Thoughts on - First Ascent Helio II 2 Person

Good day,

I am currently looking to buy my very first tent, for hiking in all over South-Africa even “the Berg”
And with the black Friday sale I was looking for any discounts and the first ascent Helios is looking very good, any thoughts or recommendations ?

I just bought a First Ascent Helio II. Here are my first impressions:

  1. Quality: No problems there. Excellent materials and build quality.
  2. Size: is significantly less roomy inside given the sloping back and tapered shape. Great for one person, two will be a squeeze, unless you’re both small or somewhat comfortable with spooning. I recently spent a few days stuck in the Drakensberg in very bad weather with a friend in his FA Starlight II tent, and I’ll tell you for free that I’m grateful that tent had more liveable space inside. Fit one person though, or just overnighting for 2, you’ll have no problems at all.
    Height wise it’s good enough in front to sit up, get dressed, etc. comfortably. At the lower end, it’s good enough for gear or when you are laying down.
  3. Pole construction: The double -Y single pole makes for easy setup, and the aluminium poles seem sturdy. Keep in mind the narrow ridge due to the single pole approach. It does not open up the roof as much as a pair of crossed poles would - giving it a smaller usable volume inside.
  4. Inside features: I love the fact that the door is wide, and has a double construction allowing you to zip up and then open to just a gauze. Good for warmer nights. Would have been great to have a larger pocket inside. The door is quite low though, so getting in and out is not Uber easy.
    As it is, there is only one triangular pocket about the size of a large man’s hand near the door. Oversight in my opinion. Nice that it has a hook for an led lantern in the roof apex.
  5. Vestibule: Good size, easily fit one 70l bag, 2 with a squeeze.
  6. Guy ropes: love that is reflective, but the weave of the reflective thread makes the tighteners too grippy on the rope, so it’s hard to tighten smoothly. Great that it has rope fixing points right around, which makes it so much more bomb proof in the extreme Drakensberg winds. No weird tension points or flapping sides to worry about here.
  7. Tent pegs: Small and light aluminium pegs. Strong enough, but the sharp edges on top means you must use a rock or sturdy boot to get them in, no using only your hands.
  8. Storage: Love that it fits the bottom of my backpack. This is an excellent feature. The tent fits the stuffing bag easily, although I would have loved a length-wise zip instead of a drawstring at one end.
  9. Weight: Good for what you get. At 2.45kg is not ultralight, but given the quality of the material and the price point, I think it’s hard to find much better
  10. Comfort: It’s a warmer tent than many others, and the 3 season rating is NB if you want to take it into the berg with high winds and often extreme cold. The fact that it is snug(er) inside helps to warm it out and keep it warm. It’s not as breezy inside as some others.
  11. Price: It compares excellently with almost any other brand that has even close to the same quality.
  12. Overall impression: I love and trust the brand. The tent is sturdy and reliable, even if a little smaller than I expected. Would I buy it again? Absolutely yes for one person, or two as a shelter. For a little more comfort, the First Ascent Starlight II is a great call, just a pity it doesn’t pack as small.

The Helio’s main design focus is high strength and low weight, and it shines in both those categories. It can handle extreme weather with very strong wind and it doesn’t weigh a ton. That being said it is not a very “livable” tent. Getting in and out is awkward and the low roof combined with the steep angles of the roof make it quite cramped when sitting inside the tent.

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Hi Arno,
This is why I opted for the FA Starlight 2 Tent. Much easier to enter / exit, plus more headroom.