A highly versatile and cleverly designed tent that…
Source: bought it new
Price Paid: $247 (+$40 for mesh door addition)
A highly versatile and cleverly designed tent that has some baffling omissions.
- Compact footprint, but tall enough to stand in
- Versatile built-in vestibule can be configured numerous ways
- Plenty of guy out points
- Lots of interior pockets
- Fly is full coverage for rain, but can be rolled up on the sides for ventilation
- Setup is straightforward
- Storage duffel bag is a big improvement over standard stuff sack
- Doors aren't convertible between solid/mesh
- It is pretty tall, so guy it out well
- Rear vestibule is too small to be useful
I purchased this tent for an 18-day self-supported Grand Canyon trip so that I would have something tall enough to set up roll-a-cots in if the monsoon hit us. It did, fortunately for only three nights in all, but the Tensleep Station 4 worked very well for my intended purpose.
Setup is very logical, with color-coded tabs on the tent and fly to make sure it is aligned correctly. There are four poles in all, three of which are identical and form the support for the dome. The fourth pole is easily distinguished by its curved shape and it forms the support for the vestibule. Clips at all pole bases connect the fly to the tent, and a virtual plethora of guy lines allow this tall beast to be staked out securely.
The defining feature of this base/car/raft camping tent is the highly flexible built-in vestibule. It can be configured in a multitude of ways, including caravan-flap style if you use trekking poles or other supports. It can also be fully zipped down to give a very dry storm shelter. Big Agnes's website suggests many ways it can be configured, and it really is very cool. It is what sold me on this particular model.
The interior of the tent is like something out of Harry Potter in that it seems much larger inside than it appears from the exterior. I'm about 5'10" and I can easily stand upright in the central portion of the tent. We set our cots to either side, so this left a tall corridor for entry and getting dressed.
There are numerous pockets below the side mesh, higher up on the ceiling, and even in the side wings of the vestibule. The footprint is very comfortable for real world use, and is surprisingly compact when it comes to taking up camp site space (Harry Potter magic?) We managed to set this up on a small ledge at the aptly names Ledges camp:
My only complaint about the design of this tent are the doors; the front is all mesh, while the rear is solid. To be fair, I purchased last year's model (on purpose to get the full mesh front, preferred color scheme, and a great sale price) and Big Agnes has altered the doors on the new model to somewhat address this concern by making each door a 40/60 split between mesh and solid.
However, I can't figure out why they didn't design the doors to be zipper-convertible between mesh and solid. This is anything but a lightweight tent, and this isn't an inexpensive economy model tent, so I have to say I am really baffled. In order to get adequate ventilation with the fly on, the rear vestibule and the rear door have to be left open. This was fine in the canyon where flying insects aren't much of a problem, but could be a deal killer in mosquito territory.
The front mesh door works very well for ventilation, being fully sheltered by the vestibule. Also, the fly can be rolled up on the sides to allow cross ventilation through the mesh on the side walls of the tent, and these can be rolled back down fairly quickly, but that requires going outside in the rain to accomplish. That leaves only the big solid rear door as an all-or-nothing barrier. I am actually considering having a mesh screen sewn over the door so it can be unzipped to become just a screen window since I have little use for a second entry.
We've spent a total of four rainy nights in the tent so far (the first being a test run on the Oregon Coast), and the full fly does keep the tent and its occupants nice and dry. I did add a grommet and guy line on the bottom of the fly on either side of the tent in order to pull the fly away from the tent on the long run between pole clips. This has helped get runoff away from the tent body and was an easy fix.
We also got the matching footprint to help protect the bottom of the tent, but for this trip we used a CG Gear Sandmat under the tent and to make an entry rug in the vestibule.
All in all, this is a great tent that my wife and I both really like. With just a couple of changes, it could be nearly perfect for our use.
UPDATE: We found a seamstress in our area who replaced the solid rear door with mesh screening for $40. The tent now has much better ventilation in warmer weather yet can be completely enclosed with the fly in place.