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Hands-on Gear Review
Kodiak Canvas 6-Person Flex-Bow Review
Cons: Heavy, no separate rainfly, not free standing, strong and long-lasting plastic smell from floor.
Bottom line: A durable, long-lasting, aesthetically pleasing tent that is very heavy, a little pricey, and may not be the best in windy or rainy weather.
The Kodiak Canvas 6-Person Flex-Bow is a camping trip down memory lane. The rugged canvas reminds us of a bygone era of camping adventures. But in some ways, this is perhaps a good thing. This tent weighs almost 70 pounds, which can make setup and transport a little more challenging. It is an all-season tent, but not designed for use in a mountain environment, which is what we typically think of when we consider four-season tents. This is a fun and homey tent, however, so if the cons don't add up for you, it might be a fun camping tent to accompany you and your next generation of campers for years to come.
RELATED: Our complete review of camping tents
Analysis and Hands-on Test Findings
The Kodiak Canvas camping tent is a rugged and charming tent with a mouthful of a name, not to be confused with the Bowflex. That's a workout machine. Though this tent is heavy enough it can also provide a pretty good workout.
Do a quick Google search and you'll see countless rave reviews of the Kodiak Canvas Flex-Bow tents. While we did like this tent, overall, this is not one of those rave reviews. In part, this was due to the stiff competition, and in part due to our specific review categories. However, this tent had a unique effect on our reviewers: it made us think a little bit about just what it is we're doing when we go out for a camping trip.
Overall, we agreed with many of those positive reviews. However, in our search for the best camping tent, if this is to be the one for you, it must perfectly match your needs – the pros must grossly outweigh the cons. For a tent weighing almost 70 pounds, those pros had better be hefty
When used in the right setting, this tent lets you live in rugged luxury. It embraces several styles: from scout tradition to hunter "lite" – and it even has hipster throwback appeal.
Once the tent is solidly staked out and pitched, this is a very livable tent. The soft canvas is nice to handle (though the floor is heavy vinyl), so it doesn't make that plastic flapping sound in the wind. It is a simple shape, aesthetically pleasing, and relatively tall inside with a generous awning. We could sit under that awning reading a book or listening to a babbling brook for hours.
We found this tent to be less livable, however, in stormy weather. The doors angle slightly toward the sky, and there is no fly or vestibule (just the awning), so you won't want to open the uncovered back door during a rainstorm (though the storm flaps inside the zippers help to keep the weather out so long as they stay zipped).
This tent is much better suited to beach or desert camping, where the light colored canvas keeps you cooler inside, and the thick canvas and zipper flaps keep dust and sand out. If the wind kicks up, you can comfortably escape the blowing dust and sand by zipping yourself inside. However, be sure it is very well staked out. In one of our trials we staked out the Kodiak only by the four corners and the two awning poles (with the guy lines). Light winds kicked up overnight and one of the corner stakes pulled out, causing the whole tent to capsize and become unusable.
This is the tent in the review that we want for desert sand storms and dry, dusty areas. The thick fabric and generous zipper flaps keep blowing dust, dirt, and sand outside. This thick canvas tent is highly impermeable to things you want to keep out, but is breathable like a cotton T-shirt.
Rain, however, is another issue. The awning provides some vestibule-esque protection as you duck inside the tent, but the back door is angled slightly upward, so if you open it during a rain event, water will fall directly inside the back door.
We mentioned in the Livability section above that this tent must be "solidly staked out and pitched." If you have done a banner setup job, driven the giant tent stakes through every anchor loop with a mallet if you had to, and perfectly tensioned the awning guy lines, then you're probably pretty well set. If those anchors aren't extremely strong, however, winds will find all the kite-like angles of this tent and blow it over. And since it is not a free-standing tent, each stake takes on added importance; the loss of one key stake or guy line and the whole tent will capsize in the storm.
Ease of Setup
This is definitely a tent to practice setting up a couple times before heading out. Ultimately, with a little practice, it is relatively easy to set up. But there are a few caveats. One, be sure it is very well staked out before trying to erect the tent. Two, watch your fingers and other body parts for pinching; the design requires that you work with tensioned poles and sliding metal bars. Three, be prepared for a workout, the tent material is heavy and demands some wrangling.
Overall, we think this tent is very well suited to the avid outdoors person who is experienced with camping rope systems and knots, and who has a very clear idea of why he or she is buying this tent, what the benefits are to his or her specific uses, and is confident that those benefits outweigh the costs (or at least the 70 pounds of canvas and metal he or she will be carting around).
This is a very nicely crafted tent: super durable materials mean it will last a very, very long time. It is not, however, a tent to be thought of as an easy or fast-pitch style, like the Coleman Carlsbad Fast Pitch 6 or the Mountain Hardwear Optic 6. This tent is best if its users approach the setup with similar attention to tent craft. Place it well in relation to sun and wind, stake it out solidly and diligently every time, give yourself time for the setup, and don't rush unless you want some pinched fingers.
If we had a category to rate how each tent developed your patience and zen, this would top the charts – and that's not meant as a comedic slight. In our fast-paced, modern lives, we rush around town, speed to work and back, gloss over life's finer and subtler details, and we stress about getting out of town early enough to beat traffic on our way to our (always too short) relaxing weekend vacation. With this tent, "vacation" arguably starts the moment you pull it out of the trunk. It's heavy, so you have to take your time. It's soft, so it's nice to work with. The setup requires that you think and plan, so slow down a little. If you're rushed, stressed, and short on time, this is probably not the tent for you. But if you build in a little time for the simpler things – like erecting your own shelter – we imagine you'll find some much needed refreshment.
Whoa, this thing's a beast. Almost 70 pounds of tent. The packed size (and weight!) would make a through-hiker on the Pacific Crest Trail cringe. Fortunately, the separate pole and tent carrying cases balance each other relatively well, so you can carry one in each hand and hoof it to your tent spot. But this is a camping tent, not a backpacking tent. Be sure you have a decent sized trunk, and don't plan to camp far from where you park.
Are you taking a surf vacation in Baja? Heading to Burning Man? Or are you setting up a low elevation basecamp for a longer stay in the woods? If these match your uses, this will be a great tent for you. This is a tent that demands a slower pace, careful tent-craft, and an appreciation for details. If you're going outside to hang out, slow down, and stay a while, you'll love this tent.
The Kodiak 10 X 10 foot tent is on the pricier end of tents in this review, but it will last for a very long time. The canvas and vinyl and sturdy steel poles are likely to shelter your friends or family for many years to come. If this tent is what you're looking for, it'll be a good long-term purchase. However, it is not the most versatile tent for the price, and won't be best in rainy or windy weather.
The 6-Person Flex-Bow tent is a classy, well-built tent that looks like a throwback to another generation of campers. It is extraordinarily heavy, however, which makes it more difficult to wrangle when setting up in anything but perfect weather. And the non-freestanding design require users to stake it ou very diligently, possibly even requiring the use of a rubber mallet to ensure it won't blow over in a storm. If desert car camping is your thing, this might be your ideal tent. If not, consider the pros and cons carefully before forking out the cash for this tent.
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— Lyra Pierotti
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Most recent review: October 1, 2016
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