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Adrians Review of Isabelle

Picked this one up for £30 through a friend it was slightly fusty (which improved dramatically when the groundsheet was cleaned) but fits perfectly into a quiet rural campsite. A timeless tent in many ways and ideal for one nighters for one or two people

Design and construction - probably 4 out of 5

The outer is designed in three parts that zip together. The main fly, and extension fly and bell can be added as required to allow the tent to be configured as (i) basic ridge tent or (ii) ridge tent with bell front attached for cooking/storage or (iii) basic ridge tent with extended fly left open for cooking/storage/sitting (iv) ridge with extended fly and bell to provide extended covered space for cooking/storage/sitting. There are no windows in the design, unlike some Relum equivalents. Along the bottom of the flysheet is a mudwall in (rather untypical for Cabanon) woven polythene material, rather than PVC used for the inner. There is no ventilation in the fly sheet

The poles build up an A frame front with vertical pole to the rear and horizontal ridge. The extension has an additional ridge and single upright pole. There are also two uprights provided to allow the side of the extension to be opened up into a canopy. All poles are 19mm steel and make for a fairly weighty pole bag and all up bag weight of 22kg

The inner is typical Cabanon heavy duty PVC bathtub groundsheet with a lightweight cotton inner. One of the doors has a mesh flap/panel that can be held closed with velcro

Construction is mostly up to Cabanon standards, so pretty good in general. If you are in the market for one the Canvas should have lasted well if well cared for. The zips are chunky affairs but will wear with use so make sure they all work properly. The only dissapointment in terms of quality is the mud wall being very cheap woven polythene rather than a more robust PVC, in use it makes little difference to the performance

All the components seem to be fairly standard but the rear rain cap is a curiosity as the pole diameter is huge (amout 6 or 7mm) compared to most poles - if you need a new rain cap/cowl then you will need to modify a standard one to fit. The front pole is fine.

Value for money - probably 4 out of 5

Obviously this will depend a lot on how much you pay, how good the condition is and how much you want the tent. Prices seem to vary widely on Ebay, sales in 2010/11 have gone from £30 to over £100 (!?) though obviously condition may have affected this variation in prices

Generally speaking there dont seem to be a lot of these on Ebay, but the ones that have come up seem to have been lightly used (and it is a Cabanon) so expect it to be in good condition

In terms of viable alternatives in used Canvas, Relum did something similar (again, not that common but probably slightly cheaper) or you have the Vango Force Ten Mark 5 but that would probably be over £100. If you must have a Cabanon then there really isnt much used that is like this, the Isabelle was a bit of an oddity in the range. Your only alternative would be to look to the new 2011 Cabanon range where the Montana ridge tent and Yamaska extended ridge tent (both with wooden poles) would be close to the Isabelle but pricey

Other new Canvas similar in style to would be a Vango Force Ten (only in Orange) or BCT Taskforce (which is available in extended ridge format), both significantly more expensive than an Isabelle, but more robust too

In terms of design the Dutch Pyramid tents offer better use of space so might be another option, again there is a range of choice on the used and new Canvas market

How relevant / useful is it today? - probably 3.5 out of 5
(but depends what you want it for)

Pitching the whole tent is not exactly easy but can be acomplished solo if the weather is kind, pitching without the extension is much easier. The inner is pegged out first (not too tight) and then the rear pole is put in and the ridge connected to the A frame. The inner guyed is with 9 little guy lines and then the Canvas passed over the assembly for adjusting and pegging. Without the extension (which makes pitching considerably fussier) everything takes about 15 to 20 minutes to sort, which seems a lot for such a simple tent, but it does use nearly 30 pegs (!). In many ways it is a little inferior to a good Pyramid design for simplicity

There are no guy points on the fly sheet so make sure you pitch it "bum to the wind" if you want to be on the safe side and avoid the fly touching the inner on one of the big side panels (the gap is large though). It might look like a Vango Force Ten but it isnt really quite the same animal so in bad weather we put guys to each of the pole tops just for extra stability, it doesnt need it most of the time

Another little thing that is lacking from this and many Cabanons is a hoop to hang a light from inside the inner, relatively easily remedied if it really bugs you but a very simple oversight. A standard metal or plastic inner tent clip can me used on the ridge pole to make a light suspension point just outside the inner though

In use it is fairly dark inside, you might not like that as it does make inside feel slightly dour but it makes sleeping in in the morning a breeze. Adding the bell front makes a huge difference to the feel inside, without it and the tent feels quite airy inside (nice for summer use) but once added the inside is very cosy on a cold wet night (great for poor weather). I know some users find the tent too dark inside and certainly if you get stuck in for a day or two because of the weather it is very gloomy (there are no windows). If you want a brighter interior then Lichfield Challenger and the like have a bigger porch and big windows, Relum also offer a similar ridge tent to the Isabelle and these sometimes have little windows

Without the extension piece the main poles of the Isabella form a tripod so it is pretty tolerant of uneven ground but it isnt that easy to get it to pitch neatly (but that might just be me). With the front bell there is room enough to set up a little stove in the porch, since the door zips from either side you can adapt to the weather if needed too

Despite the possible claims that this is 4 berth it is really a decent 3 berth with room enough for 3 full sized (2.0m x 0.60m) self inflating mats (or air beds) and the internal bell area provides a useful bit of storage for things. The sleeping pod measures 2.2m wide, 2.1cm deep to the pole with another 0.40m in the rear bell. With the front bell zipped on you gain a good 1m or so of cooking/storage space but given the shape it feels a lot smaller. Strangley these numbers dont quite match the Cabanon catalogue images you can see below

All in all it is a very adaptable, simple classic piece of Canvas (but hey I love mine so I would say that), it would be interesting to compare it to a Relum of similar vintage