Oztent RV-3 review

Product review: Oztent RV-3

Keen adventurer and outdoorsman Chris Bain loves nothing better than leaving behind the demands of a fast-paced work life and heading for some solitude while exploring the New Zealand landscape. So, when the opportunity arose to test the Oztent RV-3, no convincing was required.

After years working in the camping and outdoors industry, I was well aware of the Oztent products and the reputation the brand holds in the marketplace. A quick (but more demanding than expected) trip to Stony Bay in the Coromandel turned out to be more than a test for this cleverly designed tent, one that it passed with flying colours.

Arriving at the DOC campground at Stony Bay at around 7pm meant we didn’t have too much time to muck around, so after selecting a prime spot under the pōhutukawas at the eastern end of the grounds, my partner Sara and I were straight into unpacking and getting organised before the sun made way for the moon and stars.

The first thing to mention about the Oztent RV-3 is that even though its packaged size is quite large in comparison to a ‘traditional’ tent, we found it very manageable. At two metres long, the tent package size is something you need to take into consideration. However, its clever aluminium frame design results in a relatively lightweight package of 22kg, and the narrow, cylindrical shape makes it easy to store for travel. In my case, I was able to fit it in the back of the Pajero Sport after laying the seats flat. For a smaller vehicle, popping it on roof racks is an easy option.

Tent out and ready to go, the first step was to lay out the optional mesh floor saver we had brought along. Given the name of our camping location ‘Stony Bay’, you can probably envisage what the ground was like – plenty of smooth rock covered by a thin layer of soil and grass.

Oztent RV-3 review
The Oztent standing strong in the 40 knot plus wind

The floor saver did several things for us, and it would absolutely be something I would purchase for myself. Firstly, its thick mesh construction performs well at its core function, protecting the floor of the tent from damage from stones, sticks, and the odd stray bottle cap.

Also, over the weekend, it meant that underfoot, everything was very clean. Hopping in and out of bed I noticed the absolute lack of debris that got carried in with us, and as I ran back and forth between the beach and the tent, any sand that I dragged with me fell through the mesh floor, rather than coating the base of the tent.

Also, as you will read about shortly, we had some seriously testing weather, and one little bonus of the floor saver was that it helped the foot of the awning poles stay put and reduced them sliding around in the 40-knot winds that decided to join in our weekend away.

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Floor saver down, we slid the tent from its bag and to replicate a real-life family pressure situation, we completely disregarded the instructions and dove straight into set-up.

The RV-3’s big party piece is its super simple and fast set-up time. Lying the tent flat, it’s simple to unfold by walking back the two sides, holding the tent frame in the centre, then simply standing it up and sliding the side wall framework past its centre point to lock into position. Seriously, this is a 30-second job, even without reading the instructions. Even better, it’s almost impossible to get it wrong and inadvertently damage anything.

Once standing, position it at the rear of the floor saver, peg it down via its sturdy anchor points and you’re away. Next, while one of you starts unloading the plethora of unnecessary things you packed for the weekend, the other can set to running a few guy ropes – in our case, every guy rope we could find due to the rain and 40-knot plus winds that were now hitting us.

Oztent RV-3 review
The Oztent RV-3 in a neat, easy-to-manage package

An unexpected addition to the weekend but at least it meant we gave the tent a truly robust testing. The RV-3 is rated as a three- to four-person tent, so it’s also perfectly suited for a couple, offering ample room for all the goodies required for a weekend away. As well as the main room, the RV-3 comes with a large 2 x 2.4-metre, awning which is more than enough space to shelter from any overhead showers, and it’s got some great little features.

The front of the awning has a stiffener built in. For me, this offers two benefits. Firstly, it’s a lot easier for one person to roll the awning away (you don’t need to have the wingspan of a bald eagle to reach end to end). Secondly, it reduces the flapping that you can experience from most large awnings in the breeze.

I was also impressed with the quality of the poles supplied: lightweight but with a solid diameter. I was especially pleased with the twist-locking mechanism. They lock solidly and best of all don’t bind together when you give them a good twist. This makes packing up simple, with a total lack of frustration or expletives as can be the case with other larger tents.

We were lucky enough to also have the optional peaked side panels supplied. These zip onto the sides of the awning to create an open front room, perfect for wine and cheese-consuming duties, and out of the showers and wind that started battering the side of the tent shortly after we arrived.

Without these side panels, this unexpected weather squall would have seen us left quite exposed, which could have been a make or break for the success of a weekend away, so for me, these would go right in the shopping trolley next to the floor saver.

The side panels themselves were simple to attach for one person, mostly due to the quality zips used and the accuracy in how this tent is manufactured. Everything lines up and I didn’t find myself pushing or pulling anything to work it into position.

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Oztent RV-3 review
Adding extra space and weather protection is as easy as zipping on the Peaked Side Panels

Each side panel has a door built in and substantial weather flaps at the base to minimise the elements blowing in under the panel itself. These side panels can be paired with the optional front panel, which effectively turns the awning into a second room. If you have kids, or the area you’re camping in tends to attract insect life, this would be well worth considering. It’s all about being able to escape from the elements if you need to; nothing will ruin a weekend away like a swarm of hungry mozzies or pelting rain.

The tent itself is extremely well constructed. The 8oz Ripstop Polycotton canvas is more than enough to create a sturdy wind and rainproof barrier between you and the outside world. Stitching is noticeably heavy-duty and any real stress points have been reinforced throughout the tent.

We all know that a camper’s worst enemy is, of course, the zipper. Thankfully, in the RV-3, they haven’t skimped here and zips to the main entry point are supplied by YKK, so there are no concerns about stripping teeth and jamming the door at 2am on your dash to the toilet block.

Oztent RV-3 review
Left: Clever hinge locking system, built to last
Right: Easy-to-use twist lock awning poles

All other zips throughout the tent are also of a suitable size and quality fit for the task at hand. The RV-3 has all the other features you might expect, too, such as side windows for a nice early morning view from the comfort of your sleeping bag, No-See-Um mesh throughout to keep little midges at bay, and there’s a handy power inlet too to run your extension cord for the coffee machine.

Packing up the tent is simply just a matter of doing it all in reverse. There was no fighting the folding mechanism at all, and it guides you as you tuck the legs back in to return it to its original packed position. The storage bag is made to the right size so there’s little to no argument to be had to return the tent to its home.

Overall, I’m a big fan of the RV-3. The design is well thought out and the level of quality found right throughout the tent is impressive. While the complete set-up process will certainly take you longer than 30 seconds, the speed that you can get the base unit erected will lower stress levels when the family is desperate for a snack or a snooze. And, as we proved on our trip, the RV-3 stands up incredibly well in less-than-ideal conditions. If we were in a traditional poled dome tent, I’m tipping that we would have had a whole lot less sleep and potentially I may have been walking the 300km home.

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