The world's most in-depth and scientific reviews of outdoor gear

The Best Camping Tents of 2018

North Face Wawona 6
Wednesday November 28, 2018
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Looking for the perfect camping tent for all your front country, backyard and car camping needs? You've come to the right place. We researched over 30 camping tents and chose 12 top models to test side-by-side. We subjected them to heavy rainstorms and humid environments in the Pacific Northwest and took them inland to Oregon's high desert, where harsh sand, bright sun, and spiky plants abound. We spent time further south at Joshua Tree National Park among wind and high temperatures and even spent a few cool fall nights near the shores of Lake Tahoe. All the while, we paid attention to key features, like how easy they are to set up and if they provide a comfortable camping experience. Keep reading to see which are our favorites. We also have some more specific, individual recommendations for those on a budget or who need a seriously waterproof outdoor home away from home. If you're looking for a tent you can carry for miles, head to our backpacking tent review. If you need one that can handle winter weather, see the four season tents.


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Awards Editors' Choice Award Editors' Choice Award Editors' Choice Award   
Price $328.93 at REI$499.95 at REI
Compare at 4 sellers
$399 List$259.75 at Amazon
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$587.95 at Amazon
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Pros Tall throughout tent, big doors on each side, rainfly versatility, big vestibule, lots of pockets, two rooms, backpack style carrying bag.Easy, quick set-up, expansive vestibule, spectacular storage designFast set up, built-in large vestibule, lots of ventilation, tall ceiling heightGreat value, rugged, durable, strong design, lighter color for warm weather, seals adequately from storms, tall and spacious.Massive gear garage, footprint included, very roomy.
Cons Only one vestibule, small awning over second door, adding an addition vestibule drives up the costOdd placement of interior pockets, more expensive than many of its contemporariesCan't stand in vestibule, limited views when laying or sitting, poor duffel/stuff sackAwkward sleeping pattern for six, not a lot of built-in storage space or pockets.Potential for water pooling over the gear garage, odd back window in rain fly leaves a gap in the rain protection.
Bottom Line Excellent, all around tent; balances multiple uses without compromising durability and weather resistance.One of the best tents on the market, the Tensleep has great features that are done well.This one of the best family camping tents we have ever seen at a reasonable price.A very easy tent to use, well designed, and durable; good for a broad range of weather.A great tent for extended trips with room for all your gear.
Rating Categories REI Kingdom 6 Tensleep Station 6 Wawona 6 Optic 6 Boondocker Hotel 6
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Specs REI Kingdom 6 Tensleep Station 6 Wawona 6 Optic 6 Boondocker Hotel 6
Seasons 3-season 3-season 3-season 3-season 3-season
Weight 19 lb 12 oz 17.8 lb 20 lbs 15 oz 15 lb 15 oz 21.8 lb
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November Update 2018
We just pitted the easy-up and budget-friendly Caddis Rapid 6 against the similar Coleman Instant 6. The Caddis crushed it. Similar in every category and superior in a few, it overtook the Coleman to become a new Best Buy. We still love the REI Kingdom 6, The North Face Wawona 6 and the Big Agnes Tensleep Station 6. To find out which of these stellar options is the best one for you, check out the pros and cons we lay out below.

Best Overall


REI Kingdom 6


Editors' Choice Award

$328.93
(25% off)
at REI
See It

Inside Height: 6'3" | Floor Dimensions: 10' x 8' (83 sq ft)
Fast and easy set-up
High ceiling and two rooms
Huge vestibule and lots of pockets
Backpack-style carrying bag
Small awning over the second door
Only one vestibule
The optional second vestibule is cool but makes it more expensive

The REI Kingdom 6 continues its reign as an Editors' Choice award winner for another year, but it now has some close competition (see the Tensleep and Wawona reviews below). The Kingdom stayed on the throne thanks to its spacious and comfortable design. The hooped poles give it a lot more room than a standard dome tent, and greater head clearance throughout (6 ft 3 in!). It was surprisingly wind-resistant. Usually taller equals less stable in high winds, but the Kingdom stayed strong and also kept us dry in torrential rains. We loved the "room" divider, and one side of the tend is solid while the other is mesh. That gives you some options for ventilation on warm nights and extra privacy even when the fly isn't on top.

While there are two doors, we thought the awning over the rear door was a little small. It's not a deal-breaker, but a pair of sneakers left under there at night would probably get soaked if it started raining and it didn't do much to protect the door from moisture. You can purchase an additional vestibule for that side, called the "Garage," which is massive and has an awning, but it'll set you back another $100, making this a spendier option. Small quibbles aside, we enjoyed everything else about the Kingdom 6, including the handy carrying bag that doubles as a backpack. And if you need something even roomier, it's also available in an eight-person size.

Read review: REI Kingdom 6

Simple with a Versatile Vestibule


Big Agnes Tensleep Station 6


Inside Height: 6'3" | Floor Dimensions: 90 sq ft
Large vestibule with various useful configurations
Easy to use, innovative storage bag design
Impressive mesh ceiling for venting and stargazing
Simple design, speedy set-up
Interior pockets unevenly distributed
Setting up the vestibule as a veranda can be tricky

The Big Agnes Tensleep Station 6 comes with a large vestibule included. (You have to purchase the REI Kingdom 6 vestibule separately). It's also made with quality materials by a company that has a long history of outstanding tents. In both of these ways, it's very similar to the Wawona. It sets itself apart with the versatility of its vestibule. The Tensleep offers double vertical zippers on the vestibule, meaning you can zip the vestibule apart into three separate pieces and then configure them to suit your needs. It can be directional, with one side open and the other side closed (think side wind and afternoon sun). It can be open in the middle and still up on the sides, giving you a little privacy while still maintaining your view. While it takes a little practice (and your hiking poles), you can even pull the front flap up veranda-style and enjoy an afternoon cocktail in the shade of your vestibule. The Tensleep also has large mesh ceiling, offering a brilliant view of the night sky on warm, clear nights.

The only complaints we can conjure up are that the interior pockets orient to one tent door only and that the vestibule's veranda configuration can be troublesome to set up. Again, the Tensleep and the Wawona are very similar, and if you're intrigued by one, we'd recommend reading through both reviews. They're both great tents, and what sets one apart from the other will likely come down to your personal preference.

Read review: Big Agnes Tensleep Station 6

Most Spacious Vestibule


The North Face Wawona 6


Editors' Choice Award

$399 List
List Price
See It

Inside Height: 6'6" | Floor Dimensions: 86 sq ft
Largest built-in vestibule we have ever tested
Many ways to ventilate the tent and reduce condensation
Good wind and rain protection
Fast setup time
No room divider
Hard to ventilate vestibule if cooking

The North Face Wawona was the first tent to challenge the Kingdom 6's dominance in a long time. Now the new Tensleep is also creeping up in the ranks. While The Kingdom and Tensleep edged ahead in our overall scoring, the Wawona impressed us in all of our testing metrics. It has great ventilation, with two large picture windows and vents at the top, and its weather resistance was also solid. Setup was fast and easy, and we were even able to do it with only one person, which is impressive for a larger tent, and key if one parent needs to be wrangling kids while the other is setting it up. Best of all is its vestibule, which is almost as tall as the tent, very spacious, and has a huge door.

We did have issues venting the vestibule when we tried to cook in there in bad weather. The only option is to open the door, but you don't want to do that when it's raining hard. The Wawona also lacks a few of the creature comforts found in the Kingdom, like a room divider. However, the TNF Wawona retails for $400, which saves you a little over the Kingdom 6 and Tensleep and includes the excellent vestibule.

Read review: The North Face Wawona

Best Bang for the Buck


Coleman Carlsbad Fast Pitch 6


Coleman Carlsbad Fast Pitch 6
Best Buy Award

$176.67
(37% off)
at Amazon
See It

Inside Height: 5'8" | Floor Dimensions: 10' x 9' (90 sq ft)
Excellent UV blocking - stays cool and dark
Fast and easy setup
Inexpensive
Partial fly and mesh "front porch" less ideal for rain
Sloppy carrying bag design
Not easy to seal against blowing dust/sand

The Carlsbad Fast Pitch is a tent that lives up to its marketing claims. It took us only 12 minutes to set it up for the first time, solo and in the dark. Wow! It is also noticeably cooler and darker in the sun, allowing us to sleep in late, or get out of the hot midday sun. The front mesh "porch" increases the sleeping area on dry evenings, providing bug protection but still giving you that sleeping-under-the-stars feeling.

This tent is not the best for cold or inclement weather. The fly doesn't cover the entire body or the mesh porch, and it's also permeable to sand and dust. It's a perfect beach-camping tent, but not for windy locales. We were less than impressed with the carrying bag, which, while compact, is virtually impossible to get the tent back into once everything has expanded. However, since you are only spending $280 on the Carlsbad, you could also buy a small duffel bag to go along with it. Our Best Buy winner is half the price of some other models! Check out the Coleman Instant 6 below for even more savings.

Read review: Coleman Carlsbad Fast Pitch

Best Buy for Easy Setup


Caddis Rapid 6


Best Buy Award

$269.95
at REI
See It

Inside Height: 6'8" | Floor Dimensions: 10' x 10' (100 sq ft)
Super quick set up
Roomy
Plenty of pockets and storage space
Nearly full fly is better than close competitor's
Packed size is bulky
Susceptible to heavy wind if not staked
Door is exposed in rain

The rapid in Caddis Rapid 6 Tent is not hyperbole. This is the Usain Bolt of family camping tents. It's The Roadrunner, and The Flash combined, in tent form. The design of the Caddis is very similar to the Coleman Instant Tent 6. Both have pre-attached, extension poles. Both utilize joint-like corners to create their shape. And both can be set up in under a minute, by one person, probably even while blindfolded and hopping on one leg. What sets the Caddis apart from the Coleman, and justifies the slightly higher price tag, is its more protective rain fly, roomy interior, high ceiling, well-spaced storage pockets, gear loft, and velcro electric cord access point. While the Coleman will get the job done admirably on calm, warm days, its fly is little more than a top hat. The Caddis, on the other hand, comes with a fly that goes nearly to the ground on three sides, making it much more weather-ready.

The only small issue we found is that, despite its small vestibule, the Rapid 6's front door is vulnerable to rain. It's certainly not perfect, but it's leaps and bounds better than the Coleman when the weather goes south. While the Caddis storage bag is slightly larger, we found this to be a positive. It eliminates the need to either pack with OCD-like precision or stuff and zip with Hulk-like strength. Put simply — the Caddis is an elevated, even luxurious, version of the Coleman.

Read review: Caddis Rapid 6 Tent

Top Pick for Weather Resistance


Big Agnes Flying Diamond 6


Top Pick Award

$454.97
(35% off)
at Backcountry
See It

Inside Height: 5' 6" and 4' 1" | Floor Dimensions: 12' x 7' x 6" (90.5 sq ft)
Big and versatile vestibule
Two rooms that are well ventilated
Well-designed carrying bag
Great in wind and storms
More complicated setup with lots of poles
Low ceiling

The Flying Diamond 6 is the only model in this roundup that is a genuine four-season tent. It would not be our first pick for polar expeditions, (see our Four Season Tent review for that), but it's a great choice for a family snow camping trip. There's a "kids-room" or storage compartment at the back, and the whole thing folds into a handy carrying case.

The main downside to this tent is its internal height. At only 5'6" in the main room and 4'1" in the cubby, it's not the best for tall people. The setup is a bit involved as well. Big Agnes color-coded the poles and corners to help make it go faster, but it takes significantly longer to get it set up than tents like the Coleman Instant 6. However, once it is set up and guyed out, this tent can withstand a lot, so if you love year-round camping even in miserable conditions, the Flying Diamond is our top choice. If you need even more space, check out the larger Big Agnes Flying Diamond 8.

Read review: Big Agnes Flying Diamond 6

The REI Kingdom 6 has two rooms with rain repelling "bathtub" floors.
The REI Kingdom 6 has two rooms with rain repelling "bathtub" floors.

Analysis and Test Results


We assessed the performance of twelve popular camping tents by subjecting them to wind, rain, sun, heat, cold, late nights, late mornings, and energetic young campers. Below, we'll delve into the criteria that we rated them on and explain how all of the different models compared to each other.


Value


There are many important things to consider when purchasing a camping tent, and price is certainly one of them. The models that we tested ranged between $280 and $700, a pretty staggering difference. And while a higher price tag usually correlates to higher-quality materials or bomb-proof construction, sometimes there is a sweet spot where you can find exceptional value. In short, a lower price doesn't always equate to a better value, nor does a higher price necessarily mean a worse value.

Of our favorite camping tents, The North Face Wawona 6 and REI Kingdom 6 both offer the highest levels of performance for less than the Big Agnes Tensleep. On the budget end of the spectrum, you get a surprising number of amenities for one of the lowest costs with the Coleman Carlsbad Fast Pitch 6 and the Caddis Rapid 6 is a simple, high-quality tent that goes up in seconds.

The North Face Wawona 6 provides plenty of space to spread out the sleeping bags and let the kids play. Large pockets keep things organized.
The North Face Wawona 6 provides plenty of space to spread out the sleeping bags and let the kids play. Large pockets keep things organized.

Comfort


Comfort is one of the most important considerations when purchasing a camping tent, and counted for 40% of the overall score. Most camping trips are meant to be fun, stress-free, family bonding experiences, or a chance to catch up with friends over a beer or s'mores. Different campers will have different ideas of comfort and will define livability according to different standards. (Larger families might want separate rooms. Mountain lovers will want a sturdier and more reliable tent with a spacious vestibule. Beachgoers need windows, air circulation, and shelter from the sun.) But some comfort features, like lots of space, organizational pockets, airflow, and sun protection are universal. Those are the factors we consider here.


Our overall winner, the REI Kingdom 6, is the most comfortable tent in this review. It is a top performer for a broad range of camping scenarios. There is ample headroom (6'3"), a room-divider, a large vestibule for your gear, and lots of pockets inside.

The Kingdom 6 easily fits oversized sleeping pads lined up in multiple orientations. This was the most spacious  airy  and comfortable tent in our review.
The Kingdom 6 easily fits oversized sleeping pads lined up in multiple orientations. This was the most spacious, airy, and comfortable tent in our review.

The North Face Wawona 6 came in just behind the Kingdom for comfort. It has tall ceilings and a substantial built-in vestibule. The three large doors and four windows/vents helped with air circulation and kept us comfortable on hot days. You can add a vestibule to the Kingdom but it will cost you an extra $100 ($170 with awning poles) and adds one more step to the setup process.

Comparing the Wawona vestibule (left) with the REI Kingdom 6 vestibule (right). The Kingdom 6 in this configuration costs $610.
Comparing the Wawona vestibule (left) with the REI Kingdom 6 vestibule (right). The Kingdom 6 in this configuration costs $610.

The Big Agnes Tensleep Station 6 also scored high in comfort, due in large part to the versatility of its vestibule. Dual front zippers that split the vestibule into three parts give you a ton of different configurations. Storage? Done. Privacy? Got it. Sun-shaded veranda? Oh yeah.

The vestibule's "veranda" can stand alone or employ the side panels as wind or rain breaks.
Side panels can mitigate sun  wind or blowing sand.

The Wagontop 6 has a high ceiling and great ventilation, but it's not very stable in high winds. We loved the "dark-room" in the Coleman Carlsbad, which let us sleep in on sunny mornings without overheating. So if you need shelter from the scorching hot sun in the desert, you might prefer the Carlsbad. The Coleman Instant Tent 6 and Caddis Rapid 6 are also comfortable in warmer weather due to its high ceiling. However, while they scored well, their dark materials soak up the heat, making it uncomfortable in scorching weather.

The Nemo Wagontop 6 is a spacious and comfortable tent. It's so broad and high though that it doesn't do well in high winds.
The Nemo Wagontop 6 is a spacious and comfortable tent. It's so broad and high though that it doesn't do well in high winds.

For sheer size alone, the Eureka Boondocker Hotel 6 scored well for comfort. With 82 square feet inside, a front vestibule that adds another 22 square feet, and the very nifty Gear Garage at 36 square feet, you will have no shortage of space to pitch gear or bodies. I mean, it's got the word Hotel in the name, it has to be huge, right?

The Boondocker is spacious for four adults  maybe a little cramped for six. Of course  there's always more room in the gear garage.
The Boondocker is spacious for four adults, maybe a little cramped for six. Of course, there's always more room in the gear garage.

Be sure to check out the floor plan images with each tent, in case you need specific sleeping arrangements or patterns. Most of these tents say they sleep six, but that is six packed in like sardines. If you use a comfortable bag, as we recommend in our sleeping bag review, or a good-sized air mattress, you can usually only sleep four adults comfortably in a "six-person" tent.

The Wawona will sleep 6  but most people will only want to sleep 4 in order to keep a little breathing room between sleeping pads.
The Wawona will sleep 6, but most people will only want to sleep 4 in order to keep a little breathing room between sleeping pads.

Weather Resistance


When we considered the weather resistance of each model, we look at more than if these tents will just keeping us dry in the rain. Campers are outside in all types of weather, from scorching heat to blowing sand and dust, wind, and even hail storms. The chart below shows our weather resistance ratings.


The Big Agnes Flying Diamond 6 is the burliest tent in this review. It's the only tent we reviewed here that we'd consider taking on a winter camping adventure in a pinch. It has a low profile and reliable guylines to keep it stable in high winds. The North Face Wawona scored highly as well with its aerodynamic design, solid guylines, and burly poles. The Wawona also had the best built-in vestibule for hanging out and cooking in during storms. The Coleman Carlsbad Fast Pitch 6 crushed the competition when it came to keeping cool in the hot summer sun.

The Boondocker's Gear Garage can be your own private lounge  out of the elements.
The Boondocker's Gear Garage can be your own private lounge, out of the elements.

The Eureka Boondocker Hotel 6 offers an innovative way to deal with adverse weather. The attached gear garage also doubles as an enclosed patio with enough room for a couple of chairs, a small table, and a cooler full of your favorite beverages. It gives you more room, and more options when the rain rolls in.

The Coleman Instant Tent 6 was our lowest rated tent for weather resistance. This is mainly due to its rain fly, which acts more like a cap than a full rain fly, covering only the top of the tent. While Coleman's WeatherTec technology makes the walls weather-resistant, that's not the same as water-proof. So you're going to get wet in much more than a brief sprinkle. On the plus side, the Instant Tent has one of the more durable floors tested, basically a sewn-in tarp, which will help if the ground is wet.

Wind resistance often depends on how well you stake down a tent and use guylines to keep it taught. For most tents, we recommend buying extra cord, burlier stakes, and a mallet.

The Instant Tent 6 has more of a hat than a rain fly.
The fly on the Rapid 6 covers significantly more of the tent than its nearest competitor  the Coleman Instant Tent 6. It comes nearly to the ground on the sides and rear and provides a small sun shade/vestibule in the front.

Ease of Set Up


When you arrive at the campground late at night after a long and stressful week followed by a long and stressful drive, you just want your tent ready to go. Some tents are extraordinarily intuitive to set up, while others reminded us of an adult-sized erector set. We weighed ease of setup at 15% of the overall scores.


The Caddis Rapid and Coleman Instant are both extremely easy and fast to set up. Both tents can be erected by one person in under a minute with ease. They share a design that includes fully-integrated poles. All you have to do is take the tent out of the bag and pull the poles to length. It doesn't get much easier than this.

The Instant Tent 6 can be easily set up by one person in under a minute.
The Instant Tent 6 can be easily set up by one person in under a minute.

Of the top-scoring models, The North Face Wawona 6 is the easiest to set up. There is no extra fly to install, and the pole design is relatively easy for one person to raise. The Big Agnes Tensleep Station 6 is close on the Wawona's heels. The only issue is that the Tensleep has a separate fly. It's not difficult, the webbing and clips are color coded, it just adds one more step to the process. Both the Wawona and the Tensleep feature a similarly simple design, making them straightforward and intuitive.

The Wawona 6 is fairly easy to set up with one person  quite a feat for a high-performing  small packing  6-person tent.
The Wawona 6 is fairly easy to set up with one person, quite a feat for a high-performing, small packing, 6-person tent.

Having multiples poles in different configurations slowed down the set up on the Big Agnes Flying Diamond 6. Main tent poles that protrude and catch on the rain fly made the Marmot Limestone 6 setup more complicated. And a vast rain fly demands multiple people to get it over the Eureka Boondocker Hotel 6.

Things that made some tents more arduous to set up were multiples poles in different configurations and massive rain flies. The Big Agnes Flying Diamond 6 has main tent poles that protrude and catch on the rain fly as does the Marmot Limestone 6. The Eureka Boondocker Hotel 6 has a vast rain fly that demands multiple people, or a lot of patience, to get over the tent.

Struggling to get the fly over the top of the Marmot Limestone 6 tent. The fly often got caught on the two small tensioning poles that stick out at roughly head height.
Struggling to get the fly over the top of the Marmot Limestone 6 tent. The fly often got caught on the two small tensioning poles that stick out at roughly head height.

Workmanship


The overall quality of materials, design, and manufacturing give us a good idea of the long-term durability and shorter-term reliability of these tents. Workmanship is an important category to consider if you want your tent to last for more than one trip.


We are very impressed with the rugged Big Agnes Flying Diamond 6. It has clean and durable stitching, tensions nicely, and the fly fits snugly around the tent body. The same can be said for the other Big Agnes tent, the Tensleep Station 6. The REI Kingdom 6 is close behind, with big, sturdy poles, a straightforward and sturdy design, and secure guyline attachments.

The poles on REI Kingdom 6 are beefy! When weight is not a consideration  we like our tents to be durable and well-made.
The poles on REI Kingdom 6 are beefy! When weight is not a consideration, we like our tents to be durable and well-made.

In general, you get what you pay for when it comes to outdoor gear. The Coleman tents are the cheapest and scored the lowest in this category. That's fine if you only camp a few times a year. However, if you plan to use a tent with a poor workmanship score regularly, expect things to start unraveling and breaking after a dozen uses. An exception seems to be the Caddis Rapid 6. For nearly the same price as a Coleman options, it seems better made, and we think it will last longer.

The Tensleep's storage bag splits into two sides  one for the tent  one for the fly. The attached pole bag runs down the middle and the zippered storage bag for the stakes is attached to the side.
The Tensleep's storage bag splits into two sides, one for the tent, one for the fly. The attached pole bag runs down the middle and the zippered storage bag for the stakes is attached to the side.

Packed Size


We accept that camping tents are big and heavy, but only to a point. You still have to fit it in your trunk, and you might have to carry it a few hundred feet to a walk-in campsite. As such, we took each model's packed size into consideration, but not too heavily at only 5% of the overall weighting.


Despite not being the smallest, nor lightest tent we reviewed, the REI Kingdom 6 still managed a high score because the backpack design makes transporting it to and from the car very easy.

The Big Agnes Tensleep Station 6 scored well for its innovative storage bag. It has two open pockets, one for the tent and one for the fly, that then fold over a sewn-in pole bag and an attached, zippered stake and guy line sack. Gone are the days of looking all over camp for those tiny bags.

The Boondocker's storage bag has two sides  one for the tent  one for the rain fly.
The Boondocker's storage bag has two sides, one for the tent, one for the rain fly.

Similarly, for an otherwise massive tent, the Eureka Boondocker Hotel 6 packs down into a duffel bag size, with two pouches and velcroed pockets for the poles and stakes. They're not all attached like the Tensleep, but still pretty handy.

The Marmot Limestone 6 has the most traditional storage bag, a long cylinder with closures that cinch at both ends. You have to roll everything back up efficiently to get it back in the bag, but it's oversized, so in the end, it's doable. The North Face Wawona uses an open-topped, oval-shaped bag that cinches. It works, but some precise folding or rolling is required to get it all back in the bag.

While it's packed size is certainly not petite, the slightly larger storage bag on the Caddis Rapid 6 Tent made the act of packing easier. There is no need for precise and exacting folding and rolling, and we don't have to wrestle, shove, push, pull, or otherwise fight tent, bag, and zipper to get it back in its home.

The North Face Wawona 6 is a welcoming home on the range.
The North Face Wawona 6 is a welcoming home on the range.

Conclusion


We understand that the process of finding the right tent can be a big undertaking. So many options and so many features can make finding the right fit overwhelming. We hope we were able to help you make an educated decision on whether or not a camping tent will best suit your needs, and which one is the perfect model for you, your family, and friends. Happy trails!


Lyra Pierotti and Wes Berkshire