Carp brollies under £280: Aqua and ESP head to head

Carp brollies under £280: Aqua and ESP head to head

We've pitted two of the best carp brollies under £300 against each other in this in-depth review of the ESP Hideout and Aqua Fast & Light Mk2.

What do you get for your money? Carpfeed tackle editor Marc Coulson is your guide...

AQUA FAST & LIGHT MK2

RRP: £279.99 (£299 for the DPM camo version) | www.aquaproducts.co.uk

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  • I LIKE: The Aquatexx material is one of the very best out there, with rain literally just beading and rolling off it, then shaking dry immediately.
  • I DISLIKE: No storm poles included, which when you consider you can’t use the brolly without at least the smaller ones, is a bit of a drawback.
 Nine ribs and Spacesaver mech give better headroom

Nine ribs and Spacesaver mech give better headroom

The ninth rib at the very top of the Fast & Light makes for a compact system, which packs away in no time at all, but with an additional amount of headroom when sitting on the bedchair watching the water.

The Spacesaver spoke mechanism also increases this internal room, which the MK1 didn’t have, making it feel extremely cramped inside.

There are no such concerns here as the 55ins frame, although smaller than many brollies, still feels relatively roomy inside.

The Aquatexx material is second to none and this is where the bulk of the cost comes from.

You might argue that with an open-front brolly the material is less important compared to a full-blown bivvy system, but I disagree. Why settle for a lesser material when you can have a superior one?

 Aquatexx material is a star performer

Aquatexx material is a star performer

Throwing the Fast & Light up is a doddle and takes seconds, and I mean seconds.

I’ve read so many firms’ claims before when it comes to shelters that they go up in less than a minute, but in truth it’s rarely the case.

I’ve used this MK2 several times and it really does go up in no time at all, and that’s the case the very first time you use it as opposed to only after months of practice.

For me, a brolly should be exactly that, fast to erect and take down and allow the angler to move quickly if needs be and also to fish overnighters without the bulk and hassle of a bigger shelter.

OK, most people reading this might not fancy doing a harsh winter under one of these but it wouldn’t bother me in the slightest.

Twin rod straps also adorn the Fast & Light and the pegging points are both robust and secure.

 Twin rod straps on the front

Twin rod straps on the front

Aqua has also addressed one particular bugbear of mine and that’s the ease with which the brolly goes in the bag, which features a full-length zip.

I also appreciate the elasticated strap with twin poppers, which help keep it nice and slim when packed down. This is only a small addition but one that makes life that little bit easier.

 Poppers help keep the packed-down unit compact

Poppers help keep the packed-down unit compact

Now, you might think that this is an extremely positive review, and you’d be right, but there are one or two reasons why the Fast & Light might not be for you.

It is what it is, a stripped-back brolly designed with the genuine brolly angler’s requirements in mind.

If you prefer a bit more comfort, room and extras then it’s not the brolly for you.

Also, if you want to add a groundsheet then that’s extra, as are, annoyingly, the short storm poles.

There’s also an overwrap available, so you could make it into more of a system, but you’re now looking at a very significant investment.

However, as with anything, if you can afford that outlay then it’s all relative and I’d say it would be well worth every penny.

ESP HIDEOUT

RRP: £269.99 | www.esp-carpgear.co.uk

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  • I LIKE: The simple extending front ribs add a huge amount of additional coverage without any extra bulk or significant weight added by their inclusion.
  • I DISLIKE: If I’m using a brolly then I want it to just be that, a brolly. Personally I would choose ESP’s Lo Pro over the Hideout, but that’s just me.
 "One of the best internal mechanisms I've seen"

"One of the best internal mechanisms I've seen"

For my own fishing I’ve never really fancied a full-system brolly as I use a brolly for the sake of ease and usually all of the extras would be surplus to my own needs.

However, ESP has done something quite different with the Hideout, with the two sides of what would be an infill panel actually attached to the brolly itself.

No extras to pack in the bag and these sides can be dropped down quickly by simply opening two clips on each side. Kudos to ESP for this.

There is also an additional ‘door’ that zips to the sides when you want it, but I wouldn’t be interested in this, despite the fact that is light and takes up very little additional room.

 The Hideout is much more of a system

The Hideout is much more of a system

The nylon material scores lower than something like the Aquatexx in terms of its performance, but to be fair it absolutely more than copes with the heaviest rain and, for most users, it is an insignificant difference.

 Nylon material isn't quite as high-spec as on the Aqua brolly

Nylon material isn't quite as high-spec as on the Aqua brolly

However, its lightweight nature does allow for the aforementioned configuration to work, which would almost certainly be too bulky with anything thicker and heavier.

The Hideout works on the same principle as ESP’s Lo Pro, with the two front spines featuring elasticated sections that extend and create wing-like fronts.

 Elasticated poles create the side 'wings'

Elasticated poles create the side 'wings'

These add a huge amount of extra coverage with very little fuss, while a small pole fits across the two top ribs to maintain the Hideout’s shape.

However, as good as both of these things are, for me it further takes the Hideout away from what I consider to be the key feature of a brolly: simple design and use.

By way of balancing that comment, however, I know that many users will appreciate these two extras, which will definitely add to those anglers’ experience.

The space-saving internal mechanism is one of the best I’ve seen and it is far more substantial than many others that I’ve seen and, given how important this part of any brolly is, more kudos for that.

If you are the kind of angler that likes a few more creature comforts, but wants a brolly rather than a bulkier bivvy, then the Hideout represents a great choice and, in my mind, is exceptional value.

 Set up as a more conventional brolly

Set up as a more conventional brolly

Everything that you need is included, namely storm poles, groundsheet and those aforementioned infill sections and door. My only real gripe is that I struggled to get it all back into the slim-profile bag which is loaded from the top.

If I had a Hideout then I’d definitely invest in some form of brolly bag for it to go in.

That aside, I congratulate ESP on once again creating something a little bit different with certain anglers' requirements at the forefront of the design process.

You can’t really ask much more of a shelter manufacturer than that.

THE VERDICT

Choosing one of these over the other would boil down to one simple question: do you like to be as mobile as possible or is a bit of sitting and waiting more your thing?

Once you’ve answered this, the decision becomes an extremely easy one.

As I’ve said, it’s not that you can’t move when using the Hideout and, equally, fishing under the Fast & Light isn’t without some comfort, but it’s fairly obvious that they each outscore the other in those two key areas.