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Coleman Elite Montana 8-Person Review

No-frills and nearly windowless, this large tent feels more cavernous than cozy
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Price:  $280 List | $230.00 at Amazon
Pros:  Large interior space, battery powered ceiling light, very low price
Cons:  Only one door, few windows, overall quality is not impressive
Manufacturer:   Coleman
By Rick Baraff ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  May 15, 2020
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61
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#13 of 14
  • Space and Comfort - 35% 8
  • Weather Resistance - 25% 6
  • Ease of Set-Up - 20% 4
  • Durability - 15% 5
  • Packed Size - 5% 4

Our Verdict

While a hefty but rather manageable rectangle to toss in your vehicle and haul around camp, the Coleman Elite Montana 8 unfolds into quite a behemoth tent, capable of fitting a couple generations-worth of campers inside. Unfortunately, however, there's only one door, and views of nature are almost non-existent since windows are at a distinct premium. Thus, as a large, singular space for everyone to pile into after dark to really prove the meaning of togetherness, this is your tent. Aside from a fixed-to-the-ceiling light that runs to an actual light switch (!), amenities do not abound — a true, old-fashioned experience in a modern-ish wrapper.

Compare to Similar Products

Our Analysis and Test Results

The largest tent in our review, the Elite Montana 8 is far from elite in our book. However, it does a fair impersonation of the huge state of Montana… if Montana were fully enclosed by walls. There's no question this has a place in the pantheon of budget-friendly, family-style tents. But with almost zero views and only one door for up to eight people, its place might turn out to be in the back-at-home dinner table lore about outings where everyone either had "the best time" or caught "cabin fever" and mutinied.

Performance Comparison


The Superdome-sized Elite Montana 8.
The Superdome-sized Elite Montana 8.

Space and Comfort


The only thing "elite" about the Elite Montana is the size of its cavernous space. It gets the moniker because of a handy, battery-powered, ceiling-mounted LED light that runs to a real light switch by the door. That's it. That's why it's elite — simply to keep it from getting confused with the "normal" Montana 8, which just doesn't come with a light.

Expansive views at least inside the Montana.
Expansive views at least inside the Montana.

Back to the size — at 16' x 7' inside, it's like the Superdome of family tents. The only difference being that while both are capable of large capacities, at least you can see the sky in the Elite Montana. Once inside either (Superdome or Montana 8), you can't see out the sides. And this makes it feel a little claustrophobic while making us question why Coleman couldn't figure out how to put a few windows in the sidewalls. It's not rocket science, just tent science.

You can hold an indoor track meet inside this super long tent.
You can hold an indoor track meet inside this super long tent.

The only windows are on the two far ends and then one on the door. Otherwise, views are simply skyward through the mesh, which makes up almost the entire ceiling. So, while you can fit a number of large air mattresses and/or furniture and/or people inside, it's going to feel like entering and exiting a major sporting event at a stadium where you line up in a huge crowd to squeeze through a tiny security checkpoint.

What makes the Elite Montana "Elite"? Just this cool LED light and switch.
What makes the Elite Montana "Elite"? Just this cool LED light and switch.

Weather Resistance


As with a lot of budget-friendly items that are made for somewhat heavy use, you can either get something that's well made and stands up to abuse or more of a lemon straight out of the box (and yes, Coleman products come in a box). To this end, our testing model of the Elite Montana 8 held up well under various conditions. When staked out properly (again, it's BIG, so this is a chore — there are many, many stake points for security), it can withstand a good deal.

Rearview of the Elite with rainfly on.
Rearview of the Elite with rainfly on.

The few windows it does have are actually angled downward to prevent rain from getting in, and the thick bathtub-style floor is no joke ("bathtub" style means the material wraps up the sides of the tent to create a seamless bottom to keep water from seeping in from below). Coleman uses a hefty polyethylene on many of its tent floors, and they takes abuse well.

The one-and-only door on the Montana 8.
The one-and-only door on the Montana 8.

The rainfly is a tricky thing to wrangle, especially solo, but once up, it provides adequate coverage over the rooftop mesh. But note, you will also have to put a pole in the vestibule and get that staked out as it's part of the fly, and its main job is to provide shelter for going in/out the door. So while more than adequate against most spring through fall elements, the Montana 8 isn't something you will want to take out in anything resembling winter.

The two windows angle downward for increased weather resistance.
The two windows angle downward for increased weather resistance.

Ease of Set-Up


One person can get this set up with enough practice, but hey, you've probably got at least six helpers, so why not make it a full family affair? It will go up in no — uh, much less — time. There aren't many tricks, but it does require some attention to detail to get this up properly and with the least amount of struggle. Unfortunately, things are NOT color-coded, AND it has four black poles that are almost the exact same length and diameter, leading to possible confusion of what goes where.

Wrangling the rainfly while field testing.
Wrangling the rainfly while field testing.

If you put the slightly shorter poles that hold up the two ends into the main section in the middle, you'll literally come up short on getting this thing set. It took a minute or two of OMG's, and yeah, some WTF's, to realize our error. To avoid this, we suggest somehow marking the two distinct sets of poles to help maintain your Happy Camper Experience.

A lot of tension and stuff (poles  bungees  etc.) goes into the "pin and ring" system at the stake points.
A lot of tension and stuff (poles, bungees, etc.) goes into the "pin and ring" system at the stake points.

That said, one point of semi-alarm is that the patented Coleman "pin and ring" system is not only something to master but, in this design, an awful lot depends on it. At several points, there are a number of poles and tensioned items that attach all in one place, making these stress points crowded.

Durability


This is either going to last you a few years or you'll be returning it on Monday. As mentioned, Coleman puts burly materials into their tents (especially the floors), but craftsmanship can be suspect due to their budget-friendly builds. Coleman uses fiberglass poles, and they sound a little creaky sometimes. Fiberglass can't bend nearly as much as aluminum without coming to a full crack/break fail point, so don't go too hard on these.

Bathtub floor and lone vent inside the Elite.
Bathtub floor and lone vent inside the Elite.

Packed Size


For all it's unfurled size and glory, the Elite Montana 8 packs down to a respectable size and fits into a tough rectangular case that manages to have enough room for everything, even if you weren't paying a ton of attention when packing up.

This carry case may not be pretty  but it does the job.
This carry case may not be pretty, but it does the job.

Value


Value is what Coleman does best. Their "style" is to provide squarely middle-of-the-road products like the Elite Montana 8 that offer less amenities for less price. And we're cool with that.

Electric cord power port. One of the few portals to the outside world from Elite Montana-ville.
Electric cord power port. One of the few portals to the outside world from Elite Montana-ville.

Conclusion


Neither truly "elite" or resembling anything to do with Montana, the Elite Montana 8 is a super-sized, budget-oriented, fairly-durable, frill-less, window-deprived, log-cabin-style fortress that can be the basecamp for your whole extended crew. It includes a light and lightswitch which doesn't make up for all its shortcomings but is cool nonetheless.

Front door and light switch inside the Coleman Elite Montana.
Front door and light switch inside the Coleman Elite Montana.

Rick Baraff