Couple weeks ago, I attended a scifi convention called Outsidecon. Well, convention is a pretty lose term, since the only thing scheduled is a fishing contest, and apparently they had archery this year. Basically, it’s an excuse for a bunch of geeks to go hang out at a nearby state park and unwind. Many of us take it as a chance to recover from the crazy that is Dragoncon the week before.
One of the odd parts of this convention is that you can either stay in one of the cabins or bring your own tent. The cabins are the old Boy Scout type cabins with short, thin mattresses. A number of those that attend, myself and the wife included, bring tents and air mattresses instead. The likely hood of dealing with bugs is lower, the air mattresses are significantly more comfortable than the bunks in the cabins, and the con membership is actually a bit cheaper that way (before Wizard jumps on me, yes… you’d have to be going to the con a long time before the $10 per person discount makes up for buying a tent and air mattress.)
This year, we tried a new tent. As a birthday present, my mom gave me the Magellan Outdoors Eagle Pass tent. Megellan Outdoors is a store brand for Academy Sporting Goods, so the only place you’ll find it is either at their store or on their website.
This tent is, how should I say it, rather large, and it did seem like we brought more of a portable cabin than a tent. The manufacture claims the tent can sleep 12, hold 5 twin air mattress, or 3 queen air mattresses. These numbers should give you an insight to how much space the average camper takes up. The box actually showed a diagram of how they came up with their numbers, and had 9 people sleeping shoulder to shoulder, with 3 people lined up at their heads. While, I don’t think I’d want the extra 3 people stuffed in, I could see the 9 sleeping without issue. Considering I’ve seen “4 person tents” that really maxed out at 2, that’s not bad.
There were three things that I was looking for in a new tent. One was that I (being 6’3″) could stand up in it. The tent we’ve used previously is tall enough that I could just about stand up in the center of it, which, frankly, is an impressive height for a tent. This new one is 7′ tall in the center, and right about 6′ at the ends. The only time I have to bend over is getting through the doorways.
The second is that the windows on the side can be covered by something other than the rain fly. Our older tent is a simple dome tent, and two sides of it are almost entirely mesh. The only way to cover them is to throw up the rain fly, which then stops most of the air circulation. This isn’t an issue when you’re out in the woods by your lonesome, but can be when there’s 100 other folks wandering around, and you’re wanting to get changed. The windows on this tent have cover flaps that can be deployed from the inside, and the rain fly only covers the top of the tent. The top of the tent is entirely mesh, which is great for air circulation, but I would highly recommend using the rain fly if you’re under any trees. As I found out, cold dew falling from a branch and into your ear is not a fun way to wake up in the middle of the night.
The last one is that I wanted a covered porch. For the last couple years at the con, it started raining at night. While not a huge issue, I wasn’t real fond of trying to unzip the tent’s door, get in, and zip it back up as quickly as possible to stop anything on the inside from getting wet. This tent has one over what I would consider the main door (there’s one in the middle, and a door on each end). Of course, it didn’t rain this year, so I’m assuming it works.
With any tent, there’s always the question of ease of setting up and tearing down. While this is far from one of those instant tents, set up with two people was not difficult. The directions that came with the tent could have been more helpful. The grand total of instructions were something along the lines of “put in the color coded fiberglass poles, put in the color coded steel poles, stake tent.” It would have been nice to know that you really should put the steel poles in the center in first before putting in the ones on the wings, or that the steel poles have the loops for the rain fly to hook into and need to be put in with those near the top. Tear down was also fairly painless for two people, and it was very nice that the bag the tent came in actually had more space than was needed when the factory packed it. This meant that instead of having to refold the tent 3 or 4 times, as is normal, I was able to stuff everything back in on the first try.
I will say this is not a tent for someone hiking. The official weight is at 29lbs, and I can attest that that’s about right, and it’s not exactly small in its stored state. The only way I can see it being used as a hiking tent is if one person is essentially only carrying the tent in his pack. The manufacturer seems to agree with me on this, since one of the features is that it has a couple flaps designed to allow you to run extension cables into the tent for electricity.
For the purpose I purchased this tent for (drive up camping), this is an excellent tent. Plenty large enough, and, using the detachable interior walls, can be essentially used as 3 “4 person” tents. The only tents I can think of that might work better for large groups are the old military-style canvas tents, but those are even heavier and require more man power to setup.