Wild Country Hoolie 3 ETC tent review

Wild Country Hoolie 3 bike touring

Product: Wild Country Hoolie 3 ETC
Price: £150 (Sale; May 2015)
Duration used: 90 days
Purchased from: Millets (UK retailer)

The Good

Massively spacious interior with room enough for three

Vestibule area can provide complete protection from outside environment

The Bad

Non-freestanding

At 3.8kg, probably too heavy for a bike touring couple

No option for inner-only pitching, in warmer climates this can make for uncomfortably hot nights

Poorly machined poles resulting in several breakages

A ma-HOO-sive three person tent

The Hoolie 3 ETC is a BIG tent. The interior comfortably accommodated the two of us and all of our bags. Its huge vestibule area (available on the ETC version) was useful a handful of times for sheltering in adverse weather and making the tent feel almost like a 2-room apartment, but ultimately it is a waste of weight and vestibules on other tents, e.g. MSR’s Elixir 2, are large enough to allow for cooking and storage of gear anyway, whilst being much lighter and not having such a large pitching footprint.

Hoolie 3 ETC bike touring
Any way you look at it, this tent is big!

The three pole system is a little cumbersome and the machined indents at the end of each pole segment seemed to weaken the poles at these points, resulting in too many pole breakages to call coincidental. When confronted with this, Wild Country refused to acknowledge the weakness brought about by these indents and refused to issue us with pole segments until one of our parents took up the fight by phone and email. With included pole repair sleeves, we were able to tentatively use the tent for a time, before deciding that a smaller 2-berth tent would suit us better.

Hoolie 3 ETC poles
Three of the poles snapped in the same fashion. Not a coincidence.

Not a great summer tent

We used this tent for four months in the Mediterranean and probably couldn’t have made a worse choice for the type of climate we were riding in. There were two or three nights which spring to mind when we were thankful for the outer-inner-together pitching method: all at the top of mountain passes where the temperature dropped to around freezing. This is in contrast to the countless nights spent sweating and unsleeping in cruelly warm temperatures without any air penetrating the double wall of the Hoolie. Seriously, ventilation is a problem in this tent and with the only vent requiring pegging out and providing an unnoticeable amount of air, it was rarely worth the bother of actually using.

We are touring around the world by bicycle and need a tent which can stand up to all sorts of bad weather, but will also be comfortable in hot, humid climates. For that reason, the double-wall pitching method of the Hoolie just wasn’t appropriate for us. If your adventures will only see you in relatively cold climates and in need of lots of space, the Hoolie may be a great tent for your needs. It will keep you warm on cold nights and is easily capable of keeping your gear dry as well.

Free-standing vs pegs required for pitching

Tents come in a huge variety of pitching styles nowadays: free-standing, semi free-standing, non free-standing (pegs absolutely required) and it can be tough to decide what is right for the kind of trip you will be doing.

The Hoolie 3 is a non free-standing tent, that is, this tent cannot be pitched at all without staking out pegs at required points. The inner of a tent like the MSR Elixir 2 can be pitched without any pegs and is a free-standing tent. There are advantages and disadvantages to all styles, but for absolute versatility we would wholeheartedly recommend a free-standing tent. You won’t always find the perfect ground for pegging out your tent and being able to pitch your tent anywhere is as useful as it sounds.

The Hoolie a nuisance to pitch, even on good ground, requiring a number of well placed pegs in order to stand sturdy. Of course, it is possible to stake out your tent using rocks and other sturdy objects, but once you have become used to a free-standing tent, it is hard to imagine ever going back. Think seriously about what kind of tent will be most suitable for your trip, Google searches such as “best freestanding tents” to see what other people are recommending. Bear in mind, however, that these convenient tent designs come at a premium; they are often, but not always, the most expensive tents.

Our Verdict

Other than the above points, the Hoolie seems a strong, durable tent. It stood up to some pretty tough winds and Wild Country have not used thin, weak materials on the outer or inner. It has the feel of a tent which could last a long time and, sleeping 3 people comfortably, could be a good expedition tent or suitable for a family bicycle trip.

However, for the price this tent retails at, and given the stiff competition in the tent market at the time, there are many more versatile and lightweight tents available which will suit small groups of adventurers. We returned our Hoolie 3 in favour of a free-standing tent, think carefully about whether you might be making the same mistake.

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