REI Kingdom 6 Review
Cons: Only one vestibule, back door is more exposed to the elements, lots of poles
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The REI Kingdom 6 is the lion of the OGL camping jungle. It's been the top dog of our large family tent category for a few years now — and for good reason. Well-thought-out design (like small zippers inside the roof of the tent to help you reach and attach clips to the higher spots in the exoskeleton) and a tall Quonset hut-like shape set it apart from the competition. REI has managed to maximize the impact of small touches and important features. So, with a souped-up structure, did they also turbo-charge the functionality inside? Not really, but then again, there wasn't anything broken in the first place.
Space and Comfort
At just over 83 square feet, the Kingdom 6 is not noticeably larger than any of the other tents we tested. In fact, it's technically smaller than many, but there's something about the long, barn-style design that makes it feel roomier.
Almost any family camping tent advertised as a "six-person" is going to be cramped at capacity because manufacturers measure this by simply figuring how many bodies can dog-pile next to each other without technically rubbing elbows. However, the Kingdom 6 might actually be the exception. Due to its longer design, you could put three people on each end with heads at the door and feet towards the middle and be as comfortable as any six-person tent on the market. Will it still be a little snug? Sure, but you'll be well situated in the Kingdom because of the two giant doors through which you can exit/enter without confronting anyone else.
Okay, beyond our logistical computations for divvying up how six full-sized people might fit inside, realistically, only four adult-sized people will rest easily and comfortably in a "six-person" tent (as most use sleeping pads and have other personal effects.) However, if you have pint-sized crew members on your squad (kids, that is), you could get up to six total bodies in, no problem. The nice thing about the Kingdom is the option to divide the interior space with the room divider.
For those who prefer the luxury of a two-roomed tent, or simply want potential privacy from their kids or in-laws (potential because, hey, it IS a tent, not different floors of the local motel), the Kingdom 6 comes with a handy room divider to give you your alone time. The room divider is a fairly common add-on in many larger family camping tents. What gives REI the edge here, however, is that there are multiple sets of loops to connect said dividing wall. That means that you can be a merciful camping God and divide the room evenly, or you can conquer more territory and spread out over roughly two-thirds of the total floor space, leaving your friends and family to crowd into the smaller, more peasant-sized end.
But wait, there's more! The room divider has a handy zip up the middle, meaning you can open, close, and even secure it with loops on the side of the tent to accommodate all situations without having to crawl or limbo underneath. Additionally, both ends of the Kingdom 6 have near 360-degree doors that stuff neatly into a small storage pocket at the top of the door. Moving air mattresses and any other large equipment (tables, chairs, etc.) into the Kingdom will not be a problem.
Pockets! Pockets! Pockets! At our count, and we had to do this multiple times just to be sure, the Kingdom 6 has a stunning 22 pockets! They ring the bottom of the tent (yes, the entire circumference), and then you have four more up high, one in each corner. It's enough to keep practically everything, including your little brother, off the floor.
By the time you start to feel like the REI Kingdom 6 is failing you weather-resistance-wise, you're likely to be floating away somewhere downriver. This tent will keep you comfortable and dry in all but the heaviest extended downpours, though be aware that the long and tall sidewalls — like the side of a barn — are unfortunately good at catching the wind.
The rain fly covers the tent all the way to the ground, at least on three sides. For some reason, the back door is left pretty much to its own devices as the fly stops just over the top of the door's zipper (with a tiny lip to help drips not drip directly down). The back door's window cover is supposed to act as the fourth side of the fly and does so pretty well, though having the fly itself come all the way down would make nights in some rain a bit less worrisome. This could be due to the fact that the fly for the Kingdom is so huge and heavy (relatively) that adding an entire side would make it too unwieldy, or they could just be confident enough that the door material will hold.
The beefy fly does have pop-up (kickstand style) Velcro vents in the ceiling, which are accessible through the ceiling zips in the main tent. Vents certainly help to increase airflow and keep things from getting too muggy when it rains.
On the "front" side (who's to say that you have to denote a front and back door on a tent?) the Kingdom 6 has a decent-sized vestibule; enough to store all your shoes, packs and other smaller items, but not large or tall enough to sit comfortably in with any standard configuration. You do have the option to bring or buy extra poles to prop the fly's door up as an awning which would give you this space, but again, that's an add-on feature. REI, unfortunately, no longer includes the large garage-style vestibule with this tent which was something very similar to the vestibule on The North Face's Wawona 6.
That said, there are a handful of handy ways to vent the fly as it is. You can zip open just one side of the two-zippered vestibule for some sun-relief or to adapt to any side breezes. You can roll the zippered door all the way up, leaving two flanking pieces of the fly for a sort of cave-like entrance. You can also "peel" the entire fly back over the main body of the tent and stake/secure it down to offer various degrees of ventilation and view.
As for stability, there are five poles that essentially criss-cross along the body for max stability, thus giving you ten major points of contact with the ground. Multiple loops on the fly along with guy lines also help to secure your wilderness home. Point being: if heavy winds come around, you're not going anywhere.
Ease of Set-Up
At first look, the shape of the the Kingdom 6 that we've been raving about looks like a setup nightmare. Five poles. Some with pre-attached hubs. All color-coded, but for which spots? Fear not. There's a main dual-hubbed skeleton which you use to get the body of the tent up in the air. Then three additional poles cross over this to add even more support and structure. First time there will be a bit of a learning curve, especially with the hubbed poles. After that, much faster and easier.
In our tests, it took two people 10-15 minutes to set the Kingdom 6 up and about 6-10 to take it down each time. Once you see the whole thing up and in action, you'll nod your head at the well-thought-out design.
We'll admit to occasionally being enamored with small details. One of our favorite features of the Kingdom 6 is the small zippers in the ceiling of the main tent. Zippers in the ceiling? Weird. At first, because we typically ignore the printed directions, we were confounded. Then the lightbulb came on. The zippers make reaching the high, center clips on the tent much easier. Instead of climbing a tree or having someone get on your shoulders, you just reach out through these little zip ports right from the inside to connect the rest of the hooks to the poles. Absolutely genius.
REI has a long history of making quality, durable tents. The Kingdom 6 is no exception. With a rainfly that sports a 75-denier thickness, and a tent floor at double that, damage from tree roots and rocks should be few and far between.
The main, two-hub poles are thick enough (14 millimeters) to stand up to a strong breeze and tamper-prone kiddos. The other accessory poles, while a bit thinner at 11 millimeters, are still more than adequate and benefit from the support of the thicker main poles which they cross. Seams are sealed to keep you dry. Cared for properly, the Kingdom 6 should last you through many seasons of wilderness adventure.
The Kingdom 6 packs down to about the size of an airplane roll-on suitcase. But instead of wheels, this carry case has awesome backpack straps to help you get it around. The pack unzips at the top like a school backpack to present you with a few handy pocket dividers into which you can stuff the various components (tent, fly, poles). Then on the outside are some zippered pockets for stakes, guy-lines, and what-have-you.
Say goodbye to the days of humping an awkward hot-dog-shaped monstrosity from your car to your tent site. The Kingdom 6 actually adds some range to your potential camping spots as you can walk it into stated "walk-in" sites with relative ease, no need to pull up right next to where you think you want to be.
Because REI sells its products directly to their customers, they tend to be a better value than many of the other big tent brands. Price-wise, this one is solidly in the middle of the tents we tested. However, when you consider what that middle-ground price gets you, that's where the value of the Kingdom 6 begins to shine. Sure there are cheaper tents out there, but you're going to sacrifice the brilliant features and high-end quality you get out of the Kingdom.
The spacious and well-(re)designed REI Kingdom 6 is one of our favorite tents, again.
Even with the removal of the garage vestibule, it feels and functions larger than its floor size, offers a number of configurations for ventilation, weather-resistance, views, and the all-important Where's Everyone Gonna Sleep? With a bunch of other touches and "amenities" like thick metal stakes that DON'T bend when jamming them into the ground (woo hoo!), enough pockets for the 10th Mountain Division, and the adjustable room divider, you'll have a great Happy Camper Experience visiting this Kingdom, our reigning Editors' Choice Winner.
— Rick Baraff