Tuesday, 22 September 2015 12:04

Vango Force 10 Argon 2 tested and reviewed Featured

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A recent addition to the prestigious Force 10 brand, the Argon 2 is a two man semi-geodesic tent with its focus decidedly on the lightweight side. A new pole system provides increased structural strength and a decent amount of internal space, particularly headroom, while material advances allow the manufacturers to reduce the overall weight to a real world 1.82kg on our scales. Over September we've put the Agron 2 through real world testing in the Peak District, Snowdonia and Chamonix with encouraging results

F10 Argon 2

Features:

  • Axial Hub Pole Structure - connectsing our UL Poles at cross over points with our Axial Hub, has increased pitching efficiently, strength and allows for Vari-Pitch options
  • Freestanding Tent - with a cross over pole structure, this tent design is self supporting, so is free standing before you peg it out. Great for hard to peg conditions such as snow, sand & hard / rocky surfaces
  • Vari-Pitch - with our Axial Hub means this model can be pitched flysheet first, inner first or flysheet & footprint only, our most versatile tent design
  • Siliconised/PU Backed - the outer face is given a siliconised coating to enhance the water repellency, increase tear strength and protect against UV degradation. The underside has a polyurethane coating for waterproofing and to allow the seam tape to effectively bond with the tent
  • Groundsheet: 70D Ripstop Nylon fabric is a great balance between low weight and high durability
  • PU Backed groundsheet to stop all water ingress and to allow the seam taped
  • All flysheet and groundsheet seams are factory taped, giving a water tight seal
  • Yunan UL Poles - high quality ultralite poles designed and made by Yunan in Korea
  • Internal storage pockets - conveniently positioned internal pockets within the inner tent to keep small items organised
  • Optional Footprint for protecting your inner tent from rough ground, and completing the Vari-Pitch options
  • Breathable inner fabric allows condensation to pass through, ensuring a comfortable nights sleep. Ripstop weave for extended durability.
  • Part Mesh Inner Door - increases ventilation in the tent while keeping bugs out
  • O-shaped Inner Doors - easy opening using one hand
  • Bathtub groundsheet, completely waterproof, 10cm base on the inner tent with taped seams for times when you need to pitch on wet ground
  • Guylines have a dyneema core, for low weight and high strength.
  • Mini Line-Lok guyline runners- lightweight, easy to use runners won't slip when under pressure in strong winds.
  • Flysheet Vents with Mesh Coverings - reduces condensation and keeps bugs out
  • Multiple reflective points - found on the pegging points for visibility in low light
  • Duraflex components which are renowned for strength, quality and reliability
  • Semi-Geodesic - a self-supporting structure and excellent balance between weight and stability
  • Flysheet Door Vent - open from the top using the second zip runner to ventilate the porch

What the manufacturers say:

The Argon features our newest innovation, the Axial Hub Pole System. This increases structural strength by 50% while linking the poles together into one unit for fast and efficient pitching and striking. The Argon's semi geodesic structure provides the user with an optimum strength and interior space to weight ratio. Coupling our lightest 15D flysheet and inner fabrics with a strong 70D groundsheet makes the Argon an extremely lightweight, versatile shelter for all conditions.

Argon 2

Vango Force 10 Argon 2 on test:

Force 10 is one of those marques whose history demands a lot. With a reputation for solid reilability and bomb proof materials it's a big responibility and comes with high expectations. In the case of the Argon 2 this is even more important with the tent firmly pitched at the lightweight market, where materials and components tent to shed durability proportionally to the decrease in weight. To put the Argon 2 through its paces we opted for 3 diverse locations each with its own distinctive environment to stress the design and build quality; at 1000m in the Alps, rain-rich Snowdonia and the Peak District's mix of abrasive gritstone bedrock and heavy vegetation.

 

The first impression on picking up the Argon 2 is one of surprise. 1.8kg feels noticeably different from say the F10 Ion's 2.2kg and the quoted weight came within 20g of our independent weighing. With an oversize bag the Argon 2 also packs down well into a 45cm long cylinder that slides easily into most packs. To save the 400g or so compared to the Ion2, which is similar both visually and in its internal dimensions/layout the whole pole system has been changed and fabrics and coatings have been carefully selected.

Pitching inner or outer first, or fly and footprint only, and freestanding the Argon 2 offers the kind of flexibility that really appeals to the lightweight market and has real advantages when pitching and striking in inclement weather. Key to this is the Axial Hub Pole Structure which provides a framework over which the fly is hung and from which the inner is suspended via plastic clips. When pitched the framework looks similar to that of many semi-geodesic models but coming as a single entity, rather than individual poles and sleeves the new system is faster to assemble, provides more structural strength and saves weight in not requiring the additional material for pole sleeves. In practice it takes a couple of pitches to get it up noticeably faster than traditional pole/sleeve systems and of course there's the potential issue of a failure at one of the hub connectors being almost impossible to fix in the field should a failure occur, but it soon becomes second nature. To date there's been no indication of any stress on the axial hib joints to worry about either.

F10 Argon

The Argon 2's Axial Hub System with the inner suspended from it in an inner first pitching.

Pitching either inner first or as just a fly/footprint setup is a little different from normal with the pole system working best if attached in a set order starting at the rear corners and then the central eyelets on each side before finishing off with the front corners. The central eyelets, in particular, are important as these define the position and angle of the porch pole section. With the inner erected the fly simply drapes over the top and is secured internally using small Velcro strips at the main crossover points.

F10 Argon 2

Internally the Argon 2 is spacious, light and has just the right number of pockets in all the right places. In particular the 2 triangular corner pockets at (sitting) head height are very well positioned for head torches and instant access items when entering/leaving the tent. The 2 double side pockets are very much in line with other tent models and are located at the door end only; where they're accessible with ease during the night.

F10 Argon 2 corner pockets

Triangular corner pockets angled perfectly for headtorches

The inner door is a typical F10 porthole design with the upper section featuring a coverable mesh. It's pretty standard fare at first looks but actually becomes an important feature when dealing with condensation. Also condensation related the inner features a small triangular mesh panel in the roof at the rear end. On first use condensation was a real issue but with ventilation the key to reducing condensation it only took a couple of nights to work out that leaving a small opening at the base of the inner door while dropping the cover in the upper half to reveal the mesh allows a good airstream with cold air entering at the base and warm air escaping via both the triangular rear panel and the inner door's upper mesh panel. To enhance this we dropped the top couple of inches of the outer door and condensation was reduced to almost nil despite big temperature gradients between the inside and outside of the tent. With the top couple of inches of the outer door left open the flysheets design comes into play; with a small overhanging arc of material deflecting water extremely efficiently away from the opening. While this setup may require a thought out pitch to keep the prevailing wind coming from behind we had no problems in testing, even with one night of 9 1/2 hours or non stop rain in Chamonix.

F10 Argon inner door

Internally headroom is very good with room for 2 people to sit, back straight, for prolonged periods if necessary and even with a Thermarest Ultralite Cot in use there was room to sit upright without touching the inner's roof.

F10 Argon inner headroom

Moving to the flysheet, the material naturally lies around 2cm above the ground when fully taught, allowing ingress of cool air to help ventilation but not coming close to overlapping the depth of the inners excellent bathtub groundsheet. Pitched well the gap between inner and fly is enough that you don't have to be nervous about the ocassional brush against the inner, but it is absolutely vital you get the pegging right. The two guylines half-way along each side require particular attention as if one of these comes loose the whole side of the tent is compromised with a large section of fly collapsing onto the inner; resulting in condensation and contact issues.

F10 Argon side view

Argon 2 with side pegging in place

 

F10 Argon side view

Argon 2 with side guy dislodged

Likewise it's important you get the rear pegging points, at the corners of the inner/footprint taught as this is where the gap between inner and fly is at it's smallest and it coincides with the position of a sleeping bag's foot; the most likely point of contact with the inner. In the long term we may even add a guying point mid way along the back panel just to be sure.

The rear of the Argon 2 could possibly benefit from an additional guy point.

With these issues in mind one of the first jobs was to swap the pegs that come with the Argon 2. There's no doubt that the enclosed pegs help Vango achieve the impressive weight but one trip over a guyline will send them pinging into oblivion; it really doesn't help either that most of these needle-like pegs are painted a similar colour to dry grass!

F10 Argon pegs

Conclusions:

The Vango F10 Argon 2 is a technical tent, and while it benefits from advances in technology and design in achieving a very impressive weight for a full 2 man tent; it really can take 2, it requires careful attention to pitching to achieve optimal results. Pitched well though it's as strong as heavier alternatives and both spacious and feature packed. The door entry, with the option to tie back to one side provides easy, not contact, access and the arch of material above the door is a big success in deflecting run-off rainwater.

Ventilation can be an issue but with a good airflow through the tent using the zipped doors intelligently it drops to a more than acceptable level. Pocket layout, and the single hanging point, are perfectly positioned and headroom is impressive making the Argon 2 a good real-world performer for long periods. The groundsheet showed absolutely no signs of allowing water ingress and feels reassuringly durable despite its minimal weight. Likewise the fly shed hours of non stop rain effectively and dried very quickly in a light wind or any reasonable level of sunshine.

The rear panel could possibly do with some attention and an extra guying point just to keep it taught and as mentioned we'd recommend changing the pegs, at least for the main guy points, for something more substantial. These two minor issues aside, however, it's a natural choice for 2 people going lightweight and boasts very impressive volume to weight ratio without compromising on stability or durability. For one person it offers a luxurious amount of space at a weight that would have been more than acceptable just a few years ago and is a serious option for any solo traveler not totally obsessed with gram counting. With a street price around £375 it's hard to find an equally specified competitor to even compare with.

 

 

The only other issue is that under prolonged rain there is a tendancy for water to collect in a small, relatively level, section of the fly just behind the door's rain protector.

Last modified on Sunday, 23 October 2016 11:16