The Coleman 6-Person Dark Room Sundome would be just another value-oriented tent in a very crowded market if it weren't for those two words in the middle of its name. Coleman's Dark Room technology, while not perfect, is a big improvement over any other tent in this category. If you prefer late nights and late mornings, Coleman has your tent. If the rising sun and its sweltering rays have ever roused you from a sound slumber an hour or two before you would have preferred to get up, you should give the Dark Room Sundome a shot. If you're a frequent festival-goer and like those late-night shows, this tent should have your attention.
Coleman Dark Room Sundome 6 Review
Cons: Not as bombproof as higher-end tents, angled walls, pretty basic.
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Our Analysis and Test Results
At 100 square feet, the Coleman 6-Person Dark Room Sundome can compete with any tent we reviewed when it comes to floor space. However, angled walls do eat up some of that roominess you find in more high-end, vertical-walled tents. Coleman lists the Dark Room Sundome as a six-person tent. We were comfortable with three, could have squeezed one more in without too much struggle, and any more than that would have resulted in some serious compromise to everyone's personal space. Could you fit six? Sure. Would you want to? Not likely. A mom, dad, and two or three kids would be comfortable in the Dark Room Sundome. It also comes in a four-person version for smaller groups/families. The peak height of 6' should also be sufficient for most campers. You may have to duck slightly on the sides of the tent, but it shouldn't really inhibit your movement.
Pockets are minimal. Small and compact, there are only four (one on each side) on the interior. If you like to take advantage of storage opportunities on the inside walls of your tent, you're going to be disappointed.
Let's get to the big draw, though. The Dark Room Sundome is made of a thick polyester that does an admirable job of blocking light.
Coleman claims it blocks 90% of light. We're not exactly sure how that's measured since different conditions (direct sun, shaded light, etc.) would seem to affect the outcome and/or measurement, but it does block a good deal of light. We wanted a pure test, a true battle, tent versus sun, so we purposefully picked a campsite with no trees to block the light. At 9:30-ish the next morning we could still have rolled over for a little more shut-eye.
The other big draw of Coleman's Dark Room technology is that, in addition to blocking light, it also cuts down on temperature. We did find that the tent was cooler than other tents in similar circumstances, but would hesitate to get too carried away with this aspect of things. Sure, the technology kept the temperatures down somewhat — keyword somewhat. In direct sun, there's really only so much you can do. What it did cut down on, that we loved, is that direct sunbeam to the face or sleeping bag that tends to feel like someone in the sky is focusing a giant magnifying glass on your otherwise restful body.
Beyond the size and the Dark Room aspect, there really isn't much more praise to be sung about the Coleman Dark Room Sundome. There's a small inlet in one corner to run cords and such to fuel all of your electronic needs, but no vestibule (there is a small overhang on the door ends of the rainfly, giving you a foot or so of shade depending on where the sun is in the sky), and no features you're going to be bragging to your friends about. That's not necessarily a dig at the tent. What it does have is perfectly adequate, it just isn't going to wow you much beyond its ability to block light.
For a budget-friendly tent, the Coleman Dark Room Sundome's rainfly does a decent job. In a light or passing rainstorm, we're confident you'll be dry. If you're looking at a full day of rain or the kind of storm where people start building arks, we'd be a little apprehensive. The fly does come down roughly 2/3 of the way down the sides of the main tent, and when staked out, should provide enough gap between fly and tent to shed water effectively. All seams are taped to prevent any leakage at stitch points. The aforementioned overhangs above each door will keep the majority of rain out of the front and back of the tent, however, should that rain come down anything much beyond vertical it's likely to blow right past any overhang and soak the front or back of the tent. The lower sides and the entire front and back of the tent are made with a polyester that may actually be thicker than the fly itself, but we're always leery when a tentmaker tells us to rely on the main tent for weather protection.
Ease of Setup
It doesn't get much easier than the Coleman Dark Room Sundome when it comes to setup and tear down. The design is the tried and true two-pole, crisscross, dome tent. Each pole has to navigate a small sleeve at the top of the tent, slowing the setup, but only slightly. The rest of the tent pulls out and connects to the poles with hooks. The fly has one more pole that runs front to back and then clips to the corners. While it's not an instant/easy-up tent, it's not far behind. Without reading the instructions or limbering up ahead of time, we had the Dark Room up in under five minutes.
When it comes to family tents, packed size is relative. No one is sizing up the Coleman Dark Room Sundome for a thru-hike on the PCT. The main things we look for are the weight, the bulkiness, the ease or awkwardness of carrying it, and the level of difficulty in getting it back into the bag. Like most other categories we've covered here, the Dark Room isn't going to set the camping world ablaze with its storage bag. For a six-person tent, it actually packs down pretty well. Just a long rectangular bag with a couple straps, nothing fancy. We did have to fold and roll everything together to get it back in the bag, but it certainly didn't require a lot of straining, pulling, and stuffing to get it done. Furthermore, the bag has a tear-away flap on the bottom of the bag that serves to expand the overall size of the bag. Like the holes in your belt after a marathon session at the buffet, if you're having a hard time getting everything back together, just pull the strap and voila! You have a little extra room.
We keep harping on this, but it bears repeating. This is a value tent. If it were a top of the line tent, if the price were double or triple what it is, we might be a bit harsher in our critique, but for the price, the quality of the Coleman Dark Room Sundome is good. As an avid camper, will this be the last tent you ever buy? No way. However, as long as you don't punish it too much, store it properly, and maintain even a modicum of cleaning and upkeep, you should have many a dark and restful night's sleep in the Dark Room. All the seams are taped. The polyester floor and sides are thick enough to instill confidence. The poles, while not completely bombproof, are certainly thick enough to stand up to reasonable abuse by both humans and the elements.
Aside from the draw of the dark room technology, this is where the Dark Room Sundome is going to make some friends. It's certainly one of the best value tents we've reviewed and for those looking to spend a little more money on the things that go with camping (personally we recommend beer), it's a great choice. It doesn't have the features and the long-view durability of higher-end models, but it also doesn't have that higher-end price. For occasional campers or those who always go to the same, sunny, weather-friendly location every year, the Coleman Dark Room Sundome as a great value.
The Coleman 6-Person Dark Room Sundome is your basic dome tent, with one very unique, specific, and effective feature, at a wholly reasonable price.
— Wes Berkshire