Oztent have released a new range of touring tents and it got me thinking – we’ve had the RV3 now for a while… almost six years. Am I still in love with my folding canvas palace? Spoiler alert…. Yes.
In my writeup about all things comfort and shelter I may have mentioned the Oztent, oh, only a few dozen times. Justified too, given how many sites it has seen.
We purchased our Oztent RV3 after a few 4WD Shows, the colour and shape appealing to me, not to mention the fold-up or down feature. Camping as a kid, I had nothing to do with the tent, I was most likely encouraged to stay out of the way for the most part while Mum and Dad negotiated the heavy poles and canvas.
Having used a hiking tent, I was more than ready for some additional space, as well as freeing up precious time spent setting up bendy tent poles and even bendier pegs. We were in the habit of zooming off in the Forester for an overnight-er or two on any given weekend we could.
Our debut trip was interesting in that Ray’s Outdoors or Oztent neglected to include the poles for the awning, in the humid-could-rain-any-moment Chichester rainforest our camping comrades gladly had spare and we were ready for whatever may precipitate. Nevertheless we were in camping heaven with so much space, room to get dressed standing up and the cool ventilation that the multiple windows and polycotton canvas allows over the nylon tunnel we were used to.
Ray’s Outdoors gladly handed over some poles and that was it, Friday knockoff became the greenlight for ducking off to the Blue Mountains or further afield for sneaky weekends away.
This tent is, in my opinion. built for summer. The windows up top vent out the hot air that can accumulate and rise. The side window grab any cross breeze but also give a beautiful line of sight of the stars depending on how your orientated in your sleeping bag. The back window is huge, with its own awning; this provides a great deal of airflow in wet weather especially – where you might have the side windows zipped up.
We never purchased the fly, so those who have – could leave the side windows open in the rain too.
Some of the hottest camps have been 40plus degrees Celsius at Chichester or Mungarannie Hotel on the Birdsville Track.
Actually, Eyre Creek in the Simpson Desert was warm, I remember having my feet in a bucket of water, a soaked flannelette shirt over my head and shoulders. Combined with my hat, fly-net and a book – I was the picture of camping heaven…… I don’t recall having any trouble sleeping, be it afternoon-naps or later.
So heat isn’t a problem for the lightweight poly-cotton rip-stop, unless you’re referring to embers from a campfire – I did manage to get one hole in all these years of fire stoking. It produced a cigarette like burn hole above the back window, which I patched effortlessly.
Setting up is what sets it apart from other tents, the internal frame with only awning poles as optional extras. On long distance tours we actually didn’t bother with the awning, the Hannibal awning on the LandCruiser being pole-less, quicker and not reliant on expert level guy rope tensioning. I have however, faced two issues when setting up the RV3, more than once.
The first, and maybe the most dramatic, is the apparent attraction of the RV tent range to our arachnid friends, in particular – the bigger variety. I am not sure how it happened but I am always responsible for finding the campsite, picking the 2×2.4m area for David to relocate the tent from the roof to. And also, to erect the tent.
If you haven’t seen how to set up the Oztent RV range, essentially you unfold, step ‘inside’ the floor space (its doors are unzipped) and pull the tent up and over the top of yourself, kicking in the side hinges once its upright.
Any stowaway Huntsmen, are guaranteed to be perturbed by this and make themselves known to me, scuttling around, inches from my face or hands. The rolled, unzipped door canvas is a common residence. Generally, whilst I have one hand on the pull tag to erect the tent, the other reaching for the hinge, a giant (they grow in size and menace with every recollection) Huntsman will attempt to overthrow my balance and claim the palace for his own.
The second challenge, again, I don’t think is unique to the Oztent.
Setting up in Birdsville, or Breezeville. Exorbitant non-powered site? Check. Rock-hard peg-bending ground? Check. Notice everyone else is in Kimberly Kampers or TVan rather than a tent? Check.
The wind was exceptional on our visit, by now we had endured Autumn in the Flinders Ranges and Lake Eyre by this point and were, we thought, hardened against the outback breeze. Setting up with the LandCruiser as a windblock, we thought we had our method.
The cyclonic conditions of riverside Birdsville nearly caused an axe murder. As I folded up the frame, the wind caught the tent and like Dorothy I was literally lifted, no exaggeration here. The Tent lifted, moved and settled, before the wind quickly changed direction and attempted to twist the tent from another direction, the frame creaking in protest.
Combine this with foul language soundtrack to our attempts at pegging it down (with the potential murder wielding axe). We were impressed. However, we overcame Mother Nature, as humans are perpetually determined to do, and the tent was erected, bruised ego, but undamaged.
Silver lining – the wind was strong enough to keep the flies away. Unsurprising I have no photos of this camp.
Any concern I have had about the RV’s internal frame strength and how serviceable it would be, remotely or in town. Oztent do offer spare parts however, so short of bending or breaking a side arm, I am confident that, if we had suffered a breakage in Breezeville, the Oztent may be mended.
Speaking of mending, I have had to mend the fly-mesh once, again – another ember burn, easily patched. Considering the way my Border Collie would either headbutt to hint at opening the door, or use her nose and paw to work the zipper open herself, especially if she can hear thunder, none of which caused any visible damage to either the zip or the mesh – I am more than impressed. It’s proper midge mesh too, fine enough to keep out the biting insects.
The RV is built for storms, I love camping in the rain, and I think I can attribute this to the Oztent.
The large awning off the front and the back window keeps water out of the tent. We have used guy ropes to pull the centre of the awning down to drain rain into a bucket. The PVC base comes up high on the walls of the tent too, so despite the deluge splashing up water and mud all over the tent walls, it has to get pretty lake-like to rise above the PVC.
Some of the wettest nights, for example, Watagans, where my carefully selected corner of the temperate forest quickly turned into a swamp. Water rising with every roar of thunder, lit up LED-perfect by the regular lightning, David proceeded to dig a trench around the tent and successfully diverted the deluge away. The dog and I mostly dozed through this episode, offering occasional moral support from under the down sleeping bag.
Covered in gum leaves, mud and soaked a dark khaki, but not a drop inside. The anti-rot treatment must work a treat too, despite the countless wet pack ups and sometimes days before we have unfolded to air out at home (admittedly, this is mostly forgotten) we have not found any mould, mildew or smell.
It was these deluges however that encouraged the sidewall purchase. Giving us shelter from the good ol’ Australian side-rain we now have a huge amount of space against the elements without dragging the chairs inside the actual tent (which there is space to do). The tent a little cooler too, giving some shade in front of the large door.
Condensation is a concern for most campers. The nylon hiking tent was like a monsoon inside. Only a few times can I recall the condensation being noticeable for us under canvas, and only in seriously cold conditions. Winter camping in Glen Innes, I draped our oilskin coats over the top of our sleeping bags against the moisture. But I think we found the formula. Keep the windows/doors open for ventilation. Allowing our breath to escape the tent prevents a buildup of heat and consequential condensation.
I use a 2.4m x 2.4m piece of shade cloth as a groundsheet, this helps with condensation also. I know this because on late night setups – I left one corner folded and exposed to the ground that corner of the tent vinyl was wet in the morning. It adds a layer of ventilated protection for the grass to survive your stay too.
What would I change about this tent? Well – a couple of things I have. The Oztent poles, we swapped them out for Supa-Peg poles, that have pegable feet. This stops them moving about in the gusty wind. We also have swapped out the pegs for stronger forged Snow Peak pegs. Our relationship has survived many bent pegs, doesnt mean we have to test it every trip.
To accommodate the Supa-Peg poles, I swapped out the eyelets for bigger on the awning. Easy job and satisfies your homecraft habits.
The bag. What product these days actually comes with enough bag for the contents? I challenge all companies to this. The profit margin is generally enough that surely an inch or two more fabric, imported as it normally is, could be afforded?
I persisted for almost five years with the Oztent bag. I was (surprisingly) the best at folding the tent and patiently able to get the zip to cooperate. I have my moments it seems. The trick I think is to fold and let the air drain out from between the canvas properly, so the tent is as small and balanced as it’s going to be. But, combined with some small holes in the end, and the sidewalls we decided to upgrade to an Australian sewn bag that was big enough to fit the tent and its kit. Opening like a suitcase – no meditative breathing required. Although its a bit heavier lifting it all at once onto the LandCruiser.
Its a shame this clever Australian design isn’t Australian built, else-wise it could be the 10/10
Anyway, happy poly-cotton canvas wrapped six years to us, I am confident in another six, at least. The only addition to my Oztent kit on the horizon – will be the Deluxe Front Panel – closing in the space to provide a two-roomed and mosquito free canvas palace for our planned tropical adventures.
Unpacked: 2m x 2.4m (Add another 2m to include the awning space)
Packed size: 2m x 0.20m x 0.32m (Including the extra kit in the bag)
Packed weight: 28.5kg / 61lb (tent, side walls, groundsheet, poles, Drifta bag)
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