Recently, I got the chance to camp for a few days in various weather conditions in the Coleman Elite Sundome Tent. This freestanding tent is in my opinion designed for car camping. It weighs around 22 lbs in the bag so it’s not a tent I would want to have to carry for a long period of time. What differentiates the Elite Model from the regular Sundome is the Elite is a little larger and comes with an LED lighting system and hinged door. The Sundome is a well though out tent with some very nice features, but it also a few shortcomings. After seeing how it performed over a few days and nights, these are my conclusions.
What I like:
- It is spacious: The floor measures 12 x 10 feet which gives you 120 square feet of living space. Combined with the 6 foot center height, that’s a lot of space for a six man tent. It will hold two queen size air mattresses with room to spare. I was able to stand upright in this tent with no problem. ( I am 5’9″) and it had adequate space for three cots as well as a table and chair and the rest of our gear.
2. Hinged Door System: I love the hinged door which is a feature that is exclusive to Coleman Elite Tents. Instead of having to zip and unzip every time you enter or exit, the Coleman Elite opens like a regular door and uses light velcro to stay closed. It also has regular door zippers that function like a traditional tent. This feature is really nice.
3. Led Lighting System: The built in LED lighting system is very convenient. It runs off of 4 D batteries and has three settings. High – 100 lumens, Low – 40 lumens, and Nightlight. The switch to turn it on and off is next to the door on the tent wall and all of the wiring runs through internal sleeves inside the tent so wires don’t get in your way. Just plug the power pack in and you have light.
4. Great Air Flow: The design of the Sundome allows for a lot of airflow and virtually eliminates moisture buildup inside the tent. The top and 2/3 of the side walls are mesh. The rain fly covers about half way down the walls allowing great airflow. The doors also have a mesh window that increase air circulation.
5. Easy to set up: The Sundome has a simple design with 2 main body poles, two rain fly poles and two door poles. One person can set this tent up in about 15 minutes.
6. E-Port: The Elite Sundome has an e-port which allows you to run an electrical cord into the tent to power devices like a fan or phone chargers. Though we did not utilize this feature because we were camping primitively, it is still a nice feature to have.
7. Room Divider: A room divider turns the tent into two rooms. This is a nice feature.
What I Didn’t Like:
- Not a three season tent: Coleman lists this tent as a three season tent and I guess it could be depending upon what you consider comfortable temperatures. When the overnight temps were in the mid to high 60’s or above the tent was excellent and we were comfortable. When the temperature dropped, The same airflow features that I loved for warmer weather made the tent very cold, at least to me. The temperature dropped into the 40’s with sustained 10-12 MPH winds. The cold air blew through this tent zapping all the heat from within.
2. WeatherTec System: Coleman’s WeatherTec system has welded floors and inverted seams. They advertise “Wind Strong Frame” that can handle continuous 35 mph winds and “Guaranteed to Keep You Dry and Cozy Regardless Of What’s Going On Outside”. This is not exactly true in my experience. The first couple of days we had perfect weather. No wind, no rain and temperatures overnight in the high 60″s. In those conditions, the Sundome was perfect. The third night temperatures dropped into the low 40’s with constant 10 -12 MPH wind. In those conditions, As the weather changed, my opinion of the Sundome changed as well. This tent was anything but cozy, in fact, it was cold and breezy inside. The next morning, it rained and the wind strength increased. Though we had the tent completely staked down with guy-lines and the rain fly was attached to the poles and ground as per the instructions, the wind shook this tent constantly changing it’s shape and not only allowed more cold wet air into the tent, occasionally it would blow rain under the rainfly into the tent through the mesh on the side walls. Though the floors and polyester fabric walls kept the rain out, we still ended up getting water into the tent through the mesh walls when the wind would gust.
3. Fiberglass poles are not very good: The pole connectors have a tendency to come off the pole. Right out of the box, two had to be reattached and glued. (Glad I set it up before I took it out into the forrest) The fiberglass poles sometimes crack from bending when you are setting up the tent. This is a common problem with budget tents.
4. Stakes are low quality: The stakes that come with the sundome are made of cheap lightweight metal that bend easily.
5. The wind ripped the pole sleeves: As the wind gusted, I noticed one of the sleeves that the main body tent pole passes through began to rip. As the wind gusted up to 30 mph, (I checked with the National Weather Service) the rip became worse and tore alomst the entire length of the sleeve and then the tent lost its integrity. A better quality rip stop fabric would have prevented this.
6. Self Rolling Windows: In theory, the idea of a self rolling window sounds great, but trying to slide the thin curved spring into the sleeve was a headache for me. Maybe I wasn’t doing it correctly but to me it was more trouble than convenience.
Conclusion: I like a lot of the features of the Sundome, and if I was car camping in perfect weather, I might still use it, but in my opinion if the weather is not perfect, this is not a tent I would want to be in. All of those great features mean nothing if the tent does not protect you from the cold and rain and has a possibility of failing.
Find your headwaters,