Heather and I love desert camping, but we don’t do it much for two main reasons.
For one, we never think about it until it’s too late in the year and the daytime temperatures are already hitting triple digits.
The other key reason is that when it comes to desert camping, you have to have a canopy or you will roast under the sun. Heather and I do not own a canopy.
And this had always been our Catch-22: We’d do more desert camping if we would purchase a canopy, but because we don’t do much desert camping, we can’t justify purchasing a canopy.
We have also talked off and on about our wanting a slightly larger tent as it’s virtually impossible to do much more than squat or lie down in our current tent. Okay, sure. How much tent do two people need? But repeatedly hitting our heads on the lamp hanging from the tent roof and attempting to get dressed while sitting on the edge of an unsteady air mattress got old for us really fast.
Heather and I thought we’d solved two problems at once during a recent visit to our local Costco. Hanging from the ceiling of the store was the Coleman Weathermaster II Screened 10-person 16′ X 10′ Tent With Hinged Door and Autoroll Windows, a tent/canopy combo.
The first half acts as a screened-in porch, and the second half serves as a tent. A center divider can be zipped to create a screen between the sections, providing us with a degree of privacy should we find ourselves wanting to share the tent with friends.
Brilliant, we thought, since we have on occasion hitched a ride with Steve and Regina on some camping trips, and as you can imagine, space can get tight in a car holding four campers and all their gear. The Weathermaster would mean that when Steve and Regina drive us to a desert site, they can leave their tent and canopy at home, and join us in our tent/canopy combo. That’s Heather and me: Always thinking of others*.
Some of the Weathermaster’s other selling points included:
- Fits four queen air mattresses
- Waterproof floor, protected seams, strong frame
- Spacious interior, auto roll windows, hinged door
- 20-minute setup
This image from the bag the Weathermaster comes in gives you an idea of what it looks like:
Look at how happy that kid is! That’s how excited we were to take the Weathermaster on its maiden… “voyage”? That doesn’t sound right. Anyway, moving on…
During the last weekend of April, Heather and I returned to our beloved Joshua Tree National Park with the brand new Weathermaster in tow.
Let’s start with that 20-minute setup. I personally found the directions confusing, so it probably took closer to double the advertised time to set the whole thing up. Fortunately, the color-coded poles made figuring things out on my own a little easier.
Perfect for 10 people and one corgi.
Heather and I marveled at our new tent. Wow! We can stand fully erect! Man! Look at all this space! Holy cow! You can fit a nearly full-sized picnic table in the canopy section! Whoopee! There’s enough room to set out small tables so our things don’t have to lie on the ground and collect dirt and corgi hair! Ga-ga ga-gooey! Look at all the screened windows and the reinforced side door for easy coming and going!
“I can’t wait to fully try this thing out and write a review of it for our camping blog, ‘The Outdoor Types’!,” I said to Heather.
I never got the chance to do the former.
Now, Heather covers a lot of this in her Joshua Tree review. But I need to include some of it here for the purposes of the Weathermaster review.
Within roughly 30 minutes of putting up the tent, the wind picked up. We had seen wind in the forecast, but we were so excited to get back to camping (our last trip had been six months earlier) that we did little more than make a mental note of it. However, we should have known better. Wind is no friend to campers.
Not long after the wind started, I looked up from my book to see that the right side front pole had buckled and turned inward, causing that corner of the tent to cave in. No problem, I thought. I’ll just toss on the rainfly and stabilize the tent with the attached cords and some additional stakes.
That worked well enough until the sun went down. That’s when the wind really picked up. I later checked, and that night and early morning saw sustained winds of 20 to 30 miles per hour with gusts of 50 miles per hour. With the forecasted 50-something lows turning out to actually be 38˚, it was a miserable night, and I slept in the backseat of Heather’s car in order to stay relatively warm.
Oh! Also! And, man, I love this because this could only happen to us. Here we were in the middle of the desert, in the dry season, during a three-year drought, and it rained.
I woke up around 2:30 Saturday morning to the steady drip, drip, drip on the roof of Heather’s car and realized we hadn’t put any of our camping gear away. Heather and I raced to protect our things from the elements, storing most of it in the canopy section of the Weathermaster.
The promised waterproofing? Not so much. As the rain continued, Heather and I noticed shallow puddles forming on the floor of the tent.
By 7:30 that morning, the rain had stopped, but the wind was as strong as ever. Maybe stronger. The driver’s side door of Heather’s car opened suddenly, and I looked out to see a distraught wife. “The tent is falling apart,” she said. “Come help.”
She wasn’t kidding. Only half the tent was standing upright. Three of the poles were on the ground, which turned out to be the result of the rings used to stake the poles down being ripped free of their seams. The collapsing tent walls knocked over the folding table holding my clothes, camera bag and book. Heather found them in a puddle of water, the book resembling a swollen sponge.
We scrambled to take everything down. All we wanted was to get out of there. But the wind and the tent fought me every step of the way. Every time I had a grip on a part of the tent, a gust would come along and rip it from my hand. I wanted to shout to the heavens, “Just let us collect our dead, for god’s sake!” I imagine I looked something like this:
Just replace the microphone with a Coleman mallet.
Within an hour, we had the tent down and the car packed. We had seen the Weathermaster the day before in at least two other campsites near us, and I had made a mental note as we were loading the car to see how those tents had held up. But as we drove away, we were too defeated, too stunned, too numb to do anything but stare blankly ahead. We were like Rick and the gang on “The Walking Dead” after they fled Atlanta with little more than the clothes on their backs. Or like the time they fled Hershel’s farm with little more than the clothes on their backs. Or like the time they fled the prison with little more than the clothes on their backs. Or like the time…
So. Let’s sum up. I can’t really say much since the tent didn’t even last 24 hours.
- It’s roomy
- Unclear setup directions
- Setup takes more than 20 minutes
- Not waterproof
- Cannot withstand wind
- Poorly manufactured, rips easily
That pretty much covers it.
Oh, and as a side note, we took the tent back to Costco, who accepted it without question.
*During the rare moments when we’re not obsessing over ourselves.
Disclosure: When you click one of the links above to purchase an item, we get a tiny commission that will in no way enable us to quit our day jobs and roll around in our piles of cash.