Caddis Rapid 6 Review
Cons: Still mainly a fair weather tent, bulky to carry and transport
Our Analysis and Test Results
If a fast set-up and an affordable price tag are music to your ears, this Best Buy winner should be on your radar for camping season.
Space and Comfort
As with almost every tent in this category, it's a bit of a stretch to expect the Rapid 6 to accommodate six full-grown people comfortably. Of course, if you travel with small children, you'll be a lot more okay with the space. A comfortable capacity for this tent is closer to four adults because there's no vestibule to speak of to hold gear, shoes, toys, etc.
That said, at 100 square feet with a peak height of 6'8", the Rapid 6 has a great amount of headroom. The roofline has a gentle slope, so you don't actually lose too much of that height when you meander out towards the walls. However, even though the Rapid is roomy and offers thoughtful features, it can't really compete structurally with the R&D poured into higher-end competitors and thus loses some ground in overall durability.
The roof of this tent is mostly mesh, allowing trapped heat to escape overhead while offering a healthy view of the night sky, at least directly above. There are windows on all sides, including the doors, so you can keep a breeze flowing through no matter what direction the wind is blowing.
The large, Hobbit-style door of the Rapid 6 unzips nearly 360 degrees, and, living up to the tent name, packs quickly into a little mesh pocket rather than forcing you to struggle with hook-and-loop closures). This gives you plenty of room to get that blow-up air mattress, camp chair, and small table into the roomy 10 ft x 10 ft space without snagging anything. You're gonna need these items inside if you want any sun or rain cover because the fly offers next to zero covered space other than for keeping the roof and some of the sides from a bit of rain. There are four smallish storage pockets spread evenly throughout the tent and a detachable, roomy gear loft that is easy to set up with the provided plastic hooks and loops on the ceiling.
If you prefer to travel with the kind of creature comforts that require electricity (or if you just want to run an extension cord to charge cell phones), the Rapid 6 has a Velcro-sealing power port at one corner.
The Rapid 6 is constructed with slightly thicker polyester taffeta than some of its higher-priced brethren, which is quite weather-protective. But on the other hand, the fly seems like it was made for a slightly smaller tent as it's the equivalent of capri pants to the tent's long legs. For some reason, the fly stops short of fully covering the bottom 1/5th of the tent. It's lightweight enough that this decision is one that will remain a mystery until we call up the folks at Caddis to inquire. If you live someplace like the Pacific Northwest where soggy weather is the more the norm), you're smart to go with one of the options that not only has a full-coverage fly but also has poles that form more of a dome-shape to channel wind around.
If you do get caught out in nasty weather, you'll almost certainly survive well enough — though perhaps with a few wet corners on your sleeping bag. We say this because the fly only offers a tiny overhang over the front door, allowing the elements to come a-knocking directly. And in a bit of rain, they did. The tent held fine in some light rain, but anything more will be worrisome. We definitely tested many higher-quality tents that offer far more weather protection than this one.
One thing we did by accident upon setting this tent up for the first time was put the fly on backwards. It seemed logical as one side of the fly has a zipper down the middle, creating what would appear on most other tents as a small "front door" style vestibule. The opposite side of the fly just has a small overhang (and requires a thin pole to help it overhang), which you might figure just helps keep some water off the back window while allowing some views and ventilation. You'd think that you'd have this bit of a vestibule over the front door to offer some protection while getting in and out during inclement weather or as a place to put your dirty shoes and pack before going inside. But, upon further inspection (ahem, reading the instructions!), we found out that this zippered "vestibule" actually goes on the BACK, reportedly so you can look out the window. Odd because you'll have to wander outside in the rain and around the tent to unzip it and prop it open for any views. Mystifying to say the least. If it is indeed raining, you will want it zipped up because the windows are angled a bit up towards the sky, meaning water will get in if you have anything unzipped.
All the above said, the fly on the Rapid is actually more robust than others in the "insta" tent genre, so even though it's on the short side, it does repel water.
On the more weather-resistant side is the bathtub style floor, which is a bit thicker than the walls (and the walls are a bit thicker on the Rapid 6 alraedy than on many others tested). All the seams are taped, which should theoretically keep you dry.
Because of its square shape and because the design incorporates four invertible "knee" joints that allow for the super-rapid deployment, the Caddis Rapid is susceptible to deforming in high winds. While not flimsy, these aluminum joints/poles do lack the rigidity and flexion of a single, straight pole and could, as screws do, potentially come loose after many uses. We put this up in a gusty wind on a bluff, and not only did it fold in on itself, it really tested those joints. To combat this, the Rapid 6 comes with a fistful of stakes and guy-lines on all sides, and we did find a noticeable difference in the rigidity and strength of the tent when roped out properly.
Ease of Set-Up
This is the section you came for if you're interested in the Rapid 6. This is what sells the tent. Rapid is not hyperbole — the tent goes up in under a minute.
If you haven't gathered quite yet, the Rapid 6 has a super simple design. Four unfolding and telescoping poles emanate from a central hub that sits atop the tent. It's basically an umbrella's camping cousin wherein you simply pull the tent out of the bag, invert the joints that will spider out to the four corners, then slide each pole up 'til it clicks into place. In about 45 seconds, you'll be left standing there looking at a fully set up tent and wondering where you set the cooler because you're going to have plenty of time to enjoy a cold beverage while watching your non-instant tent friends struggle for the next 20 minutes.
The whole Rapid 6 can be set up by one person without any particular experience or know-how. Still, an extra set of hands makes it that much quicker (milliseconds count!). Same with the fly as you have to pull it over the high point nearly 7 feet off the ground. The fly attaches with simple buckles and can be tricky to get on the right way at first (see fly story above). What might take you longer than setting up the tent itself is getting the small overhang up above the front door. You actually have to slide a thin extra pole through the sleeve on the fly and into eyelets on the body. An extra 30 seconds, yikes! Dropping the Rapid 6 to fold back up is also quick and easy, however, you'll need to lean on the material to compress the air out so that you can get it back into its case.
Aside from the common constraints of any instant-tent, the Rapid 6 is a solidly built home away from home. The poles are sturdy, the polyester walls and ceiling are thick, and Caddis paid attention to the details that an affordable, simple, family-style insta-tent could offer. If this thing fails, it will most likely be with the joints, though the stakes will bend if you aren't super careful about pushing them in straight (just using the foot press method we bent a few).
We mentioned that the floor (clearly the place most likely to take a beating) is made with a thicker polyester than the rest of the tent. The Rapid 6 also comes with floor repair tape just in case you miss a rock underneath the tent during set up and have to patch a hole. The extension locks on the main poles are smooth and easy to operate. All in all, we are impressed with the craftsmanship and durability of this tent.
Petite is not a word we would use to describe the Rapid 6. The storage bag, a long rectangular affair, is not small. Then again, you're family camping, likely within a bowling-ball-toss of your car. It's not like you're hiking the Pacific Crest Trail with this thing on your back. The weight is actually quite moderate, slotting in not far behind many in this review with much bulkier flies and much lighter poles.
While you will have a tiny bit of work to compress the air out when packing up, the slightly larger bag doesn't require you to be an alligator wrestler or circus carney. We didn't have to pull the sides of the zipper, strain, huff, and puff to get it all back in its home.
The storage bag also has a small zippered pocket on the bottom to keep the small fly pole and all the stakes. Another nice touch that helps keep you from losing critical pieces while separating them from the tent fabric so there are no accidental tears or rips during storage and transport.
For what it is, the Rapid 6 is a great value. If you're looking for a four-season tent, or want more of a base camp experience, this isn't the tent for you. If you just like being outside somewhere beautiful, enjoying the outdoors with friends and family and you don't want to break the bank to do so, this is your tent. Especially for all of us who are racing to catch the sunset as is often the case when our well-intentioned Friday afternoon "wheels up" time from home goes by the wayside.
Not only does this tent come in at less than half the price of some other tents we've reviewed, but it also sets up and breaks down in way less than half the time. Thus, you're left with more money in your pocket and more time to enjoy your trip. No wonder this wins a Best Buy Award.
This Best Buy for Fast Set-Up is the instant tent you've been looking for. If you want a quick, hassle-free experience, look no further. If you've ever felt exhausted while setting up a tent, or even reached the point of shouting at it because the stupid pole won't go in the stupid hole, here's your cure. And you don't even have to empty your wallet to do it.
— Rick Baraff
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