Winter is receding nicely in the rear view mirror and your thoughts may be turning to spending some time outside, maybe even camping with your family. If that’s the case, I’ve got some information for you about some new equipment. I spend a lot of nights out each year, camping under the stars. Between camping with my Boy Scout Troop and the evenings I go with my family, I spent nearly a month on the ground in 2015. So when Coleman asked me if I wanted to try some of their new gear, I jumped at the chance.
Coleman Carlsbad 4 Person Tent
Most nights camping, I tuck myself inside a small-ish backpacking tent, which I love, but I’ve been thinking about getting a bigger tent, mostly because changing clothes is always such a contortionist act. I can’t do much more than sit up in my tent without having to duck my head. For me, the Carlsbad held great potential. It’s size is palatial compared to my ordinary digs. Inside, the four person tent measures nine by seven feet and the center of the tent is just an inch shy of five feet high. It’s big enough to put a queen sized air mattress in there, if that’s how you camp.
Protip: Take the recommended number of people for any tent and subtract one. Unless you are all really, really good friends.
When you enter the Carlsbad 4 person tent, there’s a seven by four foot screen room. Due to its angle, it’s not really big enough to sit in, unless you’re a kid or a dog, but it’s a great place for putting your boots without having to worry about snakes or bugs using them as an overnight hotel, since the screen room zips up tightly.
What’s unique about the tent is that it uses “Dark Room” technology to, as Coleman claims, block out 97.5% of sunlight for sleeping in or going to bed early. They also claim that it reduces how much the tent heats up during the day by 9.5%. More on those claims in a bit.
Setup is relatively easy and can be done by a single person, but is much easier with two doing the work. The construction and setup is similar to a large number of Coleman tents and, working at a moderate pace, you should have your tent up in under ten minutes.
There are windows on the two side panels and the optional (but included) rain fly will cover those windows during a rainstorm. The door also has a panel that can be unzipped to reveal a mesh window that will allow air to flow freely in the tent. A great feature of the vestibule is that you can leave the front door wide open and still be protected from insects by the zipped-up vestibule.
Inside, there is a nice sized pocket on each side of the tent, big enough to hold a pair of glasses, phone, and some other small objects during the night. Additionally, there’s a tiny zipped opening in one of the corners that Coleman calls an E-Port for running electrical power into your tent. Do people really do that?
The Carlsbad, like most (all?) Coleman tents, features a bathtub floor with welded and inverted seams to keep you dry if it really starts to rain. Coleman doesn’t really push footprints much, but I always bring an extra blue tarp, just in case.
The biggest surprise came as I was walking back to the tent at night and my flashlight caught the guy lines. They were still coiled because it was a still night, but Coleman has included their Illumiline reflective cords on this tent and they are a really nice upgrade.
I’m not sure if it was because the windows were all up or what, but the tent seemed to warm up pretty quickly. The first time I set it up, in my backyard, it sat in the sun for about 20 minutes. When I entered it after that time, it was considerably warmer inside the tent. I’m not sure is that’s due to the black fabric or because there are no open and exposed mesh panels on the Carlsbad. It’s all polyester fabric.
Back to the Dark Room. A significant amount of the fabric used is a black that prevents light from permeating. There are still some panels that are regular polyester and allow light in. When I first set it up, it was daylight and there was less light than usual in the tent, but still pretty light. I was somewhat skeptical. But after the sun dropped and I began to get ready for bed, I was shocked; it was very dark.
It was a cloudless night and not a lot of ambient light where we were camping that night, but it was so dark in the Carlsbad, I couldn’t see my hand in front of my face, not could I make out any light leaking through any panels of the tent. It took some adjustment. Still, and I can’t give the Carlsbad all the credit because I’ve only had one night in it so far, I had one of the best night’s sleeping that I’ve had on the ground in a long time.
Now for the things I wasn’t so crazy about. The vestibule doesn’t come off, so it’s another zipper you have to open when you go in and out. Additionally, due to the way the vestibule meets the front of the tent and its mesh panels, I imagine you’re going to have a lot of water entering the vestibule when it rains, which is probably why there’s a mesh panel on the floor where the vestibule attaches to the tent, for drainage.
Additionally, I am not a fan of Coleman tent poles. Our Scout Troop uses Coleman tents and we seem to be constantly repairing the poles. (No other complaints about the tents, themselves.) But the fiberglass shafts aren’t my favorite. I prefer aluminum due to weight and strength. But more than that, the elastic Coleman uses to tether the poles together seems to be cheap and not very durable. Sure enough, after taking apart the tent for just the second time, the elastic in one of the two main poles let go and I was left with a whole bunch of loose sections. Thankfully, Coleman responded quickly and I should have a replacement just days after calling. I wish Coleman offered an upgrade on their poles though; we’d buy them in a heartbeat.
All in all, I’m pretty impressed with the Carlsbad. It’s a great option for car camping and the Dark Room will help you get kids to bed early or maybe even sleep in a bit, depending on your campground and the number of early morning songbirds around you.
The Carlsbad is also available in a six person size.
Coleman Comfort-Cloud Sleeping Bag
My recent night camping was too cool for the Comfort-Cloud; temperatures dipped into the low 30s and this bag is only rated to 40º (a single rating for both men and women), so I had to judge it by a nap indoors the following day. The rectangular bag is really comfortable, with a layer of very soft fleece around its opening that won’t irritate you like some bags with exposed seams. Additionally, just below the opening of the bag, there’s a pocket for storing small items. The pocket is about the size of an iPhone 5.
The big selling point of the Comfort-Cloud is that one side of the bad has a layer of memory foam to make sleeping more comfortable and help insulate you from the ground. It’s nice, but it’s a thin layer and you won’t be able to leave your sleeping pad at home when sleeping on the hard ground. The pad is also removable, so you can take it out before throwing the bag in a washing machine.
Although the bag is 75 inches long, it’s for people smaller than 5′ 11″. That’s a pretty accurate estimation because I’m six feet tall and the bag felt small to me. However, my daughter jumped in after my nap and said she loved it and thought it was incredibly comfortable. I suspect it will be her go to bag for sleepovers from now on.
Both the Carlsbad and Comfort-Cloud are available now.
Coleman Comfortsmart Interlock Breeze Suspension Chair
by Anthony Karcz – If you’re looking for high-end seating options around the fire, the Coleman Comfortsmart Interlock Breeze Suspension Chair is the perfect option. Made of durable mesh and canvas, with a solid steel frame, this wide-based chair is no pushover. It’s rated for up to 300 lbs and provides very generous accommodations, with a 22-inch wide seat and an 18-inch high back. Plus a cupholder! Who doesn’t love cupholders?
The double-bungee system extends from the back all the way to the front of the seat and makes this much more comfortable than your typical fold-up canvas chair. That, plus the open mesh back means that I can sit in the hot Florida sun for my son’s flag football games without overheating or going numb.
One thing to keep in mind is that this is definitely not a “minimal carry” camping item. All that solid construction equals a heavy chair that is still quite tall when folded. The sturdy carry pouch helps, but I wouldn’t recommend taking it for a long distance hike! Still, I would choose this chair any day of the week over the rickety folding chairs I’ve been using for my kid’s sporting events. Bring on the Spring seasons!
Disclosure: GeekDad was sent samples of these items for review purposes.