June 21, 2010
Cabela's Alaskan Guide Tent
I heard about this tent only on Memorial Day weekend. I thought it would be a good tent for Burning Man, since the rain fly comes nearly to the ground. It should be easier to keep dust out. On the Cabela's website it gets 4.8 stars (out of 5). The customer reviews (and price) are stunning. Here is part of the only 1-star review:
I purchased the Alaskan 6 person tent with aluminum poles several years ago with the idea that it was a true four season tent. I used this tent about 3X per year, up to three weeks at a time. I also purchased the Alaskan because it sounded like an ideal shelter roomy enough for long tent bound periods in extreme weather conditions. One of my trips to the NW in the spring produced heavy rains with wind and snow. After a long days hike, we came back to our tents and they both were crushed to the ground with broken poles sticking through the rain fly. With the combination of the elements, the tents had crumbled under pressure. My friend had the exact same 6 person model tent with aluminum poles. We were shocked to see our tents mangled in heaps. Needless to say how disappointed we were after such an investment. We took several photos and sent them to Cabela's. Cabela's was gracious enough to replace our tents.
After lots of successful use the tent failed in extreme weather. He got a free replacement based solely on photos. The 5-star reviews are even more impressive. Most of the reviews advised buying the aluminum poles because they are lighter and stronger.
It dawned on me that if I rushed delivery I could have this tent for my Kansas camping where it was guaranteed to pour rain. Got it. Brought it. Set it up.
I have never been in a more solid or dry tent. Mild winds (not even close to a normal breeze in Desert Hot Springs) caused neighboring tents to sway or shake, while mine just sat there. You can probably see in the photo that I didn't even bother to completely stake it down. I was inside during two very heavy thundershowers and a couple of mere rains. Not a single drop of water inside anywhere, not from above or below. When I finally took the tent down, the rainfly was quite wet, so I didn't pack it, but just tossed it loose into the truck. The tent itself, however, was still bone dry and packable.
That arch on the vestibule is formed by a single shorter pole that, you can probably guess, is under greater stress than any of the others which are longer and make more gradual curves. Entering the doorway requires me to either crawl or sort of half squat. During a few of the half squats my butt did bump the vestibule. I did not bump it with the force of "heavy rains with wind and snow." Even so, once when I bumped it there was a loud bang that drew the attention of my neighbors. The pole had snapped right at the top of the vestibule.
Fortunately, the tent included a repair kit, so it was easy to fix. But this is not something that I thought was acceptable. Guys at camp had been telling me that the Cabela's store in Kansas City, Kansas, was a thing not to be missed, and now that I had a broken pole I was committed to going there. It was right on the way back into the city.
I took the broken pole in and they said they don't stock that pole alone, so I could return the entire tent and it would be replaced. I went back out to my truck to pack the still dripping-wet fly into the tent bag and brought in the whole thing, including mud on the tent stakes. A new one is being shipped to me. Incredibly wasteful, but great customer service.
UPDATE: the replacement tent arrived today, Thursday, June 24, in Desert Hot Springs. So I guess Cabela's is back on my 5-star list.