Pros: Spacious, 4 doors, skylight in rainfly, groundcloth
Cons: hate the way the doors zipper, heavy
I've owned several tents over the years, all of which I still have and use on occasion. A tent is one of those purchases that you either love or hate and it's generally with you for a long time, unless you're lucky enough to find a sucker to palm a bad tent off on!
I've got a tent that is a bit larger than this one that does not use the dome construction that most recently produced tents use; I love that tent but at over four hundred dollars I can't afford another like it and since it has a canvas roof, sooner or later it's going to self-destruct on me just out of age.
The dome is generally a very structurally sound style of tent and usually a very easy design to assemble and raise. Target carries this line of tent and was running a good sale so I did a bit of research and picked this one up. There is a slightly smaller version of this tent that has a blue rainfly, I've seen many reviews saying that the smaller one leaks like a sieve. I saw just as many reviews saying that this model is excellent in all weather conditions.
What's in the box:
Big black "wrap-style" bag with two good sized pouches on the outside for stakes and poles (this bag is exceptional, no more stuffing the tent into the way too small bag, with this tent you just lay it down pull up the edges and pull the straps tight). Raising instructions, printed on vinyl, are attached to the bag.
The tent itself with everything wrapped up inside, you get:
-the tent itself with attached floor
-the rain fly with two see-thru vinyl sky windows on top (they line up with the mesh air vents on top of the tent)
-cloth room dividers (they are optional, you don't have to use them.
-mesh organizer for very light items that hangs from hangers inside the tent.
-medium sized tube of seam sealant
-surprisingly decent quality tent stakes with several extra stakes.
-two long spring poles, two medium spring poles, two small spring poles, and several single piece poles that I assume go inside on the dividers. (I couldn't figure out where those went and they didn't appear to be needed.)
-separate ground cloth in the shape of the tent bottom.
The walls and fly are made completely of nylon. This tent is like most modern tents in that the ceiling is vented for air circulation, thus the rain fly is necessary in all but sunny and dry weather. The seams are supposed to be good quality seams that won't leak (I found it amusing that they make this claim and then give you a bottle of seam sealer with the tent).
You need two people to set this tent up, I don't see any way that only one could set this tent up. The flat side of the tent has the main door, each of the other rooms also has a door but the main one is on flat side. Rake up or pick up any large sticks or stones in the area where you want to setup the tent. Lay down your groundcloth, it'll protect the bottom of the tent from rocks and punctures. The tent is kind of a three sided cross, the front is flat and the rear has one of the three side rooms.
STEP ONE: Setup was fairly typical of a dome style tent. You pop the spring poles together and then push the longest ones through the fabric channels in the middle of the tent (you can't pull a spring pole, it'll pull apart). The longest poles cross one another at the peak as with most dome styles. At the peak is a tie that should go around both poles at the "X" where they cross. At the peak is a plastic hook that I assume is supposed to be hooked to the rain fly to keep it from being blown up from below (I put the fly on after the tent was up, it would seem that hooking that hook would make it hard to take the fly off if you had sunny weather and didn't want to use it (i.e. you couldn't reach it with the tent fully raised). You can slide the smaller poles into the channels in the side rooms now or wait until the center peak has been raised before sliding them into the channels.
STEP TWO: At this point someone must crawl inside the main section of the tent to lift the peak up off the ground. The second person must go around the outside of the tent and pop the ends of the poles into the metal peg provided for that purpose. The metal pegs are in the same spot as the hold down that you will spike down later to hold the tent in place (the clips on the outside of the tent make the spike location obvious). The tent should now support its own weight, the person inside can come out now.
STEP THREE: If you didn't put the two smaller poles in their channels previously, do so now. The smaller poles must be brought down and the ends popped onto the metal pegs. Both of you can now walk around the tent and hook the plastic clips around the exposed sections of the poles. You can put the rain fly on the tent now or later, if you want to hook the peak hook to the fly, now is probably the only time you'll still be able to reach it.
STEP FOUR: The rain fly. The rain fly attaches to the tent with a clever plastic spring clip arrangement with adjustable straps. The female half of the clip is attached to the tent in the same spot as the metal spikes for the poles and the rings for the tent stakes. I was a little bit worried about these plastic clips for the fly, but since the tent has a limited life-time warranty I'm assuming I can count on Eddie Bauer to send me new hardware if any of those clips should stress out and break with age. The rain fly has two transparent vinyl windows on top, it will only go on one way so the windows line up with the vents in the top of the tent. After the fly is on the tent walk around and put the velcro wraps around each pole. It's important that the rain fly is OVER all the tent poles to prevent water from collecting around the channels that hold the poles, this would be a possible leak place.
STEP FIVE: The rain fly has a spring-pole for the front to hold it out away from the tent and a spring-pole for the rear window to hold it out away from the tent. These poles are bowed and slid through the channels for them and then fitted into the grommets on the tent provided for that purpose. Tie down spots are provided on the fly for the side rooms, but no rope is included with the tent. The tie downs would further secure the fly in heavy weather (even though the instructions seem to indicate rope is included it wasn't in my tent). It's important that the fly sticks out from the front and rear windows in order to keep the water from running straight down the front or rear and entering through the doors.
The main door is almost round (kind of a squared round) and includes a screen and an opaque door. I really don't care for the main door on this tent, I prefer a door that has a zipper down the center like my other big tent. As with any tent when setting up inside be sure that nothing is touching the walls and firmly instruct children not to touch the walls of the tent while inside it. Every tent I've ever owned will leak if you touch the sides while the rain is hitting the outside (something to do with surface tension I'm sure).
The main door on this tent is a pain because you feel like you are constantly rotating your arm over your head and down to your feet (and the other way to close it up) to open the door (it's zippered like a big half circle shape. There are two zippers on each door one going each way, you can almost remove the door completely but the zippers don't appear to be removable; there is no zipper down the middle). Someone with arthritis in their shoulder would probably find the main door on this tent very annoying to their arthritic shoulder. I'd also hate to deal with that main door zipper if I was thoroughly drunk; I'd probably loose my balance and fall over while opening the door!
The side doors are like a D shape and have a zipper on the flat/round side of the D for the window and on the round side of the D to open, I wish they'd made the main door this way; I'd like it better I think. The side doors have a mesh "window" and not a full screen door like the main door has.
The interior of the tent has several plastic rings for hanging the internal room dividers, a couple of loops made to hold the doors back and a zippered opaque cover for the skylight when you don't want light coming in from above (one on each side). There is also provided a mesh organizer to hold really light stuff that can be hung inside the tent. The front door has a muddy shoe hatch that lets you put your dirty shoes inside from outside the tent and is within easy reach of the front door.
The peak is over six feet. I am only a little over five feet tall and I can stand up straight in the peak of the tent, the side rooms are of course not as tall as the center, they are more like 4.5 feet high. The side rooms easily hold your cooler and other gear while the main room is reserved for sleeping, changing, etc.
1. I hate the way the main door is zippered but looking around at a lot of newer tents this weekend, I saw that a lot of companies seem to be using the same design for some reason (perhaps related to weatherproofing issues).
2. The center room is the largest and the only one that really has room to setup an airbed/cot beneath it. The side rooms are big enough to hold gear, coolers, etc. but I don't think I'd like to sleep in there.
3. This tent is palacial for one or two, I guess you really could sleep as many people as they claim in here but not and have your gear inside too.
Takedown was really easy.
-Open all the windows of the tent at least half way (so that air is not trapped inside it).
-Disconnect the rain fly at the four spots and pull it off.
-Pop the plastic clips off the poles.
-Pop the poles off their metal spikes and let the tent collapse.
-Push the poles through the sleeve to the other side.
-The biggest challenge is to fold the tent small enough to fit back in the case easily. This part always takes a little practice to find what works best for you.
How'd it do in the rain?
Unfortunately the weather didn't give me even one good downpour to test the tent out with. The light afternoon sun showers we got were no problem at all. When I get a chance to use it in a good rain I'll post more here.
So far I'd say that for the money this is a dang good tent.
Update 2-2004: What's it do in a downpour??? Well, I'd give it a 6 out of ten. The doors, all four of them, have leak issues. The rest of the tent was completely dry in what I'd call a pretty fair downpour but around each door I got a pretty good puddle after several hours of steady rain.
In fairness many tents have leak issues around the doors and this one seems to be no exception. My friend the tent expert and I can't quite decide if it's the zippers that are leaking or if it's the piece of fabric below the door that is getting waterlogged and water is just seeping through. To me, it looks like it's mainly the zippers that are leaking on the bottom of the door as the water runs down the front and sides of the tent. A little canned scotchgard and a wax treatment on the zippers "should" cure the problem. We also noticed a pin hole beneath one of the door zippers that could be contributing to the leak in that spot at least and that can be plugged with a little of the proper type of cement.
update: It was indeed the zippers that were the source of the leak issue around the doors, once they were properly sealed no more leaks, even in a fairly heavy downpour. The zipper on the main door does not have a fly covering it as the other three doors have (which is a design issue in my opinion) to stop the leak there you must seal both the screen door zipper and the inner main opaque door zipper separately.
The third time I've used the tent the grommets at the rear of the tent that hold the pole for the rain fly completely ripped out of the tent (fortunately that area is stitched around the grommets so the rip didn't spread any further), another design problem if you ask me. The grommets are simply beneath the fabric, they aren't sewed into the seam or strengthened in any way to prevent this kind of thing from happening. It took me over an hour on hold to reach eddie bauer in the first place about my missing guy ropes, I'll post more info when I get with them again to see what they'll do about this problem.
update: 6-2004: I've used this tent about four times. After the last time I had two cracked poles, a main pole and a side pole. A somewhat shorter wait on hold with eddie bauer got me new poles sent out, however, I was told that since this tent is no longer made they would do it this time only as a courtesy. It's funny how it says lifetime warranty on the box and the company just up and decides that isn't so any more. I daresay if someone made a legal stink about this policy that someone might be in for some trouble. If you say lifetime warranty you can often be held to that!