Wednesday, 8 May 2019

TF Gear Force 8 Rapid Day Shelter Review

"As in all my reviews I'd like to start by stating that I'm in no way connected to Total fishing gear. This is an independent write up that I hope might help you out if you've been thinking about purchasing the Force 8 Rapid Day Shelter"

Many of you that read my blogs will be aware that I'm not a follower of fashion, simply put, I buy things that I like not what I'm told I should like. Nowadays I feel carp fishing is very much 'fashion led' and I get the feeling that many newcomers to the sport are more bothered about what they look like when they're out on the bank, as opposed to understanding and applying their minds to the art of angling as a whole. The longer I'm in this game, '29 years and counting' the more I've come to understand that all the 'extras' that come with carp fishing, the tackle, the bait, the rigs etc are nothing more than distractions. It's the mind of the angler that puts fish on the bank not what bivvy one should choose or big pit reel one might prefer. There's far too much snobbery when it comes to 'brands'. I'm finding some of the major companies are relying on past reputation, many now churning out overpriced tat. I find the less popular brands are the ones producing reliable and reasonably priced gear, this is because many of them still have something to prove.

Moving on to the review, my 'Korum fibre-shield' had finally given up the ghost after many years of reliable service. Korum had discontinued it so I started scanning the internet for day shelters. If I'm not remaining mobile during a session I nearly always like to use some form of shelter, rain or shine, being nestled underneath something adds to the escapism and sanctuary that angling provides for me. Even though I only do day sessions, once I've arrived at the water it always feels nice to setup camp for the day, get my swim tidy and house all relevant items under cover. When I started to think about what I actually wanted from a shelter there were four main points. It had to be lightweight, built well and simple to setup and take down. I stumbled upon the "TF Gear Force 8 Rapid Day Shelter" when I was fishing with my friend Danny. It was a warm bright day and the wind was nuts, Danny disappeared for a few moments and suddenly reappeared again with what looked to be a small lightweight piece of material. With a quick "check this out", he performed some 'hocus-pocus' and within moments we had a home over our heads. I was pretty much sold straight away and I'd made the decision that when I needed a new 'portable fishing home' I'd be looking closer at the force 8.

The Force 8 In Action 
Before I continue I'd like to point out that I'm under no illusion that TF Gear aren't exactly what you'd call a 'trendy/cool' company. I think I'd go as far in saying that they haven't exactly got a great reputation in regards to some of their product lines and I know many out their wouldn't be seen dead using any of their gear. But none of that bothers me in the slightest, I've got to say that I own their trail-blazer barrow, chair, stove and some of their luggage range and for build quality and performance it's without a doubt the best I've owned by a mile. Before I continue I'd like to add that this review is for the 'force 8 rapid' day shelter, this is an updated version of the original 'force 8' that they produced a good few years back. So first impressions, the shelter itself is £59.99 and you get a lot for your money. It's neatly housed within a 'tie-top' bag with a handy shoulder strap. The point I like about this is the fact that the bag is a lot larger than the actual shelter. This means that you don't have to be messing around after a session trying to pack it super tight, you literally roll it up and slide it home. 

Over Sized Carry Bag & Shoulder Strap
The shelter in its rolled up form takes up about as much room as a standard brolly but it's much lighter. Removing it from the bag, it's nicely clipped up tight with a supporting strap, when you get it out you'll notice a mechanism attached to one end, this is the top of the shelter. It's this mechanism that you're going to use to erect it, it's a tidy little design and once you get the hang of it, nothing could be simpler. In the picture below the white arrow is pointing to the mechanism, it's here where all the magic happens.

The Mechanism Situated At The Top Of The Shelter
"I have images below demonstrating what I'm about to describe in this paragraph". To set the shelter up you lift it off the ground 'mechanism first', making sure that all the legs/stems are laying down on the floor. Then you're going to pull the protruding bar downwards 'number 1 in the image below' and clip it onto the long black bar 'number 2 in the image below', bar number 2 creates the shelters peak. From reading up online, some people find this a little tricky, from my understanding, this is because they don't apply enough force to the 'number 1' bar. My advice to you is, don't hold back, nothing is going to break. Pull it down hard and clip it in - job done !.

Clip Bar 1 to Bar 2 - Use Force
Finished Position

Once the main bar has been clipped into place the shelter should've taken shape, the next thing to do is to push the central shaft 'letter A in the image below' into the central part of the mechanism 'letter B in the image below'. Upon doing this you'll hear a "CLICK", once this has been done slide the two small rods forward 'letter C in the image below', this locks everything into place and will ensure the central shaft doesn't come out.

Click Central Shaft Into Place
The above paragraphs make it sound like a drawn out process but the whole procedure literally takes a matter of seconds. The main thing is having the confidence to pull and clip the bars together. Once you've got this down the shelter pretty much puts itself up. Below is a time-lapse video of both the setup and pack down.

Setup & Pack Down

So now we've covered the art of setting it up lets get down to the nitty-gritty. First off, it's made with a very lightweight material, I've fished with it in heavy rain and sunshine and I can confirm that it dries really fast without holding any moisture. All of the stitching is heavy duty especially around the four main pegging points. In regards to the pegs, you do get a bag with the shelter but they're of a very low quality and I'd advise you to replace them. I don't quite understand why TFG would create such a handy product only to supply substandard accessories. You can buy good quality pegs from most tackle shops. Moving on to the shape, to some people it may not look 'carpy' enough to be seen sitting under. Firstly 'carpy' is a stupid word, secondly I actually really like the shape and from an aesthetic point of view it hasn't looked out of place anywhere that I've taken it. The extended peak is a nice touch, it makes the overall appearance quite streamline, not only that, it helps to keep the rain out. Due the the sharp angle on each side of the peak, the water doesn't have anywhere to gather. It simply glides off and splashes to the floor a foot or so away from the front of the shelter, it doesn't drip inward.

Solid Pegging Points
When I was researching the product one of the main gripes I kept coming across was how wobbly and bendy the shelter can be in blustery winds. Due to its shape and design it isn't going to be as stable as a brolly and I've been getting a bit of 'wobble', especially in 'heavy weather'. However this can be partially solved, This next point is important, it's all to do with how you peg it down. When pegging your four main points, make sure you're pulling the shelter tight. Along with these main pegging points you get secondary support cords, you have one on each side and two located on the back. To ensure the shelter holds ground well in strong winds it's vital that you use all of the pegging points available. When the pegging down has been done correctly it should be nice and stable, you will still get a little bit of movement if the wind is strong but that can't really be helped. One down side that, again I find strange, there isn't a primary pegging point located on the back panel, this doesn't make a great deal of sense to me.

Side Pegging Cord
 Back Pegging Cords, No Primary Pegging Point
Moving on to the overall size, there's a surprising amount of room once you're inside. From the outside it genuinely doesn't look like it takes up a particularly large foot print. I've managed to fit it in all of my chosen swims so far and some have been pretty tight. You have plenty of head room and even on a relatively high chair you don't feel cramped. Me and my mate have spent a good few sessions in it hiding from both the wind and the rain, it doesn't feel like there's a lack of room. I would say it's perfect if you're fishing on your own and you want to fit your barrow and other items of tackle underneath to keep it all dry and out of the rain. This is where I think a shelter like the force 8 weighs in slightly over a brolly. As much as I loved my fibre-sheild I always felt I was hunching down, even when sitting and, apart from my seat and maybe my large tackle bag, you really couldn't fit a great deal under it at all.

Force 8 Dimensions
A couple of nice little touches regarding the inside of the shelter, you've got a sewn in plastic ring in the center of the ceiling which you could hang a torch or small light from and you have two sewn in pockets on either side. I've found these useful to keep a catapult, phone, sounder box etc in. Another nice touch is the option to open the back panel, this can be used to improve airflow on hot days or come in handy if you're pole fishing and it's tipping it down outside.

Optional Air Vent
Focusing on the force 8's negative points, firstly as mentioned before, you're going to need to replace the pegs provided, they're really not great. In regards to the design, one aspect that bothers me is the fact that the side panels don't go all the way down to the floor. There's a small gap of a few inches, this is particularly annoying if you've got a cold wind because you tend to get a bit of a draft firing in underneath. From a design point of view I really don't understand why they didn't make sure it went nice and snug all the way to the ground. Not only does the gap prove a drafty annoyance but when it rains some of the water tends to run down the sides and come in underneath creating wet spots, again if the shelter went all the way to the floor this wouldn't happen. One other point, 'mentioned before', is the lack of a main pegging point on the back panel, you have two extra pegging cords but no main pegging point.

In regards to the overall stability of the force 8, if pegged down properly it is stable but it's not solid, I do find that I get a lot more 'wobble' and movement compared to my old brolly, but this is to be expected because of the shape and the height. It's hard to say at this stage how it will fair in proper gale force winds and rain. I personally think it's suited more to less brutal conditions, like spring showers and moderate winds. I can see myself using it as a shelter to get some shade on a hot day, also because it's so quick to setup and take down it would be perfect on a pit or a river if you're going to be roving around. One last thing that I personally thought would of made a great addition would've been a couple of velcro straps to be able to clip your rods into whilst re-baiting or changing rigs. That's something that my fibre-shield had and I thought they were a really nice touch. All in all none of these gripes are particularly huge, if anything it's just me being a little pedantic. But as in all of my reviews I like to give an honest and rounded opinion.

Onsite With The Force 8
So to sum up, despite the odd gripe I actually really like my force 8 shelter, it's super light and super easy to put up and take down. I just really like the idea of having a home from home that you can put up in seconds. As mentioned before, I love the 'escapism' part of my angling and being tucked under a shelter enhances that feeling for me. If you're thinking about the force 8 as an option, you're not exactly buying a super luxurious engineered bit of kit, it's a little 'rough & ready' and it has its weaknesses. But gear is to use and abuse and for the money you can't really go wrong and you ain't going to feel too bad abusing it. I think it's pretty obvious that if you're a self-confessed tackle tart and follow both leading fashions and brands then a shelter like this isn't going to be anywhere near your radar. However if you're the type of angler that doesn't care for fashions and you just want a good reliable bit of kit that doesn't break the bank, then the TFG Force 8 rapid day shelter might be worth looking into. It's a piece of kit that I've already used loads and I'm really happy that I decided to purchase one.

Rating 7/10 

Ideal Application - Protection From Moderate Winds, Rain & Hot Sun

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