Sunday, April 19, 2015

GEAR REVIEW: REI Base Camp 6 Tent

I've been car camping/canoe camping for longer than I can remember. Though I'm branching into backpacking, I'll always enjoy having the means to establish a strong base camp. This tent goes a long way towards doing so, it's right there in the name! My impetus for buying the Base Camp goes back to the worst storm I can ever recall weathering in a tent. I'd borrowed the old Gander Mountain family tent from my Dad, and as I was setting it up one of the aging carbon fiber poles (easily 20 years old at that point) chose this trip to give out. When carbon fiber anything breaks, it starts to splinter apart. Fortunately it wasn't a complete destruction, and I was able to use a combination of ducttape and spare tent stakes to brace the pole.

Had I known what a storm I was in for that night, I might not have forged onward at that point, but I saw no reason to quit. Now, a slack tent is far less waterproof than a taut tent, and even in it's repaired state, it was less than taut. So, my night wound up a bit more moist than I was prepared for. I'd attempt to improve the repair a bit, but ultimately I decided it was time for a new tent, one of my own. I'd recently begun using Reddit, and discovered /r/Camping, one of their camping related boards. I got a lot of good suggestions, but the one I liked the looks of best, was the REI Base Camp 6. Bob (My Dad) had mentioned a number of times, the REI store down in Madison, suggesting that we could probably get a replacement pole segment for the tent there when all the locally available repair kits turned out to be the wrong size...

I wound up getting the 2013 model Base Camp 6 tent, a membership, AND some replacement pole parts from REI. This wound up being a cascading repair in which Bob and I rebuilt the Gander Mountain tent pole, using the wrong-size-kit, I fixed a pole for a more modern coleman made tent owned by my friends Jim and Lindsey, and I used some old pieces from the tent pole that we had rebuilt to repair a pole for my cheap screen octagon.

But on to the Base Camp 6! This is a very spacious tent. Now, REI rates it for 6 people, but that's people-only, no gear, and you had best be pretty close to these six people. More realistically, it's a tent for 3-4 people who take up a lot of room, 5 people who are fairly close to one another, or 6 people who don't move much in their sleep and/or who might be okay to cuddle with one another. It's also possible that REI intended you to stack these people vertically, because the base camp has a ton of headroom. I'm 6'2" when I stand up straight and I can walk a small circle in the middle of the tent. I really enjoy that, not having to worry about hitting the walls/ceiling when I move around inside the tent.

The poles on the Base Camp are aluminum, and feel very sturdy to me. They are perhaps a bit heavier than carbon fiber would be... but for car camping, weight is a low priority to me. They have full pole sleeves rather than split sleeves, so there's no having to lean over, kneeling on the tent itsself as you're raising it. and you can raise it solo, at least I could, if you need to. Two main poles provide the primary support, and two secondary poles fully extend the tent, giving it it's full size and structure. One final pole extends the rainfly over the end of your choice, creating a small vestibule. Now, the rainfly is very thorough, covering the tent right down to its toes. It does an excellent job of keeping interior dry, even though high speed wind and rain. Those poles do a great job of keeping it upright even in adverse conditions. This was one of my primary criteria when I asked for suggestions, a tent that can weather any storm I have any business being out in. It's a 3 season tent, so not intended for the winter (and I have no intent to camp in wintertime) and realistically there's only so much weather a tent can take, but if things are THAT bad, I should probably be taking cover in a far sturdier structure.

That very thorough rainfly is also excellent at trapping warmth in the tent. There are a pair of vents at the top, and the front and back of the rainfly can be unzipped and rolled up in good weather to let air in. Great thing about the vents is that they can be opened from inside, through a pair of zippered apertures. No need to go outside just to shut it if the weather changes. Protecting the tent from below, is a fitted footprint intended for use with the Base Camp 6 Tent. I am SO glad that I bought the footprint, it is far more convenient than trying to fit a tarp to the right size. Makes teardown more convenient (I have a clean place to pack the rest of the tent up from) and keeps the bottom of the tent clean. Super happy with buying the footprint. And speaking of packing up not only is there room in the tent bag for the footprint, but also that bag has a pair of shoulder straps that allow you to wear it like a backpack. Nothing I'd want to wear for more than ten to fifteen minutes, but more than enough to easily reach a site that I couldn't park directly in.

Only changes I'd make are that I would enjoy some manner of side window option, and that I find myself resorting to using a set of Nite-ize Gear Ties to secure the rolled rainfly door , which otherwise is a bit reluctant to stay where I tell it to remain. a bigger vestibule wouldn't be bad, but as it stands, there's more than enough room to don/remove shoes, even sit in a bag chair to do so, maybe store some minor gear. If you remember to only zip one side of it, and rely on the velcro on the other, you can easily respond to things such as driving off a meddlesome nocturnal raccoon, or the call of nature in the middle of the night, without much entry/exit fuss.

Well-built, spacious enough to acommodate a family or a small group of friends on a trip, the base camp 6 will be my wilderness shelter on many an adventure to come. I highly recommend it.

With the screen hexagon, Van Buren SP, Michigan:

Inside, with my LL Bean Synthetic bag:

Airing out in the yard, no rainfly:

Rainfly on, but not guyed:

Inside, Empty:

Back of the tent, Wildcat Mtn SP:

Front of the tent, Wildcat Mtn SP:


  1. Semoo Traveling Tent from Bizarkdeal

    Once the tent was up, it looked great! My boyfriend is 6'2",, he was able to fit in here along with me, a little sideways, but we were able to fit pretty comfortably. For one night I would bring my niece along and let her sleep with us (she's only 5), but for more time, I would have to give her, her own little tent and connect it with ours somehow.

    Overall, from what I can tell so far, this is a good quality tent, material seems strong, and looks nice when all together!

  2. Hello Steve - I also have a basecamp 6. How do you setup the guy lines in high winds. The tent comes with 4. Do you use more and where?

  3. Hello Steve - I also have a basecamp 6. How do you setup the guy lines in high winds. The tent comes with 4. Do you use more and where?

  4. I use only the included guylines, they've been enough in every storm I've weathered so far. I tend to stake them fairly close and tight, due to my propensity for tripping over wide set guylines.