Choosing A New Tent – Inflatable Polycotton Outwell Harrier L

It Doesn't Get Much Better Than This...

In my previous article when we were considering which new tent to get, we had been impressed by the Outwell Concorde due to the quality, sturdiness and configuration.

We had some reservations about it though, primarily being the sloped entrance. This was one of the main problems with our old Hi-Gear, the sloped front was completely impractical in the rain; it was impossible to have the main door open without the inside of the tent getting soaked. I couldn't see how the Concorde would be any different.

We were thrilled to find there was an alternative model in the range, the Harrier L which not only had a flat vertical front and door, but a built-in canopy too. The compromise was a slightly smaller living space than the Concorde but we felt that wasn't an issue as the living space was so large anyway. We didn't feel like we needed to see it in the flesh as it was so similar to the Concorde we saw at the tent show and there was plenty of information on the Outwell website.

The Harrier L

Established in 1995, Danish brand Outwell is considered one of the best tent manufacturers and their premium products tend to be well made, cleverly designed and long-lasting. As explored in my previous article, canvas or polycotton tents are often of the highest quality and Outwell's polycotton Smart Air inflatable tents are pretty much up there as one of the best in their class. When we settled on the Harrier, there was definitely a very satisfying feeling of it doesn't really get much better than this.

Once we'd decided the Harrier ticked every box on our wishlist, we set about trying to find the best deal possible.

Best Buy - Outdoor Megastore

It didn't take long to discover that Outdoor Megastore had by far most competitive prices. Especially when their 5% discount card was factored in. An independent retailer based in Bootle, Merseyside, I was initially nervous about not buying from a large chain I'd heard of. I needn't have worried though, their service was impeccable from start to finish.

From initial telephone inquiries, through ordering, delivery and even return and replacement, they were nothing but efficient, prompt and friendly. There was a manufacturing fault on our first Harrier, but the entire tent was replaced immediately without fuss.

By coincidence, I was traveling nearby to Liverpool the week we found the fault and I ended up visiting the store. It was enormous, with many tents on display indoors and really helpful knowledgeable staff. I know I sound evangelical but I really can't recommend the place enough. So often you find you need to compromise between the cheapest prices and good service, but at Outdoor Megastore you get both.

Accessories

We decided to get the footprint (a hard-wearing tarpaulin custom made to fit under and protect the tent) and carpet too. We never bothered with a footprint for our Hi-Gear as its groundsheet was pretty substantial and being a small-ish tent it was never a chore to give the outside of the groundsheet a quick wipe down if it got wet or muddy. While the groundsheet of the Harrier is even better quality than the Hi-Gear, this tent is intended to last us a long time and so any additional protection is welcome. Being a much larger tent, the groundsheet staying clean and dry for striking is a massive benefit of the footprint, it makes the whole thing much quicker to pack away. Finally, the footprint assists in demarcating the position of the tent and where to put the anchor pegs when pitching, which is very useful for a larger tent.

I would always recommend using a tent carpet. The groundsheets inside most tents are black and on a sunny day this can really increase the heat inside. A tent carpet helps keep the inside cool on hot days and cosy when it's less pleasant out. They finish off the tent and make it a much more comfortable atmosphere.

Pitching

The Harrier L comes with an air pump. It is simple to operate in principle, but the technique initially takes a bit of mastering. Once the one-piece tent is pegged in its corners, the pump is inserted to the air-in valve and you can get inflating. Just when you're at the point where it seems the pumping has gone on quite a while and you think it's high time the tent was inflated, up it pops like a bouncy castle, and it really is as simple as that.

Being a large tent, there are lots of pegging points and guyropes galore so this takes a while but no more so than a standard non-inflatable. There's a regular strung pole which gives structure to the canopy and takes a bit of getting in position. Overall though with the removal of building and inserting poles, it really is super fast and easy to pitch.

Things to Love

I'm smitten with this tent as much as any human can be an inanimate object. There is a lot to love. So much so it's easiest to bullet point its positives:

  • Its simple symmetry, there's nothing pointless or superfluous about the exterior design
  • The chalked-off green and stone canvas is subtle and classic but the stark black accents add a bit of sleek styling
  • The canopy - it's a brilliant clever feature, keeping the rain out and an additional place to store kit
  • The polycotton feels durable and premium
  • Large tinted windows which are pretty impossible to see through from the outside but clear and bright from the inside
  • Decent sized bedroom spaces are flexible and reconfigurable
  • Main living space has great head height and spacious dimensions
  • Numerous pockets, loops and velcro tabs; I have a thing about hanging stuff up
  • The over-window vents are substantial and make a big difference when opened
  • Large front door allows for sitting inside without feeling cooped up

There are very few things I'd change but if I'm being super picky, I'd say the following:

  • The whopping bag it comes in could do with a base frame and some wheels
  • The velcro tabs to hold the cotton window covers in place don't align very well
  • You have to be very careful when pitching to ensure the front panel isn't stretched too tightly which can hinder the closing of the front foor zip (which could actually be better quality too).
  • It would be nice to have a door on both the left and right sides to open up the living space, it would better correspond with the positions of the doors on our van too
  • The inner bedroom flysheet partition sags a bit at the back

These are minor niggles though and barely detract from the effectiveness of the tent overall. We've been on 3 trips with it so far and apart from the whopping packed weight of 37kg, its a relatively effortless way to set up camp. We camped through torrential rain and thunderstorms in Norfolk and hurricane Bertha in Cambridgeshire and on both occasions the Harrier felt sturdy and easily withstood the elements. Sitting under the canopy watching the thunderclouds slowly rumble across the dark East Anglia sky towards us was quite magical, especially when we felt confident that as soon as the rain started pelting we could quickly zip ourselves in and feel sheltered and secure.

I would thoroughly recommend the Harrier L to any regular campers who are looking for a spacious premium tent that will withstand the test of time.

Comments

  1. Jason Scott

    Lovely tent and lovely write up. If you can afford it, Outwell really seem to be the best. Our budget didn’t so we opted for the Quechua Family Seconds 6.3xl Air which had been fab. Coming from a smaller tent we’re so impressed with the living space.

    I’d love to find an awning/porch that we could add but nothing seems suitable so far. I guess you still can’t cook in the porch area of the Harrier so what’s your setup for cooking when it’s raining?

    Reply to Jason
  2. Ian Hodden-brown

    Hi we have a harrier xl and the inflatable 2 of the inflatable tubes have large bubbles in them due to compression tube ripping. Can I ask what was the fault with your your first one you had to send back.
    Thanks
    Ian

    Reply to Ian
    • Philippa

      Hi Ian, thanks for your comment. Our fault was with the seam between the plastic and canvas near the zip on the front door, the edges of the fabric weren’t caught-in enough so tore under slight tension. Have you been able to resolve your issue?

      Reply to Philippa
    • James

      Hi Ian, we also have a Harrier XL, and read about your bubbling beams with concern. Did the bubbles lead to the beams deflating and were these defects there from the outset? Would imagine a tear in the tube would lead to deflation rather than bubbles?

      Reply to James
  3. Ian Hodden-brown

    No not yet, I have taken my tent back to the shop and they are trying to get me a new one from Outwell which could take a while and if they have any in stock. It is a worry as in the end 3 tubes in total had bubbles in them, almost as if I had over pumped it but I never put any more than 0.6 bar in it. Apart from that it is by far the best tent I’ve ever had.
    Thanks for your reply
    Ian

    Reply to Ian
    • Philippa | It's Nice Out

      Oh that’s a bind, and definitely something for us to be mindful of, the fact that it might get bubbles in. Glad to hear that other than that it’s been a good bet for you and I hope you get your replacement soon. At least its coming up to off-season (if you’re fair-weather campers like us, that is!) so you won’t miss it too much for the time being….

      Reply to Philippa
  4. Jules

    Thanks so much for the insightful article! We’re looking to upgrade this year, but finding something to live up to the space and layout of our Vango Maritsa 700 has been tough. We came to the conclusion that we wanted to be warmer (we’re a bit nesh!) and we want pitching to be faster, especially after a long journey – you know the sort I mean – where you queue for hours, then arrive starving hungry in the pouring rain! so inflatable polycotton is the way forward. I really like your final choices, so we’re off to check them out at the NEC in half term. Out of interest, is anyone aware of whether discounts tend to be available at this event or does it depend on the exhibitor? Many thanks.

    Reply to Jules
  5. Matthew Hewitt

    I bought a Harrier XL a few weeks ago (with the 2015 colour) partly based on this review. I love it, although it took a bit of time to pump up first time and would agree re the front door – I needed to re-peg as it was a bit over-stretched. A real premium buy and it is very disappointing that the carry bag does not have wheels or better handles for two to carry it (the Outwell Transporter is worth getting to move it around), but expect to camp in it five times a year plus for a number of years, so it fels worth the investment.

    Reply to Matthew
    • Philippa

      Hi Matthew, thanks for your comment, I’m glad you found the review helped you decide and are not disappointed!

      We found the pumping gets easier the more you use it, perhaps the beams get ‘broken in’, either that or the pumper gets the knack over time!

      We’ve just purchased an electric pump but yet to try it out but I’ll keep you posted…

      Reply to Philippa
  6. Mat

    Great review. We bout the Harrier XL yesterday and are pretty excited to get out in it in a few weeks.
    Question: which lights are you using on the entrance vestibule and are the solar? We like them ☺️

    Reply to Mat
    • Philippa

      Hi Mat, thanks, I’m glad you found the review helpful and are happy with your choice.

      The lights are festoons from lights4fun, when you buy them you can choose which power pack you want included, we have a standard battery pack but you can also get solar ones.

      Enjoy your Harrier!!

      Reply to Philippa

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