This is an interesting concept - a geodesic tent utilising what Vaude call "Powerframe technology". In essence, they've replaced the "hook and bungee" system used in their other external-frame tents with a system of clips to attach the tent to the aluminium poles. This seems broadly similar to the system used by Hilleberg, but these clips have an additional locking portion which locks them to the pole.
As with their other tents, the inner and fly are linked making it easy to pitch without having to faff around threading poles through sleeves with all the attendant risk of damage. Another significant benefit of external pole systems is of course that if a pole does break, the fly is less likely to be damaged.
They claim that "the geodesic construction and the specially designed clips enable bombproof stability in stormy regions". The Power Atreus is one of a number of new models using this system. It's easy to put up, but not as quick to pitch on your own as the hook and bungee system used on some other models.
Using 40D Polyamid RS (ripstop) 240T nylon, siliconized on both sides, for the fly produces what seems to be a very strong structure despite what appears at first glance to be a really lightweight material. This is sold as a high alpine tent at a price which is at the upper end of the price range for a 3 person mountain tent, so I presume it's good and strong stuff!
General views - the groundsheet protector visible in the second pic is my own creation *.
Note replacement guylines and decent sliders. (Thumbnail photos - click to expand)
Build quality of the tent itself is generally good, with nice detailing such as tape tags on the zips, pockets in the inner tent and mini fastex clips to allow the inner to be partially (or fully) removed which could be handy if you needed extra space to cook. The inner can be used on its own as the connectors have pole loops - or the fly could be just used as a shelter if needed. Tension straps allow the inner to be tensioned relative to the fly, although the inner does seem to have rather a lot of excessive slack in it, notably at the sides as they aren't joined to the fly there, and bow in as a result.
Ground tapes between the main side pegging points allow the fly to freestand as long as the vestibules could be secured. It doesn't have a "gearloft" or fittings for one although there is a cord running the length of the "ceiling" where I suppose you could hang your wet socks.
First impressions of it are reasonably good. It's extremely roomy - it is after all a true 3 person tent - and at 220 x 175 cms it has ample room. At 130 cms max internal height, it's also got a lot of head room, and the inner is significantly better secured to the ground than the Mk II as it has 8 anchor points! It sits solidly on the ground as a result.
It also quiet and relatively draught free inside in a very strong wind, with ventilation being provided by two roof vents which can be accessed from inside the tent. There are two side vents, these also forming the side guy points. Opening the top of the doors isn't an option though, as there's not enough overhang to stop rain or snow falling onto the sloped inner, or into the tent if the inner is open.
The apex - showing the two main poles **, the tape system and "Powerclips", with detail of a "Powerclip" (the red bit clamps the grey clip to the pole when closed) - Vaude say it's only necessary to lock the clips if it's windy.
Weight is quoted as 4700 gms so it's not a lightweight tent, but it packs down reasonably well. Pole sections are 45 cms so will easily go into a kayak hatch and the packed tent fits neatly across the boat in the rear hatch of a P&H Quest. It's supplied with decent aluminium "v" shaped pegs and a pole repair section.
With two entrances, a good groundsheet and excellent midge net on the inner tent doors and vents, it seems well suited to Scottish sea kayaking conditions which can include gale force winds, blazing sunshine, torrential rain and hordes of midges - often all on the same day. A F6 is fairly normal in the Hebrides in summer, and quite often there is little shelter to break the wind so a tent has to be capable of withstanding those conditions as a matter of course.
The vestibules are ok in terms of size for foul weather cooking or storing gear, but not overly generous and a little more cover would be nice to prevent water potentially dripping off the door opening and into the inner when the door is open - as noted earlier.
(Having now used it in winter, I can report that the first time I opened the door when there was snow on the tent, proved this is a problem which Vaude need to look at! You'll need to remember to shake the snow off before opening the fly. Not that impressive, given its intended purpose.)
On the subject of water, Vaude hint that it's a good idea to buy seam sealer, and I would echo this subtle suggestion. They say they can't tape the seams because of the siliconized nylon, so you will need to seal them yourself using McNett Silnet Silicone Seam Sealer as this tent leaks otherwise, and badly. I ended up needing nearly four tubes to deal with all the leaks and get the seams totally watertight, at about £7.50 each.
Great Cumbrae, September 2009. It's certainly visible! The green tent is a Hilleberg Keron GT. Pic: Helen McKenna.
The doors are large, so getting in and out is easy. It's a pity it's not designed with asymmetric vestibules so that the doors could open to the sides as well as the front - just to give a little more flexibility and usable space.
With no fewer than 12 pitching points and 6 guys, it sits solidly on the ground. I did however replace the original equipment polypropylene guys and slippery plastic sliders with Clamcleat's reflective fluorescent guylines and their Line-Lok tent cleats, which I recommend. It's another £15 or so. These cleats really should be standard on a tent at this price point and market segment.
A minor, but important point is that it's provided with a stuff sac which is actually big enough to fit the tent, the poles, and the peg bag into. In real-life conditions, not just at home in the sunshine.
Downsides? Well - the first one I bought had a badly malformed roof vent, and the material and stitching at the point where the poles cross at the sides started to show signs of extreme stress on one corner after minimal use, the material starting to tear. Vaude UK replaced it, albeit with what I suspect is one which had been pitched at a show or display which wasn't quite what I was expecting, but I was putting them under pressure to replace it and wanted it in a hurry.
The replacement is rather better but will need watching as there is a lot of tension at that point. However, on this one, the alignment of the Powerclips relative to the poles is notably "off" on one side, but Vaude in Germany apparantly insist it's within acceptable tolerance. While this is neither the response I'd expect, nor the sort of quality control I'd expect on an expensive, top of the range tent from a quality manufacturer, it seems I have to live with it. It carries a 3 year guarantee and Vaude's UK customer service is absolutely excellent, so I'm reassured there.
I do rather suspect that the first time someone trips over a side guy will result in the side vent being torn out of the fly, so care will be needed but that is true of any tent where a guy point is attached direct to the fly. Oh - and it's very orange. Which is fine if you like orange. A less obtrusive colour option would be nice but as a safety feature it's useful. (Update - April 2010 - I see it's now available in green as well).
Finally, it is quite a tall tent so if you're on the short side, check that you can reach the apex to clip and unclip the poles - getting to it needs height!
Accepting that I got this as a compromise to replace a 2008 Mk II which was rather disappointing, overall, I'm reasonably pleased with it. With a little further development, it has the potential to be an excellent tent. Vaude say they test their kit rigorously - I do wonder if the person who designed this ever used it in rain or snow, as the vestibule overhang needs rather more thought. I also have a concern about pole durability - see right.
RRP is £500 at time of writing and it's readily available for about £450. The groundsheet protector at £40 ish would be worth having, as with all tents. Factor in another £15 or so if you feel the need to change the guys and sliders - I recommend you change the sliders. I strongly recommend sealing the seams, so that's another £28 and a couple of hours of your time.
(Update - October 2009 - I notice there's been a significant price hike - to £550 RRP. That's taking it into Hilleberg prices.)
Update 2 May 2015 - no pole breakages over the past few years, but this shot was taken in a blustery F6/7 on a campsite near Campletown. In fairness, it survived, and although one pole was slightly bent, at least it didn't break. This is supposed to be a serious mountain tent. You decide. They claim that "the geodesic construction and the specially designed clips enable bombproof stability in stormy regions". I wasn't impressed. My partner has a British made Terra Nova which has seen serious use in the Himalaya. Her comment was that her tent had never collapsed like the Vaude did here.
Update - July 2015 - I note on looking at the Vaude website that the Atreus appears to have been dropped from the range!
* Vaude offer a groundsheet protector for about £40 and unless you especially like making your own kit, buy it! By the time you've bought a large enough sheet of PVC groundsheet, eyelets, cord and pvc glue it's cheaper to buy the real thing. And it is necessary to protect the fairly lightweight groundsheet.
** The main poles are slightly longer than the vestibule poles and I found it helpful to identify them with a bit of tape.
Why they have different pole lengths is beyond me. Surely it would have been possible to design the tent with 4 equal length poles? That could have given a slightly longer overhang on the vestibules.
The left hand pole must be fitted first so it sits below the right hand one for the "Powerclip" at the apex to connect properly. Two tips to save considerable frustration!
As a general point, take great care not to let the poles "ping off" the locating pegs - that's a sure fire way to cause stress fractures as they whip free. This is of course true of any aluminium pole under tension.
It's also worth taking care to make sure the poles are rinsed after use in a salt laden environment such as we experience when sea kayaking - and essential if they have had any actual exposure to salt water. They will corrode and become brittle very quickly otherwise.
Despite extreme care, which included washing the poles after every outing and using a silicon spray to protect them internally, this tent broke a pole in the summer of 2010, in a moderate breeze. The pole was repaired foc, and within a week.
Another broke in May 2011 while the tent was being put up in flat calm conditions.
On inspection, virtually all the joints were also showing signs of stress cracks around the dimples securing the connections.
The entire pole set has now being replaced foc by Vaude following the latest breakage. Which is good service although it took nearly a month, during which I had no tent, having to cancel two or three trips as a result.
The replacement poles are exactly the same design - worringly. See this discussion. It seems there are similar problems with late model Hogans and Mk IIs. Hopefully, there was a bad batch - we'll see.
While VaudeUK have been very helpful, to date I estimate I have spent something around £40 returning the MkII, the first (faulty) Atreus and sending poles for repair. None of which has been refunded as obviously not covered by warranty.
The tent was supplied by Chevin Trek in Otley. They supplied the Mk II at a very keen price, and handled the supply of the Power Atreus reviewed here. Both Vaude and CT were instrumental in eventually coming to an amicable and satisfactory result as regards my concerns over future breakages.
Mike Buckley, August 2009 - last revised July 2015.