Mollusc dome tent flips open to function as a scenic sunshade

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The Mollusc Tent gives the dome tent a new look and function

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Intended as a versatile, all-day shelter for the wilderness, festival or even backyard, the Mollusc tent features a unique, nature-inspired flip-top construction. The dome tent is supported by an adjustable exoskeleton that allows for three different configurations, allowing you to lock the elements out or open things up and enjoy the fresh air and open sky.

The dome is one of the most standard forms of camping tents, but Wales-based Mollusc Tents has taken that form to new places. Mollusc calls its tent design a side-hinged, "pram hood" hemispherical frame. It's not exactly a catchy name, but the advantages quickly become apparent.

The side hinges allow campers to easily swing the tent open and closed the way a parent might adjust a baby stroller hood based on the weather. The three primary positions let you enjoy a fully enclosed camping tent, a half-open sun shelter and a fully open floor with integrated barrier wall.

The idea of switching between a fully enclosed shelter and open sunshade is attractive. The sunshade configuration gives you protection from sun and light weather while still allowing you to enjoy the scenery, fresh air, and experience of being "outside" and not zipped behind ripstop fabric. When you want to sleep or escape to a fully enclosed shelter, it's there at the flip of the roof and zip of the fabric.

One of my favorite parts of camping is drinking morning coffee and enjoying the surrounding scenery, and the Mollusc design would ensure that I could enjoy that morning ritual even in wind, light rain or snow. It definitely looks more effective than the SUV tailgate I shivered under while making and drinking coffee during a cold, snowy morning on the way to Overland Expo earlier this year.

I'm not sure I'd ever get much use out of the fully open configuration pictured below, but I could imagine it being helpful in protecting campers and campfires/stoves from one-directional wind in otherwise comfy, clear weather. I'd be more inclined to skip over this position in favor of the half-open sunshade setting to enjoy more wind and weather protection, but another camper might find more use for this one.

Mollusc's Nano camping tent features a zipper to secure the polyurethane-coated polyester dome fabric to the nylon-reinforced PVC ground sheet. Obviously, the designers need a way to separate the dome in order to get it to open, but the zipper is a little concerning. Other tent manufacturers use tub floors and sealed seams to guarantee waterproof integrity and prevent leaking, and we're not sure if a zippered floor will offer that same level of weatherproofing.

Mollusc's tent may not be an expedition-level backpacking tent designed for the world's harshest weather, but it still needs to hold up to an overnight storm. Hopefully the zipper that helps give the tent its unique design doesn't hamper its main role of providing shelter from that storm.

While we think the Mollusc tent looks quite cool on paper, its price doesn't look nearly as cool on that same paper. The company is offering the three-person Nano at Kickstarter pledge levels of £1,750 (US$2,665). Granted, it involves hand construction, and it looks like shipping anywhere is included, but you could buy a super-nice three-person dome tent and a camping canopy or sun tent and still have over $2,000 left to spare. If Mollusc can find an audience of wealthy glampers looking to "rough it" in a stylish tent, maybe they'll be able to sell a few, but it's hard to imagine the majority stomaching that pricing.

So far, no Kickstarter contributor has put down that £1,750+ for a full tent, but enough folks have ordered the "Builder" DIY plans and other smaller rewards to propel Mollusc about a fifth of the way to its US$7,700 goal. Starting at £100 (US$150), those kits are a much more affordable way to go, but you'll have to be up for a bunch of added work and material expenses when compared to just buying a £100 dome tent.

The Nano weighs 55 lb (25 kg) packed, so it's very far from a lightweight three-person dome tent, but its selling point is really Mollusc's multi-position design. Mollusc says that set-up takes about 15 minutes but specifies that the estimate is for "two people with experience in perfect conditions," so we reckon it'll take the average camper well longer.

In addition to the Nano, Mollusc has also developed a much larger Standard model, which is not being offered directly on Kickstarter but only in Builder plan form. At 496 lb (225 kg), 420 sq ft (39 sq m) and 9.8 feet (3 m) in height, the Standard is much too large for the typical camping trip. Mollusc imagines it being used to house bands and DJs at music festivals or workshops at the likes of corporate retreats.

Mollusc's video pitch can be viewed below.

View gallery - 14 images

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