Black Wolf’s Wasp UL 2 Tent is a four-season tent, which often conjures images of shivering through the first few weeks of winter camping. But how does it hold up in the windy and relentless Western Australian heat?
A 4 Season Tent in WA?
Those jokers at We Are Explorers think they’re hilarious. ‘We’ve got a tent for you to review, mate. It’s a Black Wolf – perfect for you over there on the Ningaloo Coast…’
You can imagine what I was thinking; one of those safari-style turbo tents that Black Wolf are famous for, the ones that look like they’re straight out of the Serengeti or a luxurious Bedouin desert camp. Pop up to head-height, big and breezy enough for the whole tribe to lounge around in during the heat of the day, dune-chic in those muted khaki colours.
I could almost hear them laughing when a bright green, squat, four-season dome tent, more suited to snow than sand, arrived at my doorstep a week later. I live in the arid Pilbara region in Western Australia, where a four-season tent is about as useful as a screen door on a submarine.
We have two seasons here: hot, and hot-and-windy-with-flies. But the joke’s on them because the Black Wolf Wasp UL 2 Tent should’ve been called the Chameleon – able to change to fit its environment in the blink of an eye. And it’s just as at home on a wind-blasted Western Australian sand dune as it is on an alpine snowfield.
Size and Weight
At a hair over 3kg, the Wasp is no lightweight contender. Being used to the svelte hiking models from brands like MSR, Mont, and Nemo, which range between 1-2kg for a 2-3 season tent, this Black Wolf felt bulky out of the box.
But when you consider that this is sold as a four-season tent, it’s actually middle-of-the-pack when it comes to weight – not quite as light as the otherwise-similar Mont Dragonfly (2.5kg), but at $499, it’s also less than half the price.
The trade-off for the extra weight is a spacious, fully-featured tent which feels less like a shelter and more like a home away from home.
I’ve previously owned the Black Wolf Wasp’s little brother, the Mantis, a hiking tent with a low-profile, slanting design which I loved. Unfortunately, the Mantis was just a little bit short for my 6’2” frame to be able to stretch out end-to-end.
Thankfully, the Wasp has both ample length and headspace due to the upright pole structure and spacer pole, leading to a squarer shape. There’s easily enough room to sit or kneel to get dressed.
One of the most welcome features was more than enough storage pockets to be able to keep track of all your bits and pieces. After seeing the popularity of goat-yoga and beer-yoga, I often wonder long it is before ‘tent-yoga’ sweeps the socials, a style of cramped contortionism that results from trying to recover a head torch or phone which has disappeared between the sleeping pads, accompanied by loud noises of protest and discomfort from your tent partner.
Clearly, the organisation system of the Wasp has been designed with the millennial in mind, with six overhead mesh compartments which are ideally sized for gadgets, a series of loops which are perfect for the mandatory string of fairy lights, and a further four catch-all pockets at each corner.
Oh, and the Black Wolf Wasp is a proper two-person tent. Two doors, two vestibules; zero arguments.
Ease of Setup
The Black Wolf Wasp is free-standing, which means you can easily move it around once set up to avoid rocks or get that Insta-chic angle for the look-where-I-woke-up photos. Setup will be straight forward for anyone with experience with these types of tents, as it follows the same basic template as many of the popular freestanding dome tents, like the Hubba Hubba or Moondance.
The quick-tensioners on the peg loops for the fly were a nice extra, allowing for rapid adjustment. One gripe, however, was that the Wasp doesn’t go neatly back in the bag. And before you go criticising my tight-roll, no matter which way you seem to collapse them, the poles just seem too long for the length of the bag, rendering the roll-top closure a bit useless.
To rub salt into the wound, there are no compression straps on the bag to cinch it down, resulting in a bulky and somewhat awkward final product.
Durability & Weather Resistance
The fly is constructed from a 40D ripstop Sil Nylon Polyurethane (PU) with a 2000mm waterhead rating (I imagine that’s important, if you’re somewhere where moisture falls from the sky), while the floor is sturdy 70D Polyester PU floor rated to 5000mm. While this is pretty standard for tents within this category (mid-weight 3-4 season), there are a few aspects which don’t quite seem to fit with the Black Wolf Wasp’s four-season contention.
The poles and peg loops don’t have quite the robustness of a true alpine tent and the fly doesn’t reach the full way to the ground, allowing a gap for the wind to sneak under.
The vestibules, while standard for a hiking tent, are on the small side for extended backcountry adventures. Though I’d have no qualms about taking the Wasp on the odd sub-alpine snow camping trip, the dedicated alpinist is likely to look elsewhere.
However, despite my original scepticism, there are actually common challenges between snow and sand camping. Both alpine and coastal areas cop some fairly gnarly winds – whether you’re trapped on an icy ridgeline in a buffeting gale or hunkered down behind a dune during a roaring south-westerly.
In either circumstance, this leads to the tent flapping like a freshly-caught flounder all night and sends a fine layer of spindrift (either ice or sand) blowing in under the fly, which in turn leads you to waking up after a long night feeling dusty in every sense of the word.
It was here that the mad genius of a four-season tent in the desert quickly became apparent. Firstly, the Wasp has – count them – eight peg-down points, not including guy lines, which means you can lock it down tight with multiple spade pegs sharing the load.
There are two peg loops on each vestibule, which means a squarer profile and more usable space, as well as maintained tension and reduced flapping when the doors are unzipped and rolled away.
Secondly, the double-skinned doors mean this thing is a real-life transformer – while the nylon inner door-panel can seal up the whole tent tight against wind and fine sand, it can also be zipped away into its own integrated pocket, leaving a huge expanse of mesh which lets the breeze flow through while keeping the flies out.
Typically, four-season tents are designed for warmth and don’t have good ventilation. Along with the four top vents, which are internally accessible, this dual-layer system effectively converts the tent from a cosy winter capsule into a breezy summer shade-shelter.
All this means that the Black Wolf Wasp is a very versatile tent. Yes, it’s heavier than your average hiking tent. No, it’s not going to stand up to a blizzard-like a Mountain Hardwear or Hilleberg Bomber. But it covers a lot of ground between the two.
The Black Wolf Wasp is a tent which would comfortably handle the odd cross-country skiing trip to the Victorian or NSW High Country, but zip away the doors and pop the chutes and it has enough ventilation to serve admirably in hotter climates, like the arid west coast of Australia – and I’d wager it would handle many different environments and situations in between.
An all-rounder then, perfect for throwing in the back of the car, strapping to the panniers, stowing under the deck of a kayak or any other situation where weight is a secondary concern; for the budget-conscious multi-sport enthusiast; or for that added peace of mind when the weather forecast suggests that your mentos-wrapper-and-a-hiking-pole ultralight shelter might not cut it.
Joel was provided with the Black Wolf Wasp UL 2 Tent to review and got to keep it. The views are entirely his own.