Winter is over, summer is here. So it is decreed by the gizzard stone. Put on the shorts and shiver through the last few cold morning and evenings like a man. And while you’re waiting for the summer camping season to really kick in, like most dads you’re probably surfing the web for sweet new gear for the summer camping season. I’ve been camping all my life. With my family when I was a kid, with my wife and friends through and after college. Now, with our small family, camping is one of our favorite ways to spend a summer weekend. The one thing that makes of breaks camping for me, especially with a kid, is the tent. Here’s my recommendation for a good family camping tent.
Dad Gear: REI Kingdom 6 Tent
The REI Kingdom series of tents are modern tents with modern poles. When I was a kid we had the old school cabin tent with straight rigid aluminum poles that was like a barn in the wind. Great to be in, but hard to set up, leaky and prone to collapsing under the weight of a light drizzle of rain. Then we got a dome tent with flexible aluminum poles and a rain fly, but dome tent walls slope down and the circular footprint is inefficient.
The new generation of tents have poles of varying diameters that interlink together with hubs to make them more rigid, lighter and stronger. The Kingdom is basically a tunnel tent with steep walls an a divider that creates two rooms inside. There are three poles, two Y-shaped poles loop up and over from each corner and connect to each other along the roof line to create a rigid spine that prevents it from needn’t the guy lines a classic tunnel tent requires. The third hoops over the middle. the poles pin into grommets at the tent floor and clip to the tent with plastic hooks. This makes the whole tent easy to set up by one person. Which is handy because someone has to chase the toddler around and dig the beer cooler out of the trailer.
How easy is it to set up? See for yourself:
The Kingdom tent has a full rain fly that goes all the way to the ground and has multiple stake out points. I’ve been in minor storms with is and have stayed dry. With everything staked out, the fly stays away from the tent walls so there isn’t any moisture transfer. With the fly staked out, the whole tent is tight and rigid and can withstand strong winds and 2 year olds crashing into it at a dead run.
Other than the room divider that can be zipped closed or rolled away, there are many mesh pockets in the tent. Many MANY pockets. You could almost unpack into them all. This is a huge improvement over the one or two that used to get into tents. The room dividers have pockets all the way up for storing clothes, flashlights, electronics and hip flasks. There are also line loops along the roof and walls for hanging items or stringing up a clothes line.
The bag the REI Kingdom tents come in is an amenity as well. It has compartments for the tent, the fly, stakes, guy lines (which come with the tent) and poles. Everything in it’s place! The bag zips up and has backpack straps for those walk-in campgrounds. It’s big, and the packed away tent is heavy, but it’s also comfortable, so that’s a tradeoff.
The rain fly that comes with the tent has a vestibule that is big and roomy enough for several small dogs, or one big dog, or a small pony or pig. You can also buy separately a vestibule that attaches to the non-vestibule end for storing more dogs, bikes, small cars or larger livestock.
The doors are well designed in two ways: 1) they zip up and are attached to the top of the tent so that when unzipped, they hang and don’t touch the ground and 2) there is a mesh pocket at the top to stow the door when not in use. Very handy! They also have mesh screens that can by exposed by zipping away the opaque section.
Ventilation: There is lots of it. Half of each side is mesh screen which you can expose by rolling up half the rain fly.
Stow the doors when folding up the tent. It helps get the air out. Zip them up before staking the tent out as it helps get the tension right so you can zip them closed easily once it’s up.
Get the custom fitted tent footprint. A tarp may be cheeper and more versatile, but if it rains and you don’t have a perfect footprint, it’ll shunt water under the tent and your wife will get wet, and not in a good way.
Stake it out FULLY. Trust me on this one. Put a stake in every hole. Each corner and the middle of each long side. Then make sure everything is fully zipped when you head down to the creek for an afternoon of fun. No amount of ballast will keep a tent from flying away in the wind.
So that’s the tent I like. There are a lot out there, and REI makes 3 versions of this tent (4 person, 6 person and 8 person). What tent do you use?
About Mike HendersonBlogger, skier, biker, dude wrangler. I also like Bacon. I write the online directory of cool things to show your kids, The Gizzard Stone Reno, Nevada
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