The North Face Wawona 6 Review
Cons: Can't stand in vestibule, limited views when laying or sitting, poor duffel/stuff sack
Manufacturer: The North Face
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The Wawona 6 is a high-functioning tent with a ton of cozy, usable space at an extremely fair price. We have loved this tent fiercely for many years, and think you will too.
Space and Comfort
This is one of the most comfortable tents we tested. The main tent has a peak height of 6'8", and much of the rest of the space is over 6 feet tall (though, once you get to the edges of the tent, a six-footer will have to duck a little). The vestibule is about a foot lower, so not everyone will be able to stand upright, but the amount of space is awesome.
The REI Kingdom 6, scores slightly higher for comfort because you can divide it into two rooms, and it offers more versatility and lots more views. But with the large vestibule of the Wawona 6, you'll actually get more usable covered space. Plus, as it's a single-walled tent, set up is faster. The Wawona is also more weather-resistant thanks to its lower, sleeker profile, meaning the walls won't be rattling into you if it's blowing outside.
With the extra covered space of the vestibule, you do have the option of having people sleep there in mild weather. Cool air can, of course, creep in under the fabric, but if you're set up with the right sleeping bag and pad, you will easily feel cozy and comfortable — as long as the wind isn't raging and rain isn't pouring.
Like most 6-person tents, this one is a little tight for six adult people to sleep inside the main area. Four people will fit better unless employing the sleep-in-vestibule option. And, even if you're all sleeping in the main tent, the one debatable design snafu is that you are only separated from the vestibule via a mesh wall — there's no polyester or other opaque material separating the two. This means, as mentioned above, cool air can infiltrate the entire tent, not just the vestibule (bugs won't get in through the mesh though, so rest fully assured there).
Despite being mostly closed off to full panoramic views, there are many options to ventilate the Wawona. Two large side windows have flaps that roll up to give good side views and allow cross drafting. There are also air vents atop each window to keep condensation down. These vents have smart little kickstands to prop them open.
The vestibule has two super large zippered doors that can be employed in a few combinations for airflow, privacy, wind/rain protection, etc. And there's a large, two-zippered third door that forms a pretty good-sized vestibule at the large mesh back door. So while your sky views are blocked along with ventilation from directly above, there are seven major options for airflow, ventilation, and moisture control.
There are large sized pockets around the tent to sort things, three of which are prominently featured in the mesh wall that acts as the door to the main area. There's also a built-in "laundry line" that runs around the ceiling for hanging items out to dry.
One maddening feature of the Wawona is the way you have to access the windows and vents. For some reason, TNF put the window covers on the outside of the mesh so you'll have to actually get up and go outside to zip/unzip them for views or ventilation. Hmmm. While this may be a strategic choice by the designers to not subject the mesh to the elements directly, we would have preferred the ease and comfort of NOT having to dive out, find our shoes, put them on, and wander around to both/either side to open/close them.
This is one of the more weather resistant tents we tested. Its shape handles the wind excellently with minimal bending and shifting.
The dome shape and beefy, criss-cross pole design lend major stability, and the large vestibule is equally adept at repelling the elements as you stay cozy and dry inside. To this point, the vestibule is actually big enough to cook and hang out in with room for camp chairs and a small table (note: please cook only with proper ventilation). Alternately, you could get four small stools around a small table. Even if it rains, your poker game will not have to be put on hold if you're inside the Wawona.
For maximum weather resistance and tent protection, you can buy a footprint (a piece of material fitted to go directly underneath the tent to keep it cleaner and dryer). The footprint is custom-sized to the tent and is a lot more compact than a giant tarp. But a tarp is a lot cheaper. For the lightest option, consider a sheet of Tyvek. They're not necessary if you choose your site carefully but are recommended to keep your tent in top shape over many years of use.
Ease of Set-Up
This is one of the fastest high-end tents to set up and, compared to other top-scoring tents in our review, among the easiest. One person can quickly assemble the tent in about 7-8 minutes (after a few practice runs).
To set up, put the gold poles on the gold sleeves with gold clips. Put the gray poles through the gray sleeves with gray clips. Next, raise the gold poles and then the gray ones. Add the clips last. Stake out the tent and use guy lines if wind is expected. It's fairly easy once you've got the hang of laying it out and finding the right color-coded stake points to match the pole ends.
We expect the Wawona to have a longer life than most tents. Our team has been testing iterations of it for many years now, and we have zero complaints when it comes to craftsmanship.
Most of the components of this tent, including the poles and stakes, are very sturdy. The North Face has been a marquee brand since its inception, and the Wawona doesn't disappoint. Of course, with any piece of equipment, over-abuse can lead to breakage or damage, but the Wawona can still take a good lickin' before you have anything to worry about.
This tent has a slightly above average packed size and weight for this category. The carrying case is a duffel bag-style affair that only offers you two handles. No shoulder strap, no backpack or compression straps, and no buckles or zippers. Just an open-topped drop-in mouth, much like a simple climbing rope bag, with a plastic cinch to keep everything from spilling out. It works, but it could be more secure for sure.
While the cinch on the carry bag doesn't come close to fully sealing the opening, unless you're running full speed (hard to do because this bag will be banging on your leg) and go you-know-what-over-tea-kettle, this tent won't be jumping out of the bag. Still, it feels mildy dubious when lugging around a nice piece of equipment. Some cross compression straps would help a lot. We added some of our own and enjoyed the extra protection.
That rant out of the way, the bag is plenty big enough that you don't have to carefully and precisely role the tent up to fit back inside. It at least allows some leeway there, nice if you're trying to pack up in a hurry.
The Wawona 6 is a tent for all conditions (well, three seasons anyway) at a fantastic price. Frequent campers will enjoy its features, durability, comfort, and weather resistance. You should have this tent for years, thus maximizing your ROI over time even more. And you'll never have to worry about what extras you could/might need like awning poles or that additional vestibule that's extra dough — all the value is already packed in with your purchase.
The Wawona 6 was a clear choice for an award since it's so darn spacious and accomodating to friends and family. For many people, this is the best family camping tent you can buy for all its positive attributes and its great price point. It's got the largest vestibule by far, a rugged yet elegant design, and top craftsmanship. All of this and more should lead you to years of happy wilderness excursions.
— Rick Baraff