Gear Test: Tents & Jetboil Cooking System
Eureka! N!ergy 9 Tent
By The Camping Life Staff
Square-floored and with only two fiberglass tent poles to worry about, the new N!ergy 9 tent from Eureka! is a snap to set up for camping. Using a freestanding fiberglass pole frame design, the tent sides are simply clipped on to the exterior poles, whose ends have been secured to the corners of the square tent flooring using a ring and pin assembly.
Materials used to construct the 9x9x6-foot tent are excellent, too. The floor and walls are made of 75D polyester taffeta with a 800mm polyurethane coating; the mesh is 50D no-see-um; and the full-coverage rainfly is also 75D polyester with a 800mm polyurethane coating for durability and water-resistance. Polyester is a better choice, especially for a rainfly, as it does not stretch as much when wet as nylon.
The most extraordinary feature of the N!ergy is the E! Power system (a 12-volt wiring system that is integrated into the tent) from Eureka! that includes three (in our test tent one was in the peak, the other two at the bottom corners) 12-volt DC (cigarette lighter-type) outlets at various places inside the tent. The outlets are powered by the E! Power Pak, a rechargeable sealed portable lead-acid battery pack. This power system allows campers to plug in electrical products such as lights, fans or air-mattress pumps. The tent also featured an E! Power Port, a floor level (it was about a foot off the ground on our test tent) zippered opening with a zippered cover to the rain and insects out of the tent, and still provide a place to bring in a power cord.
It took two experienced campers about 10 minutes to get the tent completely set up and ready to use. The tent has excellent ventilation with large expanses of mesh. The battery pack is a bit bulky (about the size of a six-pack of sodas), but it’s nice to have electricity. It has a few pockets, but needs more interior storage. And although the rainfly offered full coverage on the sides, the front and rear of the tent were somewhat exposed because the fly is propped up over the front door and rear window and doesn’t cover to the ground. Overall construction looked good, but the pole clips are fastened to the tent body with small fabric strips, which don’t look all that sturdy. The tent also offers a sweep-out section of the doorway bathtub floor that pulls forward or can be staked down for easy clean-outs.
This is a three-season (no driving winter storms) tent that will sleep four persons comfortably and five in a pinch, but the Eureka! N!ergy 9 tent looks like it would be a lot more comfortable with three adults and all their gear inside. MSRP: $199. Eureka!: 800/572-8822; /eurekatent.com/.
Jetboil Group Cooking System
By Rich Johnson
Gear adds up fast when we’re packing the car for an outing, and space quickly vanishes under a pile of equipment. Compact and lightweight are two of my favorite words when it comes to camping gear, and I do anything I can to reduce the load and the bulk, as long at I don’t have to leave out any of the essentials.
A good cooking system is one of the essentials I’m not willing to go without. For years, my oldest son (a Scout leader) has extolled the virtues of his Jetboil PCS (Personal Cooking System) with its self-contained design and exceptional efficiency. So I became excited when I saw the Jetboil GCS (Group Cooking System).
The GCS operates on the same principles as the smaller PCS, employing an accordion-shaped FluxRing around the base of the 1.5-liter cook pot to capture and transfer as much heat as possible from the burner to the pot. Everything from the materials of construction to the engineering of the components is intended to make this a high-performance cooking machine. I was anxious to put it through its paces.
When I opened the package, I was intrigued by the way everything necessary for cooking (including a fuel canister) was contained inside the pot. The entire cooking system measured about 4.5 inches high and 7 inches across, and weighed only 19 ounces. A plastic bottom cover protected the FluxRing, and a tight-fitting plastic lid kept everything safe inside. Around the exterior of the pot was a thin insulating “cozy” that reminded me of neoprene wetsuit material. A pair of rubber-coated handles folded tightly against the pot, ready to be extended for use while cooking.
Inside, the fuel canister, burner base, pot support and stabilizer tripod all fit with room left over for an accessory Jetset Utensil Kit (folding spoon, fork and spatula), and a wash cloth to protect the not-stick surface of the pot’s interior.
Jetboil makes impressive claims about how fast this unit will bring water to a boil (1 minute per cup), so verifying that assertion was one focus of my testing. Outdoors on a 53-degree day with a cool breeze blowing, the Jetboil GCS brought two cups of cold water to a boil in 2.5 minutes. With the burner’s control valve opened half way, the piezo-electric pushbutton igniter instantly fired up the system, and the control valve made it easy to dial up the right amount of heat for a cooking range from simmering to full throttle blowtorch mode.
With the GCS, everything except the food was included, so we didn’t really need anything else, but we opted for the accessory fry pan ($49.95) and the folding Jetset Utensil Kit ($19.95) to expand our culinary opportunities. The GCS has a retail price of $119.95. Fuel canisters are sold separately ($3.50 to $4 each). Jetboil: 888/611-9905; /jetboil.com/.
Wenzel Fern Ridge Tent
By The Camping Life Staff
The Wenzel Fern Ridge tent is a typical summertime camping tent that is relatively easy to set up. It has a sort of “cabin-style” shape with a screened front porch, and is made up of 185T polyester taffeta with a 600mm polyurethane coating, and the floor of the tent body is made from thick, rugged polypropylene. The skeleton of the tent is created using an array of steel-tube and fiberglass poles. The floor of the main cabin is 11 feet by 10 feet, 6 inches; but with the screened porch the total footprint is 11 feet by 15 feet, 6 inches. Its interior center height is 70 inches, and it weighs (including poles) 17.5 pounds.
Although set up didn’t take very long, the plastic center hub and anchors that the poles set in seemed less than durable, and the poles that support the screened porch must be inserted directly into the ground which cause their open ends to become clogged with dirt and soil. The screen room has no floor, which means the ground inside the screen room will not stay dry during a rainstorm. The screen room is also not free-standing and must be staked out to keep it erect. The tent’s floor had no ground-level seams to worry about leaking, but some of the seam-seal tape on other sections of the tent was falling off when we used the tent.
Only partial coverage was offered by the rainfly, and there was no fly over the screened porch. And as it began to rain on us during our test, we noted that the rainfly was hard to guy away from the tent and water was running off the fly and on to the sides of the tent. Ventilation with the rainfly deployed and the tent all zipped up and closed was also not great, as there are only two small windows and just two small up-draft vents on the tent body sides. It also had just two small interior storage pockets. We can only recommend this as a “dry” weather tent. MSRP: $90. Wenzel: 800/325-TENT; /wenzelco.com/.