simply on… air. There are 3 high pressure ‘AirBeams®’, which are inflated with the included pump to give the tent a very similar structure and shape to a regular pole-using tent. Apart from the AirBeams®, the rest of the tent is pretty standard (albeit a good standard!). There are guy-ropes attached at regular intervals, nice big windows, a sewn-in polyester groundsheet, plenty of good ventilation options and lots of nifty little pockets to stow things.
So much for the theory, how does it perform in practice? In a word, brilliantly.
Gone are the days of having two people fiddling about with poles, trying to line them up and then slide them through the sleeves without ripping through the tent lining. No more bending poles well past the point at which you think they’ll break to be able to fit them in to their footings. And no more doing the reverse when it’s time to go home. Setting up the Genesis is quite literally as easy as unfolding the tent, finding the ends of the 3 AirBeams® and getting pumping (a pump with pressure gauge is supplied). Ok, you need to ensure that the beams are inflating in an even fashion, but that wasn’t an issue at all any of the times we used it. There are still the usual requirements to knock in the pegs for the guy ropes, but we had the tent up in quite literally 5 minutes the first time with only a cursory glance at the instructions (please don’t tell anyone I even looked at them!). And taking it down was just as easy.
One of my initial concerns was about performance in wind and I can honestly say that while we didn’t have the opportunity to test it in the UK’s finest gales, the rigidity of the structure makes me think that it would be absolutely fine, at least as good as a pole-based tent. The tent has a Tension Band System that Vango assures me gives the tent a more secure structure in high winds.
Ok, come on I hear you say, it can’t be the perfect tent. Well, you’re almost right. No tent is perfect for every situation and that is also true of the Genesis. For starters, it’s rather heavy at 10kg. Probably just as heavy as any other 3 man tent of a similar size, but that does mean it’s very unlikely to be your first choice for a backpacking tent. The only other ‘bug’ that we could find was that the two entry hatches angle back (as you would expect in a tunnel tent) but there aren’t any ‘porch flaps’ to enable you to leave them open when it’s raining. Sometimes in a light rain it’s nice to have the doors open without water coming in and this was the only practical imperfection we could find with the Genesis.
From our point of view, I think we’ve found the perfect car-camping tent. It fitted two people and a dog with ease and would easily accommodate many more (I would say realistically up to 5 people) if you were happy with a bit of a squeeze. Highly recommended.