Three Season, 7+ Family Tent Advice

7:03 p.m. on August 24, 2008 (EDT)
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Looking for some advice on a three-season family tent ... what I'm looking for is a 7+ person family / car-camping tent (7+ because I know that really means 5 could fit with gear and some room to move). I am looking for something decent - that will last a while as my kids grow up - and that will stay dry in the rain. I like tents with a full rain fly to minimize water entry. I just bought a REI Base Camp 6 but when I set it up for the first time this weekend it tore near one of the pole holes. So I returned it and while it was decent I'm not buying another one. I've been looking at the Kelty Mantra 7 online and it seems to be pretty solid. Consumer Reports (back in 2005) rated the Eureka Elite pretty high though I can't believe the water protection is as good as the Kelty since it doesn't have a full fly. I am looking to spend $300-500. Any feedback on the Mantra 7 or other suggestions would be appreciated. Thank you.

8:17 p.m. on August 24, 2008 (EDT)
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Since this is a backpacking site, you are unlikely to get rational comments on family car camping tents. As the note at the top of the forum says, read the FAQ before posting. Admittedly, the REI and Kelty you mention are better than the Big Box Store in quality, but not the Eureka (Eureka makes serviceable backpacking tents, though), but they are out of the range of consideration on this backpacking site.

9:49 p.m. on August 24, 2008 (EDT)
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Jhmvi,

Let me throw out a thought....

Have you thought about doing a pair of 3-person tents? I have a friend that does that with his wife and 3 kids (age: 11, 9, and 7). The total area required to do that is not that much more than something like the Mantra 7, so any site that would take a Mantra 7 would most likely fit a pair of 3-mans.

A lot would depend on the kiddos! If you have 3 boys that you expect might get big when they hit the teenage years, then maybe the 3-man wouldn't work. But a standard 3-man should hold 3 under-age kids....with room at the foot of the tent to spare (unless they are super tall).

I'm doing the math right now, and comparing the Mantra 7 with a pair of Big Agnes Elk Horn 3's (on sale right now at REI.com), and you can get two of those for $360 (plus tax/shipping). One nice thing is that it would slim your gear size down almost 10lbs, not to mention save you trunk space....no small thing sometimes when traveling with a larger-size family! And I bet you could pitch 2-3 mans in about the same time as a bigger 7 man tent.

I'm not necessarily saying go with the Big Agnes tent -- just using it as an example of a tent that I've read good things about recently that's on sale right now. Lots of others could me thrown in here as well.

One additional factor -- my friend's kids love being to have a tent all to themselves....even if the parents are only a few feet away. Perhaps too close if you and your partner had anything else in mind in your own tent!! :)

Just throwing that out there for your consideration.

10:15 p.m. on August 25, 2008 (EDT)
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Thanks, BeritOlam for the great thoughts ... I'll definitely check out two 3-mans.

BillS ... suggest you remove all the reviews of 4-5-6-7-8 person tents on trailspace.com since it's only a backpacking site.

11:23 p.m. on August 25, 2008 (EDT)
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A couple of additional thoughts....

The nice thing about having a pair of 3-mans is that you could potentially go on some backpacking trips with the family....where as with something like the Mantra 7 (weighing in at nearly 23 pounds) pretty much locks you into one thing -- car camping.

IOW, a 3 man cuts the weight and gives you more versatility. Plus, there are a plethora of 3-man tents that are very good, and I would even suspect you're more likely to find quality field-test reviews for those than you will for the Mantra 7. Frankly, I just don't think there are very many people that want to spend $400+ on a 7-man tent.

And then....I've always been suspicious that large, car camping type tents (5+ men) aren't all that great in high wind, hard rains, etc -- even if they are better than your $100 Coleman tents. No scientific study to back it up....but every time I see one of those babies pitched in an outdoor store, it makes me wonder.

It really depends where you are going to camp. Under high winds, it's going to be considerably harder to stake out and secure that Mantra 7 than a smaller 3 man. It's simple math -- the more surface area of the tent, the more likely wind is going to cause you problems.

11:32 a.m. on August 27, 2008 (EDT)
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I have a Coleman Weathermaster 3-room tent (http://www.coleman.com/coleman/colemancom/detail.asp?product_id=2000000145&categoryid=11020) that I have used for car camping at a local Christian music festival. I bought it after borrowing an older version from a friend and had it work really well. The tent is tall enough for me to stand up in (5'11") and have the ability to create three rooms in the tent is a really nice feature with that many people in the tent. The tent also stood up really well to the rain, no leaks what-so-ever (I always make sure to spray my rainfly with water-proofer just in case though)

Upsides: Space, ability to have three rooms, pretty simple to set up, keeps you dry.

Downsides: As mentioned, I'm sure that if you got really, really bad wind, it could be an issue. It might not be as good as a Kelty, etc. (though again, I have not had any problems what-so-ever)

5:00 p.m. on August 27, 2008 (EDT)
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The Eureka family sized tents (the aluminum pole models not the fiberglass pole models) have worked well for my family camping trips. Campmor sells several models. Fiberglass poles are a pain in the assets to use.

August 22, 2014
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