66°North x HEIMPLANET The Cave XL 4-Season

Learn more about Benjamin Hardman & the whole development process of The Cave XL 4-Season!

Since I work as a nature photographer in Iceland, I spend a lot of time in the great outdoors in the Icelandic highlands. Out there, my tent is my home. It is a refuge from the harsh Arctic elements and a place of comfort amidst the rugged volcanic terrain.

In summer 2017, I started exploring the uninhabited highlands of Iceland. A place where camping is often the only way to escape the weather overnight. I had already been living in Iceland for two years but this part of the country remained unexplored for me as I didn't yet have the means to venture that far into the wilderness.

Finally I was ready and after many sleepless nights searching for the ideal camping accessories, I came across HEIMPLANET. The German-based company designs and manufactures some very unique and visually stunning tents that use an air-filled frame instead of traditional tent poles. With 4x4 expeditions in mind, I chose the HEIMPLANET The Cave tent as a base. It has an ingenious design, an incredibly fast pitching time of 60 seconds - thanks to its innovative inflatable construction - and enough space to really feel at home.

I could never have imagined all the things I would experience with this tent over the years. From 100 km/h winds to freezing snowstorms, one thing was always certain: when I was in my tent, the weather took a break. Five years and countless memories later, "The Cave" is still my favourite camping item.

Since the weather in Iceland is really relentless and can hit you like a ton of bricks without notice, strong and reliable equipment is key. With this in mind, I had a dream to build a weatherproof Icelandic version of "The Cave". In other countries it can take a whole year to experience all four seasons, but here you can see them all in just one day. With a four-season Cave, a fully weatherproof structure, a larger footprint for my camera gear and space for a team of two or three, you could improve highland camping even more. From home to mobile base camp.

Brainstorming with the 66°North team, we looked at the history of shelters in Iceland. Because the storms are so strong that buildings can literally be ripped from their foundations, storm shelters are an absolute must here, especially in remote locations around the country. We noticed a common denominator among the shelters: their striking orange exterior. One particular example can be found on the shore of Hornvík in the Hornstrandir Nature Reserve. It stands in stark contrast to the expansive valley with its green summer colours and white snow in winter. Whatever the season, you will always find it.

It was a natural evolution of the dream tent concept to design a structure that incorporated this colour scheme, an homage to the storm shelters. When we introduced this concept to HEIMPLANET our visions for the Island tent coincided in a very natural and exciting way. We talked about design ideas and built on the incredible design of the original Cave's to add some key features to match the rugged elements of Iceland. The dream became a reality when I saw the first prototype. As I set up with the team at 66°North HQ, we marvelled at the orange structure that rose with every breeze. This is the HEIMPLANET Cave XL.

The state-of-the-art tent combines the design of 66°North with the technology of HEIMPLANET and sets up in less than a minute with just a hand pump. With its special features, the Cave XL was developed especially for Iceland. The fact that the Flysheet reaches all the way to the ground is an exciting addition for me, providing extra weather protection in the classic Icelandic storms where rain and snow somehow penetrate to the top. You heard right, it can rain from the ground in Iceland, thank you dear wind.

Arriving at the campsite in the dark during a storm is not a pleasant time to gather all the parts you need to pitch your tent. With the Cave XL, you can literally roll up to your campsite and set everything up in minutes and get cosy inside, trusting the tent to do the hard work of protecting you from the Icelandic elements while you sleep. When you wake up and the storm is still raging, it's again only a matter of minutes before you're standing outside, ready to pack up and move on the next day.

It's really easy to attach the Cave XL to the ground: Five pegs hold the base in place and a row of guy lines ensures that everything is stable in the wind. The strength of the tent lies in its geodesic, inflatable dome construction with ten crossing points. There are no poles to mess with and everything stays attached between the inner and outer tent layers when you take it down and put it up again. I find it really impressive how all the fine details of the tent design work together to ensure its overall strength. The innovation in the design of HEIMPLANET is evident in this tent.

The Cave XL has a generous 5 square metre footprint and offers plenty of space for 2-3 people and all their gear, while reducing to the size of a 30 litre dry bag. It is the perfect base camp for adventures in the car or for expeditions where transporting gear in a pack, trailer or sled is an option.

It has a number of storage options in the walls of the inner tent to organise gear, as well as a storage room in the roof that I like to use as a diffused light source for the tent with my headlamp after I've settled inside. A spacious vestibule at the entrance offers room for your boots and utensils. I often store my cooler there as well as a box of cooking utensils, which then serves as a table for cooking.

There are two types of pumps: a floor pump and a mini pump. Thanks to a coupled system, you can attach the pump to one of the valves and inflate the entire structure without having to move around inside the tent. Although the air structure is linked, there are several individual chambers that can be closed off in the rare event of a system failure. This supports the structure in an emergency and keeps it standing while repairs are made.

After years of making my home in the tents of HEIMPLANET in the mountains, I am very much looking forward to enriching the Icelandic camping culture with the Cave XL, the Iceland Basecamp.

You can find more info HERE!

Written by Benjamin Hardman

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