Eureka Boondocker Hotel 6 Review
Cons: Potential for water pooling over the gear garage, odd back window in rain fly leaves a gap in the rain protection.
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Boondocker Hotel 6 has a nice balance of features you've come to expect (spacious, near-vertical walls, double doors), with a truly one-of-a-kind, head-turning vestibule. To start with, things like large doors and tons of space aren't new ideas, they're just good ones, and Eureka makes sure to give them their rightful place in the Boondocker Hotel. At 82 sq. feet, the interior is a little smaller than some of our top family tents (The North Face Wawona is 86), but when the side of the tent opens up into the "gear garage", it's like having a whole other room.
The gear garage is huge. If the Boondocker is truly a hotel, the gear garage turns your standard queen room into a two-room suite. It certainly adds to the overall comfort of the Boondocker. While the gear garage doesn't have the height to stand up in (roughly 54"), it does have enough room to set up a chair or two, keep the cooler within arm's reach, even set up a small table for a card game. Of course, you could also stay true to its given name and store your gear there as well.
The Boondocker has a full mesh ceiling and a fair bit of mesh on the walls as well, meaning it will give you plenty of airflow to keep the temperature cool, or just to allow a nice breeze into your camping experience.
The drawback is that you have to remove the rain fly to expose the mesh, which doesn't seem like a massive problem until you realize that the rain fly is also the structure of your gear garage. No rain fly, no gear garage. Adding to this conundrum is the fact that the size of the rain fly has been officially termed "enormous." NASA may very well be able to see this rain fly from space. Taking that rain fly off and putting it back on again (don't forget about the staking and guy-lining of the gear garage) is not a quick task.
The Boondocker's gear garage offers a truly ideal place to ride out any significant weather. As mentioned earlier, it's not tall enough to stand up in unless you're under the age of eight, but you could easily get a few chairs and a small table in it and comfortably out of the rain.
We did notice that, because of its size and independent pole, the roof of the gear garage, essentially an extension of the rainfly, has the potential to collect and pool water. Put simply — it doesn't seem to deflect all water directly off of the tent, which could be a problem in heavier, more consistent rain. We pulled the guy lines and stakes as tight as we could get them but still found the fabric/rain fly over the gear garage to be susceptible to pooling water.
With one exception, the rest of the tent seems well-protected with its enormous rain fly. That exception is the inclusion of a window along the back wall of the fly.
Eureka's intention was to allow you to open a vent or window on the fly when it's not raining. Fair enough. The problem is that to close the vent/window you have to reach up through a zip in the back of the tent and then hook the two top corners back into place, leaving a noticeable gap for rain to come right in.
We didn't feel entirely comfortable seeing an open gap where water could get in, and while most of the rain will simply run down the side and exit below the window, "most" is not "all", and when it rains, we'd prefer to keep "all" of the precipitation out.
Ease of Setup
As mentioned earlier, the Boondocker isn't going to set any speed records. It's just not a simple or intuitive design. That's not to say it's difficult to set up, just that you should plan on spending a solid twenty minutes. The Taj Mahal wasn't thrown up in five minutes, and if you appreciate the impressive overall size of the Boondocker Hotel you're not going to mind the setup time.
Two crisscrossed poles stretch the length of the roof. The difference with the Boondocker is that they only go the length of the roof, whereas many other tents (the Wawona and the Limestone for example) take these same poles all the way to the ground. Interspersed with the first two poles is a six-pronged hub that sits in the middle of the roof and sends four poles out to the corners of the tent, and another two, shorter, tensioning poles.
It's not difficult to figure out, but it's undoubtedly a more intensive project than many other tents. Because it has to account for the large gear garage in addition to the tent itself, the rain fly is massive. It's a difficult task for one person. With two, it's pretty easy.
Furthermore, the outside wall of the gear garage has an independent pole that requires guy lines and staking to stay upright. Again, it's not difficult, just time-consuming.
The Eureka Boondocker Hotel 6 has a simple, but easy-to-manage storage bag. It's essentially a two-compartment duffle bag with a shoulder strap. The tent goes in one side. The fly goes in the other.
What you'll love is that for such a big tent, there's enough room that you don't need to be super precise in folding and rolling up the tent. You can stuff it in like a sleeping bag into an oversized stuff sack. The Boondocker has traditional loose bags for the poles and stakes that then can be fitted into size-appropriate pouches with small velcro patches.
On the whole, we found the workmanship on the Boondocker to be outstanding. The poles are sturdy, as are their hubs (six-pronged in the middle and two two-pronged on the sides). The stitching is consistent, and the fabric and mesh that make up the body of the tent are comparable to any other family tent.
The corner gear pockets did leave something to be desired. In addition to being on the dainty side, they're stitched across the bottom and then up the corner side. That's it. Nothing on the other side, so anything you put in them is likely to fall out with even the slightest of movement in the tent walls.
The value in the Eureka Boondocker lies in what you intend to use it for. If you're a quick overnight camper, or even just an occasional weekender, this might not provide you as much value as someone who plans a full week at the lake and needs to store bikes, chairs, coolers, kid's toys, or just about anything else during their trip. The extended set-up and take-down time might be a bit cumbersome for just one or two nights. However, if you've got an extended trip planned, or if you struggle to pack lightly, this is your tent.
The Boondocker does come with a couple of extra add-ons you don't get with most tents. A footprint is included, that's an added $70-100 value.
Eureka also gives you a "Gear Caddy," a hanging set of pockets you can store your smaller gear (like headlamps, phones, sunglasses, etc.) in, though we struggled to find an adequate place to hang the "Gear Caddy."
This is a good tent for a laidback base camp. It works well for most situations and a great for a few, namely any gear heavy adventures.
— Wes Berkshire