Coleman FastPitch Air Valdes 4
If you’re looking to buy a four-person family tent that pitches within 15 minutes and can withstand winds of up to 35mph while keeping a heavy squall at bay, consider this exceptional ‘air’ model from Coleman, which comes with a raft of innovative features like blackout bedrooms, a hinged door and kid-friendly zips.
The Air Valdes 4’s main flysheet is constructed out of top-quality, fire-retardant WeatherTec rip-stop material and it comes with a sewn-in groundsheet, replete with a four-inch welded lip to keep running water and ground crawlies out of the living area. There’s very little chance of you getting wet in this palatial home-from-home since it boats an exceptional hydrostatic head of 4,500mm. Trust us, that’s good enough to keep a long torrential downpour at bay and much better than average for a three-season family tent.
So what’s it like to pitch? Well if you’ve ever struggled to put up a large standard tent, you’ll find this 6.10-metre tunnel model a breeze because it uses three inflatable air beams instead of the usual fiddly nylon poles. Simply pump up each beam in turn (it comes with a hand pump), staking out as you go along, and you’ll have its basic shape erected within 10 minutes. Then it’s simply a case of hanging the internal bedroom compartment, slotting in the two nylon poles for the spacious porch (big enough for a small table and chairs) and fitting the pole for the innovative hinged door. Did I hear you say door? Yes, this tent does away with faffing about with flappy openings by having a proper swing door leading from the porch to the airy and light living area (there’s also a larger side entrance replete with mesh ventilation for extra convenience).
Right, now the outer tent’s up, let’s take a look inside. The two-metre tall interior provides an ample 4.5m2 of living space and a 5.9m2 sleeping area. The two 1.4-metre wide bedrooms are next to each other and divided by a panel which, when unzipped, makes one massive 2.8m x 2.10m sleeping area – perfect for couples who prefer glamping to camping.
It has to be said that these aren’t your ordinary bogstandard tent bedrooms because they have one especially unique feature about them – they’re coated in a special blackout material that cuts out 99% of light when fully zipped up. We can’t tell you how amazingly innovative this is because, as any camper will tell you, as soon as the sun rises (sometimes as early as 5am during a European summer), the light penetrates the tent and its bedrooms, and wakes up the occupants. This black-out feature also helps when trying to sleep through a typical French lightning storm. It’s bad enough trying to sleep with the sound of thunder and the rain pelting against the flysheet but it’s an altogether more scary experience when the whole tent lights up every time there’s a lightning bolt. Another great benefit of blackout bedrooms is that they remain about 5˚C cooler during the day and 1˚C cooler during the night. Of course, if you don’t like the thought of sleeping in total darkness, you can always unzip the top half of the bedroom door with integral ‘no see’ mesh and let a bit of light in.
Other thoughtful design details include a raft of ventilation zips, lots of no-see mesh, anti-sun glare panels, kid-friendly zips that stop halfway so small children can easily reach the toggles, rainproof portals to the outside so you can thread through electric cables, a roof-mounted carabiner to hang an LED lantern (Coleman’s PackAway+ 250 is an excellent choice) and hanging storage pockets for knick-knacks like head torches, e-Readers, maps, what have you.
Whether it’s gas lanterns, cookers or tents, this writer has always had good experience with Coleman products. This particular tent is my favourite family tent to date, and I’ve tried many different brands, from Eurohike and Khyam to Terra Nova and Vango. I love the Valdes’s ease of pitching (it’s just as easy to take down) and the plethora of design flourishes both inside and out. But I’m particularly smitten by those blackout bedrooms. Granted, it’s not the cheapest tent on the campsite, nor is it the lightest (it weighs 20.8kgs), but for three-season family camping, it ticks all the boxes and then some. Top buy.
De Waard De Bergeend
The Dutch love camping and are among the most popular of nationalities at French campsites. They also almost always have the best tents on the campsite – gorgeous old-style, cotton canvas creations that are so taught they look like they’re built from solid clay. De Waard is arguably the most prestigious of Dutch tent manufacturers and the first port of call for anyone serious enough about camping to fork out a small fortune on their living space. The De Bergeend is a case in point.
This classic tunnel-style family model is just the ticket for two adults and a pair of kids in tow. However, you will need a very large car to accommodate the package because it’s big and heavy (the tent weighs 21.5 kilos and the poles weigh 22.5 kilos). Not surprisingly, most Dutch campers usually transport their De Waards in a trailer towed behind by the car.
Once erected – and it requires at least two people – the De Bergeend is a stunner from every angle, both inside and out. Attention to detail, too, is second to none. The inner tent is 3m wide and 2.5m deep and it’s material creates an insulating effect against hot weather. The outer tent is made from a mix of cotton and polyester ripstop and it’s the weight and thickness of this fabric that gives De Waard tents such rigidity. De Waard tents are extremely expensive and tricky to transport but turn up at the campsite with one and you can be sure it’ll turn a lot of heads.
Coleman Galileo 4
Coleman is one of the biggest names in camping equipment and one of the best at tent design. This excellent four-person tunnel tent comes with two double sleeping pods (with removable divider to create one large sleeping area), a capacious 2m x 2.6m stand-up living area, and an integral sewn-in living room groundsheet with raised entrance lip to keep running water out. Typically for Coleman, the quality of the materials used throughout is exemplary. The Galileo is a doddle to pitch, highly waterproof (3,000mm hydrostatic head) and exceedingly well ventilated, too. This is the perfect tent for couples wishing for a little more space; it’s very easy to pitch, too.
Khyam Harewood Plus
Generally speaking, the larger the tent the more difficult it is too pitch. This palatial four-to-eight person tent, though, begs to differ. Uniquely designed with most of its poles already pre-installed, the ‘quick-erect’ Harewood Plus can be pitched by just one person though another pair of hands is a major benefit. Once up, it forms a remarkably rigid and taut structure that’ll hold even the most vociferous of storms at bay (it has a hydrostatic head of 5,000mm). Inside, it’s extremely spacious and comes with two huge hanging bedrooms that will sleep four comfortably on double airbeds or eight if you like to get cosy. The large 3m x 3m living area comes with integral groundsheet and has acres of headroom, ample ventilation and six panoramic windows. If you’re after a really spacious family tent that’s easier to pitch than most, then step right this way.
Vango Iris 500
The Iris 500’s bedroom offers adequate sleeping space for five (it measures 2.10m x 3.10m) but it’s naturally much more comfortable with just two, especially if a decent-sized double airbed is being used. The living area, replete with integral waterproof groundsheet for bug-free camping, measures 3.45m x 2.45m and boasts a head height of just under two metres. The flysheet’s hydrostatic head is 4,000mm, which is good enough to withstand a thunderstorm. The Iris 500 is well made, affordable and sturdy, and ideally sized for a short break in the wilds.
Terra Nova Laser Competition 1
This three-season backpacker tent weighs in at a tad under one kilogram, equivalent to a bag of sugar. The Laser is doddle to pitch – even without reference to the instruction manual – and ingeniously designed with the outer flysheet already attached to the inner bedroom compartment. It’s commendably waterproof (5,000mm hydrostatic head) and designed to withstand typically strong mountain gales. Inside, it’s spacious enough for one – or a couple of Hobbits.