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Family Camping: Family Tent Guide

May 24, 2006
Filed under Camping Gear, Tents

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In 2006, the two innovative Johnson Outdoor brands Eureka! Tents and Silva technology teamed up to offer new solar-charged, LED lighting in its expansive family tent line. The new Eureka! Solar Intent is an 11×11-foot two-pole family dome tent featuring the new flexible-panel solar-powered light. The solar light utilizes the same super durable, lightweight flexible solar panels that are used on Eureka! military tents. These panels power up an LED cube consisting of an ultra-thin, semi-flexible array of red LEDs that won’t impair night vision. It also has adjustable settings for brightness and functions as an AA battery charger. Size: 132x132x78 inches. 800/572-8822; www.eurekacamping.com

Cabela’s has several family-sized tents worth mention. The Quad Pole Dome and WestWind are two such tents. The Quad Pole Dome’s (available as a five-person at $230 and eight-person at $300) unique vertical walls provide extra living space and superb cross-ventilation. Large zippered doors and arch-style windows also allow airflow from all four sides when needed. A cross-ridge rainfly acts as an awning to allow ventilation even while it’s raining; walls are constructed of nylon taffeta with a breathable roof. The floor is made of 210-denier nylon oxford. Doors and windows have No-See-Um mesh panel and zippered storm flaps. The tent also features a shock-corded fiberglass frame with pin and ring system, plus quick-clip attachments for fast, easy setup. Size: 144x120x85 inches. 800/237-4444; www.cabelas.com

Coleman Exponent products are designed for less-civilized conditions, empowering adventurers to take their journeys to the next level. But we have to say the new Trispace 8 ($500) won’t leave you missing many amenities from home. This spacious abode allows for comfortable group camping in any environment — close or remote. The Trispace 8 tent spreads out 125 square feet over three divided rooms. Family campers wanting a little solo time can manage privacy with zippered dividers between rooms and still easily exit and enter with two doors. Frustrations during tent setup should be kept to an all-time minimum with the tent’s five color-coded poles for easy assembly, and all eight of you will enjoy protected ventilation with the tent’s unique louver design. Size: 161x161x82 inches . 800/835-3278; www.coleman.com

Columbia offers family-style tents that sleep up to 10 people. We favor the family dome and cabin tents. The Bugaboo Dome ($170) is spacious for four to five people and efficient, providing easy setup and tear down. Like all of Columbia’s dome tents, the Bugaboo comes with pocket organizers, remote controlled light, skylight panels and added rain defense with the GoBeDry ultimate rain protection system. Ending the camp trip is just as easy as starting; just pack up the 21-pound tent in the canvas carry bag and wheel it away. Size: 144x108x74 inches. 866/706-9377; www.columbia.com

The Kelty base-camping line for 2006 begins with the new family-sized Pavilion luxury camping tent. The Pavilion is available in four- ($450) and six-person ($625) sizes. A destination in itself, the spacious and stylish Pavilion is perfect for group weekends or extended family adventures. The spotlight feature of the Pavilion is the oversized screened vestibule with pull-down privacy shades that allow for bug-free comfort at any time of the day. Size (Pavilion 6): 162x108x79 inches. 800/423-2320; www.kelty.com

Mountain Hardwear tents exemplify the company name and are durably constructed for the extreme weather and camping conditions of avid mountaineers. We found the four-person tents’ qualities also work great for the camping family. One example is the Atrium 4 Crossflow ($450), which incorporates Mountain Hardwear’s exclusive CrossFlow ventilation system for comfortable airflow and reduced interior condensation. This base camp-style tent is designed to accommodate four, and its free-standing design is easy to pitch. The canopy has interior wall pockets and two doors supported by three Yunan 7001 poles. Like all CrossFlow tents, this model packs down very well. Size: 137x119x64 inches. 800/953-8375; www.mountainhardwear.com

Napier lets you take adventure on the open road and keeps the campsite nearby. Its SPORTZ tent designs fit right on the back of pick-up trucks and SUVs. Napier’s largest family tent, the Sportz Full Size SUV ($230) model sleeps five to six, plus two in the cargo area. The tent is supported by a shock-corded fiberglass pole frame. A double-coated polyethylene floor with ripstop technology provides water resistance and durability. The tent’s body is constructed of polyester and has complete UV coating. The Full Size SUV can also be easily converted to a stand-alone, self-contained ground tent by removing the fully detachable sleeve. Size: 120x120x96 inches. 800/567-2434, www.napierenterprises.com

North Face tents are named for the treacherous north face of the world’s highest mountain. With that philosophy at the stake of every shelter North Face makes, we confidently recommend the spacious Trailhead 8 ($399) to be a sure thing for a dry, protected and enjoyable family camping experience. The Trailhead, also available in four- ($299) and six-person ($349) sizes, has a common area and two separate sleeping quarters. Its features include aluminum alloy poles, fusion pitch that combines pole sleeves and clips, taped nylon floor, color-coded flysheet attachments and dual doors. The tent’s internal prayer-bound floor seams increase user space with clean angles. Or-ganization is made easy with internal pockets and hang loops. Size (Trailhead 8): 206x104x78 inches. 800/447-2333; www.thenorthface.com

Paha Qué specializes in family-sizing the performance and innovation found in many high-end backpacking tents. One of our favorites and a past Camping Life Editors’ Choice Award winner is the Perry Mesa ($499). This eight-person tent combines two important family camping characteristics: roomy tent (10×6 feet) and spacious screen room (10×7 feet) for socializing. Size: 120x168x78 inches. 888/700-TENT; www.pahaque.com

REI offers the colorful Hobitat 6 ($299) cabin-style tent. Innovation and quality, plus top-notch livability make this a first-rate choice for three-season campers. It has four equal-length poles and a clip/sleeve attachment that creates a strong tent that’s quick and logical to set up. Aluminum combi-poles combine varying diameter pole sections to capitalize on strength, weight savings and value. It also features durable nylon taffeta walls, extra heavy-duty coated 300-denier polyester oxford floor and polyester ripstop full-coverage rainfly. Two large O-shaped doors and two eyelid-shape windows have mesh for venting, and inside zip-up cover for privacy and weather protection. An eyebrow awning over the door keeps rain from dripping down into the tent. The Hobitat is also offered in a four-person version ($249). Size (Hobitat 6): 120x100x82 inches. 800/426-4840; www.rei.com

Wenger offers the Appenzell ($199), an ideal luxury family camping tent. Its three-room space feels more like a castle than outdoor shelter. It offers sewn-in room dividers (not just hanging divider curtains) giving campers completely separate rooms. The Appezell fly features factory-taped seams and the floors are sonically welded durable polyethlyne for superb weather protection. In between the rooms in the center of the tent is the breezeway common area, which offers plenty of place to socialize on a rainy day. The breezeway has front and rear doors for ventilation and an entry portal over the door large enough to seat a couple of camp chairs. Setup is a snap with color-coded poles and sleeves, and parallel pole construction. The tent also features patented pass-through bay windows on the ends and “E-ports” for electrical cord access to the tent. Size: 240x120x80 inches. 888/797-2769; www.wengerna.com

Wenzel has more than a century-long tradition of creating rugged, durable, top-performing gear for the all-American camping trip. One of Wenzel’s newest family tents is the Aspen Trail ($90). In the era of West Nile Virus and other mosquito-borne diseases, tents with attached screen porches have gained in popularity. The Aspen Trail combines a midsized sleeping area, comfortable for a family of four to five, with a screen porch that can easily enclose a couple of camp chairs and a small table. The updraft ventilation system helps keep the tent cool on hot summer nights with adjustable vent, windows and lots of mesh in the ceiling. A tub-style floor with rain shingle helps keep the tent dry. Also includes storage pockets and a gear loft to stash gear. Size: 186x132x70 inches. 800/325-4121; www.wenzelco.com

Winchester tents are part of the Paha Qué family of companies. Winchester makes high-quality, affordable tents that offer durability and longevity for the family camper. The new Winchester Model 64 ($99) is not huge in dimensions, but this new tent is roomier than you might think, with sleeping space for four. Size: 96x96x59 inches. The six-person Model 97 ($499) is the heavy-duty tent of the Winchester line. It has a 10×13-foot floor with a 76-inch peak in one big room. 888/700-TENT; www.winchestertents.com

Woods Canada offers both a family and ultra series of tents. For the family buyer’s guide, we liked models from both lines. The Ultra Series tents are designed for the serious adventurer, but the Galaxy 4 ($300) and Galaxy 6 ($340) work great for the medium-sized family camping whose key considerations are performance, weight and size. The series features full-length flys, aluminum poles, and built-in high vents in the vestibules to reduce condensation and increase air circulation, while still providing protection from the elements. D-shaped mesh doors with a zippered nylon privacy flap provide easy entry and exit in all tents. Size (Galaxy 6): 120x96x72 inches. 877/537-3002; www.woodscanada.com.

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