REI Co-op Passage 3 Review
Cons: Heavy, few storage pockets
Manufacturer: REI Co-op
Our Analysis and Test Results
This three-person tent is special because of how simple it is. The included footprint increases its durability, and its soaring peak height provides enough space in the middle for tall campers to sit up in comfort.
In terms of comfort, the peak height is what this tent is all about. It maxes out at a generous 48". Though the ceiling does start to drop off the further away you are from the center; it is still high enough on the sides for all three people to sit up at the same time without the two by the doors bumping up against the mesh too much. We are a little surprised that this tent isn't longer. It's 88" in this dimension are certainly sufficient, but we wouldn't mind a couple of extra inches for our toes. In terms of width, its 72" also provides plenty of space for three 20" sleeping pads, plus some room for gear that you might want to keep close at hand.
In terms of storage, we think the two side pockets are sufficient for the door sleepers, but the person in the middle gets the short end of the stick. This tent doesn't seem concerned with overall weight, so we think it would be valuable to include another pocket at one end so that there are at least three total.
The Passage 3 offers a nice combination of privacy and scenery. The side panel fabric comes up high enough that it obscures anyone lying down inside, but the mesh canopy also allows for relatively unobstructed star gazing if you can get away with having the fly off. The two side doors are large and easy to open, close, enter through, and exit from. They are facing in opposite directions so that door-side sleepers can be head to toe from each other (though this means that at least one person is going to be aligned with the middle sleeper, so we are quite sure about the wisdom of the design).
At least part of the weather resistance value of this tent is derived from its wide and sturdy base. Though the pole structure isn't necessarily the most rigid, we didn't experience any issues with integrity. The fly vestibules are quite large, and the fly fabric is heavy, making it somewhat challenging to keep them taut in inclement weather; however, again, it did the trick just fine. Four guy points come with pre-attached cord and tension adjusters for additional support and stability in awful weather.
There are two vents on the fly as well. They come with a kickstand to keep them propped open and can be closed easily if you need the extra rain protection (though they also do a great job of keeping out the rain in most situations when they are open). The fly door zipper is not itself waterproof but has a flap of fabric over it to prevent water from dripping through. We learned that vestibules are large enough to fit three packs and boots, so gear stays protected.
Ease of Set-Up
This tent is about as easy to set up as they come. The included footprint is already attached to the bottom of the tent. Spreading it out and staking the corners is simple with the large webbing loops provided, and the X-pole structure is a classic. Each pole end connects to a grommet at the corner of the tent. A handful of clips attach the tent to the poles, with a large plastic hook supporting the canopy at peak height. The tent and fly are symmetrical, so as long as the tent doors are lined up with the fly doors, the two will attach correctly.
The fly leverages buckles to connect to each corner of the tent and requires one stake per vestibule to achieve full volume; the dance between the right fly tension at the corners and the right tension at the vestibule is the trickiest part of this setup.
The tent and fly of the Passage 3 are built to last. The polyester fabric is thick and resists abrasion and punctures from errant branches. This is one of the small handful of models that also includes a footprint, which will undoubtedly increase the longevity of the floor. As with any polyurethane coated polyester, it is important to reduce the fabric's exposure to UV rays to protect the waterproofing (which breaks down and flakes off in the sun).
The poles include a field repair splint if one of them befalls an untimely fate while on trail. As with most tents at this price point, the included stakes are underwhelming. They are of the type that will sink nicely into the soft earth, but if they meet the resistance of a root or rock midway down, they will almost certainly bend.
Weight and Packed Size
Coming in at six pounds, nine ounces, this tent is best suited for trips that don't require actually carrying it on your back. Though three people carrying it can divide the weight somewhat evenly, we would still much prefer to take it paddling, cycling, or car camping over backpacking. We suppose it is technically possible to pitch it with just the footprint and fly, but it's clear that it is not designed for that, so you would risk tearing the loops on the footprint that typically connect it to the tent body.
Similarly, it takes up a huge amount of space in a bag. The plastic clips, buckles, and hooks take up some space for sure, but the primary issue is just the tent and fly fabric itself. It is thick, which bodes well for durability but makes it challenging to pack down efficiently. Even though it is bulky, it still fits easily into the stuff sack, whether rolled for long-term storage or just stuffed in a hurry.
There is awesome value with this tent. It is reasonably priced, and its durable construction ensures that it will serve you well weekend after weekend. If you have a small family or just want some room to spread out on summer car camping trips, this model will serve you well.
The REI Passage 3 is a big tent at a budget price. It earns a Top Pick award for best three-person tent. Though it is heavy, if you are a regular car camper who likes to spend the weekend with a human or canine partner (or both!), this tent is an excellent choice.
— Ben Applebaum-Bauch
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