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Family Dome Tent?

Question:
To whom it may concern,

My family (myself, wife, 9 month old and 3 year old) are about to embark on our first camping trip. We are looking for a 3 season, multipurpose tent with a vestibule in the price range $200-$300. There appear to be several that would fit our need so we could really use the advise of an expert.

Thank you in advance for your help!

Answer:
Phil,

Here are some ideas for a family tent. There are several parameters that you didn't give me, so I'll try to cover all the possibilities. The first question would be what is the intended usage? Is this car camping, backpacking, or both? For a tent that would be used to backpack, even occasionally, weight is critical in a multi-person tent. For exclusively car camping usage, it matters little.

Let's start with a backpacking tent. The Eureka Mountain Pass 4XT is a great lightweight 4-person 3-season tent. It has a full-coverage rainfly (the fly reaches the ground on all sides) making it suitable for rougher weather. I have previously reviewed the MP4XT at http://www.gearreview.com/mountainpass.asp. My wife and I took our three youngest children with us on a trip to Zion National Park in June and we easily fit all five people inside. You can see the tent along with Kent and Bethany (the two youngest) in the review. You can read the full review, but my summary is that it is an excellent family camping/backpacking tent, with good weatherproofness and ventilation and a reasonable price of $260 (that was the 1998 price). The vestibules are adequate but not spacious.

Now, say that you don't care about the weight, and you intend only to car camp. Then the Mountain Pass may not be the best choice. You can get more room in a tent and larger vestibule space for the same money. Of course, the tent will weigh more, but if you aren't carrying it on your back, who cares!

One choice is the Camp Trails Cabin Creek 8 or Cabin Creek 9. These tents are less technical, but feature large interiors and gobs of vestibule space. The 8 sleeps 3 to 4 adults (or 4 to 5 easily if two are smaller children) and the 9 sleeps 4 to 5 adults. The tent has dual vestibules and doors at each end of the tent. The rainfly covers the doors and vestibule areas, but is not a full-coverage fly. Over the side windows the fly is more of an awning style. This allows better ventilation and will keep most storm weather out. If you plan to camp in hard rains with strong winds, then this may not be the best choice--although camping in those conditions with very small children may not be the best choice either. You can see details of the tents at http://www.jwa.com/camping/camptrails/camptrails.html. Click on Product Guide on the left, then Click Tents also in the left column, then click the Cabin Creek image in the center.

We have had a few problems with the zippers on the Cabin Creek tents in very sandy conditions (the Utah desert), but a good washing with water seems to restore the zippers to good working order. I can't find my price list to give you a cost on the Cabin Creek tents, but I'll keep looking for the price. Set up is average, not easy, not hard. One of our testers commented that he'd like to see more interior space and a little less vestibule, but he was camping in summer clear weather and trying to put a baby's play pen inside the tent. That gives you an idea of the spacious vestibules this tent offers.

Another possibility is a tent from LL Bean. These tents are of excellent quality. The Vacationland Cabin tent comes in various sizes. Here are specs from the 10 X 10 model: Capacity 4-6.Floor size 10'L x 10'W. Area 100 sq. ft. Peak ht. 6'6". Wt. 19 lb. 14 oz. Packed size 34"L x 121/2" diam. Price $259.00 They call the fly "full-coverage" but I don't think it covers the whole tent all the way to the ground. It also offers little or no vestibule space, although with 100 sq ft, you could keep your gear inside the tent and still have room for everyone. The tents are very easy to set up.

You can read more on this tent at http://www.llbean.com/. Go to Sporting Gear, then camping, then select the Vacationland tent. This is a good value for the price.

I hope that gives you some help. If you have more questions about specific tents you've looked at, feel free to pass the questions along.

Best Regards,

Steve Mann
Editor
GearReview.com



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