A Review of the Coleman Family Tent

Canadian Tire has this commercial.

I did not know about this commercial thanks to the magic of PVR, but when I purchased this behemoth of a ten-person tent for a 5 day family camping trip, Coleman was unwittingly fulfilling all of my unexpressed desires. I wanted to be the envy of all the tenters out there, all one amongst the army of 30 foot trailers. I wanted a tent that would house me, my camping-averse husband, my four-year olds, and my wayward dog for 5 days in a temperate climate during a family trip without causing a domestic dispute.

Is that too much to fucking ask? Yes. Yes, it is.

Set Up

Pros: YES. FUCK YES. BUY THIS TENT RIGHT NOW.

Setting this tent up set me up for a level of optimism I can only describe as “overly confident” at best, but “delusional” is a more realistic term.

Cons: The worst part about setting up this tent was that I had to set down my beer to do it because the poles have clicky things that require two hands. I really tried not to set down my beer, friends, but things just couldn’t be helped. My husband fiddled with this random piece of material that we think is some sort of fly or perhaps, OH MY GOD I JUST FIGURED OUT IT’S PROBABLY A WALL FOR INSIDE THE TENT THAT IS SO SMART BUT HAS VIRTUALLY NO USE TO US NOW BECAUSE I AM HOME WITH ACTUAL WALLS MADE OF DRYWALL AND I AM GOING TO KISS THEM.

THERE ARE TWO QUEEN SIZED AIR MATRESSES IN THERE THIS IS PRACTICALLY THE HILTON

There are two queen sized matresses in there and room to spare. Camping is going to be goddamn aces, you guys. Optimism level: OFF THE CHARTS.

But really, this delivers on the promise of the instant easy set up, if you subtract the hours worth of fiddling with mystery material.

Staying In the Tent

Pros: This tent is large. There is lots of room. It seems durable. There are lots of windows. It is a rectangle. I am a tallish woman and can stand up straight in it, if you don’t count me nailing myself in the head with a lantern at least six times during this trip because I evidently don’t have a short-term memory anymore.

Cons: You guys, being dry is all well and fine when you’re in a car wash for a few minutes, but what do you get when you’re in a downpour with two small people with only passing knowledge of potty training, a camping-averse husband who said (for real, I am not shitting you) “I didn’t change my clothes for three days because I kept thinking we were going to shower” and a dog who prefers feces and rain-soaked kibble to anything else?

The answer is condensation. You get condensation.

I can see the water is beading on the outside, so why is it dripping on my head. This is my thought process for two hours.

I can see the water is beading on the outside, so why is it dripping on my head? This is my thought process for two hours.

This is what I figured out as I clung desperately to the side of the brand new air mattress that required complicated re-pumping every day after having seven children (five not my own) abuse it to the point of disrepair. I had four-year old feet in my face, I was half out of my sleeping bag, and I was getting dripped on. So I had some time to think. And I thought “FUCK YOU, Coleman. Fuck you for making a completely sealed off “family” tent.” No one wants to be sealed off with their family. That is why suite hotels and boarding schools were invented. It’s all well and fine that you can make a neato commercial, but the practicality of having a completely sealed off tent is nil. So basically, I was having angry thoughts.

P1020320

All that air took hours to escape because I did not have the cognitive ability at the end of the trip to open a door or window to let it out.

And then, just as I was getting some sleep, the voice of my dad appeared from the heavens. He’s not dead, so it was especially weird that he was offering us respite in form of a the hotel room key that he and my mom were checking out of, so we could take a hot shower. So weird that I grumbled “but there’s pay showers here”, and he retreated as quickly as he came, but left wine. I thought it was a dream until my husband lost his shit over the fact that there was no hot showers to be had and I tripped over the wine bottle on my way out of the tent. I am drinking that wine right now you guys, and nothing ever tasted so good.

Take home message: Coleman denied me a hot shower by making me think too hard. It does not matter how big the goddamn tent is, friends, if there is no ventilation and five mammalian bodies, you have a problem.

Take Down

Pros: Take down of the Coleman Family Tent is relatively easy because of the magic of presto buttons and neat shit like that. I completely fooled our spectators (my cousin and the assorted kids) that everything was fine because we got it all sort of down minus all the massive air/ventilation problem seen above. And they left for the beach, with us promising to follow shortly as soon as we got our tent in the bag.

Cons: And that is when the proverbial wheels came off the proverbial fucking piece of shit tent.

Friends, I said and did things this morning that I don’t care to repeat. A lovely, lovely couple staying in the campsite next to us who were quietly having breakfast, and who live-in-the-same-city-as-us-so-I-will-probably-run-into-them-at-the-Farmer’s-Market-tomorrow-because-they-seem-like-the-type and their two-year old daughter, did not need to hear the things that they heard this morning. There was a domestic scene of epic proportions, rivaled only by our camping neighbors trying to park a 35 foot trailer in pitch black the night before. I feel ashamed, dear readers. Ashamed at what that tent made me do.

All of this shit had to go back into our van. I would have just set it back up and lived there on a permanent basis if they let you stay more than 16 days. I could have been a charming campground resident who helped you back your trailer in. I had plans. A lot of plans.

All of this shit had to go back into our van. I would have just set it back up and lived there on a permanent basis if they let you stay more than 16 days. I could have been a charming campground resident who helped you back your trailer in and made hilariously burned pancakes every morning. I had plans. A lot of plans. I had a lot of time to make those plans.

I have many reasons for yelling, but that tent became the lightning rod for all of my frustrations this morning. I was furious at Coleman for disabusing me of the notion that a family camping trip could be the joyous family fun times that I was envisioning. Mostly though, I was furious at them for saving the shitstorm right for the end of the trip, when we had lost all organizational capacity. All I wanted was a hot breakfast, Coleman. What I got was a maelstrom of throwing shit around, patronizing, and accusations. Where is that in your goddamn commercial, Coleman?

But on the bright side, at least we didn’t leave the camping tradition of having a major domestic incident aside. It’s right up there with roasting marshmallows and beer fueled hikes.

Rating
Let’s review:
Pros: I was lulled into a false sense of security that everything was going to be ok.

Cons: I do not enjoy 1) being disabused of notions and 2) having all the shit saved for the end of things. I like the shit up front so I can deal with it.

This tent is recommended for the camping-averse and those with short attention spans. This tent is highly recommended if you have lost your sense of smell, prefer moist environments, and you can afford to just abandon it at the end of your trip.

This tent is not recommended for actual families, those in shaky marriages, or people with dogs of any kind, especially ones who have earned the moniker “Smelly” by a horde of children becoming collectively more odorous by the moment.

29 comments

  1. Jen,
    But what I really want to know is: does it come with WIFI antenna/installation? And a panic red button?
    Le Clown

    1. I think you have to use the crude tools of pen and paper. No Wifi and the panic button is most likely a scream. Are there bears in the woods there? Wolves? Snakes?

        1. Le Clown,
          I fear that the polar bears there may not be as wifi savvy as they think. I grew up in the country and the South and it took me decades to figure it out. :) Good juju to you and yours.

        2. Unfortunately I planted some analnus last week and wasn’t around to protect them over the weekend.Most of them survived but a few Coleus plants didn’t make it.

      1. Our only wildlife encounter was a flock of turkeys that ran through our site every morning. Apparently there’s cougars there, but I only saw the human variety of cougar wandering around with chilled white wine in a plastic camping glass.

  2. You are so much braver than I am. I hate camping, tents, sleeping bags, blow-up mattresses, public showers and everything that goes along with enjoying the great outdoors for any length of time. I enjoy the outdoors then go home.

    My idea of roughing it is a cabin in a wooded area with electricity, toilets, hospitals and restaurants nearby.

    But I applaud you, RG for taking this on. At least you had beer. And wine. And your great sense of humor.

    1. I actually enjoy camping, but I find that everyone has to enjoy camping at the same time or it is some truly miserable shit. In which case, I am happy to cabin or hotel it. This campground has several restaurants which we used and abused the one rainy morning. I fear if I had tried to make my family eat breakfast in the rain they might have just left me to camp for good.

  3. Wow, I am beyond impressed. That anyone would willingly do this to themselves… ;)

    Very funny post. I imagine the stories you have from this trip will last decades. And after all is said and done, that’s often worth the misery in and of itself. :)

    1. It actually was a great trip as we were camping with family and the boys got to go wild with dirt and sticks and rocks and cousins for 5 days. From that perspective it was all worth it. If I had to rate the camping experience on the tent take-down alone though, I would never leave the house again.

      1. We put our plants in the ggraae before we went camping so they survived. I was too busy to put them in the ground so it pays to procrastinate ;)Our camping trip in Goderich was a bit cold and we had frost on out tent Sunday night, but we survived in our sleeping bags that are good to -7.

  4. Hilarious, Jen. And I’m sorry it was such a challenge. I hope you’re feeling better now. But selfishly, I must admit that I have missed your sense of humor and great writing. So while I feel bad at enjoying your misery, I’m glad you chose to take the time to share this AFGE (Another Fucking Growth Experience) with us all.
    Best
    Cathy

    1. Ha! I am going to start using that acronym with abandon. The trip, as these things are, was actually pretty great until the tent take down. Boys + dirt + older cousins = happy.

  5. Maybe next time you should have them remove the wheels from the tent at the shop.
    Or get a tent with no wheels.
    Because I think just having them in the first place sets you up for an epic level of surreal…

    1. One would assume Coleman has all this worked out by now, but I suppose if they make a perfect tent no one will need to purchase tents anymore. Maybe the wheels are for pushing the tent into the river before wiping your hands of the whole mess.

  6. Oh Jen, you had me rolling with this one! It sounds like the perfect tent for our family, if we could leave it behind. It reminded me of the one time we went camping and we tried to put up this five-room tent (with walls). Needless to say, it was a disaster and we haven’t been camping since!

    1. The kiddos had a GREAT time camping, and I fear we will attempt it again. Maybe next time I’ll just leave the camping averse husband home. Or buy a luxury trailer and make the children sleep in the tent.

  7. I suspect that Coleman is not going to ask the Giraffes to appear in the Coleman Family Tent sequel commercial. But I wish they would.

    Brilliant post, Jen, and I think, brilliant publicity for Coleman.

    1. If there was any truth in advertising, Coleman commercials would only feature rain soaked arguments and their products being incinerated in campfires that can only be lit with the use of gasoline.

  8. Oh, god, this is so funny. We’re taking our FOUR children on a week-long road trip in two weeks and it just might kill me. Thank heavens we don’t own that tent, or else I would know for sure it would kill me.

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