Long Term Product Review – Kelty Tent

This is our first entry in our new long-term product review section. All gear has a useful lifetime, and we can help ourselves by taking a few steps to ensure that our gear lasts as long as possible while still providing us with good utility. To that end, we like to present our gear that we use when we go camping, and provide you with real-life experiences “in the field” while using that gear. Reviews are nice, but they only provide a snapshot in time. Our hope and goal is that these updates will provide you with ongoing results on different items so that you can make better informed decisions when you go looking for replacement gear.

We recently acquired a new tent, which provides us with a great opportunity to start our long term product review series. So let’s kick things off by telling you the what, where and why of the new gear, and what our experiences have been so far.

Kelty Tent

Long Term Gear: New Tent

Several weeks ago we arrived at a private campground with some friends. Once we found our site, we started to unload gear and get setup. As I pulled gear out of our vehicle, I see our friends pull out a new tent. My wife and I and our friends had both been looking for a new tent for a while, and we were looking for a larger tent than our 4-person Coleman Hooligan that had been our staple tent for a few years. We asked them about the tent, where they got it, how much it was, what did they like about it, and more. We then watched them set up the new tent, and we were impressed, so much so that my wife and I agreed that we needed to go and get one of these NOW.

So, what we ended up getting was a Kelty Riverside 6-person tent. We purchased this from a local Cabela’s store, but Bass Pro Shops also have this. Compared to our 4-person tent, this is obviously bigger and provides more floor space, but it also provides a lot more headroom. The footprint of this Kelty Riverside is 10 feet wide by just under 9 feet deep, with a center height of 6 feet 5 inches. As a bigger guy over 6 feet tall, this tent is like a ballroom compared to our smaller tent. We also use a double high queen air mattress, and while we can make it fit in the Hooligan, there is plenty of additional floor space in the Kelty with the air mattress in it.

The tent itself has huge mesh panels that make up the upper two thirds of the tent, so with or without the rain fly you can have great air flow. It has a single large D-style door that is easy to operate. The rain fly offers full coverage, going all the way to the ground, ensuring that you stay dry no matter which way the rain goes. One nice aspect to the tent and rain fly is that at the corners, there are buckles that secure the rain fly down, yet are easy to release and pull off the rain fly when needed. The tent only has 2 poles that cross in the middle of the tent, making setup very easy. On each corner are grommeted holes for the ends of the poles to go into. While 2 people can make quick work of setting up this tent, a single person can put this up very easily in under 10 minutes without breaking a sweat. And inside, there are several built in gear pouches to put all of your lose items in.

The rain fly, as I mentioned, comes all the way to the ground, but another nice feature of the fly is that in the front it forms a small vestibule. This is great for keeping your shoes out of the tent, but not subject to rain or dew. The vestibule is large enough to even keep a couple of bags or packs under if needed and still allow easy access to the tent interior.

Long Term Gear: New Tent

First Experience

As I mentioned, we were camping with some friends at a private campground. This was our first experience with the tent, and it was a hot and humid weekend. Once we got the tent, it was fast to setup and we got our sleeping situation arranged quickly. Because of the humidity primarily, we ended up also purchasing a battery operated fan. We were able to suspend the fan from the middle of the tent ceiling, and while it wasn’t our home A/C, it was definitely nice to have some air movement with the fan. We survived the first weekend with the new tent, and it packed up nice and compact, easily fitting back into the original carry bag that came with it.

Second Experience

Our second experience happened at a state park in Wisconsin. We were staying with a larger group of people on a couple of campsites. My wife was working that day, so I went early to setup the tent and get things generally ready for the weekend. It is fortunate that this state park is near where we live, so I could do this. Putting up the tent solo was a breeze, and in fact our friends from our first experience with this tent were also in attendance, so he and I did a sort of 1-on-1 battle in putting up our tents since they are the same. I was able to beat him (he would deny this, of course), but not by much, and again we both did it in less than 10 minutes. I then arranged our sleeping gear, and the tent was ready for the weekend. We had great weather for the weekend, so after 2 uses we have not had a chance to test out the rain fly. We did, however, once again mount our battery fan from the ceiling in the tent for air movement at night.

Initial Thoughts

Having used this new Kelty Riverside a couple of times now, we are very satisfied with it. We were looking for a larger tent for more space, and we got it with this tent. We also like the vestibule feature on our Hooligan, and this Riverside offers a similar vestibule space for our shoes/sandals to keep dirt to a minimum inside the tent. One feature that we absolutely knew we wanted was a full rain fly that goes to the ground, and the Riverside features this. We also wanted a tent that was fast and easy to put up, and with only 2 poles the Riverside is both fast and easy. So far, the Kelty Riverside has been a solid purchase, and it only cost us $200. Yes, there are many other tents out there that are less expensive, but they are not as well thought out, nor do they have a full rain fly. The double-zippered large D-style door, the buckles for attaching the rain fly, the grommeted holes for the tent poles, the actually half-way decent stakes for the tent, and handy guy line pouches on the rain fly make the price a bargain for what it is. We have several upcoming camping trips in the coming months, and are looking forward to pitching camp quickly thanks to our new tent

Initial Thoughts

Wrap Up

So far, we’ve been very pleased with our Kelty Riverside 6-person tent. As with most people, there are parts to the tent that I’m waiting to see how long they last. I wondering how the zippers on the D-style door will hold up. I’m wondering how long the plastic buckles for the rain fly will hold up. I’m wondering how the grommeted holes for the poles will last before tearing out. Will the rain fly really do well in a down pour? Kelty is a known brand for tents, so I have to believe that they have engineered these items and more to hold up for many years of use. We also use a ground tarp for underneath the tent to help prolong the floor of the tent, and we use closed foam pads under our bed for the same reason. We use magnetic lights, and we’ll see how the mesh material holds up to this weight on them for several days use.

This marks our first long-term product review entry, and I hope to provide updates on this item and others at least once per year. Eventually things fail, but if cared for our tent should last 10 years or more, so that is my expectation from it. I want to hear from you! Do you have this same tent? How long have you had your tent? What features of a tent are most important to you?

Leave a Comment