Wild Country Helm Compact 1 tent review: an amazing all-rounder for 1-person, 3-season camping

The Wild Country Helm Compact 1 is a well-designed and comfortable tent that does an incredible job for the price

Wild Country Helm Compact 1 tent
(Image: © Craig Taylor)

Advnture Verdict

The Wild Country Helm Compact 1 is a well-thought-out and comfortable shelter that offers plenty of space, solid durability and good all-round performance – all while being easy to carry, a cinch to pitch and very reasonably priced.

Pros

  • +

    Reasonably priced

  • +

    Small pack size

  • +

    Room to sit up

  • +

    Easy to pitch

  • +

    Performs well in a range of conditions

Cons

  • -

    Nothing

You can trust Advnture Our expert reviewers spend days testing and comparing gear so you know how it will perform out in the real world. Find out more about how we test and compare products.

Meet the tester

Why I Love Camping – Finally time for a brew
Craig Taylor

Craig loves nothing more than pitching up in the backcountry, preferably while taking on a long-distance thru-hike. His adventures usually take place in the hills and mountains of Wales but he occasionally gets away to his beloved Alps. As one of our expert campers, Craig revels in testing camping equipment and knows a sturdy shelter from one that will give up the ghost when conditions become challenging.

Wild Country Helm Compact 1: first impressions

The Wild Country Helm Compact 1 is one of the most beloved one-person tents in the UK wild camping scene. Long revered as the best go-to shelter for beginners, irregular campers or people who are happy to camp in more sheltered locations, it holds an impressive reputation for being one of the best all-rounders out there today. And it’s won a slew of awards to back it up, including Trail Magazine awards for value and the coveted Gear of the Year title in 2023. 

Specifications

• List price: £250 (UK) / Currently import only in the US
• Style: Dome tent
• Weight: 1.99kg / 4.4lbs
• Waterproofing: 5,000mm
• Rooms: One bedroom, one vestibule
• Compatibility: One person and gear

The reason for the tent’s widespread acclaim is primarily down to being a solid option irrespective of the metric. 

Price? It costs £250 when bought directly through Terra Nova (Wild Country’s sister brand), which feels very reasonable for the tent’s build quality and performance.

Weight? The Helm Compact 1 weighs less than 2kg, coming in at a super-impressive 1.99 kg. 

Size? The internal space of the Helm Compact 1 is more than sufficient for one person and kit, and the ceiling height means that you can even comfortably sit up inside – which is rare for a one-person tent this small and light. 

Packed size? The whole tent packs down to something resembling a small shoe box, making it small enough to stow in the bottom of a 40L pack easily. 

And while none of those stats might jump off the page as being market-leading in any way, the Helm Compact 1 offers such solid all-round performance that you’d hesitate to optimize one characteristic for fear of worsening another. It’s like Wild Country was able to identify the ‘sweet spot’ – and they built the Helm Compact 1 to fit that mold.

Wild Country Helm Compact 1: in the wild

Wild Country Helm Compact 1 tent

The Wild Country Helm Compact 1 is just so easy to pitch (Image credit: Craig Taylor)

I’ve slept in the Wild Country Helm Compact 1 a few times now, and every time I find myself looking for reasons not to like it. Call me a contrarian, call me a devil’s advocate, but I just want to find the one flaw with this shelter that nobody else has noticed before. And having spent several nights in it now, I’m happy to announce that I’m still looking. There’s just nothing I’ve been able to identify that would make this tent better.

Wild Country Helm Compact 1 tent

The poles are color coded for pitching ease (Image credit: Craig Taylor)

Pitching

The first thing I particularly appreciate is the way you pitch the Helm Compact 1. It just goes up so easily. The first time I pitched it, I managed to get it up in four minutes and 30 seconds flat, including pegging out all of the tie-out points and guying out all the extra lines. If you’re using it in still conditions, you can do it even more quickly, and you can even get away with only four pegs if you’re pitching in woodland or in environments where there’s no wind whatsoever.

To pitch the Helm Compact 1, all you need to do is roll out the body of the tent, slot the color-coded poles through the sleeves and into their respective grommets, and then peg out the eight tie-out points around the base of the tent. As the inner is adjoined to the outer out of the box, you don’t need to do any fiddling or messing around: the tent is just there, ready to be slept in, ready to keep you safe.

As far as packing it away again goes, that process is just as simple, taking around four minutes until the Helm Compact 1 is safely back in its carry sack and in the bottom of your pack. 

It’s during this process that you notice just how palpable the design considerations Terra Nova / Wild Country made when putting the Helm Compact 1 together are. Take the grommets on the end of each pole, for example. On budget lines (and on some more premium lines, such as the Nortent Vern 1), these are often just slotted in, held in place by the elastic cord that keeps the pole together when you break it down. 

But not on the Helm Compact 1. These grommets are tightly screwed into place. If you need to do a repair or remove them for any reason, you can unscrew them and take them out in a moment. 

But for the times when you have to pack your tent away in the pouring British rain, it’s such a relief that the plugs stay in and you don’t need to worry about the grommet popping off and bringing any loose cord with it; cord that you then need to shove back in, which is always a painful process with gloves on.

Wild Country Helm Compact 1 tent interior

Inside the Wild Country Helm Compact 1 (Image credit: Craig Taylor)

The interior

Inside the tent, there’s a generous amount of space for a one-person shelter. Unlike many one-person tents that are little more than a waterproof coffin, such as the Robens Starlight 1 or the Robens Chaser 1 (which are both phenomenal shelters, I might add), the Helm Compact 1 gives you room to breathe. 

The inside is 77cm wide, which is more than enough to fit in an extra wide sleeping pad, and the length of the full tent comes in at 220cm. In reality, however, don’t be fooled into thinking a seven-foot giant could sleep in this tent. I’m 177cm (5 ft 9) and I found that my head and feet would both lightly touch the nylon inner when lying straight. 

This was while sleeping on a thick winter pad in the luxuriously lofty Therm-a-Rest Parsec -18 sleeping bag. It was never enough to become an annoyance, and I was able to add some extra room by lying diagonally inside to maximize space. But I think if you’re approaching six feet or taller, you’d struggle to sprawl out in this tent, with something like the extra-long Nortent Vern 1 being more comfortable for you.

Wild Country Helm Compact 1 tent

To optimize airflow, there are two ventilation ports underneath the top two corners, underneath the logo (Image credit: Craig Taylor)

When it comes to the vestibule, this is plenty big enough to store wet bags, boots and cooking equipment in. Just don’t expect to be able to put much else in here. As an extra bonus, however, there is an additional storage area accessible via the porthole inside the tent, which is ideal for storing snacks, spare clothes or anything you might want in reaching distance through the night.

To optimize airflow, the Wild Country Helm Compact 1 comes with two ventilation ports underneath the top two corners (underneath the logo). And as the inside is made almost entirely of polyester panels (the only mesh you’ll find in the Helm Compact 1 is on the door), the tent does an incredible job of retaining heat. For this reason, I’d have no qualms whatsoever about using the Helm Compact 1 in colder conditions (as I have done numerous times this winter), despite the tent being listed as a three-season shelter on the Terra Nova website.

Wild Country Helm Compact 1 tent

This tent is capable of putting up with tons of abuse on the trail (Image credit: Craig Taylor)

Durability

For such a small, packable and light shelter, the Wild Country Helm Compact 1 is plenty durable. The flysheet comprises 68 denier polyester ripstop with a 4,000mm hydrostatic head which feels thick and heavy-duty when you pitch the tent. Naturally, it doesn’t come with the soft, flexible feel something like a silnylon fly delivers, and instead can feel quite cheap when you use it after testing a run of more premium tents (as is my case). But that’s no knock on the Helm Compact 1’s durability. This tent is capable of putting up with tons of abuse on the trail, and if you treat it right, it will last you many years to come – if not for life. 

Overall, I really rate the Wild Country Helm Compact 1. As much as I tried to find issues, I could only validate the slew of awards this shelter has won over the years. It’s excellent value for a tent that delivers such considered all-around performance, and I think you’d be hard-pressed to find a better do-it-all shelter for under £300.

Craig Taylor

Growing up just south of the glorious Brecon Beacons National Park, Craig spent his childhood walking uphill. As he got older, the hills got bigger, and his passion for spending quality time in the great outdoors only grew - falling in love with wild camping, long-distance hiking, bikepacking and fastpacking. Having recently returned to the UK after almost a decade in Germany, he now focuses on regular micro-adventures in nearby Snowdonia and the Brecon Beacons, as well as frequent trips to the Alps and beyond. You can follow his adventures over on komoot, or visit www.craigtaylor.co for more info.