The mercury is starting to rise and the days are getting longer, giving us the hint it’s time to load up the camping gear and head to the woods. If you haven’t busted out your tent since last season, it is a great time to check it for wear and tear while you are still at home. There is nothing worse than getting to your weekend destination on a late Friday night, only to realize that your tent got wet in your garage and has rotted out over the winter or someone possibly didn’t get a pole into the bag the very last time you used the tent. Having equipment in good working condition is essential to having a great experience in the outdoors.
If a new tent is in order, there are a few new items hitting the shelves of Sportsman’s Warehouse this year that just might fit your needs. Here are a few models that have caught our attention.
Coleman Octagon 98 with Full Fly
This is an extremely large tent and great for a whole family expedition. It is advertised as an 8-person tent, which usually means extremely crowded, but this 13’X13’ tent with 7-foot center height has lots of room. The floor is made of polyethylene 1000D material with a bathtub design making it a very waterproof flooring system. The tent itself is built with a lot of screen mesh to give you maximum ventilation. The tent material itself is made of polyester 68D material and the rain fly is made of polyester taffeta 68D material which is water resistant with taped seams. Steel shock-corded poles keep the unit rigid and the color coded ends make setup of the tent itself very simple for even one person. The tent comes with a room divider curtain which has many configurations, but is ideal for keeping the kids and their junk on their own side of the tent. The storage pocket with cup holder allows you to keep those small items in a visible and easy to find spot. Coleman has put a door on each side of the tent which is ideal when the room divider is up and allows both groups to have their own entrance. The D style door is also very unique in that Coleman has provided shock corded fiberglass poles which can be inserted on the back and around the door portion. This turns the door into a rigid type door that is easy to get in and out of with handfuls of gear.
This is a great tent with lots of room. We would highly recommend this tent for your next outing. However, make sure you do a trial run in your own back yard prior to heading to the woods as the instructions which are sewn into the bag are a bit hard to understand. It appears that the instructions are probably written by someone extremely familiar with this product and assumes that others will be the same. Even though we set up numerous different tents each and every year and hundreds of times, there were items which were very confusing to us in the setup on our first run. The tighter you stake out this tent, the easier it is to put up; especially with one person. Make sure you put your top poles (green labels) into position before starting on your side wall. All of your zippers on the fly are for the sides and access to the screened portion of the tent and not a door entry.
Although we didn’t get any major downpours during our testing, we put the hose on it for a solid 15 minutes without any leaks or problems. We did get our fair share of wind during several of the testing attempts. One afternoon was giving us 30mph consistent and 50mph gusts. I was sure we were going to snap poles and lose the tent, but that wasn’t the case. The 98 comes in a heavy duty bag with rollers, but we have yet to be able to get all items that came in the bag back into its’ original packaging regardless of numerous attempts. It comes with a separate bag for the poles which have now found a home in there and solves the problem. Overall, it is a great tent and well worth the money.
Coleman 2 for 1 Tent and Shelter with Porch
As stated with this product, you get two different items in one package. The shelter is the first and most essential part of this package and ideal for those of you with children who are hitting sporting events on a weekly basis. It is 14’X8’ and provides plenty of good shade for the entire team or family. The heavy duty 150D polyester taffeta material on the shelter is built to last. The pole assembly is a combination of steel and fiberglass. The poles are all pre-assembled and a one piece unit which sets up similar to an umbrella. The tent is a secondary part of this shelter, but a great addition. It connects to the already set up shelter via quick release buckles and can be put up or taken down in a matter of seconds. It is made from lighter weight materials, but is plenty durable to handle the family outings. The tent is 8’X7’ and provides plenty of room for a queen sized air bed and gear. The entire package weights about 33 pounds.
This shelter was extremely easy to set up, even in a hefty wind. It has attachment points on the bottom of each pole for stakes as well as guy ropes from the top. There are plenty of stakes in the package to allow you to stake each and every one of these out and it is highly recommended that you do this. Strong gusts of wind made good attempts at collapsing our shelter during the testing period, but the tie downs made for a rigid structure. Not using all the available tie downs will jeopardize the integrity of the structure in heavy winds. When completed, the entire package fit back into its’ original zippered bag with relative ease.
Kelty Sonic 6 Air Pitch
Truly the simplest tent in the world to set up. Instead of aluminum, fiberglass or steel tent poles, this tent is equipped with air chambers that once filled, become very rigid and hold the single wall 13’7” (L) X 8’10” (W) tent upright. Filling them up is as simple as plugging in the dual action hand pump which is included into the air chamber and with a few quick pumps, you are done. The walls and floors are made of 68D polyester and all seams are taped to help with waterproofing. The one hundred plus square feet of floor space is very sufficient for six campers. There are tie down points all around the tent which provide for added stability.
The design of this tent had us very intrigued when we started the testing. Since most of us resist change, we look for reasons why things won’t work. This air pole design is definitely a different change than we are used to. Instructions were written on one page and only a few short sentences. Stake it out on all four corners, hook up the pump, blow it up and finish staking it out. That’s pretty much the extent of this tent. Absolutely anyone can set this up, with no prior camping experience with ease. Most free standing tents will function just fine without the guy ropes being attached, but that isn’t recommended with this tent. We had the tent up in a 20mph wind and it was caving in on the windy side without the guy ropes being secured, but once staked down, it functioned just as any other freestanding tent. Once you are ready to go home, simply unscrew the air inlet valve, let the air escape, roll up your tent and put it in the car. It easily stuffed back into its original bag. This is definitely the tent for those of you that have never been camping, but are willing to try it on your own.
Jumping Jack X4 Tent Trailer
The Cadillac for camping is the Jumping Jack Tent Trailer. The company itself has been around for a long time and the Sportsman’s News team has a lot of experience with its’ original model (See Pro’s Picks column in this issue). The new X4 model is for the hard core camper that spends a lot of nights in the woods.
It all starts with the X4 Tent Pod which contains the large heavy-duty marine canvas tent. The X4 Tent Pod can be used on the X4 trailer—built specifically to carry the X4 Tent Pod—or in a truck bed, on another make of trailer or even a pontoon boat. When closed, it offers a 6’x6’ upper deck for cargo, such as an ATV or other gear, including bike and kayak racks, etc. The wings of the X4 Tent Pod can be positioned vertically for use as a high-wall utility cargo space. Like the 6’x8’ Utility model, the X4 tent includes the patented “Jump Up” feature with two beds and a swing-up table.
The Jumping Jack X4 Trailer is extremely rugged with standard 15” wheels. The size and weight of this trailer make it ideal for towing behind smaller SUVs, cars or off-road vehicles. With an alternate larger fender kit, it can accommodate up to 35” tires to match the wheels of any off-road vehicle. The standard ball coupler can be switched with a pintle style coupler.
The X4 tent uses the same heavy-duty 13 oz. canvas material as the original Jumping Jack. Constructed to shed rain and snow, it is also exceptional in withstanding high wind. It uses the patented “Jump Up” feature that erects the tent in mere seconds. The open tent contains two 4’X7’ beds (one on each side). Eight large widows allow for plenty of ventilation and close tight against inclement weather. Also included is the swing up 30”X39” table.
This tent trailer gives you the ability to haul your ATV to the trailhead and then back it off and disconnect the unit from you truck and hook it back up to the ATV. You can load all your gear for the week out of your truck and onto the trailer and haul your camp deep into the backwoods on the small jeep and ATV trails. It’s simply an amazing unit.
MSR Elixir 3 Lightweight Backpacking Tent
If getting into the backcountry with all you own on your back is your desire, this tent is ideal for up to three people. This is a freestanding 3-season tent which uses two 7000 series aluminum poles. The tent is made of 40D ripstop nylon and 20D nylon micromesh. The tent fly is made from 68D ripstop polyester, 1500mm Polyurethane & DWR and flooring is made from 70 taffeta nylon, 3000mm Durashield polyurethane & DWR. The entire package weighs in at 6lbs 13 oz. and rolls into a tidy 20” by 8” bag. The floor area is 39.5 square feet and the 84” wide area provides plenty of room for three campers with sleeping pads. It has two doors and two oversized vestibules which make for plenty of storage area for gear. It comes with a tent footprint custom made for this tent which provides added protection for your floor.
We were fortunate enough to test this tent in some extremely strong winds with gusts over 50mph and it held up perfectly. The poles are color coded and very simple to set up, but it is recommended that you put it up in your backyard with no wind before you take it to the woods. The pole design is unique enough to cause confusion without setting it up at least once. Once set up, it is very easy to duplicate in the future. We really liked the two door design of this tent which allowed its occupants to climb out either side without disturbing each other. The vestibule creates a lot of extra room for cooking or storing gear. This tent also comes in a two person version called the Elixir 2 which is a little smaller and a bit lighter, but this tent makes for a great backcountry hunting camp for two guys and all their gear. It provides plenty of room should you get weathered in for a few days.
Mountain Hardware Optic 3.5 Backpacking Tent
This tent is designed for backpackers and campers who appreciate extra square footage and open, airy architecture. The two full sized doors on adjacent sides allow you to zip them back with 180 degree views and observe the beauty of the entire valley below. This is a freestanding 3-season tent. It uses two Paleria DAC pressfit poles which are extremely lightweight, but unbelievably strong. The tent floor is made from 70D Nylon Taffeta 3000mm PU and the canopy is 20D Poly Knit Mesh. The tent fly is made from 75D Polyester Taffeta 1500mm PU. The tent provides 45 square feet of floor area and has a total packaged weight of 6lbs 11 ounces. The vestibule has a color coded started tab on the fly as well as a snap hook that connects to the tent which makes setting up the vestibule a simple task, even in the wind. There is ample room in the vestibule (12 square feet and 7 square feet) to store plenty of gear. This tent will easily fit three people, but is ideal for two backpackers and all their gear with room to spare.
This tent also got the benefit of testing in some extremely high winds and performed extremely well. Since this was the last tent being set up in the testing, the wind was already howling and the snap hook which connects the fly to the tent was a great added benefit in simplifying the job. The over sized doors and ability to capture the view is a great feature which made this tent a favorite of the two backpacking tents. This tent comes in an Optic 2.5 version as well which is smaller and lighter.