User Review: Cabela's Alaskan Guide
Price Paid: $379
Alaskan Guide (Cabelas) 4-man Tent Review
I purchased this four man tent for several key reasons. Primarily I wanted a strong tent that could withstand relatively high wind, rain and snow with durability to last, and be designed as a four season tent while still being easily portable. I prefer the 6 man model for the additional space, however, the four man tent is ideal for canoe camping and other such ventures.
The Good News
The excellent six pole design (I recommend the aluminum upgrade) makes this tent very rigid indeed, able to support 1 quart water bottles in all four holders without sagging or stressing the tent. The fully stretched and accurately sewn panels, along with the six pole design allows for relatively straight, near vertical walls which makes this tent feel very roomy even in the four man model. Ceiling height is more than adequate for a tent this size, never once did I hit my head on the LED lamp in the gear loft, being 6'6" I'm fussy about this.
The hexagonal shape is conducive to easy setup for wilderness camping, and the three section vestibule is truly a wonderful design, too bad it isn't a bit longer and come with two adjustable poles for the awning configuration.
The stake straps are highly effective, although setting this tent up is not a one man operation because you need that extra person to hold the first pole over the anchor pin and provide some support so the pole doesn't over flex and fail. After the first pole is in, one man can easily complete the setup.
The tub floor is well designed and the choice of materials is first rate.
The gear loft is a bit small. To give you a point of reference it's actually the same size as a bikini bottom. I'd like to be able to store more than a pack of matches up there and will probable make a larger one as my LED lamp had a habit of slipping out every once in a while.
Room For Improvement
There is unfortunately a rather lengthy list of items that could stand improvement, and because this is already a good tent, with even some of these changes it would be a truly great tent.
While better than most, you can give these stakes to your cousin and buy a set of 12 inch steel spikes. For this kind of all season tent you don't want your last stake bending over on you out in the boonies. Steel spikes are dominant in every type of ground, you simply can't go wrong, but they do weigh more.
The guy rope metal adjusters are fussy to use and easy to bend. I'll be looking around for a better solution. Make sure you tighten all the guy rope knots as they are only loosely tied from the factory.
This is area that would benefit most from a makeover. First off the fly is cut too short for a four season tent. While this definitely aids in reducing condensation and encouraging air movement during warmer weather, there is simply too much air moving beneath the fly in cooler weather. Besides, you can open both doors in warm weather and catch a breeze, and you can always open the well designed three section vestibule for additional ventilation as required.
While you could pack snow around most of the base of the fly in winter weather (please keep in mind there has to be some open space around a significant area of the fly to ensure adequate ventilation) it becomes a genuine issue where you need to protect your boots and bags in the vestibule area during wet weather. The gap from ground to tent is about 8" and perhaps a bit more in the vestibule area. As a result, you'd need a fair amount of snow to reduce the drafts and you can't store anything near the inside edges of the vestibule without them getting wet in rainy conditions.
Truly, with a modified vestibule section of the fly coming right to the ground you would have a very secure storage area. Although ridiculously small (on the tested four man model) and almost unusable for any day-to-day activity other than a small amount of storage, it would be wonderfully effective if it extended out another two feet or so and included the adjustable awning poles I mentioned earlier.
And There's More...
The fly has two brass hooks on shock cording at each anchor point and these will absolutely drive you mad. My feeling is that the fly was designed and built by folks that never actually set up this tent. When you toss the fly over the tent and attempt to position it, they hook onto absolutely every pole, loop, and imaginable projection making this job a misery, forcing you to endlessly circle your tent just to get the fly in place. I admit to inadvertently amusing groups of nearby campers during every setup. Man this is just plain dumb.
Thankfully, the solution is an easy one that only requires a pair of needle nose pliers and a pair of vice-grips. Opening the eyelets, I removed them from the fly and reinstalled them on the rings mounted to the heavy gauge nylon floor straps used for staking out the tent.
Next time out it was a piece of cake to set up and pull the fly into place. You'll probably want to close up the velcro loops sewn on the underside of the fly (these are used to wrap around the tent poles in harsh weather) as they tend to snag as well. The net result? No more giggles from adjacent campers.
Vent Windows Are Always Open
The three mesh windows in the tent ceiling are rather large and let in so much cool air on my recent Rocky Mountain holiday that we were freezing in the tent even with the doors and windows zipped tight and with our jackets on. Any wind at all seems to easily make it under the fly and through these vent windows. Using a heater was an exercise in frustration as the heat was simply overwhelmed by the cold air.
Excuse me, but I thought this was a four season tent.....? For hot weather you've got two doors and three zip windows to play with, but for cold weather you have absolutely no control over air flow into the tent!
I didn't have much time to spend between trips and didn't want to get myself into a sewing bee. For a lead-user solution I went to my local tarp manufacturer and bought a couple of yards of cross weave 10mm white vinyl sheet and cut it into three triangular shapes a little larger than the vent windows, so the tent clips could slip through the small slits I cut and thus hold the covers in place over the windows, even while the tent is stowed.
My recent overnight test saw nighttime temperatures just above freezing, and voila, no more cold drafts coming over our shoulders and down our necks. My heater was able to keep the tent nice and toasty. Meanwhile, we had enough fresh air overnight just by opening two zippered windows a small amount. Problem solved, and I can remove any of the covers with not too much effort if needed.
I would like to see this as an included feature as these could easily stick on with velcro from the inside and be easy to install and independently remove as needed.
I am surprised that this tent has been around for a number of years and yet has so many significant and easily remedied design flaws. While it is well sewn and nicely assembled, there are too many obvious failings which require modification and/or extra effort in order to have a truly comfortable camping experience.
The fly, however, is something you'll just have to live with until a redesign is completed. In my opinion they should send one to every existing owner as a gesture of good will. I'd even be willing to pay for mine it's needed that much.
I plan on keeping my Alaskan Guide 4-Man tent but would dearly appreciate a newer, redesigned fly, even for a few more dollars. Given the chance, I'd be happy to submit another review with some of these changes. I know the result would be a 5 Star rating, hands down.
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