The five-berth Vango Beta 550XL family tent is a tad tight for five but impressively wide, and comfortable for four. Pitching, despite its three somewhat long and unwieldy colour-coded poles, took two of us an impressive sub-20 minutes, first time out of the bag. TBS II tension bands at ground level and at the inner door between porch and spacious bedrooms added stability and integrity. Pitching in fine weather with very little breeze, we left most guylines unstaked, using just 16 of the 21 stakes provided. The Beta 550XL arrives detached and pitches fly-first – great in bad weather – and can be left assembled for a speedier, single unit-pitch. 

John Manning’s verdict

While offering good value for money at the lower end of the price bracket, the tent was let down by the finish: we found loose threads, and a guyline lacked a crucial plastic ring
  • Oversized Carry bag
  • Roomy
  • Tension bands
  • Blackout bedroom fabric
  • Single-unit pitch
  • Poor finishing
  • Fiddly tension bands
Quick specs
Price: £300
Weight (g/kg): 12.1kg (12.2kg) 
Berth: 5 
Pitching: Fly-first or as a unit 
Flysheet: 70D Sentinel Fabric, 3,000mm HH, Diamond Clear Windows 
Inner: Midnight Bedroom darkened fabric 
Groundsheet: Waterproof PE 
Poles: PowerFlex Fibreglass Poles 
Pegs: 21 steel pins 
Porch: W: 315cm, L: 250cm; H: 200cm (Vango measurements) 
Bedroom (total): W: 300, L: 210cm, H: 190cm (Vango measurements) 
Overall inner Dimensions: W: 300cm, L: 475cm, H: 200cm/190cm (Vango measurements) 

The groundsheet on the Vango Beta 550XL runs through the sizable, brightly lit porch and the well-vented bedrooms. We measured the porch as 320cm wide and 255cm deep (Vango states 315cm wide x 250cm deep): a useful social area, and a practical place for dry gear storage. Its 190cm height (Vango states 200cm) is sufficient for most folk to stand within. 

Widths of the two 205cm-deep bedrooms differ: we measured the smaller one as 120cm, the larger as 175cm (Vango states 300cm total width, and a depth of 210cm). They’re loosely separated by a toggle-secured fabric wall which detaches to create a single, larger sleeping area. Privacy through that flimsy wall, is minimal compared to that of the Coleman Weathermaster 4XL (also reviewed); heavier duty fabric and perhaps an all-round zip fastening would be a welcome consideration. The bedrooms’ blackout fabric – intended to exclude light and ensure a better night’s sleep – is more a less effective grey-out fabric; an (untested) Beta 550XL CLR model (£350) offers “updated darker bedrooms”. 

Outer doors slope inward gently from the ground-up but have no protective top lip. While we tested it in fine weather, I’d worry that rain would land within the porch as people open the door to enter and exit. 

While offering good value for money at the lower end of the price bracket, the tent was let down by the finish: we found loose threads, a guyline lacked a crucial plastic ring and a tag was absent from one of the zippers.