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So, you want a family tent that’s big enough for you and the kids, easy to put up and costs less than a hundred bucks? Sounds like a tall order, but I may just have the tent for you.
Today, I’m reviewing the Coleman Sundome 6 – a large dome tent that’s perfect for summer camping on a budget.
The Coleman Sundome 6
The Coleman Sundome 6 is one of the most popular family tents on the market.
Part of this is undoubtedly due to its low price, but consistently good reviews.
This 6-person tent is the largest in Coleman’s Sundome range.
It’s similar to its smaller brothers and sisters with a single large compartment and a simple two-pole design.
If you’re car camping, particularly for more than a day or two, it can be handy to bring along a generator to power lighting inside the tent and charge electronic devices.
One nice feature of the Sundome is a small zippered e-Port in one corner which allows you to run a cable into the tent without having to open the main door.
On the downside, it’s worth noting that the rain fly doesn’t extend down this far, so you might want to seam seal the zippered section for added protection against rain.
Size: Not Really Big Enough for 6
For a 6-person tent, the Coleman Sundome is pretty compact.
It has a single compartment that’s just about big enough for two queen-sized air mattresses, with a bit of space at your feet for bags… that still only adds up to four people.
It may be physically possible to squeeze six people in, but that would have to include multiple children – so, for this tent at least, I’d ignore the 6-person rating.
If you’re using standard camping mats, you should be able to fit four adults with room to get in and out of the tent.
Camping for two? You’ll be able to fit in a couple of cots or a double air mattress with plenty of space for all your gear.
The highest part of the dome measures 6 feet so shorter campers won’t have any problem standing upright and moving around the tent.
Because of the dome shape, the sides do taper, so if you’re tall and standing up is a priority you may want to go for a tent with more vertical sides.
Season: Good for Mild Weather
Although it’s described as a 3-season tent, I’d be more comfortable categorizing this as a summer or 2-season tent, unless you live in an area with a very mild climate.
There are plenty of ventilation options, with mesh sides and the option to turn the top half of the door and window into mesh screens.
This makes it a great tent for camping in hot weather, particularly as you can leave the rain fly off, lie back and watch the stars.
The downside to all this mesh is that in cold weather it’s going to get chilly inside.
And despite Coleman’s keep-you-dry-guaranteed WeatherTech system, the lack of a full coverage rain fly makes me wary about camping in this tent during a big storm.
The Sundome’s rain fly only covers the top part of the tent.
It’ll protect you if rain is falling directly from above, but strong winds could drive the water under the rain fly and through the mesh part of the inner.
The bathtub-style floor extends a good way up the side of the tent, so you don’t have to worry too much about water coming in from below, though as with any tent, it’s worth laying an additional tarp underneath to help protect the base of your tent.
Setup: Quick and Easy
Putting up larger tents can sometimes be a chore, but the simple two-pole design of the Sundome makes it a quick and easy job for one person to get up in ten minutes or less.
There’s a shorter third pole that supports the rain fly above the entrance to the tent, kind of like a mini porch.
It is as quick to take down as it is to put up.
Even better, it actually fits back into the carry bag!
Security: Decent Quality for the Money
For a cheap tent, the Sundome 6 seems to be pretty durable.
The weakest part of the fabric is likely to be the pole sleeves, but if you treat them gently they should last several years.
The poles are made from fiberglass which is less robust than aluminum, and as with many cheaper tents, you’ll need to be careful with the zippers.
Basically, treat it nicely and it should last you a good number of years.
One part of the tent that it’s worth upgrading is the tent stakes.
It’s pretty standard for lower-budget tents to come with thin hook stakes, but if you’ve ever camped on hard ground, you’ll know that this type of stake bends as easily as a cheap spoon in ice cream.
Storage: Very Little
For a tent that is supposed to sleep six people, the Sundome has next to no storage.
But then, it is a simple tent without the bells and whistles.
Inside the main compartment, there are two hand-sized storage pockets at waist height for phones, flashlights, and other accessories.
There’s a hook to attach a lantern in the center of the ceiling but no way of attaching a gear loft which is a shame – as this would be an easy way of providing an additional storage option.
Since rain fly only covers the top part of the tent, there’s no porch to store bags or other items, so everything needs to come into the tent with you.
If there’s only two or three of you in the tent this won’t be a problem, but if you are trying to squeeze in more people, then you’ll end up having to leave your gear in the car.
This is where the Coleman Sundome 6 really excels.
If you’re after a cheap tent for the occasional summertime use, it’s a perfect option.
The Best Alternative to the Sundome 6 Tent
If you’re after a sub-$200 6-person tent and you’re still not convinced that the Sundome is for you, check out this option…
Coleman Evanston Screened Tent
The sleeping compartment of this Coleman tent is slightly smaller than the Sundome.
However, it does comes with a large porch giving additional space to lounge undercover in the evenings, to store extra kit, or to place your muddy shoes for the night.
It’s still a fair-weather tent and the mesh on the front of the porch is designed to keep out bugs, not rain.
But as someone who has done their fair share of camping in mosquito-ridden areas, the benefit of having somewhere to sit without getting eaten alive shouldn’t be underestimated!
If you don’t mind sacrificing a bit of sleeping space inside, the Coleman Evanston Screened Tent is a great choice to keep the bugs at bay.
Things to Consider Before Buying a 6-Person Tent
The Coleman Sundome 6 claims to be a 6-person tent, but we just went over that that really isn’t the case.
Now that we covered its features, let’s talk about a few general points that you may want to consider before buying a tent of this size.
1. What are you going to use it for?
Let’s face it, if you’re looking at 6-person tents you are unlikely using it for backpacking.
Tents of this size sit firmly in the car camping territory which means you don’t need to worry too much about weight and packability.
Unless, of course, you’re trying to fit three kids, a dog and your camping equipment for a week into a Toyota Prius.
Important questions to ask yourself:
- How often will you be using it?
- How many people are you camping with?
- How much gear do you want to be able to fit inside?
- What sort of weather are you likely to be camping in?
2. Size and Layout
For smaller tents, a single compartment is standard, but once you get up to a 6-person tent, you may want a bit more flexibility with your layout.
If you’re camping as a family, it can be helpful to have more than one sleeping compartment.
This allows you to put the kids to bed early without worrying about disturbing them when you come to bed.
Alternatively, if you have a very young family or if there are just two of you sharing the tent, a single compartment may suit you better.
3. Do you need an all-weather tent?
When buying a tent, there’s a sliding scale between price and durability.
The more you spend on a tent, the more robust it’s likely to be and the better it should stand up to whatever the weather can throw at you.
If you want to be able to camp all year round then spending a bit more on a high-quality, 4-season tent will be a good investment.
Having to abandon your tent for the car in the middle of a winter storm will be a memorable experience, but not necessarily for the right reasons.
But if you only want to camp when the sun is shining, you don’t need a top of the line winter tent.
4. What is your budget?
I’ve put budget last on the list because it will entirely depend on what you want it for.
If budget is a primary consideration in your choice of tents, then you may need to compromise on the durability of your tent and accept that it won’t stand up to regular use in harsh conditions.
Wrapping It Up…
I’d be the first to say that money spent on a tent is money well spent.
But I also love finding a bargain.
While the Coleman Sundome 6 doesn’t have high quality materials or the long list of features that more expensive tents come with, it will allow you to get out camping and enjoy the great outdoors for most of the year – and that’s the most important thing!