Thoughts and Considerations
Ok, we have asked all the questions we need, and we are at the stage where we have the inspiration to do this, the motivation, and the industry contacts. We now need to really start focussing on all that experience and begin the design journey.
Ultimately, we want to develop a range of tents, all similar in style and quality with a uniqueness to the brand, which we can now announce, will be under the new brand name “Zastrugi”
The range of tents will cover a 1 person, 2 person and four-person range with an added 1-2 person specialist extreme polar model. So, four tents in all but one step at a time. The first step we wanted to go down was a one man all inclusive, lightweight, strong, and durable tent. The market for solo travel, off road cycling adventures etc is a rapidly growing area across the world so why not tap into that market first and get something out there to test, trial, and canvass opinion on.
Before moving forward on trying to engage a product design with our manufacturer we need to understand and research the key areas we know are going to be the most important to our users; these areas are:
A critical area for most people, money is important, and we know people will pay for quality but overpricing a product that is not fit for purpose and will ruin credibility very quickly. The messaging needs to match the price. If you label a tent as the new 1-person tent for all environments and it collapses at the first sign of a bit of wind or leaks at the first sign of rain, then your messaging is wrong and you lose.
If you pay £49.00 for a 1 person tent then you will expect to use it in good weather during summer months; on the other side of the coin, if you pay over £700.00 then you will expect to be able to use it in the harshest of conditions anywhere.
Reading reviews are also a really good way to find out if a tent is worth the money. It is so easy to review online these days and people do; the market cannot wait to tell you of all the negatives associated with any given product. It is also particularly good at highlighting the good too and we are acutely aware of what the good and bad in the review process can do to this project. We certainly know what side Zastrugi aims to be on.
Those people choosing a one-person tent are often on foot, on a bike, kayaking or doing some other off beat adventure. They want something that can compact down reasonably small and be as light as possible. Looking back over my own personal years of experience it will be the first thing I check after searching within my set budget parameters. I will then go to the lightest one, research it until I find fault or something I do not personally like then I move to the next one.
This is also where weight and cost collide. To make something light and strong the materials and technology changes. This research and technology costs money so again its about finding the middle ground for a one size fits all, where that is, well that is the story!!
Strength & Durability
A good all-round tent needs to last and have longevity regardless of how many times it gets used. This means good strong rip stop materials that will not tear at the first sign of a sharp edge. It means great stitching, especially at the areas which face the most pressure like the main guy connections and where we place the pegs. Zips need to not catch and flow freely as well as be opened in the cold with ease when wearing large gloves. The floor of the inner has to be really strong with good waterproofing.
Poles and pegs also need to match up to the quality of canvass material, there is not much point having a super tough tent and the poles snap at first use. This market has moved on leaps and bounds over the last few years and there are great 8-8.5mm examples that are light and super tough. It is not just the pole though; it is the elastic that holds them together. I have been caught out training in Norway before now at -20 degrees and discovered the elasticity in my poles was no longer elastic due to the cold. This meant I could not put my poles together and was a little frustrating for a while.
Again, there is a big toss up here between weight and product quality; the lighter and tougher, the more expensive. So, it is finding the right ground again.
Shape & Style
There are so many out there to choose from, each has its advantage and disadvantages, we are striving for the one style suits all and to me it is the tunnel style. This is purely through our experience with various tent shapes and styles trialled in the toughest of conditions all over the world. They are easy to erect, quick to put up, very sturdy and easy to get a good ventilation flow if the outer is designed well.
For us here at Outdoor athlete the size is so much more than the description 1 man, 2 man or 4 man etc. There are clearly tents out there that literally build the tent round a person and that is it, no room for anything else. They may be bomb proof and great in anywhere, but I want to do a little more in my tent than just that. I want to be able to sit up with reasonable head room, I want an admin area to be able to cook and sort my kit out without being really cramped. It is not a problem in good weather, just open the door and spread out but in a storm, when all zipped up, I still want to be able to vent and cook safely. I want space for all my equipment with plenty of pockets to organise my stuff and the ability to hang up and dry damp clothing.
Good airflow is key but not always easy to achieve. The mornings tend to be quite bad with condensation from your breath resting on the walls of the outer. When you first start to move this can end up raining down on you. It is important to have a good air gap of at least 3 inches between the inner and outer so you can get good flow around the inner. If the inner touches the outer, then rain will seep straight through. I have certainly discovered this over the years and it is really key to keep them separated, especially if you get a heavy dump of snow during the night, the weight on top of the tent can quite easily bring the two layers together so we have to put thought into our design to avoid this.
Is it safe?
For me, the biggest issues in the tent are fire from the stoves and carbon monoxide issues from poor ventilation. Our materials and design need to take these issues very seriously and they will. Again, big strides have been made here and we will build in the best health and safety measures available.
We are now ready to begin the design process and start the conversation with the manufacturer and the process begins.
All our thoughts are initially put down on paper and sent to the technical design team to start drawing. A few days later a response will come with various specs and material designs. This is an early design idea based our 1 man design notes.
It will never be right, so you go back with comment and move things forward. As the picture below shows we looked at ideas where storage of bikes etc was included but we eventually discarded this for now.
And so, the process moves on.
The design you imagined starts to emerge before your very eyes. Notes keep going back and forward, little tweaks here and changes there.
And finally, you have a model your happy to send to the production line. Before you know it your having your Logo put on and waiting for the tent to be dispatched.
We now want to here your thoughts when it arrives and we are running a competition for a subscriber to the Outdoor athlete to win one of these tents for themselves. Just go over to the forum at the link below and join in the conversation.