The Wild Country Zephyros Compact 2 is a bit of a mouthful, but what it lacks in snappy nomenclature it more than makes up for in a package that boasts pretty astounding value for money, and that will likely be right up your street if you want to dip your tie into bikepacking or cycle touring but have been astounded by the cost of other tents on the market.
If you’re unfamiliar with Wild Country, these tents share the same designers as the British Terra Nova brand, although optimised for affordability and reliability, rather than lightweight performance.
With that in mind, the Wild Country Zephyros Compact 2 isn’t going to break any records, but comes in under two kilos at a very respectable claimed 1.95kg (although mine was a delightfully svelte 1.86kg on the scales). Admittedly you can get tents that are half this weight; the absurdly titled ‘Big Agnes Fly Creek HV Carbon with Dyneema’ weighs a claimed 530g (cheekily, without counting pegs or bag). Being charitable that’s about 600g all in, and a saving of 1.2kg. Between two of you that’s the equivalent to a big lunch, but it’ll also cost you over £1,000…
That is a fairly extreme comparison, but as cyclists we are often guilty of obsessing over both the weight of our equipment and of our bodies. For me there comes a point where I don’t like paying too much for my outdoors gear, as it starts to sit in the back of my mind that I shouldn’t be rough with it. Ultralight also can come with a degree of fragility, and especially for UK conditions I’m happy to carry a little more weight and sleep more soundly on a sturdy groundsheet.
If you’re focussed on racing then this might not be for you, but don’t overlook it entirely.
The Wild Country Zephyros Compact 2 is a very snug 2 person tent. I am reluctant to use the term canvas coffin, but if you’re prone to claustrophobia then a tent with a higher canopy might be more worthy of your consideration. As a Cornish boy with a father from the coalfields of South Wales, I’m never happier than when crammed into a small dark space. Top to toe you should have ample room for sleeping, and head to head is perfectly feasible if you’re more familiar with your tent mate.
I’m 6ft on the nose, and I begin to reach the length limits of the tent, partially due to its tapered shape. I suspect 6’4” is probably the point where you’d have to start bending your legs to avoid a face full of flysheet.
Extraneous space on the inside is limited. There’s a small porch area either side, with room for shoes or small items, but if you’re planning on bringing your baggage in with you it will have to go under your feet. I suggest leaving it on the bike, other than valuables.
Despite the snug nature, my partner and I could quite happily lie and read books, or play small travel games after sunset without too many contortions, but it’s not really a tent to hang out in. Horizontal activities only, so I suggest practicing your yoga before trying anything too romantic. Likewise if you often find yourself in camp sheltering from insects of an evening, you may be better off opting for one you can more comfortably sit up in.
Wild Country do offer a one person version of the same tent, but I’d be inclined to get the two person version even if you’re planning a solo trip. It’ll mean slightly more room to manoeuvre if you’re on your own, and future proof your gear collection for subsequent companionship.
Fortunately it has a door on each side, so if you’ve had too many beers round the campfire you can sneak out without kneeling on anyones stomach by accident.
Cycle specific design
The real party piece of the Zephyros Compact 2 to is alluded to in the Compact moniker. The single pole is double segmented, meaning the whole thing packs down to a package around 30cm in length. This means it can be happily stowed widthways in the bottom of a large Carradice style saddlebag, within a pannier, or, as I suspect the designers had in mind, atop the pannier rack itself (I suggest within a drybag just in case). No more strapping the poles to the bars or along the top tube, with the rest of the tent elsewhere.
The outer canopy is rated at 4,000mm hydrostatic head, with the groundsheet at 5,000mm. In real terms this means it will keep you dry. We pitched ours atop a Cornish cliff just before an awful Atlantic storm barrelled over us. We lay there, in an admittedly quite noisy tent, wondering if we’d wake up in the early verses of the book of Genesis (that’s the Noah bit, FYI), but however much the rain lashed down we remained cosy and dry, although woken fairly regularly by enormous flashes of lightning nearby. I can only imagine you’d need a more waterproof tent than this if someone put a gun to your head and told you to pitch up under Janet’s Foss for the evening.
As with all tents the fabric tends to swell slightly once it gets wet, meaning you lose some tension after a downpour. This can increase the wind noise, and sometimes make things a bit saggy following a downspout, but is easily rectified by re-tensioning the various lines.
Another plus point is the canopy is a nice leafy green, meaning that you’re more likely to sleep soundly if you’ve decided to engage in some low to moderate levels of trespass and want to avoid the gaze of a truculent member of the landed gentry.
Ease of pitching
With only one main pole and two struts at the ends that act as cantilevers, the Zephyros can be pitched extremely fast. This is aided by a pre-clipped internal flysheet, and sturdy V shaped alloy pegs, so no infuriating moments dealing with bent ones.
A combination of peg out points that can be tensioned and sturdy guy ropes mean you can get the tent into reasonable shape with ease, though I’d like to see an additional set of guy ropes on the body of the canopy to counteract the flapping in high winds.
Ease of packing
If pitching was easy, then packing up is a dream. The bag is nicely designed without a zip, opting instead for a large drawstring opening and integrated flap, along with two compression straps. This means no cursing when you’ve rolled the tent up in a hurry and it’s too big to close the zip.
With relatively little practice we were able to erect (quiet at the back!) in less than two minutes, and could have it packed away in even less time. It really is wonderfully simple.
In high winds, despite tensioning everything to within an inch of its life, it does have a tendency to flap about a bit. This can be alleviated by pitching it with the long axis into the wind, but in very high winds I did occasionally get hit in the face by some fast moving nylon.
This was only during the most severe weather the UK has to offer though, and in more pedestrian conditions it’s nothing to write home about. If you’re a light sleeper then slipping a pair of earplugs into your wash bag wouldn’t be the worst idea in the world.
Along with your sleeping bag and sleeping mat, your tent (or bivvy, if you’ve decided to go down that road) is the third pillar of your sleep system, and its size directly impacts how warm you’ll stay. Think of it like heating a house; lovely high victorian ceilings may be wonderful in summer, but come winter things start to get expensive once you fire the boiler back up. The small size of the Zephyros helps to keep you really rather toasty, but fortunately the front and rear ends are mesh, covered by removable flaps to maintain airflow in warmer climates, in addition to a half-mesh door on one side.
RRP is £220, but if you shop around you can find it for a lot less. We paid about £160 for ours at Cotswold Outdoors by virtue of one of the many discounts they offer (have a Google, you’ll probably be eligible for one or two without much effort, or press gang your children into the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award scheme and use theirs).
This for me hits the sweet spot that you know it’s not going to fall apart at the first sign of abuse, but not so expensive that you’ll have to justify it to yourself by promising you’ll use it every single week without fail. It’ll quite happily sit in the cupboard under the stairs waiting for its moment to shine.
The Wild Country Zephyros Compact 2 verdict
Cycling isn’t always the most accessible sport. Bikepacking perhaps even less so, with the ever increasing list of ‘necessary’ equipment creating a hefty financial barrier to entry. For a tent that will keep you warm and dry in the worst conditions, the Wild Country Zephyros Compact 2 is incredibly well priced. It’s a dream to live with and represents a very accessible entry point into the world of bikepacking and cycle touring, especially if the thought of a bivvy bag fills you with horror.
It’s not the lightest, but it’s not so flimsy that you’ll ever worry about it. In my opinion, for the hobby bikepacker more interested in having a good time than a fast time (to coin Restrap’s tagline), this is the middle bowl of porridge; its in the Goldilocks zone, and thats why I have no regrets about spending my own money on it, and probably why it won T3’s Tent of the Year. So dig out your old mountain bike, pop this atop the rusty pannier rack and head for the woods one Saturday afternoon. That’s as much bikepacking as anything else.
Last modified: 23rd February 2021