Browsing through the REI online racks for the recent Spring sale, I came across this tent. I was all set to get a Tarptent Double Rainbow, but when I came across the Kingdom 4 tent which was marked down $100, well it stirred my soul. The family was in need of a good car camping tent, rather than a few backpacking tents. (Car camping is supposed to be about being together.) So, with some debate, I ended up going with this tent, and even a new Coleman double burner propane stove.
So, once I decided to buy this tent, I had to decide between the 4 person or the 6 person. There are 4 in my family, so my wife thought it was a simple decision, but I was thinking about things such as more head room (so I could stand up fully) as well as a little more floor space. Even though the 4 person seemed plenty big, a little extra space never hurts, especially when it’s for car camping with two rambunctious kids! However, in the end, she talked me into the 4 person, and with the money I saved I got the Coleman stove!
Now I just had to wait on it all to come in. Luckily, I only have about a 3 – 4 day wait time for my orders from REI (which is not too extremely fast, but I have definitely waited longer on deliveries from other places). So today the UPS man knocked on my door. He had 2 large boxes for me, and I knew exactly what was in them!
I opened the box with the tent in it, and took it outside. Even though it was right out the back door, I still strapped the tent on my back to carry it out. This is one of the neat features of the tent. The sack that holds the tent and all its accessories is actually a backpack. And the great thing is that the pack is large enough so that I don’t have to make sure I roll the tent up exactly to size to make it fit, I just loosely roll it and it slides in. There are 2 compartments in the main pack, one side holds the tent body while the other side holds the tent fly. There is even plenty of room to store the ground sheet (or footprint if purchased) inside this compartment, and even still has extra room. As well, there is a zippered section on the top which holds the stakes and guy lines, or whatever else you need to carry.
The tent was simple enough to erect all by myself. Of course I had to look at the instructions the first time, but after that time, it was quite simple. I set it up outside in my back yard, but the only problem is that my back yard is a hill. So I did not stake it down or anything, but I did throw the rain fly over it just to get a feel for it. It really is simple enough. It uses 2 hubbed poles which connect in the middle of the tent, and a single pole that stretches side to side at the center. The tent uses a combination of sleeves and clips which connect the tent to the pole system. The fly connects to the tent by clipping some loops at the corners to the end of the tent poles and then cinching them tight. One end of the fly features a vestibule which is the same as on most front entrance backpacking tents and requires staking out to be functional.
As for the tent itself, it is basically a tunnel tent and features lots of mesh throughout the tent which should offer plenty of ventilation. The floor is a thick coated polyester oxford material so it should hold up to the kids trafficking back and forth. There is a single wall that divides the tent in the middle to create 2 separate rooms. There are numerous pockets that line each side of this middle wall, as well as pockets in all 4 corners of the inside of the tent, and even on the outside. There are probably 20 pockets throughout the tent so plenty of space to organize gear, or toys. Also, there are 2 large doors, one on each end of the tent. Each door features a mesh window as well as a zippered cover which will close off the mesh doors if needed. One neat thing about the doors is that they unzip nearly all the way around . The zipper stops at the top of the door, and there is a pocket at the top of each door in which the doors can be stuffed to be out-of-the-way. Of course there are loops all throughout the tent to hang lights or fans or whatever.
So after playing with the tent outside I took it down and rolled it up and put it away in the stuff sack / backpack easily enough by myself. I carried it inside and moved some furniture around to set it up again (where it was flat). The tent took up most of the room in my living room. But even in the small space I was still able to erect this tent again by myself with few problems. I then grabbed some sleeping pads and some sleeping bags and threw them inside.
Two pads filled up one room of the tent, so with 4 pads inside the entire floor area will be pretty covered. However, it will not be cramped. The tents height is 5’7″ and I do have to duck slightly (I am 5’10”) I do not find that it is really a problem.
As far as the initial impression, I am impressed with this tent, and very excited to have it (especially for the price I got it at – which it seems that at the moment REI is completely out of the tents, or the tents are just not available online). I am happy with the height as well as the floor space (these were of some concern to me) and the tent is more roomy feeling than I had expected (which is why I wanted the Kingdom 6). The tent does seem to be of a good quality, and I have not found any places I am worried about. But I do wonder how it will do in the rain, and in the wind. The tent is taped, and the coated polyester taffeta rain fly should do a fine job at keeping the rain at bay, but I always wonder about a tent until it has been there and done that. Also, being as tall as it is, I wonder how it will do in strong winds. I do not plan on taking the tent out in the middle of a thunderstorm, but sometimes they can sneak up on me.
I am taking the tent out for 3 days / 2 nights next week, and then again for an overnight camping trip with the church group at the end of next week. We are also planning on taking it out for the 4th of July weekend. So hopefully I will get some experience with it, and I will be sure to report back on it as I can.
Update: So, I finally got to use my new family tent, the REI Kingdom 4. This past week the family and I headed out to Piney Grove for 2 nights out. I carried my video camera to do a short presentation of the tent, and here it is…
Something I did not mention in the video; the tent does come with 6 guy lines to guy out the tent for use during bad weather (wind), but it only comes with the 8 stakes, 6 of which are used for actually staking the tent out, and the other 2 which are used to stake the vestibule out. If I plan on staking the guy lines I will need to bring some extra stakes. I did not realize this at first when I got the tent, so it’s a good thing I did not have to guy the tent out on our trip since I did not have any extra stakes. So for now I will add some extra stakes from another tent I am not using, however I will probably pick up some bigger heavier duty ones like the ones that came with the tent next time I am at an REI.
Other than this I have really enjoyed the tent. I am planning on taking it out for the July 4th weekend again. I really liked laying down at night and the ceiling being so far up. This made it feel like I was sleeping in a palace compared to my backpacking tent. Also, the second night I pulled both of the center walls up and tacked them to the side and it really made the tent seem so much bigger.
I am happy that I made the decision to go with this tent, even though I have only had it a few weeks and used it a few times. At this point, I obviously cannot attest to the durability and the long term use of the tent, but I will be happy to have it and test it for as long as I can. (Not to mention I am happy to have the REI warranty that comes with the tent!)
Update: My wife and I was able to take the tent with us over the 4th of July weekend and get another 2 nights in it. For this trip we bought one of the queen size Coleman air mattresses rather than using our backpacking air mattresses (after all, this ain’t about weight!) The air mattress fit fine inside the tent, considering it was just my wife and I. The air mattress actually extended about a foot past the middle wall, so it took up a little more than half of the tent, meaning two of these will not fit inside. This is kind of a bummer because when both of my kids are with us we will have to go back to the smaller backpacking sleeping pads for all of us to fit. For this reason I wish that I would’ve shelled out the extra $30 and got the 6 person.
However, this is no downfall of the actual tent itself. Before purchasing I had read in other owner reviews that this tent would not accommodate 2 of these mattresses. And even though I have come to this conclusion, I still love the tent. This tent is by far the nicest and roomiest tent I have ever owned. It has lots of features as far as pockets and I like the design of the tent fly. It can be attached and rolled up for quick deployment if needed and features a large fly that can also be rolled up when not needed, but also quickly deployed.
I still have not tested the tent in rain (this is actually a good thing, in my opinion) so I am waiting on that day to come. I had plans to use my tarp to make a porch across the front but have yet to do this and now that I have the tent not sure that I will. It may be the best option to get the extra vestibule, which would be a nice addition, but at a price so it will have to wait (maybe next year).