TESTED: SOUTHERN CROSS ULTIMATE TREKKER
PITCHING A TENT HAS NEVER BEEN EASIER.
ILIKE the simple things in life: pull-on boots, hats that shade my honker, and tools that do a job properly. The same goes for camping gear. Nothing to break, nothing to lose and nothing to get flustered about – isn’t that why we go camping? To relax?
When it comes to touring tents – ones that are supposed to be quick and easy to set up and pack away – centre-pole-design tents are the best around. Sure, they miss out on some modern design inclusions, but you can’t break them and they’re perfect if you’re camping without a camper trailer or caravan, and they’re a great backup if you need to leave the ’van behind for a few weeks while you hit Cape York.
Throughout history you’ll find centrepole tents have been used more than any other type of temporary accommodation, apart from caves. The old-style touring tents (centre-pole tent, bus tent, or whatever you call them) are still alive and strong, but they’re a rarity when compared to newer multi-framed, multi-hinged, pop-up, unfold, extend-a-frame styles.
There’s not much that can go wrong with this style of tent; no fancy spring-loaded clips and nothing that pops up or down.
We got our hands on a Southern Cross Ultimate Trekker centre-pole touring tent. It’s large enough to jam in mum, dad and a gaggle of kids, but it would be a little uncomfortable without the optional extra awning if the weather was unkind. No outdoor canvas coverage is offered, but a zip-on awning is optional.
The tent measures in at 4.0m long, 3.0m wide and 2.26m high when set up (the rear room section is 1.62m high) and packed dimensions are 1.0 x 1.0 x 0.15m. Given the tent is made from old-fashioned polycotton canvas, the total weight is 25kg. You won’t be hiking through the Red Centre with it on your back, but you could expect to cart it around on your roof rack or in the vehicle.
Southern Cross uses Australian-made 10-ounce polycotton canvas throughout, while the floor is heavy-duty PVC. Even the poles are made locally. That central pole has a simple double-lock feature to ensure the tent roof doesn’t slip down, regardless of the wind speed. A side-pole kit can replace the central pole to free up floor space; the floor has a reinforced patch so the pole doesn’t damage it.
Huge side and rear windows offer plenty of ventilation, plus there’s a small vent in the built-in roof frame to exhaust hot air. No fly is needed with this tent, which means you don’t have to wrestle to get an extra sheet over the high peak of the tent. Good quality canvas doesn’t need a fly to stay waterproof!
A gusseted window system, a decent-sized awning and a few other mod cons would be nice, but then it wouldn’t be a simple, toughas-nails, quick-to-erect touring tent, would it?
Window mesh is fine enough to keep out mozzies and midges, and huge diameter peg rings allow a good grip to yank pegs out of the ground without tugging on the material.
The Ultimate Trekker claims to sleep four to six people.
Large windows let the scenery in, provided you don’t park your 4WD in the way.