Choosing a tent for UK conditions that you might want to use for pretty much everything from valley camping to mountain use has always been pretty straightforward in the past, buy a Quasar..... Need a bigger mountain tent? Buy a Super Quasar! Tents from a few other manufacturers have followed a similar design but in the last decade there have been lots of upstarts with a range of different designs. Can a pretender to the crown from Exped tick the boxes for our UK climate?

I've been a LONG time fan of the Super Quasar, I've had one for years and used it for pretty much everything, enjoying it's room for 2 and unbeatable bad weather performance, stormy outside? Sleep on while everyone around you blows into the distance! However, fatherhood has brought a new set of tent needs and squeezing 2 adults and a 'starfish' sleeping 6 year old into the trusty Super Quasar on a camping trip high up in Borrowdale proved one thing, we needed more room.

A hunt around showed surprisingly few options for a tent capable of sleeping 3 comfortably, light weight enough to carry on a few days camping up high to access mountain crags and also capable of withstanding UK weather conditions all while being roomy enough to use for lighter weight car camping or Easyjet style cragging missions to somewhere warm. Having never been a fan of full mesh inners in the UK, I find them to be too cold and draughty, a full inner was also essential. I finally narrowed down the choice to a Venus III from Exped, sacrificing the extra stability of the similar Orion for more internal space.

From Exped: This taller version of the Venus series is designed with comfort in mind and ideal for those who wish to increase living space. With a canopy height of 150 cm it's ideal for getting dressed or sitting out bad weather. 2 Exped size LW or 3 M mats fit perfectly within the large canopy footprint. The vestibule loft and canopy pockets store personal items.

Exped's Venus range has a few models available from lighter - normal - extreme versions of the 2 person model, through the 3 person version reviewed here and all the way to a version with a huge front canopy. All share the same hybrid design (the Venus III DLX Plus has an extra pole) which is halfway between a tunnel and dome with 2 main arches with a pole running across the roof to offer extra stability and also increase the space in the porch area. The main concern with this layout for me was stability, although this design isn't as stable as a geodesic layout and has far fewer pole crossover points it's so far proved more than stable enough when pegged out properly. (As mentioned, Exped do offer a more geodesic design in the Orion III)

Features

Exped tents all have a range of well thought out features, on the Venus III it's possible to pitch using just the outer saving considerable weight if you're that way inclined but I've personally never used it this way, living and wild camping in The Lake District it's typically either wet, windy or full of midges (or all 3) so I've left the inner permanently attached for simpler all in one pitching. 
Other design features include D shaped doors on both sides which hang to one side when fully opened and have the option of unzipping to use just a mesh door, zips are colour coded and have luminous zip pulls, helpful for finding them in the dark. The inner has a few good sized mesh pockets for bits and bobs and a handy gearloft.

On the outside flat pole sleeves help with easy pitching, I've always found mesh sleeves can catch if you're not paying attention, and guylines have a nifty bag which hangs midway when pegged out to act as a little flag to avoid trips and store the guylines when not in use. The poles and pegs are all organised in a nice bag and the main stuff sack is plenty roomy enough to cram your suddenly oversized and wet tent into when you're in a hurry to pack up. 

There are several other design touches such as adjustable pegging points, stiffened vent supports, door tie backs and colour coded 7001-T6 Aluminium TRX Airlite poles and lightweight anodised pegs which all add up to a well thought out tent. I also purchased the additional footprint and use this for additional protection for everything except lighter weight trips. 

An interesting feature which I missed at first is a slightly different height from ground level to the start of the outer on each side, one side is noticeably higher than the other, this allows you to pitch the higher side into the wind if you need better ventilation blowing under and around the inner or the lower side into the wind if you need less air movement and a warmer tent. 

1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14

Interior Space

In a word, this is a roomy tent. The pictures show 3 medium width Exped Synmat 3d sleeping mats, a similar width to mats from other manufacturers at 52cm, these fit comfortably across the tent with more room available above and below for clothes and pillows. The 'ridge' pole extending over each porch really does help to make the room available on each side generous for both access and storage and also prevents any water dripping into the inner when you open the outer zip.
The near vertical walls, tall height and sleeping alignment make a big difference to the available vertical space inside (albeit making the Venus III more prone to side winds than a more aerodynamic shape), it's easily big enough to sit up comfortably for changing and is an airy place to wait out bad weather or when relaxing, even for 3 occupants.

Performance

Although a tent this large with only 3 poles will never be as stable as a more streamlined fully geodesic design I've been generally impressed with the bad weather performance and ability to keep out wet weather, Exped rate this as a 4 season tent and there's a video of a Venus II coping well with 100km/h winds as an example but you do need to ensure all guylines are pegged out properly for best performance and to maintain the outer/inner separation in severe weather. At 3.7kg min weight (leaving behind bags and extra pegs) it's a reasonable option to carry between 2-3 people, especially given the volume of the living space.

Specifications

Capacity: 2 - 3 Persons
Dimensions: 235 × 160 × 150 cm
Canopy area: 3.8 m²
Vestibule Area: 2.6 m²
Min. Weight: 3.7 kg
Max. Weight: 4.1 kg
Packed size: 48 × 19 cm
Rainfly: 40 D ripstop nylon, PU coated, factory seam taped, 1'500 mm water column
Canopy: 30 D ripstop nylon, 15 D No-See-Um mosquito mesh nylon
Floor: 70 D taffeta nylon, PU coated, factory seam taped, 10'000 mm water column
Poles: TRX Airlite 9.1 mm 7001-T6 Aluminium, TRX Airlite 10.1 mm 7006-T6 Aluminium

Verdict

Although quite pricey the Venus III is well thought out, capable of performing in reasonably bad weather conditions, has a full inner and is light enough to carry on mountain days despite also offering a huge internal volume for it's weight, the large internal area also makes it a good choice for car camping use.