Coleman Carlsbad Fast Pitch 6 Review
Our Analysis and Test Results
This award-winning contender is a tent that lives up to its marketing claims. It is fast and relatively easy to pitch, and the darkroom feature lets you sleep in, and keeps you cooler in the heat.
This is not the biggest or the tallest tent, but Goldilocks would say it is probably just right for most campers. Someone who stands about 5 1/2 feet tall can comfortably walk inside. It is not as spacious as the Nemo Wagontop 6 or the REI Kingdom 6, our two most livable tents, but it is pretty darn close. If you expect good weather, such that you won't be tent-bound for most of the day, this tent will keep you quite happy. The "front porch" increases the usable space, and provides a bug-proof lounging area. It also provides more sleeping space for pleasant evenings.
That said, sleeping six without using this extra "front porch" would be pretty tight If they're all adults. Milder temperatures, sleeping on the front porch gives the effect of sleeping out under the stars — but keeps biting insects from ruining your peaceful slumber.
Coleman pitches its Carlsbad Fast Pitch tent as your answer to the greenhouse effect of tents in the sun: this tent, they say, will stay cooler than other tents in the sun. And our testers found this to be impeccably true. One tester was even startled, late one July morning in the sunny Napa Valley, to realize she was the last one to wake up in the morning among a group of friends camping out for a wedding.
The Carlsbad, which shares its name with a beach town in Southern California, is clearly designed for mellower climates, with the focus on sun protection and ventilation. It surprised us, however, with how well the partial fly design protected it from rain. The over-the-top pole pushes the fly out over the windows, creating an awning that shields it from rain, and the entryway, while not a proper vestibule, provided some shelter from the storm while entering the tent.
Ease of Setup
One tester put this tent up for the first time in a mere 12 minutes — in the dark (well, with smartphone flashlights, of course). This dome-style tent was one of the easiest to set up, similar to the Mountain Hardwear Optic 6. The pole "hubs" connect the two main poles, so they are pre-set in an X and very easy to set up solo.
The "front porch" and the pole that provides its cover do require you to stake out the front corners. That's not necessarily a negative thing, but if you're camping on sand you may want to have at least a couple of those fabric snow/sand anchors for the front corners (we advise them for most situations camping on sand).
The Carlsbad is certainly no Kodiak Canvas 6-Person Flex-Bow in the ruggedness and durability department, but the design is very user-friendly with several details that will help it withstand the wear of active users.
Several thoughtful design features include awnings over the windows for sun and rain protection, a mesh "gutter" to expel unwanted rain and sand from the entryway, a partial fly crafted for maximum coverage while still allowing for excellent ventilation, and materials that genuinely block out more of the sun's light and warmth.
The tent poles are not our favorite style, with the sleeve connecting the segments external to the poles (see images). This is not as smooth to handle when you're setting up the tent, but since there are no sleeves to pass the poles through, it's not a big problem, just a detail.
For all of the tent's positive attributes, the carrying/storage bag leaves much to be desired. The Carlsbad is sold in a nice, tightly rolled package — a shape and size you will never be able to return it to, no matter your level of tent-folding mastery. Coleman has devised a clever way to make the tent look small on the shelf and still make it easy to cram the tent back in it once you've used it: you just rip the stitching on the bag so that it expands, making the bag bigger! This was a very cheesy and disappointing feature which, as your first introduction to the tent, does not inspire confidence in the quality of the tent. The carrying strap stitching is already ripping apart, and we're pretty sure that part is not supposed to have a special ripping feature.
Fortunately, the tent is of much higher quality than the bag might imply. But we still don't like how bulgy and awkward the bag is, or that it looks like it is ripping apart.
This tent packs down relatively small for a car camping tent, and is on the lighter side of the tents in this review. It is not as small as some, but it is nice to have the extra space and features of the tent, so that's a good tradeoff in this category.
The Carlsbad Fast Pitch 6 is very affordable for tents in this category. This tent is a great buy for your warm weather camping needs.
The Carlsbad Fast Pitch 6 tent is our Best Buy Award winner. It is very affordable without compromising much in terms of durability, design features, and ease of use. It is not your best choice for cooler weather, but it is one of the best for warm weather and sunny destinations. This is a fun family tent with space to sleep and a "patio" for hanging out out of the sun, with mesh to keep bugs out.
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