The VLT from Gram-Counter Gear is a single skin tent, saving on weight and bulk through less fabric being used. This concept has been popular for some time now and it just so happens our introduction to single skin tents came a few years ago from the designer of this very shelter, so we were obviously very eager to see how the VLT would perform for us in Scotland.
The name VLT simply translates to ‘Very Light Tent.’ At 934 grams it can be considered a lightweight shelter for 3-season use. The main tent fabric is silicon coated 15D nylon, whilst the ground fabric is double sided silicon coated 20D nylon. The choice of fabric is key to this shelter as, being pitched with a single walking pole through the centre, it relies on tension to keep it securely in place. The main 15D nylon balances strength and weight well, whilst the 20D base provides additional protection against the ground.
Reassuringly the VLT comes with all guy lines attached and enough pegs for use! It always amazes us how many tents come with guy points but no additional lines and not enough pegs to pitch. The pegs are V-shape, lightweight, with pre attached cordage loops, perfect to get going straight away. The included stuff sac is quite basic, and we preferred to use our own small dry bag to keep the VLT as compact as possible.
Pitching the VLT is definitely something you need to become familiar with at home before setting out to the hills. Consisting of 6 lower pegging points and 5 guy lines it does require a bit of adjustment throughout the set-up process but within a short amount of time it becomes easier with familiarity. Pitched well and the VLT will become a very secure shelter, although it is important not to over tension the door as the zipper is very fragile and if damaged will be hard to fix.
Internally there is plenty of room with a usable length of around 2 meters. We can easily fit a full-length mat along the centre with ample space left for additional kit to the side. The height is also very generous and this can be a key element of choosing a single skin tent, in that more space can be achieved with little additional fabric needed. At 120 cm high we can sit upright which is welcomed for multiple nights away in the mountains, especially when it comes to cooking and eating. The insert for the pole is a weaker area of the VLT and although we did play around adjusting the height of the pole and placement, it never felt as secure as other tents of this style we have used. The zipper also runs all the way to the top of the tent, a slight re-design could have the zipper just a little bit shorter from the top with a more defined structure for the pole to slot into.
Two additional guy lines attached are to the side wall, and these are best utilised with an additional walking pole which opens up extra room making life inside the VLT very. Apart from a small mesh pocket, storage is almost non-existent but this really doesn’t bother us as we mostly store all our kit in separate dry bags and are quite happy to have these placed on the floor or in the vestibule.
Condensation is always going to be the main point of discussion regarding a single skin tent and the VLT is no exception. There is plenty of ventilation at the upper part of the tent with a large mesh divider that certainly helps create some airflow but expect a build-up condensation on the wall fabric and small pools around the corners of the floor, especially the foot end as this is where the tent fabric runs down to a point. Positioning our sleeping area close to the mesh divider meant that we didn’t encounter many drops of condensation falling throughout the night, with kit remaining mostly dry. The short pole that’s included for the foot end is a great addition to raise the fabric and prevent the sleeping bag hitting the wall fabric and becoming saturated. We used a small micro fibre towel to remove any condensation before packing away as it keeps the weight to minimum and the VLT in better shape for multi day adventures.
Looks can certainly be deceiving and this is definitely the case with the VLT. It may not have the elegant structure of a freestanding tent, and the pale green colour might not be to everyone’s taste, but what the VLT may lack in appearance it certainly makes up for in performance. The guy lines are of a very high standard and for a lightweight tent of this style it holds up better against the elements than a large majority of similar shelters we have used previously. We quickly became very confident in its abilities after nights with heavy rainfall and one night being caught out in strong wind speeds, with gusts of around 45mph. Quite easily weight could be stripped by reducing the amount of guy lines and pegging points, although for us this is one of our favourite aspects of the VLT, finally a lightweight and compact tent that can confidently handle life in the UK. It’s noticeable that the designer for the VLT has spent many nights UK wild camping as it clearly comes across in using the VLT.
The VLT, like all single skin tents, will divide opinion based on condensation issues alone. If you are a fan of this type of shelter, then you will find the VLT to be a very comfortable tent with plenty of room inside and decent headroom. The option to use an extra walking pole along with the additional guy lines is a fantastic feature giving you a near vertical side wall adding lots of space with minimal added weight. Small pack size and 934gram weight is very reasonable and although there are alternatives of a similar style that can be much lighter, we haven’t come across anything similar in this price range that can handle changing weather conditions half as well as the VLT. Heavy rain and high windspeeds were no problem with the abundance of strong guy lines proving a good match for the weather we encountered through our expeditions across Scotland this spring and summer season. Condensation was inevitably present, the mesh vents do offer some airflow, although it is best to carry a small towel to wipe away any moisture before packing away. The small pole included for the foot end of the VLT kept our sleeping bag free from contact with the wall fabric which is key for keeping kit in the best condition for multiday use. For all the little touches throughout showing a considered design with a well thought out approach, there is a concern for us with the zipper and pole insert. With a slight change in design, we feel the zipper could be more robust and the pole insert have a better hold. Overall, the VLT offers a lot for the price and would be a perfect tent for anyone entering the world of lightweight camping.
Trek Scotland is a small family business based in the picturesque village of Tomintoul in the North East region of the Cairngorms National Park. They provide bespoke Mountain Guiding for Single Day Walks and Lightweight Multiday Trekking experiences, including wild camping, in the stunning Cairngorms wilderness and surrounding areas. Whether in the high mountains or lower valleys, their Multiday Treks are equipped with high quality, lightweight camping and trekking gear. They only work with small groups and, whatever your ability, pride themselves on designing your outdoor experience completely to your needs and with professional guidance and expertise. Adventure is waiting...