Three Tents and a Big Storm: A real-life case study.
Besides serving as your cozy, warm, and comforting homestead in the wilderness, your tent’s main purpose is to shield you from the elements. While regular waterproofing treatments to your rainfly, seam-sealed constructions, and seasonal ratings are important aspects of your shelter durability and structural integrity are the key components of a reliable tent. Your tent should be able to withstand gusty winds and keep moisture out when the sky opens up, regardless of whether or not you are inside when the weather rolls in.
The structural integrity of your tent is crucial to its success in withstanding gusty winds and violent storms and the tent’s structural capabilities are directly tied to its tent pole construction. Generally, the poles are constructed of either aluminum, fiberglass, or carbon fiber, although carbon fiber is generally found in top-of-the-line expedition tents. Aluminum poles are strong, durable, and able to withstand bending without breaking—perfect for tents that require that during set-up. Fiberglass poles are more brittle than aluminum and have a propensity to shatter when bent, however, they are the far more affordable option, and should suffice for any casual camper who is spending fewer than five nights in a tent per year in relatively stable weather conditions.
We took a look at three separate tents and how they fared during a windy Rocky Mountain storm in Grand Lake, Colorado, to give you better insight into which tent may be best for you when it comes to structural stability, combined with ease-of-setup, and waterproofing capabilities.
REI CO-OP Kingdom 6 Tent
First up was the REI Co-op Kingdom 6 Tent, which proved to be a standout camping shelter among the three tested. It only took one person to set up, although assembly took slightly longer than the Ozark Trail option. During the storms, the tent’s 6061/7001 aluminum alloy poles were sturdy enough to keep the tent upright, and the seam-sealed rain fly and tent floor kept all water at bay. REI’s footprints are sold separately, but are a smart option to completely guarantee you stay dry should bad weather conditions pervade.
Ozark Trail 6-Person Dark Rest Instant Cabin Tent
Second up was the Ozark Trail 6-Person Dark Rest Instant Cabin Tent, 2019 model. Ozark Trail is Walmart’s outdoor gear brand and is an affordable option for those just getting into camping or who consider themselves casual campers. The 6-person dark rest tent proved incredibly fast and easy to set-up by one person; there’s nothing more satisfying after a long drive to the campsite than a quick and painless assembly of your tent. Unfortunately, the tent collapsed when a wind storm blew through the Grand Lake area, and when the rains came, water flooded the inside and seeped in from underneath. While the tent doesn’t come with a footprint, purchasing a cheap tarp with similar dimensions as the tent floor can help keep water at bay without breaking the bank. The tent poles are of the fiberglass variety, and while they didn’t snap in this situation, a center brace option would’ve likely held up better to battering winds. Consider this option from Ozark Trail for a quick and easy tent to set-up with drier, less windy environments.
Marmot Limestone 8-Person Tent
The Marmot Limestone 8P was the third tent in our study. With an eight-person capacity and an internal room divider, it’s great for family outings in the wilderness, ensuring your crew will have enough space to remain cozy while not being on top of one another. It’s best set-up by two people carefully, as it was not correctly set up during our study and thus collapsed when the winds blew across the area. However, once correctly assembled, the DAC DA17 poles—a proprietary aluminum build constructed precisely for larger tent structures where flexibility and bend strength is imperative—held the tent strong. While the Limestone comes in at a higher price point, it’s a wonderful investment option for families.
Overall, we liked all three tents for various reasons. For quick and easy set-up for a great price, we selected Walmart’s Ozark Trail – Dark Rest tent. The best tents during extreme weather were the Marmot and REI Co-op tents, which came out of the storm unscathed. They also had great design and convenient pocket storage inside, an added bonus.