Home on the Range: Tent Guide
Whether you’re traveling in a small pack and want to be light on your feet with gear that won’t weigh you down, or your group is larger and you’re looking for some camp comforts and luxuries of home to take on the trip, this year’s selection of outdoor shelters won’t let you down. Read on and get treated to everything this year’s tent manufacturers have to offer to make housing you and your family pretty much the last thing you need to worry about when planning this season’s adventures.
Big Agnes, a company that calls itself “the mother of comfort,” is certainly justified, given its focus on that key feature plus ease-of-use in its new King Creek 4 ($350) and King Creek 6 ($450) tents. The three-season, freestanding tent is designed for deluxe car camping or for use as a base camp. Setup is swift with color-coded webbing and buckles, and it has the latest in high-tech lightweight TH72M aluminum tent poles featuring improved durability with press-fit connectors. It offers two large doors with two closure options: choose from a zip-up mesh door for ventilation or a zip-up breathable polyester ripstop layer for complete closure; as well as two vestibules with an extra-large front vestibule for storage or foul-weather hangout. Plastic clips attach the tent body to the pole frame for a quick and easy setup. In 2011, Big Agnes also offers those in the car-camping market the new Wolf Mountain 4 ($420) and Wolf Mountain 6 ($490) tents. Big Agnes: 877/554-8975; bigagnes.com.
Once you get to your campsite, probably the first thing the kids want to do is set out to explore the trails. But, duty always calls and setting up the overall campsite and assembling the tent your family will sleep in come nightfall is the first priority. Coleman, having served the needs of families in the outdoors for well over a century now, found a way this year to put fun first on the to-do list with the introduction of its new Instant Tent. This cabin-style tent sets up in 60 seconds or less. Available for four ($130), six ($170) or eight ($230) people, it’s ideal for weekend car campers, extended camping trips, scout trips and summer camp. No assembly is required since the poles are pre-attached to the tent. Every seam is fully taped and there’s no need for a separate rain fly. You also won’t sacrifice durability for convenience with the Instant Tent — this year’s selection for its heavy-duty fabric is 150D material, which is two times the thickness of standard tent fabric. Coleman: 800/835-3278; coleman.com.
When you camp with the luxurious new Eureka! base camp tent, the Mansard ($680), you’ll need to remind yourself that you’re actually camping by looking outside at your surroundings. Its proprietary hubs and box-frame construction create near-vertical walls and well over 6 feet of vertical height. Two large D-style doors make access easy. The seven to eight campers it comfortably sleeps can also make two rooms out of the tent with its removable divider curtain with dual-tier pocketing. Storing your large group’s abundance of gear isn’t an issue — the Mansard features two stash vestibules, one on each side, that are accessed through V-shaped zippered panels. The tent’s large front and rear vestibules also protect campers from the elements and can be configured in multiple ways, including as an awning. The Eureka! line of tents experienced further innovation in 2011 with the new design of its SQ frame. The new Timberline SQ Outfitter 6 ($450) is designed for hunters, scouts and guide services and is also a fit for the camping family seeking a rugged outdoor home. The Timberline’s aluminum hub optimizes the angles of the legs, ridgepole and ridgepole extensions, helping to open up the top of the tent into an arc shape, resulting in 24 percent more interior space. The six-person, three-season tent’s design offers the durablity and added strength and stability to handle varying weather conditions. Eureka!: 800/572-8822; eurekatent.com.
Grand Trunk Uinta
The Uinta from Grand Trunk offers one of the best features a camping family could desire in a tent — it springs open in less than than a minute. This three-season tent features a patented central hub design with fiberglass poles pre-attached to the tent body. No more messing around with poles and pegs late at night after a long drive. The roomy dome-style Uinta ($230) sleeps four people comfortably and is notable for its waterproof seams, double-layer door, 19-square-foot vestibule, gear loft, two inside storage pockets and a window on its polyester rain fly. Grand Trunk: 877/365-2965; grandtrunkgoods.com.
Does your foray into the outdoors call for a gear-intensive packing list and equipment that will hold up to tough weather conditions? If so, consider having a look at the new four-person, four-season Saitaris ($1,495) from Hilleberg. It combines the self-supporting features of a dome tent with the spacious vestibule of a tunnel tent to create a highly innovative and roomy shelter. There’s no lack of storage space with one standard-size and one extended vestibule. Its unique full-sleeve plus sleeve-and-clip system allows for quick and easy pitching, and the Kerlon 1800 outer-tent fabric is easily one of the strongest lightweight tent fabrics available, so the Saitaris is capable of handling both heavy wind and snow. Hilleberg: 866/848-8368; hilleberg.com.
You expect to be roughing it — somewhat, at least — as part of any outdoor adventure. But after a long day’s hike with the kids in tow, there’s nothing like the comfort and convenience offered by a truly innovative base camp shelter. If you’re looking for both benefits, turn to the new Kelty Hula House, available in four-person ($300) and six-person ($399) models. The base camp tent’s unique “Hula” hoop pole design provides tons of interior space while still allowing for a taller door opening for easier access. The Hula House’s clip- and pole-sleeve construction makes it quick and simple to pitch, while mesh wall panels keep fresh air moving through. A full-coverage fly with a roomy vestibule keeps campers dry while providing ample space for storing gear. For the family of four or less, Kelty also offers the new Salida 4 ($220). The opposite of base camping, this versatile three-season shelter with ample vestibule space allows you to pack it up and hike the family into the backcountry while still maintaining enough interior space to comfortably sleep and safely store your gear. Kelty: 800/423-2320; kelty.com.
For the family in need of a spacious base camp, Mountain Hardwear offers the Corners tent in 2011. Offered for three ($275), four ($350) and six people ($400), the Corners tent’s two-door design makes for easy access, and its four-hub pole structure sets up quickly and easily, providing plenty of headroom. Roll into your campsite after dark? Not a problem — its reflective starter points and guyout loops make even late-night setup a breeze. The vestibule design prevents rain from entering the tent’s inner shelter and dual vestibules provide ample storage for everybody’s gear. Mountain Hardwear: 877/927-5649; mountainhardwear.com.
Camping in a group of four or less — and want to keep the load light and the gear affordable? Before leaving, pick up the Mountainsmith Genesee 4 ($199, packed weight 6 pounds 5 ounces). Comfortably sleeping four, it’s designed with a two door/two vestibule layout and tent-fly ventilation windows for maximum air flow. The best part? Because the tent is freestanding and has a bathtub-type construction floor, setup is quick and intuitive — like 90 seconds quick. Mountainsmith, known for its abundance of features in every product, offers interior design with the Genesee 4 that begins with large mesh windows, a detachable ceiling loft pocket and mesh storage pockets. Setup is facilitated with guyout attachment points, reflective guylines, color-coded buckle attachments for the tent and fly, grommet-pole attachments and reinforced aluminum V-stakes. Mountainsmith: 800/551-5889; mountainsmith.com.
Napier Enterprises, an innovative provider of tents that conveniently connect to trucks and SUVs, recently overhauled its traditional product line and launched the new Sportz SUV 82000 tent ($330, sleeps four to five people). The tent is set up by wrapping it around the cargo area of your vehicle, which allows easier access for additional sleeping spaces or for storing gear. Napier’s SUV tents are designed to custom-fit nearly any type of SUV you have in your driveway with an adjustable sleeve. And when you want to camp without your vehicle, you can use the tent as a standalone ground shelter by unzipping the vehicle sleeve. The new SUV 82000 design features a full-length rain fly for additional weather protection, and with its steel and fiberglass pole structure, it can easily be set up by one person. New this year, Napier also offers the SUV 84000 tent ($350), which sleeps up to six people. Napier: 800/567-2434, sportzbynapier.com.
Since most families go camping to enjoy the spacious outdoors, the last thing they want to deal with on the trip is lack of space in their shelter. You’re guaranteed enough space and then some with the Paha Qué Perry Mesa tent ($549), which sleeps four comfortably (up to six if needed), and offers an even roomier screenroom that also sleeps four. The Perry Mesa also eliminates the need to pack separate tents and screenrooms since this combo takes care of both in one easy-to-set-up model. Just as Paha Qué doesn’t scrimp on its generous space proportions from side to side, the same holds true from head to toe — this tent’s vertical walls ensure maximum headroom, even in the corners. If you need a Screenroom, the 10×10-foot ($369) and 12×12-foot ($449) models by Paha Qué have been improved this year with new fabrics and aluminum polesets. These versatile screenrooms have awnings built into all four sides that allow the room to be sealed up as a watertight shelter if weather should demand. For comfort and privacy (even in a campsite), the company also offers the Tepee Shower and Outhouse ($179), a fully equipped portable outhouse with detachable heavy-duty, waterproof flooring engineered to allow drainage of shower runoff and to keep the bugs out. Paha Qué: 888/700-8367; pahaque.com.
If your trips this spring will center around a campsite, get comfortable in the spaciousness provided by REI’s Hobitat tent (pictured). Giving campers a home-away-from-home feel, REI offers the Hobitat 4 ($269) and Hobitat 6 ($319). The tent’s rectangular floorplan with end-to-end symmetry makes it easy to arrange sleeping bags and gear and provides organizational efficiency and comfort. Its combination of pole clips, pole sleeves and color-coding facilitate a quick and easy setup. With REI’s new Connect Tech zippers, optional vestibules or a garage can also be added. And, to offer a cool daytime refuge or protection at night from bugs, the tent’s roll-up side panels mated to interior bug-proof mesh panels allow you to control ventilation and keep insects on the outside. Also leveraging the new Connect Tech zippers for optional vestibules, REI’s The Kingdom 8 ($489) tent provides a family palace for the outdoors with two private rooms, tall vertical walls for maximized living space and multiple organizer pockets. The Kingdom is also offered in four-person ($329) and six-person ($379) models. REI: 800/426-4840; rei.com.
True to its name, the Rightline Gear CampRight SUV Tent ($300) lets you enjoy the outdoors without giving up any rights — like the right to bring some luxuries from home and make the experience a little more comfortable. Connecting to the back of your SUV, minivan or pickup truck with cap, the tent offers access to the inside of your vehicle for extra storage or sleeping locations. The tent’s innovative “alligator clamping sleeve” easily disconnects from the vehicle it’s attached to, allowing campers to leave the tent behind and get on with any of the day’s outdoor adventures. The main tent room sleeps five and the vehicle cargo area sleeps two. A tarp can be added to the screenroom floor to sleep three more. Rightline Gear: 888/685-4327; rightlinegear.com.
Sheltering a small family can be easy and lightweight on the go with two new three-person tents from Sierra Designs: the Lighting HT 3 ($350) and the Zia 3 ($230). As the new design of the Lighting HT 3 confirms — going ultralight doesn’t have to mean going extra small. The unique pole design on this 5-pound-3-ounce tent actually has the opposite effect: It increases interior space while shedding weight. The tent’s sizable interior volume (40 square feet) is due to its unique geometry created by two poles running from corner to corner and connected by a ridgepole, creating an “H” shape. Two doors and two vestibules make it easy to stow gear and access the outside. Roominess is also the name of the game with the Zia 3’s innovative “X” ridgepole design, which makes the tent walls steeper, creating a larger interior volume than possible with standard pole configurations. The result is a spacious, more comfortable tent. And this tent won’t leave you homeless for the night should a mighty wind come along — Sierra Designs’ Clip Locks are an exclusive and patented pole connection technology that adds 60 percent more strength, helping to keep the Zia standing tall in adverse weather. Sierra Designs: 800/736-8592; sierradesigns.com.
The TailVeil turns your crossover, SUV or minivan into a compact weekend camper, tailgater or a perfect place to watch your kid’s sports, providing a moisture-resistant space of about 8 feet by 8 feet. It adjusts to fit many vehicles with an upward-lifting tailgate and doesn’t interfere with the operation of sliding side doors. The large three-way zipper opens the entire side, there’s no poles to carry or set up, and it only weighs 5 pounds. Small enough to keep in the vehicle so it’s always handy, it comes in a 19x5x5-inch carry case with four tent stakes. TailVeil: tailveil.com.
The North Face
The North Face, known for its expedition tents that protect the world’s most daring climbers in the most challenging weather conditions and landscapes, is also a maker of tents that can offer the same level of protection and adventurous spirit to families camping with one child or perhaps for parents who take off on a kids-free getaway. One of the new three-person tents for 2011 is the Minibus 3 ($379), a lightweight shelter at just 6 pounds 3 ounces that offers huge vestibules and convenient livability features. Entry and exit are easy with two large doors; and multiple vents and a PU Port on the rain fly keep this nest-on-the-go well ventilated. Another lightweight selection that could comfortably house a group of up to three is the Topaz 3 Bx ($259, 6 pounds 8 ounces) — its new-school hub design creates a cavernous interior and great weather protection. Its double-door and double-awning vestibule plus an abundance of gear loops and durable steel stakes make this shelter comfy, cozy and most important, secure in a storm, for the small camping family. The North Face: 888/863-1968; thenorthface.com.