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Hands-on Gear Review

Kodiak Canvas 6-Person Flex-Bow Review

Family Tents
Price:   $570 List | $569.99 at Amazon
Pros:  Durable, tall, bombproof floor.
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.
Editors' Rating:     
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Manufacturer:   Kodiak Canvas

Our Verdict

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 REVIEW: The Best Camping Tents for Groups and Families


Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results

Review by:
Lyra Pierotti
Review Editor
OutdoorGearLab

Last Updated:
Saturday
October 1, 2016

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Performance Comparison


Kodiak Canvas 6-Person Flex-Bow
Kodiak Canvas 6-Person Flex-Bow

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

Comfort


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).

The Kodiak Canvas 6-Person Flex-Bow has generous flaps around the door's zippers  sealing it very well against blowing dust and sand.
The Kodiak Canvas 6-Person Flex-Bow has generous flaps around the door's zippers, sealing it very well against blowing dust and sand.

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.

When imperfectly staked out  the non-freestanding Kodiak Canvas 6-Person Flex-Bow is very likely to blow over in the wind. Be sure to drive stakes deep into the soil (and camp in a campsite where you can).
When imperfectly staked out, the non-freestanding Kodiak Canvas 6-Person Flex-Bow is very likely to blow over in the wind. Be sure to drive stakes deep into the soil (and camp in a campsite where you can).

Weather Resistance


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.

The awning on the Kodiak Canvas 6-Person Flex-Bow must be carefully angled and tensioned to ensure it doesn't catch any wind and blow over.
The awning on the Kodiak Canvas 6-Person Flex-Bow must be carefully angled and tensioned to ensure it doesn't catch any wind and blow over.

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.

Sliding the steel shaft over the tensioning joint at the top of the Kodiak tent : watch your fingers!
Sliding the steel shaft over the tensioning joint at the top of the Kodiak tent : watch your fingers!
The vertical poles nest into the top T-shaped poles and steel spring rods on the Kodiak Canvas 6-Person Flex-Bow.
The vertical poles nest into the top T-shaped poles and steel spring rods on the Kodiak Canvas 6-Person Flex-Bow.

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).

The instructions say to use a hammer  rope  or stake puller to pull stakes up... Wouldn't it make sense to also advise the use of a hammer/mallet for the installation? We found a rubber mallet to be an important tool for driving the tent stakes in prior to erecting this non-free-standing tent.
The instructions say to use a hammer, rope, or stake puller to pull stakes up... Wouldn't it make sense to also advise the use of a hammer/mallet for the installation? We found a rubber mallet to be an important tool for driving the tent stakes in prior to erecting this non-free-standing tent.

Workmanship


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.

Packed Size


Camping tents all packed up for side-by-side comparison. The Optic 6 is dead center.
Camping tents all packed up for side-by-side comparison. The Optic 6 is dead center.

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.

Best Applications


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.

Value


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.

Conclusion


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.

Other Versions & Accessories



Kodiak Canvas 4-Person Flex Bow
The 4-Person Flex-Bow
  • 4 person version
  • $549 ($20 less)
  • 6'1" Interior Height (5" less)
  • 58 lbs. (10 lbs. less)
  • same construction and durable fabric

kodiak canvas short bed truck tent
The Short Truck Bed Tent or Long Truck Bed Tent
  • 5' Interior height from bed to ceiling
  • Allows for tailgate to be down, increasing interior space
  • 5 mesh windows
  • Easy Set up and tear down
  • 30 lbs
  • $349.99
  • Same burly Hydra-Shield Canvas
Lyra Pierotti

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OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews


Most recent review: June 3, 2017
Summary of All Ratings

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:   
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  • 5
 (3.0)
Average Customer Rating:   
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 (5.0)

100% of 3 reviewers recommend it
Rating Distribution
4 Total Ratings
5 star: 75%  (3)
4 star: 0%  (0)
3 star: 25%  (1)
2 star: 0%  (0)
1 star: 0%  (0)
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   Jun 3, 2017 - 07:07am
Blackkat · Camper · titusville, fl
First and foremost this is a Base Camp Tent.
While camping on Lewisville Lake in North Dallas TX; we were caught in a Super Cell Storm. The wind was clocked at just over 70 MPH. The storm put down over two inches of rain in less than hour.
With the thunder exploding, the wind howling, and sheets of rain pounding on the canvas; the tent shook and bent but it weathered the storm. It stayed dry and did not blow over.
Maybe it was because I used all 16 of the heavy duty stakes supplied and did not zip open the back door.(I did zip open a window to take a peak though.)
There were other instances of inclement weather while camping, including the shores of Lake Michigan and the Mountains of Western North Carolina. Because we have real life experiences while camping under extreme conditions; we can recommend this tent and consider it an excellent buy.
While reading the review I wondered are we even talking about the same tent. I own the Kodiak Canvas 10 X 10 Super Deluxe.

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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   Apr 6, 2017 - 12:21pm
publius · Camper · The homeland inc
The review repeatedly mentions the necessity of correctly staking the tent. For those experienced with camping this will be obvious and for those just getting acquainted with camping it is easy to figure out. This is a tent for those who don't mind a bit of weight (half of which is in poles so you don't really wrestle all 68 pounds) or comfort in the sticks.

For folks who tend to lug along a cot and such it is a great deal, for minimalists not so much. After decades of outdoors adventuring my impressions are:

Good - Ease of setting up; easiest and quickest canvas tent to set up in my experience. Solid when set up correctly. Good ventilation in warmer weather. Sturdy in all kinds of weather; used in all seasons and all weather conditions. Headroom and ease of entering. requires minimal maintenance when correctly erected (only two tie outs, lines etc). Heavy duty floor that keeps critters outside. Packs up very easily - easier than any other canvas tent I have used.

Could be better: No stove flap; a buddy heater will knock the chill off quickly and on low setting will heat the tent easily but no wood stove in this one. No fly available; UV effect is always a problem for any tent and a consideration for prolonged exposure with canvas. A simple tarp (albeit a large one) takes care of the problem but something fitted for the tent would be useful.

General: Like any canvas tent it must be dry before storage or mildew will eat your investment. I do not recommend cooking, eating or storing food in any tent where one also sleeps. Seasoning the tent per instructions is easily accomplished and gives some practice with set up. Use with an entry mat and carpet inside keeps dirt down to manageable levels - this is not a tent to pick up and shake out. Easily accommodates a cot or several, chair etc. I use a ground tarp to make it easier to clean prior to packing which is again, very easy.

Conclusion: A well made (China) canvas tent for those who tend to spend extended time in the sticks and appreciate old school camp set ups. Maybe not the best choice for moving camp every day but for 3 days or 3 weeks in one place a good choice. Easily set up, solid and weatherproof. Not a true four season tent but reasonably close. A good deal that will last with no more than usual proper care for a canvas tent.

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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   Apr 5, 2017 - 02:17pm
I don't know where this latest outdoorgearlab review came from, it's the opposite of the last review they did of this tent. In fact, I bought this tent due it being identified as an editor's choice. Given that I now own and have used it, I can say with certainty it aligns with the previous gearlab review.

It is bombproof. Not only does it stand up to high winds with ease, but does it quietly. And OF COURSE you stake it out - who on earth would only stake the four corners of this type of tent? Handles rain just fine. Plus, far less complicated than other tents. Aside from having to drive more stakes (which, btw, are incredible stout), this is a very simple tent to pitch. Less than five minutes by myself. The quality of workmanship is second to none. That is why it is heavy because in addition to the duck canvas, everything from zippers to floor to stakes to poles are heavy duty. I backpack a ton and am weight conscious, but when car camping? Who cares how heavy the tent is unless you're driving a tiny car. Plus, it is enormous. Can stand upright and walk all around inside this tent. Lots of gear organizers included.

Read Outdoorgearlab's prior review of this tent - much more accurate.

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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