Vango Castlewood Air 800XL Package family tent | Tested and reviewed

Oriented widthways rather than lengthways, we test the Vango Castlewood Air 800XL to see whether it's side-on design makes for a better family tent.

from Vango
RRP  £750.00
Person sitting outside Vango Castlewood Air 800XL Package with star ratings

by Chris Williams |
Updated on

There is a selection of tent and camping brands that are omnipresent on campsites throughout the summer, and Vango is one of them.

The Scottish-based outdoor brand is popular among campers and hikers because of its reliable, well-priced gear. The Castlewood Air 800XL is one of its large family tents, catering for up to eight people, held up by inflatable poles, and featuring a widthways design that differs from many large tunnel tents, which often have rooms behind one another.

It’s also well priced at £750, so we were intrigued to find out how it performed in real world conditions.

Person sitting outside Vango Castlewood Air 800XL PackageLFTO

Pros

  • Separated bedrooms
  • Removable blackout bedrooms
  • Spacious living area
  • Well priced
  • Quite study and weatherproof
  • Very easy to pitch

Cons

  • Bedrooms could be a smidge bigger
  • Relatively light on features
  • Doesn't use recycled fabric
  • Can be a challenge to pack away
  • Very large packed size

Design and features

Person hanging up removable bedroom in Vango Castlewood Air 800XL Package
©LFTO

Most tunnel shaped family tents flow from front to back – i.e., a large porch space and main entrance at the front with living space and bedrooms behind it. The Castlewood Air 800XL has a different layout. It has a central living space with a bedroom off to each side.

We immediately liked that approach because it separates the bedrooms, giving campers some welcome sleeping space. The bedrooms are both blackout and are fully removable. They also both feature ‘dividers’ although these are simply a thin piece of material.

Dimensions and footprint of Vango Castlewood 800XL
©Vango

The Castlewood Air 800XL has a large footprint of 7.1m x 2.65m and has a maximum height of 2m in the living space. The bedrooms are a bit narrower (2.4m) than the external dimensions due to the removable inners.

The inside of the Castlewood Air 800XL is reasonably basic. There are lantern hooks and a cable entry point, but not much else besides. There aren’t any storage sleeves or pockets, for example. And the diagonally opposing doors are single only, rather than being able to open both as a full double door on one side.

Pitching

Person inflating Vango Castlewood Air 800XL Package
©LFTO

The primary reason air tents have become so popular is their ease of pitching, especially for large family tents and the Castlewood Air 800XL is no exception. For a 7-metre tent it’s incredibly easy to pitch. Simple peg out the corners, inflate each pole, sink the rest of the pegs, fix the guy lines, and you can kick back with a cold brew. It really is a 10–15-minute job.

Closeup of Vango Castlewood Air 800XL Package air pole valve
©LFTO

Taking the Castlewood Air 800XL down, however, isn’t quite as well greased. The main challenge we had was getting all the air out of the poles so it would fit in the bag. Even with the large 80cm x 48cm bag it was a bit of a mission and took two attempts and about 10 minutes to squeeze in.

There is a regular poled version of this tent as well, which has a lower price too.

Living and comfort

Person using table and camping kitchen accessories in Vango Castlewood Air 800XL Package living space
©LFTO

Of all the family tents we had on test the Castlewood Air 800XL had the best layout. Positioning a bedroom at each end of the tent is a great idea – it means parents don’t have to try and sleep right beside wriggling, overexcited children all night.

The bedrooms could have more depth though. Vango says they’re 2.1m deep, which is very standard and should be enough for airbeds but our 2-metre-long double Outwell airbed barely fit, and we ended up positioning it side on.

Person putting sleeping gear inside Vango Castlewood Air 800XL Package bedroom
©LFTO

Luckily, the living space is very generous with more than enough space for a table plus other furniture such as camping cupboards. It’s well lit with pretty much vertical walls and two metres in height across all of it. Even though you wouldn’t really need it, there is a Vango awning that you can add to this tent to provide even more living space if you wanted to.

Person unzipping cover of Vango Castlewood Air 800XL Package window
©LFTO

There are four windows and two doors, but as we said before, they’re both single doors, and we would much prefer the ability to open at least one side fully not least because it would help improve ventilation. With only a single door/mesh window on each side of the living space and a small mesh vent in each bedroom, it can get quite warm in this tent.

Durability and weather resistance

Person adjusting Vango Castlewood Air 800XL Package guy rope
©LFTO

For a tent this large we were quite impressed with its stability and quality of construction. The use of five thick air beams means the Castlewood Air 800XL is reassuringly sturdy. These are also aided by Vango’s Tension Band System (TBSII), which are removable internal straps that help remove slack and make the tent more rigid.

The Sentential Fabric used for the Castlewood Air 800XL flysheet has a sound waterproof rating of 3000mm HH. This is high enough to ensure the tent can comfortably withstand rain. Underfoot, the groundsheet is sewn in to make keep out draughts. It’s made from polyethylene, but you can be extra sure damp won’t penetrate the floor because the ‘Package’ part of the Castlewood Air 800XL Package means it comes with a footprint.

Sustainability

Closeup of pump supplied with Vango Castlewood Air 800XL Package
©LFTO

Vango is increasingly using recycled materials to produce its tents, but unfortunately the Castlewood Air 800XL isn’t one of them. The two redeeming features here are that the fabrics feel quite durable comparative to similarly priced rivals, and that the ColourLok Eco treatment, which helps prevent fading and protect against UV light, uses much less water in the dyeing process than conventional dyeing.

In terms of repairs, Vango will repair if under warranty but doesn’t offer a full repair service, so you’d need to contact a repair agent. You can get replacement air pole tubes if required, and they’re pretty cheap.

Closeup of Vango Castlewood Air 800XL Package air pole
©LFTO

Price and competition

With an RRP of £750 at the time of writing, this is a well priced tent for its size, especially considering it’s quite well made and sturdy as well. It even manages to undercut everyone’s go-to value outdoor brand, Decathlon.

Some more premium rivals do have more features and feel of even higher quality, but within this price range, the Vango is a wise choice.

Verdict

Person sitting outside Vango Castlewood Air 800XL Package with star ratings
©LFTO

It’s big with a good layout, relatively well made, and well priced. There are a lot of boxes the Castlewood Air 800XL manages to tick.

It’s not perfect though. The bedrooms could be more spacious, there aren’t a huge array of features, and taking the tent down wasn’t as easy as pitching it. But if you’re after a large, inflatable family tent for under £1000, the Castlewood Air 800XL has to be on your radar.

How we tested

Two tents pitched at a campsite as part of LFTO's family tent group test
©LFTO

We tested the Vango Castlewood Air 800XL tent in mid spring alongside a selection of other family tents from rival brands in order to directly compare products and to use the tents in the primary conditions they were intended for.

The author of this review is Chris Williams who is a staff writer and gear tester for LFTO. He joined LFTO in 2021 and has several years of both journalistic and outdoor industry experience.

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