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Kodiak Canvas 6-Person Flex-Bow Review

A durable, long-lasting, aesthetically pleasing tent that is very heavy, a little pricey, and may not be the best in windy or rainy weather.
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Price:  $570 List | $549.99 at Amazon
Pros:  Durable, tall, bombproof floor.
Cons:  Heavy, no separate rainfly, not free standing, strong and long-lasting plastic smell from floor.
Manufacturer:   Kodiak Canvas
By Lyra Pierotti ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Oct 1, 2016
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64
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#14 of 14
  • Comfort - 40% 7
  • Weather Resistance - 25% 7
  • Ease of Set Up - 15% 5
  • Workmanship - 15% 6
  • Packed Size - 5% 4

Our Verdict

The Kodiak Canvas 6-Person Flex-Bow is a camping trip down memory lane. The rugged canvas reminds us of a bygone era of camping adventures. But in some ways, this is perhaps a good thing. This tent weighs almost 70 pounds, which can make setup and transport a little more challenging. It is an all-season tent, but not designed for use in a mountain environment, which is what we typically think of when we consider four-season tents. This is a fun and homey tent, however, so if the cons don't add up for you, it might be a fun camping tent to accompany you and your next generation of campers for years to come.


Compare to Similar Products

 
Awards  Editors' Choice Award Top Pick Award Top Pick Award  
Price $549.99 at Amazon$469.00 at REI$329.00 at REI$499.95 at Backcountry
Compare at 2 sellers
$220.35 at Amazon
Compare at 3 sellers
Overall Score Sort Icon
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Pros Durable, tall, bombproof floor.Tall and long, barn-shaped, versatile front vestibule, adjustable room divider.Roomy feel with vertical walls, tons of storage space, good fly and vestibule.Easy, quick set-up, expansive vestibule, spectacular storage designRoomy, large vestibule, simple, classic design.
Cons Heavy, no separate rainfly, not free standing, strong and long-lasting plastic smell from floor.Only one vestibule, back door is more exposed to the elements, more poles than most.Not the cheapest four-man tent out there, extremity poles are a little thin.Odd placement of interior pockets, more expensive than many of its contemporariesNot overly innovative, could use more storage.
Bottom Line A durable, long-lasting, aesthetically pleasing tent that is very heavy, a little pricey, and may not be the best in windy or rainy weather.A top-notch tent with tons of room and tons of versatility.REI has taken the dome tent to a new level.One of the best tents on the market, the Tensleep has great features that are done well.The Marmot Limestone 4P is great at keeping it simple. A high-quality tent, with a design that will be familiar to experienced campers.
Rating Categories 6-Person Flex-Bow REI Kingdom 6 REI Co-op Half Dome 4 Plus Big Agnes Tensleep Station 6 Marmot Limestone 4
Comfort (40%)
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7
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9
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8
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8
Weather Resistance (25%)
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8
Ease Of Set Up (15%)
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8
Workmanship (15%)
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Packed Size (5%)
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7
Specs 6-Person Flex-Bow REI Kingdom 6 REI Co-op Half... Big Agnes Tensleep... Marmot Limestone 4
Weight 68 lbs 19.6 lbs 7.8 lbs 17.8 lbs 10.6 lbs
Max Inside Height 6 ft 6 in 6 ft 3 in 4 ft 75 in 8 ft 4 in
Floor Dimension 10' x 10' 10' x 8'4" 7' 8" x 7' 8" 10' x 9'5" 5' 3" x 7'
Floor Area 100 sq ft 83.3 sq ft 58.7 sq ft 90 sq ft 59.7 sq ft
Seasons All-season 3-season 3-season 3-season 3-season
Windows 4 1 0 2 1
Pockets Many (with organizer) 22 16 4 8
Number of Doors 2 2 2 2 2
Room Divider No Yes No No No
Vestibules 0 1 2 2 2
Vestibule Area 6 ft X 6 ft 6 in awning 29 sq ft 22.5 sq ft 38.5 sq. feet (front) 10 sq. feet (back) 21 sq ft
Packed Size Tent: 30 in X 13 in diameter; Poles: 50 in X 5.5 in diameter 9.5 in x 16.5 in x 25.5 in 7 x 24 in 5 x 15 x 27 in 27.5 x 10in
Floor Materials 16 oz vinyl. Polyester reinforced, seamless Coated polyester oxford 70D Nylon taffeta WP Polyester 150D Polyester
Main Tent Materials 8.5 oz Hydra-ShieldTM canvas Nylon/mesh 40D Nylon ripsto/mesh Breathable polyester & polyester mesh 40D Polyester/mesh
Rainfly Materials 10 oz Hydra-shieldTM canvas (ceiling) Coated polyester taffeta 40D Nylon Polyester 68D Polyester taffeta
Number of Poles 2 Upright, 2 Ridge, 4 Rod 2 Hubbed Sets, 1 Straight 1 Hubbed Set 4 4
Pole Material Steel tubing; spring steel 6061/7001 Aluminum DAC Pressfit Aluminium Aluminum DAC DA17
Pole Diameter 1 in, 3/8 in 14.5 / 11 mm 12.8mm x 3, 11 mm x 1
Design type Not freestanding Freestanding Freestanding Freestanding Freestanding
Extras

Our Analysis and Test Results

Performance Comparison


The Flex-Bow.
The Flex-Bow.

The Kodiak Canvas camping tent is a rugged and charming tent with a mouthful of a name, not to be confused with the Bowflex. That's a workout machine. Though this tent is heavy enough, it can also provide a pretty good workout.

Do a quick Google search, and you'll see countless rave reviews of the Kodiak Canvas Flex-Bow tents. While we did like this tent, overall, this is not one of those rave reviews. In part, this was due to the stiff competition, and in part due to our specific review categories. However, this tent had a unique effect on our reviewers: it made us think a little bit about just what it is we're doing when we go out for a camping trip.

Overall, we agreed with many of those positive reviews. However, in our search for the best camping tent, if this is to be the one for you, it must perfectly match your needs — the pros must grossly outweigh the cons. For a tent weighing almost 70 pounds, those pros had better be hefty

Comfort


When used in the right setting, this tent lets you live in rugged luxury. It embraces several styles: from scout tradition to hunter "lite" — and it even has hipster throwback appeal.


Once the tent is solidly staked out and pitched, this is a very livable tent. The soft canvas is nice to handle (though the floor is heavy vinyl), so it doesn't make that plastic flapping sound in the wind. It is a simple shape, aesthetically pleasing, and relatively tall inside with a generous awning. We could sit under that awning reading a book or listening to a babbling brook for hours.

We found this tent to be less livable, however, in stormy weather. The doors angle slightly toward the sky, and there is no fly or vestibule (just the awning), so you won't want to open the uncovered back door during a rainstorm (though the storm flaps inside the zippers help to keep the weather out so long as they stay zipped).

The Flex-Bow has generous flaps around the door's zippers  sealing it very well against blowing dust and sand.
The Flex-Bow has generous flaps around the door's zippers, sealing it very well against blowing dust and sand.

This tent is much better suited to beach or desert camping, where the light colored canvas keeps you cooler inside, and the thick canvas and zipper flaps keep dust and sand out. If the wind kicks up, you can comfortably escape the blowing dust and sand by zipping yourself inside. However, be sure it is very well staked out. In one of our trials, we staked out the Kodiak only by the four corners and the two awning poles (with the guy lines). Light winds kicked up overnight, and one of the corner stakes pulled out, causing the whole tent to capsize and become unusable.

When imperfectly staked out  the non-freestanding Flex-Bow is very likely to blow over in the wind. Be sure to drive stakes deep into the soil (and camp in a campsite where you can).
When imperfectly staked out, the non-freestanding Flex-Bow is very likely to blow over in the wind. Be sure to drive stakes deep into the soil (and camp in a campsite where you can).

Weather Resistance


This is the tent in the review that we want for desert sandstorms and dry, dusty areas. The thick fabric and generous zipper flaps keep blowing dust, dirt, and sand outside. This thick canvas tent is highly impermeable to things you want to keep out but is breathable like a cotton T-shirt.

Rain, however, is another issue. The awning provides some vestibule-esque protection as you duck inside the tent, but the back door is angled slightly upward, so if you open it during a rain event, water will fall directly inside the back door.

The awning on the Flex-Bow must be carefully angled and tensioned to ensure it doesn't catch any wind and blow over.
The awning on the Flex-Bow must be carefully angled and tensioned to ensure it doesn't catch any wind and blow over.

We mentioned in the Livability section above that this tent must be "solidly staked out and pitched." If you have done a banner setup job, driven the giant tent stakes through every anchor loop with a mallet if you had to, and perfectly tensioned the awning guy lines, then you're probably pretty well set. If those anchors aren't extremely strong, however, winds will find all the kite-like angles of this tent and blow it over. And since it is not a free-standing tent, each stake takes on added importance; the loss of one key stake or guy line and the whole tent will capsize in the storm.

Ease of Setup


This is a tent to practice setting up a couple of times before heading out. Ultimately, with a little practice, it is relatively easy to set up. But there are a few caveats. One, be sure it is very well staked out before trying to erect the tent. Two, watch your fingers and other body parts for pinching; the design requires that you work with tensioned poles and sliding metal bars. Three, be prepared for a workout, the tent material is heavy and demands some wrangling.

Sliding the steel shaft over the tensioning joint at the top of the Kodiak tent : watch your fingers!
The vertical poles nest into the top T-shaped poles and steel spring rods on the Kodiak Canvas 6-Person Flex-Bow.

Overall, we think this tent is very well suited to the avid outdoors person who is experienced with camping rope systems and knots, and who is confident that those benefits outweigh the costs (or at least the 70 pounds of canvas and metal he or she will be carting around).

The instructions say to use a hammer  rope  or stake puller to pull stakes up... Wouldn't it make sense to also advise the use of a hammer/mallet for the installation? We found a rubber mallet to be an important tool for driving the tent stakes in prior to erecting this non-free-standing tent.
The instructions say to use a hammer, rope, or stake puller to pull stakes up... Wouldn't it make sense to also advise the use of a hammer/mallet for the installation? We found a rubber mallet to be an important tool for driving the tent stakes in prior to erecting this non-free-standing tent.

Workmanship


This is a very nicely crafted tent: super durable materials mean it will last a very, very long time. It is not, however, a tent to be thought of as an easy or fast-pitch style, like the Coleman Carlsbad Fast Pitch 6 or the Mountain Hardwear Optic 6. This tent is best if its users approach the setup with similar attention to tent craft. Place it well in relation to the sun and wind, stake it out solidly and diligently every time, give yourself time for the setup, and don't rush unless you want some pinched fingers.

If we had a category to rate how each tent developed your patience and zen, this would top the charts — and that's not meant as a comedic slight. In our fast-paced, modern lives, we rush around town, speed to work and back, gloss over life's finer and subtler details, and we stress about getting out of town early enough to beat traffic on our way to our (always too short) relaxing weekend vacation. With this tent, "vacation" arguably starts the moment you pull it out of the trunk. It's heavy, so you have to take your time. It's soft, so it's nice to work with. The setup requires that you think and plan, so slow down a little. If you're rushed, stressed, and short on time, this is probably not the tent for you. But if you build in a little time for the simpler things — like erecting your own shelter — we imagine you'll find some much-needed refreshment.

Packed Size


Camping tents all packed up for side-by-side comparison. The Optic 6 is dead center.
Camping tents all packed up for side-by-side comparison. The Optic 6 is dead center.

Whoa, this thing's a beast — almost 70 pounds of tent. The packed size (and weight!) would make a through-hiker on the Pacific Crest Trail cringe. Fortunately, the separate pole and tent carrying cases balance each other relatively well, so you can carry one in each hand and hoof it to your tent spot. But this is a camping tent, not a backpacking tent. Be sure you have a decent sized trunk and don't plan to camp far from where you park.

Best Applications


Are you taking a surf vacation in Baja? Heading to Burning Man? Or are you setting up a low elevation basecamp for a longer stay in the woods? If these match your uses, this will be a great tent for you. This is a tent that demands a slower pace, careful tent-craft, and an appreciation for details. If you're going outside to hang out, slow down, and stay a while, you'll love this tent.

Value


The Kodiak 10 X 10-foot tent is on the pricier end of tents in this review, but it will last for a very long time. The canvas and vinyl and sturdy steel poles are likely to shelter your friends or family for many years to come. If this tent is what you're looking for, it'll be a good long-term purchase. However, it is not the most versatile tent for the price, and won't be best in rainy or windy weather.

Conclusion


The 6-Person Flex-Bow tent is a classy, well-built tent that looks like a throwback to another generation of campers. It is extraordinarily heavy, however, which makes it more difficult to wrangle when setting up in anything but perfect weather. And the non-freestanding design requires users to stake it out very diligently, possibly even requiring the use of a rubber mallet to ensure it won't blow over in a storm. If desert car camping is your thing, this might be your ideal tent. If not, consider the pros and cons carefully before forking out the cash for this tent.


Lyra Pierotti