Tentipi – Onyx 5 CP Tipi

One particularly sadistic teacher at my primary school made anyone who was particularly naughty stand in the corner with a pointy hat on so we could all snigger at them. It was the ultimate in embarrassment to be seen in “The Cone Corner”.

The Sorting Hat spent his winters away from pesky schoolkids
So it’s funny that, 25 years later, being seen in a great big cone in the corner of a field is definitely the new coolest way to spend a weekend.
The Onyx 5 CP is the baby of the Tentipi range – the most basic model and also the smallest.
Small is used as a relative term here because it will sleep 5 people (5 VERY close friends) or more comfortably 2-3 people, and it stands at a fairly lofty 2.3m (6ft of usable standing room) in the middle.
The Onyx 5 is bigger than a dog, but half as heavy
And small is also a relative term when you’re looking at the Onyx 5 CP in its packed-away form. It’s a pretty hefty sized bag; too big to strap to a bicycle and possibly even a motorbike, and at 7.5Kg it’s not the type of tent you take trekking. The Onyx is more of a campsite tent than a touring solution. (Note: The Onyx 5 Light is the same tent but weighs 3.5Kg)

The Onyx is supplied with a sheet of easy to follow instructions and a cunning device to help you mark out where each tent-peg needs to go prior to erecting the Tipi. Unfortunately, my sample (well abused by many journalists) lacked these instructions so in a typical man-fashion I spend 20 minutes pegging, re-pegging and swearing whilst wondering what on earth the spare swatch of material and bit of webbing were for. I thought they were for repairs when in fact they are the essential marking devices that allow someone with a less addled brain to get the Onyx up inside of 3 minutes.

Cosy inside the Onyx with room to stand, and pole-dance
The Onyx CP is a single-skin tent which the makers claim is resistant to condensation build-up and so doesn’t need an inner-tent. I’m not sure how much difference an inner-tent would have made, but the single-skin makes you ‘feel’ like you’re less protected from the elements. And whilst my sample was supplied with a ground sheet, the Tentipi website says that this is an optional extra.
One thing that I was looking forward to was the possibility of having a small fire inside the Tipi. Alas, the Onyx being the basic model isn’t fitted with the essential floor-level vents that allow upward air-flow and smoke to funnel out. It does feature a mesh door to aid ventilation, and a removable ‘peak’ to the tipi, so you could use a heater or fire, but you’d have to be mighty careful.
Good quality manufacture and pegs
The Onyx is very well constructed. It feels like a heavyweight canvas material and it’s coated so doesn’t let through water and dries quickly. The guy ropes (storm cords supplied for really windy days) and attachments are all very solid and well sewn – nothing is going to rip easily or snap in careless hands.
And the pegs supplied are excellent angled and solid so won’t bend under a foot or mallet blow.
And so to the sticky point of price. It’s £480. That’s a lot of money for such a basic proposition as the Onyx. Yes, it is a well made, very solid and easy to put up. But I’m left wondering if, because of its size (seats 8, sleeps 5) whether it falls between two needs. What I mean by that is that a larger tipi (seating 15-30) doesn’t really need the second skin because it’s a social centre and will more easily allow a fire or cooking inside it. I’m left wondering if the Onyx 5 which is presumably aimed at a ‘my first tipi’ type of customer doesn’t allow me quite enough of a full-on tipi experience (fire, bison skinning, guitar singalongs), and yet is too expensive to be classed as a festival tent. Certainly there’s no way I’d lug this around Glastonbury and let some drunken yoof throw-up all over it. I might be missing something but the Onyx 5 CP just feels like a compromise, and I’d rather spend more to get either the Safir or Zircon which have inner-tents and other features. Or a bigger tipi.
SUMMARY: The Onyx 5 is a strongly constructed, easy to erect, well designed tipi. It’s heavy and bulky enough to mean that it’s more of a campsite/base-camp tent than a trekking/touring tent. It’s a great focal and talking point and is far more cool than a normal tent. However, in its standard form (i.e. no optional extras) it’s pretty basic and doesn’t offer ‘more’ than a normal tent. Although the manufacturer does say that you can use a heater or fire in the tipi, there is no traditional base-vent system so you’d need to be very careful to ensure ventilation. At £480 it’s expensive compared to similar sized tents… but competitive compared to similar sized tipis. If it were my money, I’d actually spend more and get either a bigger Onyx (7 or 9) and have it as a social centre, or a more feature rich Tentipi like the Zirkon or Safir which have inner-tents and proper vents.

Note: If anyone has successfully had a fire inside an Onyx 5, let us know how it went in the comments below.

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  • Anonymous

    Good review. We did a lot of research when buying our tent, but in the end decided to stump up the extra for a safir.
    Best thing we ever bought!

  • juggler1000

    This is a brilliant tipi as long as you have a car – also very robust, which is very useful given the British weather!