TEST SERIES BY JERRY GOLLER
December 09, 2008
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Salt Lake City, Utah, USA
5' 11" (1.80 m)
229 lb (104.00 kg)
I started camping with my father at age 6 or so. Iíve backpacked, off and on, all of my life. Even in the Marine Corps, I was in the Infantry. I consider myself a light weight backpacker with an average dry pack weight of 10 to 15 pounds (4.5 to 7 kg), depending on the season and terrain. I backpack year round.
Most of my trips are 2 to 5 days long and in Utah. I also, from time to time, take much longer trips lasting one to two months or more. These trips are usually on the Appalachian Trail or the Pacific Crest Trail.
PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS
Year of Manufacture: 2008
Manufacturer's Website: www.kelty.com
Listed Packaged Weight: 10 lbs 3oz (4.6 kg)
Measured Weight: 12 lbs 6oz (5.61 kg)
Listed Dimensions: 126 in X 116 in (320 cm X 295 cm)
Test Vehicle: 2003 Chevrolet Venture Van with both driver's and passenger's sliding side doors and factory installed roof rack.
The Carport comes in a box that measures 25in X 7in X 7in (64 cm X17.78 cm X17.78 cm). Inside the box is a single stuff sack of approximately the same size. In the stuff sack is all the Carport components plus an additional empty stuff sack for the poles. The folded poles on the left side of the picture captioned "Package Contents" are the two extra poles for raising the front of the awning.
This shelter is much larger than I was expecting. It is huge and does a great job of providing plenty of useable space to the side or rear of the vehicle. The website pictures don't begin to relay just how big it is.
The workmanship and attention to detail is excellent. I truly appreciate the small details like how the fly attaches to the poles. Kelty used one of two methods throughout the Carport. They either had metal eyes on the pole and metal hooks on the material or they used spring clips that went in the pole ends. Other tents I've seen just use a simple pin for this but that wouldn't be as secure as the spring clips.
Another detail is using the new Nite Ize Figure 9 line tensioners. I think these work better than anything else for maintaining line tension. They are quick and simple to use, both going up and coming down.
The fly is made of polyester so it won't sag when wet and has better UV resistance than nylon. The 5/8 in (16 mm) diameter aluminum poles are plenty beefy for the application.
The vehicle used does have to have a roof rack or side rails to allow proper attachment to the vehicle. Attachment to the vehicle is accomplished through three 1 in (25 mm) wide, 18 in (46 cm) long, double sided, heavy duty hook and loop straps. The straps are free to slide on the top pole to allow proper alignment to the roof rack rails but the pole clips act as retainers to keep the straps from sliding off the pole. Simply wrap the hook and loop strap around the roof rack rail and over itself to make it stick and the Carport is attached. Simple.
|Figure 9 Device|
|Top Pole End Detail|
All the clips and hooks allow a nice tight pitch to the shelter. The spring clips at the bottom of the front poles are on adjustable nylon webbing to allow a nice tight pitch. There are plenty of included 8 in X ľ in (20 cm X 6 mm) aluminum shepherd's hook stakes (14 total) and pre-cut guy lines with Figure 9 line tensioners (6) to fully secure the shelter.
The fly has a total of three windows, a large one in the front and smaller ones on each side. These have netting and can be zipped shut to fully close the windows for windy or rainy conditions.
The Carport can be pitched in a number of ways. Both sides can be rolled back and secured if only shade is needed and a breeze desired. Either side can be rolled down to block wind or rain. Both sides can be rolled down for full rain protection or privacy.
The Carport can also be raised on the side away from the vehicle and supported by two supplied poles creating a true open awning and a huge shaded area. It can also be pitched free standing.
|Top Pole Attached|
|Velcro Strap Detail|
READING THE INSTRUCTIONS
The instructions are easy to follow and have plenty of line drawings to illustrate the procedures. They are not too long and not too short. Just right. I put it up the first time in less than twenty minutes by myself. The second time will go much faster, of course. Kelty also provided separate instructions and line drawings explaining how to use the Figure 9 line tensioners. That was a nice touch.
TRYING IT OUT
I spent about three hours just playing with this shelter at a disbursed camping area in a local National Forest. I tried various set ups and arrangements. I could easily visualize how this could be used when truck camping. I didn't get a chance to actually use it yet but am really looking forward to it. It is by far the nicest awning/shelter I've seen yet. It is easy to put up but might be a little challenging to do by myself in windy conditions. Its size is going to let me try it in a lot more situations than I expected.
|Carport Viewed from the Rear|
|Carport with Side Open|
|Carport Raised on Poles|
I'd like to try this shelter on an asphalt parking lot. We frequently stop for lunch at Rest Areas or pull outs when traveling. My wife sunburns very easily and this could provide a large, easy to put up shelter for preparing and eating lunch.
I also want to try it with my hot shower set up and with the full kitchen rig.
I want to see just how handy it is in both established campgrounds and dispersed camping areas. Eventually, I'd like to see how it handles snow. Not a lot, of course, but the amount we could easily encounter at lunch stops or at winter campgrounds.
One other thing I want to try is mounting at the rear of my van and build in a kitchen set up in the rear of the van. I've had a few ideas for that but the Carport may make it much simpler to do.
I must say that the Kelty Carport is much more shelter than I was expecting. The quality of materials, workmanship and design are what I would expect from a company with Kelty's reputation. I'm really looking forward to seeing how many ways I can use it camping and for day use.
There are a few things I suspect could be improved on. The main stuff sack *really* needs a bottom strap or grab fold to make getting the shelter out of its stuff sack a lot easier. When using it for privacy or in full on rain I'm pretty sure at least one side door would be really handy. I also think the supplied poles for raising the front should be adjustable poles to give that set up a lot more flexibility. Field testing will tell on these but I'll be surprised it they don't prove true.
FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS
All tests were conducted in the Uinta Mountains of Northern Utah. The conditions ranged from warm sunny days for picnics to light rain shifting to sleet and then to light snow for the overnight base camp. Tests were conducted from approximately 6,000' (1830 m) to 10,000' (3050 m). All tests were conducted in dispersed camping areas off road. I used the Carport on 3 daytime picnics and one overnight camping trip.
PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD
I had three uses in mind for the Carport. The first was as a sunshade for picnics. The second was as a cover between a large tent and the back of my minivan in a base camp situation. I built a chuck wagon style kitchen in the back of my van and hoped to use the Carport to cover the area I would use for food prep. This would make it easy to fix meals in a weather protected area and then step right over to the tent dining area with them and eat. The third use I had for the Carport was for lunches in Rest Areas while traveling. It would serve as a sun shade for food prep and a shaded area to eat in. I'm concerned with sun because we have a lot of it here in Utah, my wife is blond and sunburns easily, and my son is 18 months old. Sunburn is really bad for him, of course.
|Carport at picnic|
Although it would seem that one and three are the same, the problem in Rest Areas is that the sun shelter must be completely free-standing, as no stakes can be driven into the parking lot surfaces.
During the Field Test period I got to use the Carport in situations one and two.
Two concerns I had initially about the Carport was that there was no door in it for use when the Carport was erected tight up against the vehicle during inclement weather, and that the poles for raising the outside edge for more room were not height adjustable.
|Carport at base camp|
Although I haven't had a situation that let me see how necessary a door would be, I did get to address the pole adjustability issue. As it turned out, the height adjustment for the outside edge of the Carport can be pretty course. It just needs to add enough height for more head room or drop it low enough for late afternoon sun protection. I found that by "unplugging" one or more sections of the front poles (as they are shock-corded I just let them lay to the side of the pole) I can make acceptable height adjustments of the front edge of the Carport. Problem solved.
In picnic usage the Carport performed well and as expected. Although it takes a few minutes to set it up, it adds greatly to the pleasure of picnicking from a vehicle. We had plenty of room to set up our large table and chairs for me, Kate, and Jack. All of us had adequate shade and still had a nice breeze in the warm mountain picnic site we chose. The image captioned "Carport at a picnic" shows how well it did on the average picnic. I should have parked the van in the opposite direction at this particular site for better sun shade but it still protected us for most of the afternoon. The only additional feature that would be nice for this usage would be a large bug net that could be attached along the entire three sides of the Carport that are away from the vehicle. That would allow fairly good bug protection and would make the Carport even more useful.
In the base camp configuration I used the Carport in conjunction with an MSR Board Room. This proved to be an excellent combination. Initially I had the Carport set up with its long edge with just a foot (30 cm) or so of overlap on top of the Board Room's end. It was raining during this part of the test and the area below the large center window on the Carport soon filled up with water. To take the stress off the Carport and help avoid water build up I moved the van closer to the Board Room and ended up with about 3' (90 cm) of the Carport overlapping the Board Room. This greatly improved the situation. The set up can be seen in the image captioned "Carport at a base camp".
Through the course of this overnight camp we had rain, sleet, and snow. Although the snow was light, with an accumulation of just a few inches (cm) I was still impressed at how well the Carport dealt with a situation it probably wasn't designed for. We easily prepared meals, coffee, and snacks while staying warm and dry. The configuration of the Carport allowed easy access from outside but still provided adequate weather protection. The image captioned "Inside Carport at base camp" was taken from the entrance of the Board Room and gives some idea of the size of the protected area under the Carport.
|Inside Carport at base camp|
The Carport met all my expectations for this usage. Its only drawback is also one of its strengths. Although the Carport can be set up as a vehicle awning easily by one person, when setting it on top of a tent entrance for a base camp situation is very difficult for one person due to the size and surface area of the Carport. Any wind at all would make it impossible for one person in my opinion.
All in all, the Kelty Carport has met or exceeded my expectations. It has performed the tasks I set for it in the Field Test period very well. If I modified to perform perfectly in base camp mode then it would perform less well in picnic mode and I understand that. It is a good compromise and one that satisfies me. At this point I have little I'd change about it and no complaints.
I hope to try the Carport out at a Rest Area for lunch or dinner. I want to see if it will set OK, even in a reasonable breeze, or do I need to come up with some way to weight the outer corners for stability.
I will also continue to use the Carport in base camp mode in southern Utah. I doubt it will get much picnic use.
LONG-TERM TEST LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS
Long Term testing involved two trips to southern Utah. The daytime temps were in the 40s F (single digits C) and in the low 20s F (minus single digits C) for night time temps and the weather was clear with a light wind for both trips .
The trips were to Capital Reef National Park and the San Rafael Swell area. The overnight trips each involved two nights and three days. We stayed in established campgrounds for both trips. All overnight trips used an MSR Board Room as a kitchen/dining area. The Carport was used to join the Board Room to the back of my van.
PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD
I was originally interested in the Kelty Carport as a side awning for my van. It looked like it might be handy for both picnics and overnight camping. For me personally, that didn't work out. While the Carport worked fine in that configuration it wasn't practical for my situation. My infant son's car seat took up most of the passenger side door opening and using it on the driver's side didn't make sense as it wouldn't protect his side. This turned out to be a good thing. It caused me to look at mounting the Carport over the rear hatch instead. That led to quite an evolution of an entire system for my van. By mounting it at the rear of my van the problem of no side doors for entry when the Carport was fully staked down just went away. The Carport is about 3' (about 1 m) wider than my van so the extra length creates an entry area on both sides of the van. I staked the side panels out a bit from the van to make this area even larger for very easy entry and exit from the protected area at the rear of the van.
This worked out quite well, particularly when the outside edge of the Carport was raised a few feet (a meter or so) with the accessory poles. This created more than enough protected room for a picnic table and the fold out prep table on the full width kitchen storage area I built into the rear of my van.
This in turn led to the idea of putting up a large tent at the rear of my van and using the Carport to create a covered area joining the tent to the van.
The tent I selected for this idea was the MSR Board Room. The two together proved to be an outstanding combination. In the finial configuration I set up the Board Room in a "T" configuration with the van as the long axis of the "T" and the Board Room forming the cross bar. This setup has proven to work well for light snow, rain, and sun. While not the way I had originally envisioned using the Carport, this set up turned out to be better than anything I had had in mind at the start of this test. The Carport is also just as useful by itself in a picnic situation as I had hoped it would be.
I did get a chance to try the Carport in the basic configuration (outside edge not raised). I think this would work fine for me and one other person but would be a bit crowed for more people. I could use the prep table as a dining table and wouldn't need a separate eating area. There would still be enough room for chairs for a relaxed, weather protected area.
The Carport would do fine just anchored to the van as long as there wasn't significant wind. If there was significant wind and it was setup on a surfaced parking lot like a Rest Area then some form of weights would be needed to anchor the outer edges. I'll probably experiment with 5 gallon (20 L) water jugs in place of stakes.
Setting up the Carport, although mildly complicated, has become easy and second nature with time.
The Kelty Carport has caused me to evolve an entire camping setup for my van that satisfies every requirement I had for such a system. It has worked even better than I hoped.
But there are a few things I'd like to see Kelty change on it. Inserting the clips in the bottom end of the long side poles is much more difficult than it needs to be. I just got in the habit of butting the top end up against something solid (large rock, truck tire, etc.) so I could bow the pole enough to get the clip in or out. It would be much simpler to just make the adjustable web strap for the clip at least 6 inches (15 cm) longer. For side mounting the Carport I think at least one zippered side door would also make a nice addition.
The Carport has encouraged me to greatly increase the length of my car camping season. It has been an invaluable addition to my camping arsenal.
I see a long future for my family and the Kelty Carport.
This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1.
Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.
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