It’s the heart of camping season! We’re a family with multiple tent needs (meaning, we have need of multiple tents for multiple types of camping experiences). As family of five, including three always-growing boys, we use several lightweight 2-3 person tents for backpacking, and prefer to use 1-2 larger, heavier tents for car camping at state and national park campgrounds. This summer, we’ve been doing a little of both: we backpacked through Yosemite’s High Sierra Camps, and car camped in both Channel Islands National Park and on the bluffs of Doe Bay in Orcas Island, WA. For both the latter trips, we used our Slumberjack Grand Lodge 8 Person tent.
The Slumberjack Grand Lodge is hands-down the biggest tent we’ve ever tried. One plus of a large-sized tent is in the design. The boys love that the Grand Lodge can be split into two rooms (with a detachable nylon divider), and I love that it features two doors (one on each side, and on each side of the divide). In addition, there are six windows (the doors are also mesh, bringing the window total to eight) and more mesh panels to let in sunlight (or starlight) on the ceiling. It sleeps eight easily if a few of the eight are children, and comfortably sleeps six adults or older kids. (The floor area is 156 square feet.) The lodge is nice and tall, which means we can stand up in it to change clothes, arrange sleeping bags, and pack up gear, a luxury to those of us used to smaller backpacking tents.
I was intimidated to try setting up the Grand Lodge for the first time. After all, it’s huge! And heavy at 39 pounds, packed. But thanks to all the poles (11 of them, to be exact) being color-coded with coordinating clips and sleeves, figuring out how this monster goes together is a breeze. Really. If I can figure it out, being, shall we say, engineering-challenged, anyone can. That said, due to the wieldiness and height of the tent (it stands at 96 inches when erected), you really need two adults to set it up. The first time I erected the Grand Lodge, it took me and one additional adult (and one small child getting in the way) 10 minutes from start to finish. Not too shabby! The second time, we cut our personal best to six minutes.
My only complaint: because of the tent’s height, you really need to make sure you have someone tall enough to get a good angle on connecting the top poles. If you don’t get them in all the way, the tent can buckle. We had this happen on our first assembly; the tent buckled five minutes after set up, and the dog jumped on top of it like he’d just been given a bounce house! Upon inspection, I realized I hadn’t inserted one of the poles all the way into the connector. I couldn’t see the problem from my height. Be sure to have someone tall on-hand, or be ready to use a step stool to check your work.
The Grand Lodge comes with a rain fly that’s easy to toss over the top and secure (it weathered a San Juan Islands thunder storm perfectly), and there are lots of nice interior pockets for storing items. Outside, you also get additional nylon pockets to store the optional guy lines (included). We felt the tent was secure enough just staking it (stakes also included, of course), but they lines are there if you need them. All the seams are waterproofed and taped, and the zipper pulls are quiet.
The Grand Lodge fits nicely (and surprisingly easily) into its own large duffel (30 inches) for easy portability. It’ll take up a fair amount of room in your car when you’re packing for a weekend camping trip, but having the space at the campsite will be worth it. We use backpacking pads with our sleeping bags, but families who opt for cots will find that they fit in the Grand Lodge quite nicely.
The Bottom Line: for a well-ventilated and well-constructed tent to fit the whole family on car camping expeditions, the Grand Lodge is the one. If you need less room, or only have one adult available for assembly, you may need something more manageable. Pick up a Grand Lodge at the Slumberjack site for $399.95, or grab one at Amazon for only $325. You can also check prices at Sunny Sports and Altrec.
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