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Reviews > Base Camp Gear > Campsite Gear > Family Size Tents > Owner Review by Dale Hedrick
Owner Review - Coleman Rock Springs 8-Person Tent
I have been camping my entire life - only sporadically as a child, but over the past 4 years I have been camping more and more. I am married and have 2 young children who often accompany me on my trips, so we generally car camp and I take dayhikes from there, although I am starting to take more weekend backpacking trips too. We car camp at least once a month, and I try to make it backpacking at least once a month as well. I also hike on local trails from 5-10 miles (8-16 kilometers) 1-2 times per week - about half of the time with a 30 pound (13.6 kilogram) pack. I consider myself to be a lightweight backpacker, but will never be ultralight because I refuse to give up many of the amenities that I enjoy. Most of my current camping/backpacking is done in the Wisconsin State Parks on relatively flat land. Temperatures generally range from 32 degrees Fahrenheit (0 Celsius) to 95 degrees Fahrenheit (35 Celsius). Most of my backpacking is done between April and October, with an average temperature around 70 degrees Fahrenheit (21 Celsius).
I have used this tent as my family's sole tent for the past 10 months. During this time we have camped in southeastern Wisconsin on numerous occasions and throughout the rest of the state a few times. The terrain has been very similar every time - level, slightly rocky terrain. It has been used in beautiful 70 degree Fahrenheit (21 Celsius) weather, in downpours when it was only 40 degrees Fahrenheit (4 Celsius), and pretty much anything in between.
My biggest concern when first considering this tent was the weight - at over 30 pounds (14 kilograms), it truly is a beast. I would never consider using this tent for anything but camping when a vehicle was within 2 miles (3 1/4 kilometers) of the campground - any further and it would be too much of a burden to make it worthwhile. While this tent packs down small for its size, it is still a monster and will take up a large part of any pack. Due to the sheer space that this tent takes up, it often requires a separate trip to the car. The only time that I would even consider taking this tent further than a few miles would be if I was using it at a base camp for an extended (a month or longer) trip, but even then I would favor just using lightweight tents or hammocks. I've been able to park within ¼ mile (1/2 kilometer) of our campsite each time I've used it, so the weight was not much of an issue so far. The biggest selling point for us on this tent was the size - while there are only 4 of us who use this tent regularly, it is nice to have some extra space in case the kids have friends that tag along. It is also very nice for me to have a tent that is tall enough that I can stand up inside with no effort. While the tent doesn't stay at full height for the entire inside of the tent, the taper to shorter heights is very gradual, ending at approximately 60 inches (1.5 meters) high where the walls drop down - this is high enough to be comfortable while moving around just about anywhere inside. This tent met all of my criteria for choosing a family car camping tent, and then some.
The second concern was how difficult setup would be. I am "technically challenged" to begin with, and I have had a very hard time setting up large family-style tents in the past. Imagine my terror when we realized that the instructions had not been included with our tent! Quite honestly, I was amazed with the setup of this tent. It definitely requires two people to set it up, but for the two of us, it was a breeze - from opening the tent to having it fully set up took us less than 5 minutes. A true testament to the ease of set up is that even with 6 poles and a huge tent, we had no trouble even without any directions. The biggest confusion that I had, which I only recently had cleared up by a discussion with a friend who has since purchased the same tent and an e-mail to Coleman, was the number of rooms that the tent is intended to have. It seems that my tent came packaged with an extra partition that it was not meant to have. While I found a way that seemed to make some sense to set it up (creating a "foyer" in the tent), in fact, this wall was not supposed to be there at all - which makes much more sense - I always felt that the foyer was an unnecessary feature, and never used it, and it turns out now that it doesn't really exist after all. That is the danger of not having any directions.
If there were to be a dictionary definition of torture
testing a family tent, having two young & rambunctious children spend an entire
weekend in it while it is cold and raining would probably be at the top of the
list. This is exactly what happened to us on one trip. The floor is a bathtub
style floor where it extends up the sides of the tent for a short distance so
that the seams are not directly on the ground where they might end up sitting in
puddles of water, and this worked out wonderfully for us - there was no leaking
of any sort through the whole ordeal, and there was no shortage of toys (and
children) bouncing off the walls, and fingers leaving smudges on the fabric - it
stayed comfortable and put up with as much abuse as we could give it. Another
blessing was the screened porch, which is basically a jumbo fly screen made of
no-see-um netting that drops to the ground, but is designed to be staked in the
corners which creates two walls and a door with a zipper up the center. The
porch does not have a floor, but simply relies on flashing at the bottom of the
walls to make contact with the ground and help keep out water and ground bugs.
This is pretty effective for bugs, and while it didn't keep 100% of the water
off the ground, it stopped the ground from becoming a large mud puddle like the
rest of our campsite, which meant that the inside of our tent stayed pretty dry
with minimal mud being tracked in. There is a fully zippered door to access the
tent from the porch, which can be tied back for easy entry, but does not have a
no-see-um netting layer to allow for ventilation while still having the tent
closed off from the porch. Not only have the material and seams (which come
factory taped and sealed) held up wonderfully to water, but the fabric has demonstrated
its durability by withstanding the abuses of children playing inside the tent,
and also playing with sticks swinging towards it on the outside. Another added
bonus is that there are a plethora of mesh pockets inside, so there is no lack
of storage for anything that I want to have at my fingertips.
Overall, this tent is fantastic - there are only a few small downsides. First, and most obviously is the weight, but that's the price I pay to have a huge tent to sleep in, and for me it is worth it when car camping with my entire family. Second, there is no screen to zip around the primary entrance, as the screen porch serves that purpose - I would much prefer to have a second screen so that the screen porch could be tied open, or so that I could sleep with only the screen zipped shut, but not let in the few bugs that might crawl under the porch. Another problem, which is only an issue when camping in cold weather, is that because of the sheer size of this tent, it can be quite chilly. This has not been much of an issue for me, as I am more than happy to put on more clothes if I am cold at night, but is definitely something to be aware of. Finally, the stakes that are provided with the tent do not hold up well. If I remember correctly, the stakes are steel nail-type and approximately 6 inch (.15 meters), but I have since thrown them all away so I cannot confirm this. They are very prone to bending in the rocky soil that covers most of Wisconsin, but since I have had this problem with ALL of my previous tents, I was prepared and brought my preferred heavy duty plastic stakes (Reliance Power Peg - 9 inch (23 centimeters)) along just in case they bent. My only other complaint is that the tent is advertised as an 8 person tent, but it is really sized that it should be a 6 person tent. It could accommodate 8 people, but would not be comfortable at that size except for sleeping, and with a tent this large I need everyone to be able to be active inside in the event of bad weather. Based on the way tents are sized, the listed capacity seems accurate - for 8 people to be able to be active inside a tent, I know that I would need to purchase a 10-12 person tent. This is the exact reason that I chose this 8 person tent when we never have more than 6 people (and usually only 4).
While this tent will never be my only tent (it's too heavy to even be considered for a weekend backpacking trip), it will remain my only car camping tent for as long as it lasts. It has proven to be the perfect match for my family, and has been extremely durable. At a glance, this tent looks like it has only been used once or twice even after 10 months of steady use because it has held up so well - in reality it's seen a great deal of use, but is still in near perfect condition. I have had no problems with zippers or with the material/seams fraying/tearing, and I have no reason to expect any. I am very pleased with the quality and durability that this tent has demonstrated to this point.
Read more gear reviews by Dale Hedrick
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