family tents

9:13 p.m. on June 3, 2002 (EDT)

My husband and I are shopping around for a family-sized tent. The Kelty 2-person I grew up with is no longer cutting it with the two of us and two BIG dogs! As my husband is tall, we're interested in a tent with a lot of headroom, and we'd also like lots of floor and vestibule space, and waterproof design--HA! Anyway, weight is not an issue for us. We have had problems with condensation in our current tent--I suppose the dogs' panting doesn't help--but would like for our new tent to have adequate ventilation, as well. So far, we've looked at Sierra Designs' Nomad 6, North Face's Bedrock 5, Kelty Mantra 7, and LL Bean's Vector Dome 6. Any thoughts on any of these tents or suggestions for others out there? Many thanks for your help!

9:45 a.m. on June 4, 2002 (EDT)

I'm not familiar with the tents you mention, but I'll make a few general comments, based on several '4' person tents I own.

I find a rectangular floor plan more usable than a hexagonal dome. A rectangular 4 person tends to be about 7x9. the short dimension dictated by the length of a person; the long by the width of 4 sleeping pads. 2 or 3 people can sleep in either direction, depending in part on the slope of the ground. I'm not sure how much space your 2 dogs take - same as one person?

A double door is a big plus. I've enjoyed that aspect of my Kelty Vortex 4.

Condensation on and near the floor can be reduced by using a plastic liner that extends up the bathtub sides of the floor. That is also a good idea with the dogs.

A full converage rain fly seems to invite condensation in certain weather. The problem is moist air being trapped under the fly. Some manufactures like Kelty are trying to reduce that by using polyester flys (which stays tight when wet), mesh pole sleaves or clips, and vents in the fly. I have found that a full height vestibule helps a lot. The low gear storage vestibules contribute to the vetilation problem, but porch like ones allow the moist air to escape.

Of late, on my Vortex 4, I've been adding a 'porch' vestibule by Walrus over one entrance. A variant is to pitch a tarp or something like a Kelty Sunshade over part of the tent, giving a covered entry way. My lastest tent purchase is a Armadillo Posada (a discontinued model from REI) which has a screened and partially convered vestibule nearly as large as the tent room itself.

The main room of the Posada has the same area as the Vortex 4, but the head room is greater, and better placed. With a 'dome' like the Vortex, the headroom is max only in the center. With a 'tunnel' shape, the max headroom lies along a line - a larger area.


4:58 p.m. on June 4, 2002 (EDT)


If you want lots of headroom (you said your hubby is tall) then the rectangular cabin-style is the best type. A 7 x 9 tent will not be large enough for two adults, two large dogs and all your gear. Condensation will be a problem too.
My 7 x 9 condensates with two adults. I now have an 11 x 16 for regular type camping and have no problem with moisture. Some of the large dome styles have little side rooms, but you can't stand up in them, only in the center.

If a tent description says it will sleep 6, that is misleading! That means 6 people can fit on the floor, taking up all the room with no place to put your gear, so keep that in mind.

Good luck with your search, and let us know what you choose.


8:15 a.m. on June 5, 2002 (EDT)

My family of survived for several years with a 4 person Eureka Timberline. Great tent but obviously now too small for two adults and three growing kids! We also have a dog that we like to keep in a carrier in the tent vestibule at night.

I have done a lot of research on family tents this spring. We looked at the Eureka Headquarters, Lodge, Titan and Equinox as well as the REI Camp Base, Kelty Mantra 7, Sierra Designs Nomad 6, and the North Face Bedrock 5. My wife liked the Eureka Lodge due to the large windows and the floorless porch (for the dog, boots, etc), but I like a full-length fly. I always liked the Equinox due to it's excellent wind stability and 3 1/2 season use but felt it may be a tight squeeze for five of us. (Same comments regarding the other choices above). The Equinox's hexagonal footprint also makes for wastsed space. Since we camp 3 1/2 seasons and often encounter severe weather, a full cover rainfly and good ventilation are very important to us.

We ended up buying a Kelty Mantra 7 last month. It looks like a very large version of the two-man mountaineering tent design used by many manufacturers. This tent is huge! While it as advertised as sleeping eight, it's 12.67" x 10.33" area really makes it more of a six man tent. Standup height is almost six feet in the center. It has two doors on the same side and a removable divider that will come in handy with three growing girls. The vestibule is high and very large (39 sq. ft.) It will house our dog carrier, boots, and even a couple of stools easily. I am impressed with the abundance of storage pockets, apparent sturdiness, and abundant ventilation outlets in the fly. My wife dislikes the absence of "windows" (except in the two doors. While I have not used it yet, based on my experience with other tents this seems like a very storm worthy tent.(I have had bad experiences with the typical "cabin" tents in severe weather). The only negatives I have so far include two extremely long poles which must be threaded through the tent as well as wishing the floor was somewhat thicker/ heavier duty.

We will be using this tent during an upcoming week long trip in the mountains. I will report back on my impressions afterward.

Good hunting!

9:05 p.m. on June 9, 2002 (EDT)

Thank you!

Thanks to each of you for your great insight. I am anxious to hear about Vince's week spent in his new Kelty Mantra, as that tent is sounding like a good bet for our situation right now.

April 19, 2018
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