Sunday, December 20, 2020

Gear Review: Mega-Pod for Outdoor Shelter

 I’m a designer, writer and photographer who is accustomed to traveling all over the world. And, when I’m in town, which is New York City, I write in coffee shops and other venues that provide ample natural light through spacious windows. The pandemic lockdown has changed all that, where I’m forced to work in a small, dark dwelling. 

A few months into the pandemic, I started researching some sort of outdoor tent or canopy structure that would allow me to effectively deal with weather while enjoying natural light. That’s how I came upon the company Under the Weather. They make the Mega 4-person Pod.

It’s supposed to be great — as the name states — for dealing with “weather.” (The product was even on Shark Tank.) To me that should mean rain, snow, sleet, wind and so forth. It’s a product that doesn’t need any set-up. No need to rely on tent poles or even stakes, though it comes with several stakes. I read the reviews and they were, for the most part, favorable. The only negatives I saw were a few that said the zippers stuck or failed, that it was too small for 3 or 4 people, or that it was difficult to fold back up.

But I was desperate so I purchased this product. Am I happy with it? Definitely not. In fact, how much do I dislike the Mega Pod, let me count the ways. But, will I return it — the company offered to refund my money? No, I will not because, as I said, I’m desperate.

Here’s my review of the Mega 4-person Pod and all that I like — they are only a few things — and all I dislike, which are multifold.

I never watched the Shark Tank presentation before purchasing my pod. But I recently did. According to the inventor’s (owner’s) Shark Tank presentation, the pod is great for outdoor spectator sports — soccer, winter football and so forth.

In the presentation, he asks: are you tired of freezing your butt off, getting poured on while watching the game, dealing with wind, boiling in the sun in the summer? 

So, the pod will deal with all of this, supposedly. And, it’s claimed to be 35-degrees warmer inside than outside when it’s cold.

This is what the company says on its website: “From countless soccer games and game day BBQs to once-in-a-lifetime road trips, wherever life may take you, bring along our WeatherPod™ tents. Incidental downpours, frigid temps, and creepy crawlies will have nothing on your timeless family moments.”

I’ll start with what I like about the pod, since that’s a short list:

1- No insects or spiders or other creatures can penetrate the pod when it’s all zipped up.

2- On a cold, sunny day when there’s direct sunlight, it’s nice and toasty in the pod.

3- When it’s barely drizzling, everything is fine. 

4- Should there be a gentle breeze, there’s no problem.

5- If there are just a few snow flakes, again, no problem

But, when I use the pod, I’m not sitting in it for 7 hours a day. I go inside the house for 30-minute breaks, whether to make lunch or a snack or for a bathroom break. And that’s when I noticed all the troubles with the pod. (I would expect that if someone is watching a game, they also would stand on line for a burger/hot dog or the rest room, so going into my house for 30 minutes hardly sounds extraordinary.)

What I don’t like:

Most of my dislikes come from the pod design. You see, unlike any tent I have ever owned — and there have been many — the pod’s roof is concave, not pitched or convex. Doesn’t sound like a great idea for wet weather now, does it? Here’s what I found:

1- When there is moderate rain or, as the website stated an “incidental downpour,” the rain collects like a lake on the rooftop. Now, if I’m sitting inside the pod when this occurs, I can certainly stand up and push my hand up to allow the water to drain, doing so every 15 to 20 minutes or so. But when I went into the house for half-an-hour and then returned to the pod, I found that the weight of all the water puddling on the roof was so great, that one end of the pod collapsed! This happened twice since I bought it months ago. And, those other times when it didn’t collapse, there was so much rain puddling on the roof, that I had to gingerly enter the pod and attempt to push my hand up before it all did collapse.

2- The same thing happened with wet snow/sleet. It collects on the roof and its weight presses down. When I’m in the pod, I can, again, stand up and press my hands up to allow it all to drain — though this was more difficult than with rain water. 

3- How does the pod deal with wind? If it’s a gentle breeze, no problem, as I mentioned. But in the last couple of months we had some 25-35 mph gusts. Of course, I had the pod staked. And, of course, trouble again started when I went into the house. Thirty minutes later I returned to find that the pod — which contained my chair, blanket and tiny table — unstaked itself and blew into the neighbor’s property. It would’ve kept blowing down the street if it weren’t for her tall fence. Ever since that happened, I make sure I remain in the pod when there are any wind gusts but I found that when the wind hits the lightweight pod, it feels like it’ll take off with me in it. Of course, that couldn’t happen but it hardly feels stable. And the stakes are not very functional. Rather than a typical tent stake, these are in the shape of a number “7” without any curve. So, it’s very easy for the pod to unstake itself in the wind.

4- How does it do in very cold weather when it’s cloudy? Well, today the temperature outside is 30 degrees F. And the temperature inside? It’s 35 degrees. So it’s hardly 35 degrees warmer. Then again, maybe if you crowd 3-4 people shoulder to shoulder inside, it might be warmer. Who knows?

5- How does it do in the heat? I sat in the pod in the summer and it felt like a sauna. It was unbearably hot when the sun beat down directly on it. And unzipping three of the four sides a bit — just enough to let in the air but not enough to let in creatures — did not help. It was still sweltering. 

6- What about the size? I can’t imagine 3 or 4 people with chairs being able to fit in this pod without being shoulder to shoulder. It would fit 2 people comfortably.

What has been my solution to these myriad problems?

I just installed a tall tent-like stake in the middle of the pod, which turns the roof from concave to convex.

I’m surprised that, after reading so many reviews of this product, not one person has mentioned any of the problems I’ve discussed here. I wonder why?