Sunday, June 14, 2009

Wild Country Vehicle Annex

A couple of weeks ago I mentioned my ongoing quest to find the ideal shelter for my particular needs. I had just bought a Wild Country annex on special from Rays Outdoors and was excited to see how it would go.

Well, I have to say I am quite impressed with this little unit! I was a little unsure how it would cope with the wet weather we were expecting up at Corowa, because after all, it IS only advertised as a 'wind and shade' shelter. We had some very decent downpours over the long weekend, plus a good day of constant drizzle. I had almost resigned myself to the idea of bundling a soaking wet shelter into the back of Red to be dried out at home and stored away until summer comes around again, but it held up very well, no leaking through the fabric itself, nor through any of the (fully taped) seams.

Setup wasn't quite as straight forward as I had anticipated, it was a little fiddly to get everything pegged out square, mainly because one of the poles seemed to be a little warped, which must have been to do with the way I put it together. I'll pay close attention to that part of the setup next time I use it. However, once the 'tent' poles were all in place properly and the back (err, or front?) was attached to Big Red it was pretty straight forward to get the corners pegged out. They have elastic loops to peg through rather than eyelets, possibly not as durable as brass eyelets, but it does save you needing extra elastics for every point you peg down. The attached guy ropes are neat too, never going to pull the shelter out of its bag to find I've lost the guys!

The above picture should give you a bit of an idea just how roomy it is inside, with plenty of headroom in the main area. Having the rear flap extended out makes it feel like a little base camp in itself with lots of room to cook etc while keeping the drizzle off. The sides also roll up (although on a bit of an odd angle) to make it fully open, probably very useful in warmer climates where you want as much breeze coming through as you can get. However, not being in that kind of climate last weekend, I found that even when fully closed up it still felt very roomy, I'd say you could easily have two chairs in there, possibly with a small table as well (but I just use the 'MPTG', Multi purpose tail gate :P )

Pack up was a breeze, the ground was wet and getting a little muddy, so I didn't bother packing it all up properly, I just loosely folded the shelter and stuffed it back into its bag (must remember to dry that, sometime...) while the poles and pegs I just put in the bag I keep my other pegs and annex poles in. Quick, easy, no fuss, no extra hands needed.

So, my verdict? It's GREAT! Not quite a 30 second job like the Oz Tent, but a heck of a lot more compact! Probably designed for a wider bodied vehicle, like say a Land Cruiser or Patrol, since the locking suction cups that attach it to the roof are spaced fairly widely. On Big Red this meant they were attached a few inches down each of the side windows (you can see the white dot in the pictures), which actually worked out well for me, it meant the front seam of the shelter was pulled tightly across the roof of the car, directing water down the side windows, rather than letting it run under and on to the tail gate. It also meant that the suction cups could attach to the windows, rather than the textured fibre glass roof, which they might not have been able to grip so well in the wet (and modest wind). It probably wouldn't be suitable for a regular family car, it seems to be designed for vehicles with a roof line at least 180cm or higher, so 4WD's and Kombi's are in luck. At $48 (on sale), you definitely can't go too far wrong! The only aspect of the shelter that I didn't get to test was just how it would fare as a self standing (albeit three sided) tent. I'll make a point of trying this out next trip and let you know. I'd also like to see how it holds up in higher winds, although last weekend was wet, it remained fairly still. Something else I'll have to report back on.

So, if you're in a Rays store and happen to see one of these (like I said, I've only actually seen them in store the once, and even then there was only a few), especially if they're on special, grab one, you won't regret it.

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