SLUMBERJACK TRAIL TENT 6
TEST SERIES BY ANDREI GIRENKOV
March 02, 2014
CLICK HERE TO SKIP TO THE FIELD REPORT
CLICK HERE TO SKIP TO THE LONG-TERM REPORT
New York, New York, USA
5' 10" (1.78 m)
150 lb (68.00 kg)
I have been backpacking for 6 years, mostly three-season weekend trips in the Adirondacks, and other parks in the Northeastern US. Additionally, I try to take at least one 5-7 day trip each summer to other destinations in Canada, Western United States and Central America. I use lightweight gear on a budget. My multi-day pack weight is around 20-25 lb (9-11 kg). I enjoy sleeping comfortably and cooking a hot meal at night.
PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS
Year of Manufacture: 2013
Manufacturer's Website: http://www.slumberjack.com/
Listed Weight: 18 lb 6 oz (8.33 kg)
Measured Weight: 18 lb 0 oz (8.16 Kg)
Listed Packed Dimensions: 28 in x 8 in x 8 in (71 cm x 20 cm x 20 cm)
Measured Packed Dimensions Factory Packed: 24 in x 8 in x 8 in (61 cm x 20 cm x 20 cm)
Measured Packed Dimensions Repacked by Me: 28 in x 10 in x 10 in (71 cm x 25 cm x 25 cm)
Listed Interior Pitched Dimensions: 130 in x 110 in x 70 in (330 cm x 279 cm x 178 cm)
Measured Interior Pitched Dimensions: 120 in x 106 in x 71 in (305 cm x 269 cm x 180 cm)
Floor & Fly: 75D Polyester 1200 mm
Walls: 75D Polyester No-See-Um Mesh
So you want to house a troop of boy scouts on a limited budget? Slumberjack has the answer for you! For $220, the Slumberjack Trail Tent 6 (hereafter "tent") is a very roomy basic car camping shelter. One won't find any advanced materials or features in this tent but all the basic necessities are well handled at a very attractive price.
In order to give a fair review, I feel obligated to set the expectations first. This is a big six-person car camping tent - it necessarily uses lots of materials and has large dimensions. This implies that it's going to be heavier to carry and more difficult to set up than the two-person backpacking tent that I am used to carrying. I'm taking those two aspects of the tent as a given. Instead, I will focus on other aspects such as construction and features.
The packaging in which the tent arrived was very simple: a cardboard box which contained a duffle bag style brown polyester sack. Inside were the tent, the fly, a sack with six poles, and a sack with stakes and guy lines. A footprint was not included, but the tent floor is made from thick 70D Polyester, so one is not needed.
|Contents - tent, fly, poles, stakes, and compression ribbons|
The tent floor and the fly are made from a thick Polyester which I am sure I will appreciate when the kids are kicking around inside. The rest of the tent walls are made from a much lighter mesh. This is a smart way for Slumberjack to keep the weight of the tent down without incurring higher production costs. In fact the weight I measured was less than the listed weight.
One thing which quickly became obvious is that the materials and construction of this tent are not on par with what one normally sees from more expensive backpacking tents. There were quite a few loose strings coming out of the tent when I first unfolded it. Multiple seams are present on all surfaces, including down the middle of the floor. To give Slumberjack credit, the seams are all weather sealed. There are no integrated compression straps. Instead two pieces of scrap material are included which can be used to tie the folded tent.
The floor area that I measured was smaller than the listed floor area by 5 sq ft (0.5 sq m). There is no exact boundary between the floor and the wall, so I based my measurements on the point where the 90 degree turn naturally formed when I pitched the tent. I am not certain if this discrepancy is due to liberal measurements by the manufacturer or due to construction variations.
The poles are also big and heavy - they are solid core fiberglass, about as thick as a grown man's pinky finger. You can see one of the poles in the picture below. Using hollow aluminum poles here would have undoubtedly saved a few pounds (one kg or so) but would have also added to the price.
|Fiberglass tent pole - as thick as my pinky.|
Given the amount of material that it takes to make a tent this large and the tent's moderate price, it's not surprising that the quality of materials and construction is the biggest compromise that Slumberjack had to make.
INSTRUCTIONS AND SET UP
The instructions are a single sheet of paper with six simple steps on them - similar to what you get with IKEA furniture. It really could not be any simpler.
Step one is to lay out the tent on the ground.
Step two is to cross the poles on the tent.
Step three is to pop the poles into the grommets and put them up.
Step four is to clip the tent to the poles.
Step five is to insert the shorter poles into the grommets above the doors to prop the roof up.
The optional step six is to throw the fly over the top and clip it to each corner of the tent.
I do have to add that due to its sheer size, the tent was somewhat awkward to set up by myself. It has the aerodynamics of a sail, and its pitched height made connecting the fly a challenge for me. For reference I am 5'10" (178 cm). I believe that those two problems are not unique to the Trail Tent 6, and would hold true for any tent of this size. Once I asked my wife to help hold the poles up, it made assembly go very quickly.
|Plenty of room!|
|This is my sail tent!|
The selection of features on this tent is very good. Slumberjack designers put a lot of thought into building very useful features into this tent regardless of the materials use. The clips are color coded for ease of assembly. In fact, the entire assembly process is very simple and intuitive as I noted above. There are four large pockets inside the tent, as well as multiple loops for hanging a lantern or anything else. The doors on both the tent and the fly have tiebacks to keep the doors out of the mud.
Pros so far:
Sophisticated features comparable to those found on more expensive models.
Mesh top provides ventilation and weight savings
Very reasonable price for the offering.
Cons so far:
Quality of construction and materials is mediocre
FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS
I spent 6 nights over 3 weekends car camping with my family over the past several months. All trips involved driving to the park, carrying a heavy pack with the tent no more than half a mile to the site. I would spend the rest of the time walking around the woods unencumbered with the camp as my base.
Trip number one was beach camping on the Jersey Shore with my wife and kid. It took place in Island Beach State Park in New Jersey. This took place in early September. The weather was sunny but windy, with temperatures ranging from 50-60 F (9-15 C). The tent was pitched next to the beach, so there was very little cover from the wind. There was no precipitation. The trip included two adults and a child.
Trip number two was to a campground in Tobyhanna State Park in Pennsylvania in October. This was a wooded location, right next to a lake. There was not a lot of wind but the temperatures had fallen in range to 40-50 F (5-9 C). The weather was otherwise fair. The trip included four adults and a child.
Trip number three was to Delaware-Raritan Canal State Park in New Jersey in November. The weekend I chose had particularly miserable weather. It was cold for late fall in New Jersey, approximately 45 F (7 C) during the day, with temperatures dipping below freezing at night. The wind was blowing nonstop, making it feel much colder. In addition, there was persistent light rain for two days. The trip included two adults.
PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD
During the initial report I noted that the tent had easy setup instructions but was very awkward to set up on my own. I also noted that construction was commensurate with this tent's bargain price. For my field report I wanted to dig deeper into these points.
After having done the setup once at home, subsequent attempts went much quicker. This time around I always had a second person helping me, and it made a world of difference. I am 5'10" (178 cm), and my wife is a bit shorter than I am. We did not have any trouble setting up the tent on trips one and two. However when the wind picked up on trip three, I had to hold on to the tent like a windsurfer holds on to a sail!
Once I staked that baby down and threw all the clothes and sleeping gear inside, it wasn't going to fly off anywhere. It was a bit scary sleeping inside of it with the fly flapping around like mad all night.
|That leaf has nowhere to hide!|
As I mentioned earlier, the construction is decent given the price of the tent. The use of mesh to reduce weight is not something I see every day in a tent at this price level. That was a pleasant surprise. In addition to reducing weight, it made for a cool breeze and provided a beautiful view when camping on the beach. The mesh is very light - half of the time I did not even notice that it was there. The downside of course is that there is virtually no privacy without the rain fly. Given that this tent is likely to be used for family and car camping, the places where it's going to be pitched will have people all around. For this reason I would always carry a fly and attach it even on warm summer nights.
In my initial report, I noticed that the floor of the tent was made from multiple pieces of material, with a long seam going down the middle of the tent. This did not prove to be an issue, even in the rain. I pitched the tent with the fly, and did not get rained on or flooded through the night.
The weak point of the construction is the poles. They are not very stiff. In the "windsurfing" photo above the wind bent the pole almost in half. That was scary: I honestly thought that it would break. Because the poles are made of solid plastic, they are very heavy, and made creaking noises like they would crack at any moment when handling them. But despite my concerns they held. Still, if I had to criticize one element of the construction, it would be the poles.
In terms of size, the tent is very spacious. We had up to five people (four adults, one child) sleeping inside the tent very comfortably with ample room left over for gear. At 5'10" (178 cm) I could stand upright in the center of the tent.
The bottom line is that this tent is made for a specific application - car camping with a large number of people. After accepting that premise, it is a lot easier to look past the faults that may be a deal breaker on a backpacking tent.
The tent is heavy and somewhat of a pain to pitch in the wind, but so is every other tent of this size. The poles may be flimsy, but they got the job done. The fly and tent are good enough to keep the rain out all night, and there is always the option to ditch the fly to take advantage of nice weather. One could do a lot worse than this tent for its intended purpose.
I would like to thank Slumberjack and BackpackGearTest.org for the chance to test this tent. I am looking forward to trying out the tent on the trail over the winter. Please return in a few months for the long term report.
LONG-TERM TEST LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS
This winter brought particularly brutal weather to the North Eastern United States. There was a lot of wind, rain and snow. My planned family camping trips were canceled due to inclement weather. Instead I took the tent out by myself for a weekend long trip in Gouldsboro State Park in Pennsylvania, and dragged a friend with me another weekend to Harriman State Park in New York to help me test the tent.
Both trips were in inclement weather - temperatures in the 25 to 35 F (-4 to 2 C) range. Overcast weather intermittently interspersed with freezing rain that seemed to get into every seam and coated everything with a nasty slush overnight. The hikes themselves were not onerous: mostly flat rocky ground, occasional small cliffs of around 300 ft (100 m). We only covered 5-8 miles per day.
PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD
There is no way to put this nicely - on the first trip, my experience was pretty miserable. However I have nobody to blame for that other than myself. I took a three season 6 person mesh tent into freezing rain in the middle of the winter by myself. To be fair the sleeping experience was not terrible. I had the foresight to bring a 4 season sleeping pad, and a very warm sleeping bag, so once I hid away from the elements inside the tent, I was able to sleep comfortably through the night. The tent held strong, and the fly did not leak. However, humidity was near 100%, so I woke up in the morning with my bag caked in a layer of frost. This was unpleasant, but would happen with any 3 season tent.
By far the most memorable part of the night was trying to pitch the tent myself in the rain. I noted earlier in the review that this tent is quite tall and voluminous. It is very unwieldy to pitch without help, especially in high wind.
For the second trip, I guilted a friend into coming along. Having a pair of helping hands made the setup of the tent much smoother, and we had a great time sitting in the huge tent playing cards and drinking mulled wine.
The Slumberjack Trail Tent 6 is a no-frills family or scout camping tent. I would not take it backpacking, but there are certainly other uses for it such as car camping, music festivals, etc. The materials and construction are not on par with high end backpacking tents, but they beat big-box store quality sporting goods.
This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1.
Copyright 2014. All rights reserved.
Surprisingly compact when packed.
Mesh design is not something normally present on tents at this price.
Hard to set up alone.
Plastic poles are heavy and not sturdy.
Seams in the middle of the floor.
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