The Mountain Hardwear Optic 6 came close to dethroning the REI Kingdom 6 from Editors' Choice. It has a pleasing, asymmetrical design, but still manages to be very easy to set up. It only has three easy-to-install poles, making it simple and lightweight. And a shoulder strap on the stuff sack makes it easy to carry a short distance to your favorite walk-in campsite. It is well ventilated and light in color for warmer climates but seals up reliably in stormy weather. It is streamlined and strong in winds with well-placed guy lines to anchor it down. Without the fly, the view of the night sky is exquisite. Overall, it's a great tent that lost top rank only because the two-room design of the Kingdom was a little more livable and fun.
Mountain Hardwear Optic 6 Review
Cons: Awkward sleeping pattern for six, not a lot of built-in storage space or pockets.
Manufacturer: Mountain Hardwear
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The Mountain Hardwear Optic 6 came in a close second place REI Kingdom 6. We awarded it our Top Pick for Versatility.
The Optic 6 is a large camping tent that will delight many campers who moonlight as climbers and mountaineers with its simple, rugged, and comfortable design. It is a family-friendly tent, complete with a clever awning feature built into the asymmetrical fly.
The tent feels much like a lightweight "basecamp" style tent. It reminded our reviewers of tents used at expedition basecamps — albeit, much more lightweight and not quite as durable. It is a simple, spacious, and tall tent. It does not boast fun compartments, like the Big Agnes Flying Diamond 6, but the design is far more versatile. This is a tent that will work for pretty much any car-camping application we can dream up.
The asymmetrical design is both aesthetically pleasing and comfortable. The two doors are placed on either side of one corner, and allow easy entry/exit, but also allows you to change your entrance if the winds shift direction while you're in camp. The doors also give an impression of having a front and side door. The side door has a slightly lower profile and is quicker to zip shut, so you can choose according to your needs or preferences.
The main door, however, is difficult to zip from the outside if you are under 6 feet tall. It is easy to enter through the side door and reach the top of the main door's zipper from inside the tent, so it was never an issue, per se, but it's a minor notch in the Optic 6's record.
The light color of the fly prevented this tent from becoming as hot as the Marmot Limestone 6, and the asymmetrical design made it easy to ventilate the tent and catch the slight breeze to cool it down inside.
The asymmetrical design of this tent makes it easy to adjust to temperamental weather conditions. We were able to enter and exit the tent in the lee of the wind, even if the wind shifted on us overnight. The generous vestibule with awning gives a generous weather buffer around the tent.
The oblong and rounded shape of the tent allows you to orient the Optic 6 so that it is streamlined in the winds, but the tent also has guy lines anchored high on the tent to ensure it won't flatten or turn into a kite in the wind. Two-pole designs are risky because they often lack the rigidity to stand up to winds, and often two-pole tents will waver in a storm, flattening on your face only to pop back up when the wind abates: an annoying attribute, no doubt. The Optic 6, however, performed surprisingly well in winds. We credit the thicker tent poles and the oblong, asymmetrical design. If you set it up streamlined to the wind, this tent is rock solid through the storm.
Ease of Setup
This was one of the easiest tents in the review to set up. Only the Coleman Instant 6 and Caddis Rapid 6 are faster. Our reviewers managed to set it up, without a hitch, after arriving at their walk-in campsite after midnight. The shoulder sling on the stuff sack allowed for easy schlepping to the campsite, and the three-pole design (really more of a simple two-pole design) was easy to figure out and pop up quickly in the dark.
We expected the asymmetrical design of the tent and fly to confuddle our testers, but the color coding system works fairly well to help you match the fly to the tent body. Most of the time our testers got the orientation right on the first try. If they were off, it was an easy shift, just a few feet clockwise or counter-clockwise, to get it right.
The risk of having essentially two poles to hold your tent up is that if one pole were to break, for example, in high winds, then you just lost half the integrity of your tent. Mountain Hardwear clearly thought of this and increased the thickness of the poles to ensure their strength and durability.
Mountain Hardwear kept things simple with a very basic stuff sack and a single shoulder sling sewn to the sack. It is not the smallest package when stuffed away, but it is neat, tidy, and simple.
The stuff sack is a little more spacious, allowing for easy stuffing, but making it a bit more bulky than, say, the Eureka Midori 6. Overall, not way ahead of the curve when all packed up, but for a family-size camping tent that's not necessarily where we want them to stand out anyway.
The Optic 6 is a true camping tent extraordinaire — a tent-of-all-trades. We loved the big open view of the night sky when we left the fly off; we felt confident weathering rain and wind storms; we felt comfortable long-term, able to stand up tall inside, and we enjoyed getting a little creative with the door and awning options. This is a tent that will please most who purchase it, though it may not be quite as fun as the Big Agnes Flying Diamond 6 or as simple as the REI Kingdom 6.
We think this tent is a great general purpose camping tent that balances weather resilience with comfort and ease of use. It is a great sleeping tent for a family of four to six. For smaller families or couples, this is a great car camping or "base camping" style tent, with space to hang out (inside, out of the bugs or sun) after a long day outside, and have your bed set up as well.
This is a reasonable, mid-priced camping tent at $400. It is versatile, well-built, durable, and overall an excellent value that will last for years and provide for many camping adventures. The materials and stitching are of high quality, and ensure a quality product, especially if the rest of the features meet or exceed your needs.
The Optic 6 is a simple, strong, and fun camping tent that will suit a variety of camping situations. It has a fun, creative, asymmetrical design, but it is still very easy to set up. It is very strong in inclement weather but manages to keep cooler in warm and sunny destinations due to decent ventilation through the two corner doors and lighter colors on the fly. Overall it is very well designed, versatile — all for an excellent price.
— Lyra Pierotti