2008 Tent Buyer’s guide


May 29, 2008
Filed under Camping Gear, Tents

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BASS PRO SHOPS XPS 3-ROOMNew construction methods, new designs and tons more features are what you’ll find in the modern camping tent-it’s definitely not what your father used. Today’s construction is all about light and fast these days, as campers want to be able to set up and tear down quickly and easily. Even the big tents meant to house six or more people weigh less than ever before and go up fast. Family campers are busy enough as it is, and a tent that’s bulky and clumsy is just plain unacceptable. We have selected a number of prime examples of this new breed of tent-take a look at what’s available in 2008.


Bass Pro Shops isn’t just for anglers anymore. The company has moved into camping equipment in a big way, now offering an extensive line of outdoor products to help families have excellent camping adventures. The Bass Pro XPS 3-Room Family Dome Tent is the perfect example of that expansion. This tent has an enormous 20×10-foot floor size, big enough to sleep your entire family, and your neighbor’s (it’s rated as a nine-person tent). The main room measures 8×8 feet, and the tent has two side rooms that are 8×6 feet in size. A 6-foot, 4-inch interior peak height will please Dad and any other tall folks. Features include a double-awning rainfly with skylights, four mesh organizer pockets, a dynamic ventilation system with two mesh panels in the main room and heavy-duty polyethylene flooring. It comes with an oversized oxford-cloth wheeled carry bag for easy transport. MSRP: $230. Bass Pro Shops: 800/BASS-PRO; /basspro.com/.


This relatively small Colorado-based company has some very nice tents in its Base Camp/Car Camp line, the newest of which is the four-person, three-season Pine Island. It’s a high-tech dome-style tent with lightweight aluminum poles, color-coded pole ends, sleeves and plastic clips to attach the tent body to the pole frame for easy setup. The rainfly and floor are made of polyester ripstop with a 1500 mm waterproof coating, and the tent body is a combination of lightweight nylon mesh, polyester ripstop, and polyester with a 1500 mm waterproof coating. The Pine Island offers two large doors, interior mesh pockets, hanging storage loops. The tent has a floor dimension of 100×90 inches and an interior height of 51 inches. MSRP: $340. Big Agnes: 877/554-8975; /bigagnes.com/.


Three models make up the new Northstar Series of Coleman basecamping tents: the X4 (12×7-foot floor, sleeps four), X6 (14×8-foot floor, sleeps six) and the X8 (15×10-foot floor, sleeps eight). All three offer at least six feet of headroom. Other common features include four doors and two vestibules, a mesh roof with zip panels for venting, TPU film windows, and 16mm-diameter 6061 T6 aluminum poles. The fly is a 3000 mm poly-coated ripstop polyester, the tent canopy is ripstop nylon, and the floor is made up of 3000 mm poly-coated nylon oxford. All offer no-see-um polyester mesh. The poles feature color-coding for simple set up, and quick-clips attach the tent to the poles. All also feature a screen room, and two extra poles for an awning. MSRP: $499, $549, $599. Coleman: 800/835-3278; /coleman.com/.


The Conrad Ridge tent from Columbia Sportswear is a big one-measuring 10×15 feet across the floor (with an 80-inch interior peak height), it can sleep up to 10 people. This giant of a tent for camping families offers Columbia’s own GoBe Dry Ultimate rain protection system so your herd won’t get wet when the weather goes south on you. Its full-coverage rainfly delivers full protection from precipitation, and is quick and easy to set up. The Conrad Ridge tent provides two spacious rooms split by a handing divider curtain, yards of mesh on the walls for good ventilation, internal storage pockets, a gear loft, and even cupholders. MSRP: $240. Columbia: 503/985-4000; /columbia.com/.


Featuring good things such as sweep-outs on the doors, plenty of storage pockets, and near-vertical walls, the Copper Canyon 1610 from Eureka! can sleep six persons in its cabin-style shape. It includes a screen room on one side, and its tent-section floor space is perfect for two big cots with an aisle in between. The tent has one side-opening twin-track main entry door to the sleeping room, and a second side-opening interior door between the sleeping room and the screen room. The screen room has an inverted T-shaped exterior door with roll-back storm covers on all openings, and an overhead brim. Overall size is 16×10 feet, with 7 feet, 3 inches of headroom. MSRP: $299. Eureka!: 800/572-8822; /eurekatent.com/.


The Pegasus from Exped sleeps four and was designed for expedition-style base camping. Weighing in at just 13.4 pounds, the Pegasus offers 43.1 square feet of floor space and a 19.4-square-foot vestibule. The walls are steep and the roof is arched for more headroom and usable floor space. Its Exoskeleton design puts the tent poles (DAC NSL 9.6 mm) through the rainfly, keeping it taut and sturdy, and then hangs the canopy (inner tent) from that weatherproof shell. A poly-coated ripstop polyester rainfly, ripstop polyester canopy with no-see-um mesh-backed doors (two), and a 10,000 mm poly-coated nylon floor make up the Pegasus. And the rainfly (ultralight weatherproof shelter) or canopy (for warm weather) can be set up separately, depending upon your needs. MSRP: $900. Exped/Outdoor Research: 888/467-4327; /outdoorresearch.com/.


The progenitor of the light and fast philosophy in the outdoor market, GoLite makes top-notch gear that reflects its name-super lightweight for outdoor enthusiasts on the go. The company has recently ventured into equipment that works for base campers, too. With that in mind, its Valhalla 4 tent weighs just 5 pounds, 15 ounces. The four-season shelter will handle four sleepers comfortably, and it features two big side vents for maximizing air flow and eight internal mesh pockets. Fabric is SilLite – a silicone-impregnated elastomere ripstop nylon – that is incredibly lightweight, but waterproof and sturdy. And it’s a low-slung weather-beater with a peak height of just 3 feet, 9 inches. MSRP: $600. GoLite: 888/5-GOLITE; /golite.com/.


New from Kelty is the Lounge, in two sizes sleeping four and six people. This high-tech tent from the company’s Basecamp line offers color-coded clip-sleeve setup, watertight walls, a single door, mesh panels on the windows and roof, internal storage pockets, an organizer wall, a gear shelf and gear-loft loops. The floor of the Lounge features Kelty’s ArcEdge above-ground bathtub style construction. The Lounge’s rainfly features a mesh vestibule with pull-down shades, vents, and noiseless zipper pulls. Walls are 68D ripstop polyester; the floor is 1800 mm poly-coated nylon taffeta, and the rainfly is 75D ripstop polyester with a 1800 mm polyurethane coating. The poles are 14.5 mm-thick DAC DA17 aluminum. The footprint of the Lounge 4 measures 110×108 inches; the Lounge 6 measures 162×108 inches. MSRP: $340 (4); $440 (6). Kelty: 800/535-3589; /kelty.com/.


The move to car camping, or base camping as many call it now, is stronger than ever this year. Why not, it’s the best way to have a great outdoor family experience! MSR saw this trend coming and brought to market its new Venture category of tents, with the room and livability families want. Our favorite in the Venture line is the Board Room. It’s huge tunnel design offers almost 7 feet of interior height; its 96-square-foot floor space allows for up to eight sleepers. Details such as the I-Skylight – large mesh panels that provide good ventilation, as well as great stargazing; all-weather doors to keep the outside out while the interior stays dry; and pole sleeves and clips to easily connect to the new BowFrame poles and make the Board Room’s nearly vertical walls sturdy, are typical of the advanced design of this tent. The Screening Room accessory ($250) adds another 64-square feet of space to the Board Room. MSRP: $800. MSR: 800/531-9531; /msrgear.com/.


The Anza Trail SUV Tent from Paha Que is perfect for the camping family, as it works with an SUV, wagon, minivan, or pickup with a camper shell to enable campers (or at least some of them) to sleep inside the vehicle, while still having a huge bug-free living space outside the vehicle. And the Vehicle Attachment Sleeve can be zipped up so the tent can be used as a free-standing structure, too. Its aluminum poles are large (0.875-inch diameter) and form a sturdy skeleton for the rainfly and sidewalls (185T polyester with 1500 mm waterproof coating). The floor is made of 210D polyester oxford with a heavy-duty waterproof coating. The tent has huge no-see-um mesh windows, and measures 10×10-feet at the floor and has a 7 foot, 8 inch interior peak height. MSRP: $599. Paha Que: 888/700-TENT; /pahaque.com/.


A redesign of the company’s Quarter Dome T3 tent has resulted in a lighter-weight tent with a new “Tension Truss” (TT) frame system. The REI TT frame system consists of fabric ribs that control pole shape; in this tent, a pole tip extends over each door, which pushes out the walls and provides increased head and shoulder room inside. The integrated pole-hub and color-coding on poles, tent and rainfly makes for quick and easy setup; the DAC Featherlite NSL aluminum poles are lightweight and sturdy; and the Quarter Dome T3 tent features a bathtub-style floor to keep you dry inside and multiple inner storage pockets. The canopy is 40D ripstop nylon with mesh windows and the floor and rainfly are 30D poly-coated ripstop nylon. Overall dimensions are 68×86 inches on the floor with a peak height of 3 feet, 9 inches. MSRP: $289. REI: 800/426-4840; /rei.com/.


From one of the original outdoor gear makers – Sierra Designs – comes the new 4+2 Bedouin Annex. The Annex offers an attached bug-free mesh screen room to the front end of the Bedouin four-person 70D ripstop nylon tent structure. A 70D nylon taffeta rainfly (including a 1500 mm waterproof coating) can cover the entire tent when the weather turns ugly, or be rolled back to unveil the front room of the tent when it’s warmer. The rainfly can also be rolled up from the bottom to provide increased ventilation. The floor is made of 70D nylon taffeta with a 1800 mm waterproof coating. Poles are made from 14.5 mm press fit aluminum. The tent has two doors – a rear door provides quick access to the main 61-square-foot rear sleeping area. The Annex can sleep another two people if needed. MSRP: $449. Sierra Designs: 800/635-0461; /sierradesigns.com/.


The three-person Marbach tent from Wenger is new for 2008, and is a good structure for three-season camping with its full-coverage watertight rainfly. The dual-zipper front vestibule for dry gear storage outside the tent’s sleeping area; fully sealed bathtub-style floor to keep water from intruding from the ground; a tent body that’s made of ripstop nylon; and a rainfly with a 4000 mm waterproof coating, make it ideal for those spring or fall trips when a sprinkle can happen at any time. It also offers no-see-um mesh windows on the tent body for good airflow with no bugs. Gear pockets and a gear loft are there, too. The Marbach measures 86×78 inches on the floor, with a peak height of 4 feet, 8 inches. MSRP: $369. Wenger: 800/267-3577; /wengerna.com/.


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