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Reviews > Base Camp Gear > Car Equipment > Kelty Carport Deluxe Shelter > Test Report by Pamela Wyant


Initial Report - July 31, 2008
Field Report - October 7, 2008
Long Term Report - December 8, 2008

Tester Information:
Name:  Pam Wyant
Age:  50
Gender:  Female
Height:  5 ft 5 in (1.65 m)
Weight:  165 lb (77 kg)

E-mail address:  pamwyant(at)yahoo(dot)com
Location:  Western West Virginia, U.S.A.

Backpacking Background: 

Pursuing a long-time interest, I started backpacking four years ago, beginning with day-hiking and single overnights.  Currently I’m mostly a ‘weekend warrior’, hiking and backpacking mainly in the hills and valleys of West Virginia, but have started a project to section hike the Appalachian Trail (AT), accruing a little over 200 mi (300 km) in the last two years.  My usual shelter is a hammock, but occasionally I use a tent. In general my backpacking style is lightweight and minimalist and I try to cut as much pack weight as I can without sacrificing warmth, comfort, or safety.

Initial Report - July 31, 2008

Product Information:

Manufacturer:  Kelty
Year of manufacture:  2008
Model:  Carport Deluxe
Color:  Grey & Blue
Size:  Large (fits mini-vans & SUV's)

MSRP:  US$ 320
Carport Deluxe attached to side of Jeep Grand Cherokee

Advertised minimum weight:  9 lb 9 oz (4.3 kg)
Advertised packaged weight:  10 lb 3 oz (4.6 kg)

Measured packaged weight:  12 lb 3 oz (5.5 kg)
Measured minimum weight:  9 lb 12 oz (4.4 kg)

Advertised size:  113 sq ft (10.5 sq m)

Advertised dimensions:  126 x 116 in (320 x 295 cm)

Advertised packaged size:  8 x 20 in (20 x 51 cm)
Measured packaged size (after repackaging):  8 x 24 in (20 x 61 cm)

Product Description:

Attached to rear & raisedThe Carport Deluxe is part of Kelty's Basecamp Collection, intended for use at campgrounds, all-day festivals, and sports events.  It attaches to the side or rear of mini-vans or SUV's with roof racks or roof rails, and is intended to provide shelter from sun or wet weather.  The Carport Deluxe is not intended to be used in severe storms, especially those with wind.  The shelter can be configured in different ways for privacy and weather-resistance or shade and cooling breezes, depending on whether the included staff poles are used or not.

The Carport Deluxe consists of a large shaped tarp with three windows and sets up with either 6 or 8 poles depending on whether the outside edge is to be raised for views and breezes or left near the ground for protection or privacy.  Each side has four webbing loops for staking plus an additional webbing loop at the corner which has an adjustable sliding buckle and is attached to a metal split ring that also holds a metal spring clip and an additional small webbing loop for staking.  The roof of the shelter arches upward to provide enough height for standing, and then slopes down to the ground, forming the front wall.  A large semi-rectangular window is placed at seat height.  Attached to each side of the roof/front wall is a side wall with a D-shaped window.  Each window is covered with No-See-um mesh and also has a zippered nylon privacy panel which when unzipped, can be rolled and fastened out of the way with a toggle and loop system.

At the apex of the shelter, a D-ring is attached to the seam at each end.  No directions are given for use of the D-rings, but they seem like they would be useful to attach a light weight lantern or a clothesline for hanging wet bathing suits, dishtowels, or other light weight items.  A large triangular mesh pocket is located at each of the front corners.  The Kelty logo is printed on the center of the area under the front window.

The shelter uses shock-corded DAC aluminum poles for support, and a hybrid system of pole sleeves, clips, and hook and loop straps to attach the shelter to the poles.  Heavy hook and loop straps are used to attach the shelter to the roof rack of the vehicle.  Four long guylines are provided to provide support when the staff poles are used to raise the outer edge of the shelter.  Two short guylines are also provided, and although the directions don't specify their purpose, there are two flaps of material with loop openings just below the lower pole sleeves, and I conclude that the short guylines are to be used in these loops to provide extra guying when needed.

Kelty also includes 14 Aluminum 'shepherd's hook' style stakes.  This is enough for one on each webbing loop and four for guying out when using the shelter in the lowered mode.  If using the shelter in raised mode, only four stakes need to be used to guy out the staff poles.

The partsTrying it out:

A comprehensive booklet gives safety information and pitching instructions.  The pitching instructions are clear and easy to read, although lacking somewhat in showing how to guy the shelter out or fully stake it.  The two staking illustrations included show a slightly different webbing configuration at the corners than the actual setup, which consists of the short piece of webbing attached to the split ring instead of attaching directly to the longer adjustable piece of webbing, however this is relatively minor and did not cause me any problems trying to figure it out.  Kelty does provide some tips on how to use rocks to anchor the shelter on surfaces that would be difficult or impossible to stake, such as gravel parking lots or pavement, using cord and rocks of different sizes.  As of this writing, the instruction booklet is available as a PDF file when browsing Kelty's Website, under the category instructions and the subheading of 2007 tents-shelters.  The cord for using this system is not included with the tent, so I will need to purchase some extra cord to carry in the event I need to use this system.

The photo to the right shows all the included pieces.  As is apparent in the photo, the bulk of the shelter is the pole system.  From the time I took this photo to completion of the shelter took about 30 minutes, working on my own, and referring to the directions as I went.  I believe this time will become shorter as I become more familiar with setup.  Although I haven't tried it yet, I think that I will be able to set up the shelter the next time without needing to refer to the instructions, as it seems fairly intuitive now that I know how it goes together.

The first step was to put together the poles.  Thankfully, they are shockcorded so this was simple.  Kelty cautions to assemble the poles manually and not use the shockcord to 'snap' them together as this can damage the poles.  Once the poles were together, I laid them to one side.

The next step is to lay the shelter out, with the pole sleeves facing up.  It takes a fairly large area to lay the shelter out, larger than it will end up being when finished.  I found out it is best not to try this directly adjacent to the vehicle, but to allow 6-10 feet for inserting poles and working on the assembly.  I assembled the shelter with the top facing my vehicle, which proved to be a good move since it made attaching the assembled shelter easier.

Then the actual assembly starts.  First, eyelets at the end of the top pole (which is easily discernible since it has three long and thick hook and loop straps attached) are connected to hooks on webbing at the top of the carport.  Once connected, I found this pole stayed in place very well with only the two hooks while I assembled the rest of the shelter.

The next pole to go in place is the one with the 'C' shaped aluminum sections, which goes at what will end up being the apex of the carport and is also is held in place by eyelets and hooks on webbing straps.  Three short hook and loop straps across the center help hold this pole in place.

Then two short poles are inserted in pole sleeves at the top of the carport and fit into the "C" shaped intersection on one end and are attached to the top pole by a metal spring pin at the other.  To this point everything fit together very easily.  The next step is to insert two long poles into poles sleeves near the mesh windows and connect them to the "C" shaped intersection at the apex on one end and to a metal spring pin in the corner webbing on the other end.  To do this I had to adjust the sliding buckle to allow the webbing to be extended as fully as possible, and arch the pole by putting pressure on it while holding the spring clip with the other hand.  I found this a little difficult as it was a tight fit.  It took a few seconds of struggle to do this on this first pole, and several more seconds on the second pole, since the carport has a good bit of tension by this time. 

At this point the carport has taken shape, and I had only to fasten the clips on the lower section of the long poles and attach the short hook and loop tabs at the top of the carport to the top pole, making sure the long hook and loop straps are spaced on the outside of the short hook and loop straps.  At this point, the carport is ready to attach to the top rail of the vehicle.  It was simply a matter of picking the carport up by the top pole, and pulling it up and over to my Jeep, placing the pole across the rail, and attaching it to the rail by wrapping the hook and loop straps around the rail.  There are also D-rings that can be used in attaching if needed.

Then the corner webbing is tightened up and the corners and sides staked down, and viola!  A nice, covered shelter area right next to my Jeep!

Preliminary Impressions:

Spacing at rearI had a lot of fun playing with different configurations for the shelter.  It fit well on both the side and the rear of my Jeep.  It seems very spacious, and I am greatly looking forward to seeing what uses I can put the Kelty Carport Deluxe to.  The shelter was pretty much what I expected from the manufacturer's webpage, other than I did not expect it to be as roomy as it actually is. 

I did have a little trouble with the sides seeming wrinkled and pulled to the front side rather than dropping straight down, but this seemed to be a little better after I pulled the webbing at the bottom corners a lot tighter.  This puts a little more arch in the long poles, and less pulling or stress on the sides.  I like the privacy offered by having the front side low, which I think would be good to make a 'changing area' for water sports such as kayaking if care is taken in positioning my Jeep so that people don't see into the areas not covered by the carport on the vehicle side.

One thing that seems to be missing that would be a good feature when using the shelter in 'battened down' mode is a door.  I will be playing around a bit with positioning of the top pole in relation to the front and back of my Jeep.  It seems it would be feasible to leave a larger opening at the rear to allow access without having to unstake the part of the carport near the vehicle to allow passing through.  As I had it set up, I could duck under, but it would be nice to be able to walk under it without having to duck.

I also really liked having the shelter in the propped up position, which allowed a lot of space that I think would be ideal for watching a parade from shelter or using as a gathering spot when picnicking or tailgating.  When using the shelter this way, the staff poles are used.  The point on the staff poles fits through the loop in the end of the spring pins or the metal spring pin to hold them in place.  Guylines further secure them.  Kelty included a unique "Niteize Figure 9" tensioner that made adjusting the guylines quite easy.  An instruction page for the Figure 9 was also included.  Using this tensioner prevents having to use a sliding tension knot such as a tautline hitch, and small teeth on the tensioner keep it securely in place once fastened.

Used "Free standing"The sides of the shelter are also rolled up out of the way when using it in the raised position, with loop and toggle fasteners holding them out of the way.  Kelty has positioned three of the toggles along each side, however I found only the top two were useful.  The bottom one did not hold well because there was not much fabric to be rolled up in that area, but it also wasn't really needed since the other two kept the rolled sides out of the way.

One thing that I discovered is that it is possible to use the carport without having the vehicle attached if the front is positioned in the lowered mode and the staff poles are used in the spring pins on the top poles.  This makes a shelter that is open on one side and enclosed on the other and I could see this coming in handy at times when perhaps parking space is at a minimum but there are grassy fields nearby.

Everything about the shelter seems to be of high quality, and I did not notice any blemishes, uneven stitching in the seams, or flaws in any of the materials.  Overall, so far I am very impressed and greatly looking forward to camping, picnicking, and playing in the outdoors with the Kelty Carport Deluxe.

This concludes my Initial Report.

Field Report - October 7, 2008

Field Conditions and use:

In early August I used the Kelty Carport Deluxe for picnicking at a local park, setting it up on the side of my Jeep with the outside edge propped up with the poles and the sides rolled up.  Temperatures were near 80 F (27 C), the skies were partly cloudy, and it was a calm day with little to no wind, so I did not use the guylines on either the poles or the sides.  I put the Carport up on my own, and did not have any problems other than trying to chase the grandkids around while I did it, and a little trouble getting the final pole in place, as it is a tight fit and has to arch quite a bit to get the spring clip in place even with the webbing adjusted all the way out.  The Carport provided a pleasant place to sit and relax while the grandkids played nearby, and was stable in the calm conditions even without the guylines.

In late August I used the Kelty Carport on a borrowed Chevy Suburban (Thanks Mom!) on an overnight camping trip in Holmes County Ohio with my daughter, her husband, and my three grandchildren (ages 4, 2, and 1).  We got a later start in the day than we had hoped, and ended up putting up our tents as it sprinkled rain, and putting up the shelter as the rain got steadier.  Temperatures were around 70 F (21 C).   With my son-in-law to help me set it up, the Carport Deluxe was quick to put up, and having a second person to help arch the final pole really helped make it easier to get the last spring clip in place.  The Carport proved to be a real life saver, well, perhaps I should say a dinner saver.  It continued to rain intermittently throughout the evening.  It quit long enough for us to build a campfire for roasting the hot dogs and marshmallows we had brought along, then started pouring so we ducked under the carport and started getting food supplies ready.  It then quit raining long enough to cook a few hot dogs and for me to heat hot dog sauce on a nearby picnic table, then started pouring again, so we moved all the condiments to a small table under the shelter and enjoyed dinner there.  It finally quit again long enough to toast a few marshmallows before driving us to the shelter again, where we relaxed a few more minutes before turning in for the night. 

On this trip, we set the Carport up on the rear of the Suburban with the outer edge propped up, and used the guylines for stability since the wind was gusty at times.  We pulled one side panel out and used an additional guyline in the loops at the bottom to give us more space under the shelter and kept the other rolled up for easy access to the tent and campfire areas.  I was pleased to find we could not only fit 3 adult camp chairs and 2 kids camp chairs under the Carport, but also had room to stack a couple of totes on top of each other for a makeshift side table plus space for a small folding camp table.  And we could still move around without getting wet!

We had a few small issues to address, but nothing major.  First, the ground had a lot of gravel in it and I found it hard to drive the stakes totally in the ground.  We ran two of the guylines to our campsite picnic table and tied them off there, and ran one to a landscaping light at a pathway adjacent to our campsite.  I ended up having to re-drive one stake, but overall it wasn't too bad considering the ground.  Another minor issue is that the black guylines are pretty much invisible at night, so we kept running into them.  I solved this by tying white plastic shopping bags to each one about midway down, which gave us a visual warning they were there.  The only other minor issue was that rain built up in a large puddle between the edge and the window causing the shelter to droop in that area and become rain-heavy.  When it was raining hard, I stood nearby and pushed the puddle up every few minutes to keep too much rain from building up since I was wary that it might cause the whole shelter to collapse.  When we retired for the night we dropped the outside poles and staked the shelter down to the ground since I did not want to trust that it wouldn't rain enough to create a problem by morning.

Dropped down to protect gearWe had planned on having breakfast out the next morning, and woke up hungry and needing a quick shower before heading out for the day.  With the grandkids along it was much easier to drive to the shower house, so we took the top bar loose off the back of the Suburban, and put the long poles in place to hold it up in freestanding mode.  My son-in-law held one side for stability and I pulled the Suburban out and we were able to drive to the shower house.  This is not something that Kelty recommends doing, but with help and be careful I was glad to know we could do it.  After our showers we returned to the campsite and dropped the shelter to the ground so we could go to breakfast without worrying that a storm would blow the freestanding shelter around.  It was kind of cool that we could cover up two totes, 5 camp chairs, and a folded camp table to keep the rain off while we were gone.  Everything fit, and was well covered and hidden from view.  Regretfully I did not get many pictures on this trip, because we were too busy with the rain and the grandkids, but the photo to the right shows the shelter dropped to protect our gear.  A lot of loose leaves can be seen scattered over the shelter from all the rain and wind the night before and the landscaping light we had tied one of the guylines to is visible in the left side of the photo.  The outline of a tote can be seen by looking carefully in the area to the front of the cross pole and behind the window.

Additional Experiences and Conclusions:

Kelty does not recommend opening vehicle doors with the Carport in place, and I found this was very good advice when using the larger Suburban.  Since it is a taller vehicle, the Carport did not arch as highly over the rear doorway as it does with my Jeep, so we found we needed to either get everything out that we wanted before setting up the Carport or access things through a different door.  I have found that if I use care, I can access items in my Jeep, but certainly don't want the grandkids opening and closing the doors with the Carport since there is not a lot of clearance space.

One thing that I have appreciated is that it is easy to carry the Kelty Carport Deluxe around.  Since I received it, I've just left it in the back of the Jeep hoping for an impromptu moment to use it, but so far things have transpired against me to give me the extra time for sitting out and enjoying a long break or going on additional quick picnics.  To tell the truth, I've thought about setting it up a few times, but decided that the day was nice enough I didn't need it.  Still, it's nice to know that it's always there waiting if I do get the chance for an hour or two of relaxation away from home, and it hasn't been in the way even hauling big loads of groceries home.


The Kelty Carport Deluxe was a real asset during our rainy camping trip, and I'm very pleased with its overall performance, space, and versatility to set up in different configurations.  It works well on both mid-sized SUV's like my Jeep Grand Cherokee and larger ones like my parent's Chevy Suburban.  With a helper, it goes up super fast, and even setting it up on my own it's reasonably quick.  It packs down small, and fits easily in the back of my Jeep without taking up much space.

At this point, my only real suggestion for improvement that I have is that it would be nice if the webbing straps holding the lower spring clips in place were slightly longer so it wasn't quite such a struggle to get the last pole in place.  Since they are adjustable, this would seem to be feasible, especially since I've rarely had the extra slack to tighten them up more than a couple of inches once the poles are in place.

More To Come:

This concludes my Field Report.

Long Term Report - December 8, 2008

As a sleeping shelterField Conditions and use:

 In early October I used the Carport at our local Girl Scout Camp to sleep in overnight.  Temperatures were in the lower 40 F (5 C) range and the weather was dry and somewhat cloudy, but with the moon peeping through the clouds at times.  I attached it to the side rail of my Jeep, staked down the front and one side, and rolled one side up for views.  The ground was dry and a little hard, but it was easy to pound the stakes in with a few light hammer blows.

I slept on a cot, and since the ground was somewhat unlevel I found myself sliding down the cot at times and woke up a few times having to reposition myself.  The small loop at the apex of the Carport underside was ideal to hang a small LED lantern (visible in the photo to the left as a small while spot over the cot).  I was surprised and pleased how the light grey of the carport seemed to reflect the light, maximizing output of my small 4AA battery lantern.  In the morning the Carport did have a light layer of condensation on the inside and a lot of dew on the outside.  The day was cloudy, and it took a couple of hours to thoroughly dry it off.

In mid-November I used the Carport on a 2-day hike of the North Fork Mountain Trail in eastern West Virginia.  Since the trail in this area is dry, and a forest service road crosses near the mid-point, we set up a car camp area and shuttled to the trailhead.  I camped Friday and Saturday nights, and while I slept in my hammock, I set the Carport up on the lee side of my jeep as a sheltered area where I could change clothes and put my contacts in.  This worked very well for both.  Having lost a contract on a past hiking trip in a windy area, I was happy to have the shelter to keep the gusts of winds from creating a repeat of this past unpleasant scenario.  Since there was a relatively large group of around 18 hikers, it was also nice to have a private area to change clothing, yet still have the comfort of sleeping in my hammock.

The ground was very rocky in this area, and I had a lot of trouble getting the stakes in.  In fact, I wasn't able to get them totally into the ground.  They held okay on Friday night, but on Saturday night one pulled loose and another came partially out.  The outer edges of the Carport lifted up a bit in gusts of wind, but it didn't twist or lift very high.

Temperatures were around the low 40 F (5 C) range Friday night, and below freezing Saturday night.  Sunday morning there were a few ice crystals on top of the Carport.  I was able to brush some away and others melted and I wiped them off before packing the Carport.  I found it was necessary to take the Carport loose to wipe the top area off, but this was easily accomplished.  I did hang the Carport body over my couch when I got home to make sure it dried out thoroughly before storing it away.  The couch was an especially convenient area to air and dry it since the carport could be spread out almost fully.

Additional Experiences and Conclusions:

 Once thing I have discovered is that I don't often leave my vehicle parked the entire time I am car camping.  On each occasion I needed to move my vehicle at some point.  When I was on my own I needed to take the Carport totally loose, including unstaking it if I wanted to move my Jeep and come back to the site later.  If I had someone to help hold the carport up and away from my Jeep, I could carefully pull away, leaving it in place.  Getting lined back up to pull in adjacent to the Carport was a bit more difficult, but thanks to some good helpers holding the Carport up and directing me, I did carefully accomplish it during the North Fork Mountain trip when I shuttled some folks back to their cars.  Again, this isn't recommended by Kelty, but it's good to know it can be carefully done if needed/desired.

Next to the pines at Girl Scout campWhen I slept under the Carport on my cot, I had ample room to site the cot perpendicular to my Jeep, which gave me a lot of room to move around under the shelter.  Although there were some light breezes that night, the combination of the side of the Jeep and the staked down side panel kept me warm and cozy in an inexpensive 40 F (4 C) rectangular sleeping bag.

I was really impressed by how much shelter from the wind the Carport provided on the North Fork Mountain trip, where there was some significant wind.  I estimate that gusts were up to 25 mph (40 kph), yet under the shelter it was calm enough that I could easily put my contacts in without worrying about them blowing away.

I found the Carport was much easier to assemble during this test phase, since I was used to it.  On the Girl Scout camp trip I assembled it by moonlight, and on the North Fork Mountain trip assembled it by lantern light, and in both cases had it up in about 15 minutes.  The only difficult part continued to be maneuvering the final spring pin in place, and removing the first one while disassembling the Carport.  This isn't as difficult with a helper, but was very hard for me to accomplish solo due to the tension on the Carport.  I think that lengthening the webbing straps at the bottom would make this a lot easier.

A small irritant was that the long hook and loop straps that attach the shelter to the vehicle picked up a lot of dry grass while I was assembling or taking apart the Carport.  The straps were a lot longer than I ever needed, so I think they could be shortened a bit so they wouldn't pick up quite as much debris.

A slight concern I have for future use of the Carport in breezy conditions is how to handle weighting the Carport down if the ground prohibits good staking as it did on the North Fork Mountain trip.  Although I've thought about this a good bit, I haven't come up with a good solution.  While some areas have convenient nice big rocks that could be employed, a lot of areas like those next to ball field parking lots don't; and yet they often have a lot of gravel sunken into the adjacent grassy areas.  With the configuration of the Carport and the relatively short loops for staking the outer edge and sides, there isn't a lot of leeway on where to place the stake, so it is difficult to avoid buried rocks.  I don't like the idea of carrying extra weight and bulk just to assist in staking, but it's something I may find I need to do in some instances.


I found the Kelty Carport Deluxe to be a very useful supplement for car camping, providing a spacious place to shelter out of the elements, adequate for 1-2 people to sleep under, a good picnicking area, and a great place to change clothes when hammocking.

Although I did not get to use it as much as I had hoped for impromptu picnics due to the weather having turned cold later in the test period, I am sure I will be using it many times for that next summer.  I think it also might provide a nice place this winter to get in out of the wind on sledding trips with my grandsons, maybe even enjoying a cup of hot cocoa from a thermos.  I also look forward to using it for tailgating as the grandkids get involved in sports; I know it would have been really handy when my oldest daughter ran track and my youngest daughter played soccer.  And it will also be a regular part of my car camping gear in the future.


Cool, fun, and unique
Convenient to vehicle for ease in packing/unpacking and conveniently storing gear and food
Quality materials and workmanship


Difficult to snap last spring pin in place without help
Long hook and loop straps pick up a lot of dry grass
Difficult to stake adequately in some areas (but not necessary to stake in calm conditions).

This concludes the test series on a very useful and fun piece of gear that I plan to use a lot in the future.

Thanks to Kelty and BackpackGearTest for the opportunity to test the Carport Deluxe!

Read more reviews of Kelty gear
Read more gear reviews by Pamela Wyant

Reviews > Base Camp Gear > Car Equipment > Kelty Carport Deluxe Shelter > Test Report by Pamela Wyant

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