The Big Agnes Tensleep Station 6 gives the excellent North Face Wawona 6 a run for its money. It doesn't reinvent the wheel, and it's not littered with shiny gadgets. What it does do, is maximize the potential of some otherwise common features. For example, vestibules have become a no-brainer in family camping tents. They provide a protected area to leave your dirty/muddy gear outside the tent. The Tensleep Station 6 has an impressively large and versatile vestibule. You can zip its two sides and the front door flap up individually to create a myriad of possible uses for the area. Want to enjoy the view from the front? Unzip it and roll it open, while still keeping the side walls intact for wind protection. Need a respite from the sun? With an assist from your hiking poles, you can convert your vestibule into a shaded front porch. It's extraordinarily adaptable. We also liked the inclusion of a full front and back door and the simple design of the storage bag. The Tensleep Station 6 will no doubt make your next family camping trip less complicated and more comfortable.
Big Agnes Tensleep Station 6 ReviewPrice: $500 List | $499.95 at REI
Compare prices at 4 resellers Pros: Easy, quick set-up, expansive vestibule, spectacular storage design
Cons: Odd placement of interior pockets, more expensive than many of its contemporaries
Bottom line: One of the best tents on the market, the Tensleep has great features that are done well.
Weight: 17.8 lb
Manufacturer: Big Agnes
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Our Analysis and Test Results
It's all in the name. The Tensleep Station 6 advertises itself as a cozy tent for six. As you'll see on their website, two of those six sleepers are meant to bed down in the vestibule area. In dry weather, with a ground cloth, this option is a great one. In a downpour, it's a little riskier, but the vestibule does have weather protective strips along the bottom edge to help keep water out. The entire group would also lose the vestibule as a storage compartment. Families with smaller children could likely fit six inside without too much forced snuggling.
All that being said, the Tensleep Station 6 offers a number of great features that make your outdoor living easy. The walls are noticeably steeper than your typical dome tent, meaning the interior is more spacious and there's more room for standing and walking around. At 6'3", the head height should be enough for anyone outside of the NBA. Full front and backdoors give you organization, entrance and exit options.
The living area is one large room with no specifically-designed divider, but there are a number of webbing loops around the ceiling of the tent that could easily be used to string up a divider. Of course, you could also use the loops to add a gear loft or two as well. The mesh ceiling is expansive, extending partially down the top sides as well, giving the Tensleep great ventilation and fly-less stargazing.
There are two, long gear pockets that run along the front sides of the tent and two smaller pockets higher up in the front corners. Oddly, there are no pockets or pouches at the back end of the tent, meaning depending on how you orientate yourself (we're fans of keeping our feet by the front door when sleeping) you might find yourself out of reach of any storage.
The vestibule is really one of our favorite parts of this tent. At 69" x 96" (tapering down a bit at the front), the size and space alone are impressive. What puts it over the top though is its plethora of setup options. So how do you vestibule? The Tensleep's vestibule can be rain protection, a wind breaking wall from either direction, a shaded front porch, or a privacy curtain. It's a true Swiss Army Knife of potential. It is worth noting though, that the horizontal veranda option can be tricky to pull off as you'll need to supply your own trekking poles and use guy lines to support and secure them.
While the vestibule doesn't have an independent pole at the front to create a full room-like experience (like The North Face Wawona), it's still much larger than most other tents in this category.
The Tensleep Station 6 holds up in the wind and has some nice features for both rain and wind protection. We found the rain fly to be a little noisy in moderate to strong wind, but the structural integrity of the tent never wavered. The fly does come equipped attached guy lines on all sides, which, if you have something to tightly tie or stake them to, would minimize the wind flapping noise (and pull the fly further away from the tent during a rainstorm). Speaking of rain, Big Agnes has added "storm flaps" to the bottom of the vestibule area, effectively sealing off that last inch or two of open space and hopefully keeping everything and everyone underneath the vestibule drier. They're actually effective being pulled out from the bottom of the fly and staked, as well as tucked under/inside.
It's conceivable that in a serious downpour, water could burrow its way underneath the storm flaps, but for the majority of rainy situations, they should keep the water out. The vestibule also stayed stable in winds, likely a result of angling and staking to the ground. As noted above, the Tensleep Station 6 has a steeper pitch to its walls than the typical dome tent, which also gives rain less of a chance to pool up and soak through. All seams are taped and the fly and floor are both covered in a 1500mm waterproof polyurethane coating. This is a tent that gives you options and integrated features to keep you dry when it gets dark and stormy.
Ease of Setup
Our first attempt at setting up the Tensleep Station 6 took twelve minutes. However, that was completed in a decent wind while wholly disregarding the included instructions. The second and third times it went up in easily less than ten. One person can easily handle the setup. It's a pretty simple three pole (two criss-crossers and one bowing across the front) design which makes putting it up a breeze.
Every pole has a small sleeve across the top of the tent, with easy hook clips everywhere else. We found the hooks to be noticeably easier to deal with than the hooks on The North Face Wawona.
To help you make sure the rain fly goes on facing the right direction every time, the webbing for the pole grommets and the webbing for the fly buckle connections are color coded between front and back.
For a six-person tent, the Tensleep Station 6 packs down to a very manageable size. Roughly the size of a double-wide briefcase. The storage bag is one of the better ones on the market. Have you ever lost the little bag your tent's poles live in? Ever chased the stake bag across a windy campsite? Not with the Tensleep Station you haven't. In a one-piece design, Big Agnes keeps everything together and easy to access.
The bag itself has two large pouches on either side, one for the tent, one for the rain fly. The sewn-in pole bag runs between the two and the zippered stake bag hangs below that. If you're a strict tent folder, you'll have no trouble folding the Tensleep up and sliding it right into either pouch. People who are more stuffer than folder will also find plenty of room to get the tent and fly into the storage bag. You certainly don't need to be a master tent folder to get the job done. When you've got everything in the bag, it all folds together and cinches down with a couple buckles. A handle with just enough length to make it a shoulder bag, if you'd like, finishes things off. The bag is soft and packable, no hard edges or corners, so you should be able to fit it wherever you have space in the car.
In general, Big Agnes makes bomb-proof tents. Quality materials, well-made. The Tensleep Station 6 is no exception. We would expect this tent to give you many years of camping adventures.
All fabric, tent and fly, is ripstop, all seams are sealed. Zippers connect and pull open or closed easily. The lightweight aluminum poles, while somewhat thinner than some of the other large family tents (The North Face Wawona and the Marmot Limestone 6P for example), still have a girth and stoutness to them that should hold up over time. Finally, Big Agnes stands behind all of their products 100%. They'll gladly fix any defect and repair any other issues you may have (they even offer DIY gear repair guides on their website).
Ah, here's the rub. The Tensleep Station 6 is a good bump in price above both The North Face Wawona 6 and the REI Kingdom 6. It's a higher-end tent, so value may be somewhat in the eye of the beholder. If you're enamored with some of the unique features and quality design of the Tensleep, then in the long run, it's probably worth the extra scratch. On the other hand, are there cheaper alternatives out there? Sure. Do any of them offer the same level of craftsmanship and well thought out features that the Tensleep does? Not many. You're going to spend a little more on this tent, but you're going to get a lot more for your money as well. You're also not going to be back looking for a new tent quite as soon either.
This tent is ideal for the frequent, dare we say hardcore, family car camper. It will perform well under most conditions. The only time it might not be completely ideal is in uber-hot weather with little natural sun protection, though even then, the doors and mesh sides should keep the air moving, and until someone makes a tent with built-in air-conditioning, any tent is going to get warm as the mercury rises.
This tent has to be in the conversation for best family tent — your specific taste in features is what would push things one way or the other. It's comparable to The North Face Wawona in size, shape, and features. Most people would be very happy and comfortable in the Tensleep.
OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews
Most recent review: April 3, 2018
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