Many of you will know from my earlier review that I raved about the De-luxe Brotel as an alternative to an umbrella. In fact I reckon it was the best item of tackle I bought in 1999. I was therefore looking forward to field testing the Bedchair Brotel that Relum sent me. Would it be as good as a bivvy?
It's a much larger version of the De-luxe model and as its name implies is big enough to shelter a bedchair. Made from a heavier material, it has extended side panels and thankfully is supplied with guy ropes. Like all Brotels, there's no central obstruction as there is with an umbrella so you don't bang your head when sitting upright.
The Brotel is both lighter and very much quicker to put up than a bivvy - something that you'll really appreciate if you need to move swims or in bad weather. Talking of bad weather I've been under the Bedchair Brotel in heavy rain and can vouch for the fact that it's 100% waterproof. However, bear in mind that its single skin construction coupled with a non-breathable cover means that it does suffer from a certain amount of condensation.
You can buy an overwrap (which I didn't test) that should greatly alleviate this problem, and a groundsheet is also available. However, frustratingly, you can't get just an infill for the front, which would certainly help on waters where mosquitoes are a problem.
There are also a couple of things I'd change. The first is that the Bedchair Brotel really does need to be supplied with rigid storm poles for when it's windy. Instead you get a pair of thin, bendy fibreglass poles without points. To be fair the advantage of this arrangement is that you can fold the Brotel down with these in place. Unfortunately though, you can't replace them with standard metal storm poles as the attachment holes are non-adjustable and too small. On the other hand you do get a pair of adaptors (only plastic though) for fitting storm poles nearer the centre. What's needed is the ability to fit 2 pairs of storm poles according to the strength of the wind.
Secondly, the bag supplied is a tight fit which means that it takes longer than necessary to put away, which spoils one of the Brotel's main advantages. This seems to be a common problem with bivvies, but Relum tell me that a bigger bag should be available soon. It's good to see a tackle company respond positively in this way.
To sum up, the Bedchair Brotel is a lightweight shelter that can be put up exceptionally quickly indeed. It's also very roomy thanks to having no central obstruction. Despite this it'll fit into tight swims that won't take a bivvy, especially as to a certain extent you can change both its shape and height. On the other hand the lack of a front infill means that there's no protection from mosquitoes. Additionally, only one set of storm poles can be fitted.
If Relum bring out a model with a zip-in infill and sort out the storm poles I reckon the Bedchair Brotel would be the near-perfect short session shelter. In the meantime, I have to say I prefer something with mosquito protection myself whenever staying overnight. However, if mosquitoes don't bother you or you're just going for a long daytime session, the Bedchair Brotel could be just what you're looking for.
At an RRP of £119.99 the Bedchair Brotel shouldn't break the bank, whilst the overwrap is an extra £79.99 and the groundsheet £19.99.
Copyright Steve Burke 2001