REI Kingdom 6
The Kingdom 6 is a highly customizable camping tent experience. The design is simple, making it applicable to many types of camping adventures.
The tent has several inside pockets, all relatively low to the ground, allowing campers of all sizes to store and organize gear and belongings. One of our favorite features is the mesh door stuff pocket above each door. This feature made it very easy to stow the tent door out of the way--and very tidy with no flappy, hanging twist-tied doors.
The door stuff pocket in the REI Kingdom 6 was one of our favorite features: fast and easy to get that door open and out of the way!
Loops inside the tent allow you to hang lights, laundry (with extra p-cord), etc. But there is no mesh upper pocket (or "gear loft," as they are often termed) to throw a headlamp for ambiance lighting, or quickly stash a jacket. The gear loft is a nice feature, found, for example, in the Eureka Midori 6.
This tent is among the taller tents in this review, making it comfortable for the whole family, in a wide variety of weather conditions. One half of the inner tent is mesh while the other half is made of more substantial tent fabric. This allows campers to modify their use for privacy vs. ventilation, especially if not using the tent's fly.
Yin and Yang. The REI Kingdom 6 has two rooms, one made of mesh (but still with a generous "bathtub" for rainy weather) and the other solid, for more privacy or warmth.
The Kingdom 6 got rave reviews from our testers because of the overall themes of simplicity and durability. This is a tent that enables your outdoor adventures, and won't distract you with complication or issues. Set it up; live it up; and go home refreshed and relaxed.
While it doesn't come with a vestibule, you can add on the Kingdom Garage for another $100. This gives it a roomy vestibule that is a little larger than the one that comes with the Wawona 6. If you want poles to hold up the garage awning, that's another $70. All this adds up to make the Wawona much better value if you want a vestibule as the Wawona is $400 and the Kingdom 6 with a Garage and poles is $610. In addition, the Wawona vestibule is a lot faster to set up and more wind and weather resistant since its integrated into the tent.
One of our favorite features of this tent is that half the tent, or one of the "rooms," is made of mesh, and the other is made of solid tent fabric. This allows for one more private room, if you don't put the fly on, and makes the other room a bit more ventilated. This makes the tent easy to customize to your needs. It is great for cool nights and warm days, and allows campers to choose which best suits their needs.
One side of the tent's fly has a spectacular, large vestibule to keep you dry while taking off shoes or jackets before entering the tent (and to keep sideways rain from getting your stuff wet inside the tent). However, the other side has a tiny awning, not a vestibule, which is not the best protection in an aggressive rain storm. Our testers had success in the sometimes stormy Pacific Northwest summer by taking a moment to plan the tent placement and set up in the campground. We butted the awning side up against bushes, shrubs, or under trees, and pointed the vestibule into the storm. With a little extra effort, we stayed dry and comfortable through all the weather the PNW could throw our way.
Here, the internal curtain of the REI Kingdom 6 is open, as is the front window, looking straight through to the front vestibule (also half open).
Here the internal doors are zipped closed in the REI Kingdom 6 to show the privacy afforded when separating the two rooms.
Though the Kingdom 6 is easy to set up and you won't hit a dead end by accidentally putting the fly on backwards (it will attach either way), REI designed the vestibule to be placed over the solid-sided half of the tent (not the mesh side), because the door requires the vestibule coverage to be waterproof. Our testers set it up both ways, and found they could fine-tune their setup according to varying weather/privacy/ventilation/etc preferences. Whether or not this modularity is crucial to you, we think you'll be psyched that the fly will attach successfully in either orientation--we're sure that will prevent many unwanted late-night-campsite-arrival arguments.
The REI Kingdom 6 looks a bit like a caterpillar, or perhaps an anteater. Here are several views of the generous vestibule.
One important setup detail, however, REI told us, is that if you purchase the optional Garage feature, it will need to be attached to the mesh side of the tent, where you will find the Connect Tech zipper. The mesh side of the tent is intended to be the living space, so setting that side up with the Garage makes for an even more comfortable camping tent hangout situation--and in our view, makes it an even better shelter from the storm.
The Kingdom 6 looks a bit like a giant caterpillar when it is set up. This can be an excellent design in a storm. However, it must be oriented such that the wind doesn't hit its broad side. Dome tents like the Wawona or Flying Diamond are more wind resistant from multiple angles. The guy lines were well-designed. They fix to the fly at roughly shoulder height on the tent, which makes for a much stronger anchor than lines that attach too low (and much better than anchors at the bottom corners and edges of the tent). But for those rogue broadside gusts of wind, (or if your tent platform only lets you set up such a large tent in a specific orientation, which may or may not be appropriate for winds) we would have liked to see a couple more guy lines on the sides of the tent.
Ease of Setup
Not as easy as the Mountain Hardwear Optic 6 or the Wawona but not bad either. We recommend taking a swing at setup at least once at home. But for an experienced tent-setter-upper, it won't throw you any curve balls. With just three poles, it's hard to strike out on your first try. Be sure to align the T-shaped poles so that they fit together in the middle, then thread the third one through the sleeve across the belly of the tent and find the matching grommets. The setup is relatively intuitive; the poles are a little unconventional, but not too wonky. Once linked together on top, they slide into sleeves at either end, making two mini-awnings on the tent body and ultimately supporting the fly's vestibule on one side and mini-awning on the other. It is easier to set up with two people, and makes your first setup experience much more manageable. However, it is far from unreasonable to set it up solo — for best results, practice once at home if you plan to set it up by yourself in the field.
It is free-standing, unlike some caterpillar-shaped tents which require each end to be staked out and tensioned, which is a design our reviewers prefer in large camping tents (the Kodiak Canvas 6-Person Flex-Bow highlighted this feature when our reviewers found themselves wrestling with it to keep it upright while staking it out and learned, the hard way, to absolutely stake the corners out first).
The two hubbed poles of the REI Kingdom 6 slide together on the top of the tent, and are well marked with red stripes.
One pro tip: clip the plastic hooks to the top of the tent before you erect the tent, or be ready for some creative shenanigans — and be sure to have a tall partner inside the tent to try to clip those things while the other person stabilizes the now-overhead top pole. Sound complicated? If you make the same mistake as we did, you'll know just what we're saying.
With such big tents, it can be difficult to correctly orient the fly. For this reason, we love tents that have an integrated fly like the Wawona or tents that have (good) color coding systems (for which the Big Agnes Flying Diamond 6 gets mixed reviews). You don't want to be yelling at your partner because you thought camping was about relaxing and did not anticipate being outsmarted by your weekend shelter. The Kingdom 6 has two large Velcro strips that attach the fly to the top of the tent, and you can put it on either way (unless you are particular about which half of the tent has the vestibule and which has the mini awning — see weather resistance, above), so you're never hosed, and it's easy to flip-flop the orientation if necessary.
The top pole of the REI Kingdom 6 slots smoothly into a reinforced sleeve, helping to stretch out either end of the tent.
The fly of the REI Kingdom 6 aligns easily and attaches securely with giant Velcro strips.
This tent gets a solid score for ease of setup, ranking among the highest in this review for argument-proof tents. It is among the best we tested for those late night arrivals after a long drive in unexpectedly bad traffic, when all you wanted to do is get out for a relaxing camping trip.
Park. Pitch. Play.
Simple, durable, beautifully designed tent. This tent was a pleasure to work with and a breeze to camp with, from start to finish. First, the tent comes with sturdy, well-designed stakes; not so big you need a mallet to drive them into the ground (like the Kodiak Canvas 6-Person Flex Bow), but sturdier than most in this review, and they have a tapered tip that makes piercing hard ground much easier.
REI definitely had the whole family in mind when designing this tent. The main compartment is divided into two rooms with a privacy curtain that can be drawn back and tucked out of the way, very similar to the Nemo Wagontop 6 design. There is one very important detail, however, that makes this tent rank well ahead of the Big Agnes Flying Diamond 6: at no point is the curtain at risk of getting ripped by rough-housing kiddos (see photo). If you don't fully unclip and secure the curtain in the Big Agnes tent, someone can trip or crawl over it and easily rip the top-center seam. The Kingdom 6 has a simple drawn design which is distinctly more rip-proof.
The REI Kingdom 6 has nice, sturdy, tip-tapered stakes. Much stronger than the sad old stake we found abandoned in our campsite.
Solid guy line tensioners (top) and attachments (bottom) on the REI Kingdom 6.
The guy line design is adequate and simple, but not as solid in wind as the Big Agnes Diamond 6 or the Mountain Hardwear Optic 6 because it has a taller, broader side prone to catching wind.
The fragile door of the Big Agnes Flying Diamond 6 (left) vs. the simpler and more solidly designed doors inside the REI Kingdom 6 (right).
This tent was not the smallest of the tents when all packed up, but the design of the carrying bag more than made up for the slight increase in size. First, it is easy to stuff the tent back into the bag (or fold and roll, whatever your style). REI did not make one of those super tight fitting stuff sacks that look all small and tidy on the store shelf only to break your heart every time you try in vain to stuff it back into the itsy bitsy bag. The rectangular bag has zippers on three sides, as well as accessory zipper pockets on the outside for stakes and guy lines. Inside, there are three separate compartments for the tent body, poles, and fly. (Pro tip: Be sure you identify the largest compartment for the tent body, otherwise you will be cursing this review for saying it was easy to stuff back into the bag when really you're trying to cram the tent body into the sleeve size for the fly).
REI also gets major points for putting two-inch webbing backpack straps on the bag for those short hikes into walk-in campsites or for enthusiastic young campers to carry from the car to the tent site. The straps are sturdy and comfortable, and make the whole Kingdom 6 experience smooth and enjoyable. Toss it on your back, pop it up, and crack a beer. Or soda pop. Or kombucha. Whatever your beverage of choice, this tent will get out of the way of the many more important things on your weekend getaway.
The well-designed and practical stuff sack backpack for the REI Kingdom 6.
The Kingdom 6 is a tent that embodies all that we love about gear: it gets out of the way of your outdoor experience. Simple, thoughtful, durable; it is a tent that brings simplicity and flow to your camping experience. (We may be all about gear here at OutdoorGearLab, but we know that often the best gear is the gear that both enables, and then gets out of the way of, your adventure — so your experience can take center stage, and not your stuff.)
The Kingdom 6 is a great buy at $439. It is on par, price-wise, with the Mountain Hardwear Optic 6, its closest competitor, but it is more than $200 cheaper than the Big Agnes Flying Diamond 6, which is ranked third in this review, and $160 cheaper than the Nemo Wagontop 6, which is the most similar shape and size. The Kingdom 6 is a great all around tent for a middle-of-the-road price. Simple, well-crafted, sturdy, durable, and more affordable than most similar tents.
The Kingdom 6 by REI is our favorite camping tent. It is a thoughtfully designed tent, crafted with careful attention to details and trade-offs. It is tall, but shaped better than most tall tents and will withstand higher winds. It's well ventilated on one half, and well-sealed on the other. It has a generous vestibule on one side, and a big window (door) with an awning on the other. It isn't the smallest or lightest tent we tested, but it has a well-designed carrying bag with backpack straps to get you into some of those nicer walk-in campsites a short distance from where you park.
This is a tent that will keep your family and friends stoked for many camping adventures, long or short, rain or shine.