A FAMILY TENT has to have certain features for it to become – and remain – that go-to every time you and your partner/brood head off for a few nights in the outdoors. It needs to be tough, roomy, offer plenty of ventilation and serve as a bearable shelter for those long rainy days when you and the kids cannot get outside its walls and explore. It needs to be easy to erect and disassemble (to eliminate those always-feared campground disputes), and it must pack down reasonably compact; campers arrive at campgrounds in vehicles of all sizes so a tent that fits easily in a regular sedan, hatchback or a rooftop pod is worth its (hopefully light) weight in gold.
With a two-year-old and his four-year-old sister essentially relegating our old hiking tents to the cupboard, a large family tent was put on the shopping list. I wanted a relatively lightweight tent that could fit easily into our Subaru Forester XT, but could also – at a later date – do duty as our outback touring abode. Black Wolf’s Tuff Dome Plus tent fit the bill.
The Tuff Dome Plus is part of Black Wolf’s 12-tent Dome range. On top of the regular Tuff Dome, the Plus adheres to its moniker by adding in an extra 600mm of interior length (its dimensions are 4800mm long, 2400mm wide, 2000mm tall), which actually makes a fair bit of difference. We are a family of four and the Plus is rated as a 6-person tent, so the additional 2.7kg of packed weight (the Plus is 11.5kg; the Dome 9.8kg) is a very small price to pay for additional space. The other main reason for choosing the Tuff Dome Plus was its excellent interior height of 2m. For someone topping out at 1.83m, finding a tent I don’t rub my head on – or have to bend over to fit in – is a must.
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The Tuff Dome Plus asking price may seem a bit steep for a polyester/nylon dome tent but the construction is top-notch, ensuring a robust build that will cop any wild weather (it has numerous guy-line attachments for extra stability in windy conditions). Rather than use cheap, easily broken plastic or fiberglass poles, Black Wolf specs tough aluminium jobbies. The floor fabric is 300D Oxford Nylon PU and has already copped a hammering from us and the kids, filling with sand, dirt, sea shells and other campsite detritus without tearing or marking.
Clever features on the tent include gusseted windows on the 150D Polyester PU fly (there are three large windows on the tent inner with no-see-um mesh, plus the front door) so even when it is raining, you can still keep air flowing through the tent as these gussets direct rainfall away from the window and interior. The seams on the floor and on the fly are sealed via waterproof tape and we’ve had no water get in at all so far. The 1.2m-deep vestibule is spacious enough to store our duffel bags, Esky (most important!), camp storage boxes and the kids’ toys. If I would improve anything, perhaps an even larger vestibule would be cool, although we’ve got around it by stringing a separate tarp over the front for the occasional time we’ve wanted more shade/shelter.
To set up the tent is dead easy: the two main poles (16mm aluminium) are pre-bent so thread through their sleeves on the tent inner very easily. The two 13mm aluminium poles used to extend the fly and rear of the tent are also pre-bent, and also quite easy to fit and secure. Then you just throw the fly over, clip it to the tent buckles and you’re done. It takes 10-15 minutes at the most and is even quicker to pack up.
So far the Tuff Dome Plus has performed with aplomb, doing all it is designed to do. The assurance of its robust build and quality materials make me more than confident I will get many years service out of this big bopper. Even though the asking price is slightly formidable, spreading that cost over what I expect to be many years of reliable service makes this tent pretty impressive bang for your bucks.
RRP $880 www.blackwolf.com.au