In Praise of Really Big Tents

By Justin Housman

If you’ve been reading AJ online for any length of time and peruse the gear section, surely you’ve come across numerous references I’ve made to my wife and I being on the tall side. She is 6’3″ and I am 6’2″. As you can imagine, we have…issues when it comes to tents that properly fit our combined 12 and a half feet of person. When it was just the two of us that was okay, we’d just use a 3 person tent sometimes while backpacking and car camping if we really needed space, and deal with the cramped quarters of a 2 person when we were staying super light.

Then we had two kids.

Now, with a three year old and a one year old crawling all over us, nothing short of a six-person super tent will do. We found one when we bought NEMO’s Wagontop 6p last spring. Almost certainly my first studio apartment was smaller than this thing.

First thing to note: we can fully stand up and walk around in this tent. An incredible luxury for a tall family. It has a whopping 6’8″ of vertical space. For living space, there’s 97-ish square feet. There’s a room divider that zippers closed about 2/3 of the way into the tent. Leave it open and you have a palace. Or zip it closed for one really big sleeping space and one really big inside vestibule, depending on how you arrange things.

I’ve fit a double-sized mattress in the big space with another sleeping pad at my feet and a single pad in the smaller room, no problems. I have also set up a portable crib for the baby in one corner and still slept two adults and a kid with about a third of the tent to spare. I have seriously considered bringing it as my shelter on solo camp trips so I can have a table and a cot inside on colder evenings. You have lots of space and lots of options.

There are two big panoramic windows on the long sides of the tent that make it feel nice and open. Other than that, you want a view, you leave the big entryway flaps open. It’s a single wall tent so there’s no fly—if it rains, close the windows and doors and you’re protected. There are only a few pockets for storage, but in a tent this big that doesn’t matter nearly as much. You can leave your backpack in the corner with whatever you need in it.

The tent’s shape and size (looks like a covered wagon in profile, hence the name) makes it look like it would be difficult to pitch, and it sorta is—once. The first time I set it up, I had the the large, crossing poles that form an elongated “X” at the tent’s sides overlapping in the wrong order. It wasn’t really a big deal though, an easy fix, and now I can set it up in a breeze. All the clips are where you expect them to be, it’s an entirely intuitive process. Does it take longer than a 2-person tent to erect? Sure, by about five minutes. Is it onerous or require two people? Nope. Yes, it weighs a good 27 pounds but it comes in an excellent duffle bag (super easy to get that tent back into the bag too, after use, something I can’t *always* say about NEMO gear) so lugging it around is a snap.


Here’s the thing though—this is clearly a family tent. I don’t really have the intention of camping with my little kids in inclement weather. If the forecast calls for storms, we’re probably staying home. That won’t be the case for everyone and once the girls are older, I have little doubt we’ll have this tent out more in shoulder season where bad weather can swing in. You know what? We’ll deal with it. It’s camping. It’s supposed to be a little adventurous. The generous size and luxury makes this tent well worth any tradeoff in terms of resistance to nasty weather we almost certainly won’t be out in. If fending off bad weather was my main concern, I’d get a Hilleberg.

Packed weight: 27lb, 0 oz / 12.26 kg
Packed size: 27.0 x 12.0 x 12.0 in / 69 x 30 x 30 cm
Floor area: 97.3 sq ft / 9.0 sq m
Peak height: 80 in / 203 cm
4 person: $412
 6 person: $700
 8 person: $800



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