Jack Wolfskin Gossamer Bivi Tent Review

Jack Wolfskin’s Gossamer Tent is one of the growing breed of what I would classify as hybrid tents, which are in between a bivi and traditional one person camping tent, it’s no surprise that many people refer to such tents as Bivi Tents. The Jack Wolfskin brand name and its excellent price have seen the Gossamer become a popular tent, so much so that Jack Wolfskin have released a larger version of the Gossamer in the shape of the Gossamer XT. Due to its cross-over nature the Gossamer has always intrigued me. So, when the opportunity arose to review both the new 2014 Gossamer and the XT version I jumped at the chance.

Update: The XT version is no longer available. It has been replaced by the larger 2 person Gossamer II tent.

Jack Wolfskin Gossamer XT Bivi Tent
Jack Wolfskin Gossamer XT Bivi Tent

Soul of a Bivi, Size of a Tent

Many people want a real back to nature experience, taking a roll mat and camping under the stars is the closest you can get to this but it is pretty much a no-no for around 364 days a year in this country. Bivying is the closest you will get to this whilst not getting soaked.

Bivvying isn’t for everyone with many people being put off by the tight confines  and it is why that we have bivi tents such as the Gossamers and Snugpak’s Ionosphere, tents which offer the low profile and camping freedom associated with a bivi, yet with the space and comfort of a tent.

Jack Wolfskin Gossamer and XT

The Gossamer has been around for a while and looking online at customer reviews it certainly is a much loved and appreciated tent.  This season the Gossamer has undergone a colour change; the traditional bivi colour of dark moss has gone and has been replaced by an attractive steel blue. Time will tell if this colour change is a success as people may argue that Gossamer’s target audience of bivi enthusiast and wild campers would generally go for more natural shading to blend in. However who is to say that Jack Wolfskin haven’t spotted a gap in the market!

As I wrote in my introduction  Jack Wolfskin have added to the Gossamer range this season with the release of the Gossamer XT. For all intents and purposes the Gossamer XT is  is the same as the Gossamer with the exception of its dimensions being taller and wider by 5cm with an additional 30cms of length. This additional length makes the porch area much larger and the sleeping area, although the same length, has much more useable space due to the extra width, height and the slope of the porch.

Ultralight Tents

Both Gossamer tents are ultralight tunnel tents with twin DAC Aluminium poles, weighing in at 1750g (Gossamer) and 1950g (Gossamer XT) they have RRPs of £90 and £120 respectively (May 2014). They are certainly not the lightest one person tents on the market although for the weight you are getting a tent with a solid construction and excellent weather resistance through a 75D (4,000mm HH) Flysheet and a 150 Denier Groundsheet with a 10,000mm HH.

It comes back to the age old discussion of weight verses price, if you want a superlite one person tent then the Vaude Lizard Gul 1P  at 690g will fit the bill, but its RRP of £550 (May 2014) is considerably larger than the Gossamers, comparisons like this are a little unfair as they designed for different purposes and markets.

Even considering the previous paragraph is it is perhaps the nature now of the outdoors to look at saving weight and the place to start with the Gossamer and Gossamer XT are the supplied pegs. The ten pegs that came with the Gossamer weighed in at 175g, yes a tenth of the weight of the Gossamer tent is from it pegs! For those who wish to shed some grams there are plenty of much lighter weight pegs on the market.

Pitching the Gossamer

Pitching the Gossamers is a quite simple affair; they are inner first pitch with two arches, a larger one at the head and a smaller one at the foot. As with any tunnel tent the Gossamer’s strength comes from how well it is pegged out . Assuming that you peg the tents out correctly, their  low profile and rounded tunnel design makes them very effective in the wind and with their  taped seams and the HH properties mentioned previously they are fully waterproof 3 season tents.

Gossamer Features

For the size of the tents, Jack Wolfskin have made entrances as large as possible, this makes entering and exiting much easier than with a hooped bivi. However, as with any tents of this size, it is still an art form to get in. I find getting on my hands and knees and crawling backwards in to be the best method for my 6ft plus frame, although I am more than happy to listen if anyone has any other suggestions!

Jack Wolfskin Gossamer Vestibule
Jack Wolfskin Gossamer Entrance

The large entrance of the Gossamer and Gossamer XT also have also added benefit in that they allow you to get a good view of the night sky so that many happy moment can be spent pondering or relaxing. Thankfully for campers in the U.K., both the outer and inner entrances are easy to close at a moment’s notice!

Inside the inner tent there are two decent sized pockets for stowing small items and along the length of the tent is a hanging line, for errrr hanging things!

As I wrote previously the Gossamer has changed colour for 2014 and whilst I may have questioned this choice, the new steel blue makes the inner tent bright and feel roomy, I imagine that this is much better than with the previous darker colour.

The inner tent is made from mesh, in the U.K. we tend to avoid all mesh inners due to the weather, however for a tent of this size it is a good way in reducing condensation and weight and increasing ventilation.

In good weather the flysheet can be rolled away completely so you can sleep inner only, this was something I wasn’t able to try. Although people who have commented on this feature were very positive writing that you get an “au naturale” experience without, thanks to 40D Moskito, Mesh the bugs.

Gossamer Proportions

I found the Gossamer to have plenty of room inside; in fact I was pleasantly surprised! I had enough room in both length and width for a sleeping bag, mat, some essentials and myself. However, being just under 6ft 2” I found my size 12 feet to be really close to the roof at the foot end. I must say that I used a Thermarest NeoAir X Lite Regular to lie on, which at 6.3cm is a thicker than a lot of sleeping mats (for example the thickness of a Prolite Regular being 2.5cms) and this took up some additional room. Looking online at other people’s reviews I did notice one from a person of a similar height saying how they had plenty of room, although I prefer the XT version for the extra height and peace to my mind.

Jack Wolfskin Gossamer - Roomy Inside
Jack Wolfskin Gossamer – Roomy Inside

The Gossamer doesn’t have much porch space, there is enough room to put your footwear and perhaps a smaller sack, so for bulkier treks travelling with a dry bag is a must for storing kit outside. I don’t think this can really be labelled as a criticism of the Gossamer due to the nature of its purpose, I certainly can’t tell you of any bivi bags or hooped bivis where you can store your pack!

If you do want a tent of the Gossamer’s size and price then you need look no further than the Gossamer XT. This tent does have a porch area which is large enough for a pack or to cook in etc. So if you don’t mind the extra 200g in weight then the XT and its additional space is for you. I think the release of the XT says a great deal about Jack Wolfskin as a manufacturer who is constanly looking at ways of improving or adapting products, I would like to think that Jack Wolfskin have listen to their customers views of the Gossamer in designing the XT.

The Final Reckoning

Many people online have commented on how good the Gossamer is for bike/cycle touring in the days before the XT. Having looked at both tents I think that Gossamer XT is the better tent for touring than the Gossamer, and would advise people looking at the Gossamer for touring in 2014 to go for the XT version. I think the additional space of the XT especially in the porch can only benefit. The pack size of the Gossamer XT is only 1cm wider so it shouldn’t be a problem fitting it in to your panniers and only 200g extra weight will hardly be noticed.

Inside the Jack Wolfskin Gossamer Tent
Inside the Jack Wolfskin Gossamer

Perhaps the biggest question mark over the 2014 Gossamer range is the colour, I personally like it, but I can see how a wild camper may not be too enthused about bedding down in a blue tent.

With a profile of a Hooped Bivi the Gossamers have  much more room than a bivi, particularly at the head, for example when compared to Vaude’s Bivi 1P the Gossamer has an additional 25cms of height, the XT 30cms. This design appeals to people who want the bivi shape and lower profile, yet who want some more space. I for one love the idea of a bivvying, but I don’t like the confines of a bivi bag and I much prefer the idea of a bivi tent.

Having read my comments I don’t think it will come as a surprise to you when I write that that I prefer the Gossamer XT to the Gossamer. The additional space for someone of my height is really helpful as it makes getting in and out of the tent a little easier and also allows some more room to sit up, the extra 200g and more expensive price tag are well worth it in my opinion. I would certainly like to deft my metaphorical cap to Jack Wolfskin for thinking about us taller people.

Jack Wolfskin have made an excellent job in creating a range which has a good mix of price, weight and functionality. Both the Gossamer and Gossamer XT tents are excellent bivi tents. They are fully functional and fit for purpose, easy to pitch anywhere and with a low profile they allow you to get a proper outdoors feeling and the solitude and peace of mind you can get from traditional bivvying.