I didn’t grow up camping. My family is not particularly outdoorsy. So, as embarrassed as I am to say this as I approach my 30th birthday, I went camping for the first time only two years ago. That said, I’ve been hooked ever since. And I’ve spent the last two years assembling my own collection of camping gear. The downside of not growing up with a tradition of camping is that I didn’t own any gear to get my collection started. The upside is that I have been able to research the best products and ones that fit my style. So, when it came time to acquire the pièce de résistance, a tent, I took my research seriously. After much consternation, I selected the Big Agnes Big House 6. I recently put the tent and the optional footprint (sold separately) to the test on a camping trip on the island of Culebra in Puerto Rico.
The first thing you notice about the Big House 6 is that it’s, well, big. It truly is made to house six adults. Which is why it’s so shocking to see that it is held up by only three tent poles. The last thing you want to do when you get to your campsite is assemble several tent poles of various lengths and sort out which pole goes in which sleeve. To have a legitimate six-person tent held up by three poles of equal lengths is incredibly comforting. The second thing you’ll notice is that you don’t need six people to assemble this tent. In fact, if you want to send five people off to get firewood, s’mores supplies and a few cases of beer, one person could get the tent up in about ten minutes. I know because I did a test run with the tent…alone…in my Manhattan apartment.
On Culebra, my friend Adriana and I pitched the tent in under ten minutes and got the rain fly attached after another five minutes. So, in under 15 minutes our campsite was up and running and we were off to photograph iguanas and explore the beach. There’s no better feeling on a camping trip than when you realize that you’re just living the experience and not spending the entire time working and organizing.
With only four people on the trip, we had an incredible amount of space inside the 90 square foot structure. And with two full-sized doors on either side of the tent, I was able to get up early in the morning to grab some food from the local vendors without disturbing my tent-mates. The two ladies in the tent took full advantage of the twelve mesh pockets that line the walls, stocking them full of various accessories so that they were within reach when the sun went down and we relied only my lantern for light.
The true test came when the Caribbean rain rolled in at night. The rain fly kept us completely dry from above and the footprint added an extra layer of material between us and the damp ground. From inside our polyester fortress, the elements were of no concern to us. Even the random iguana that rammed into the tent in the middle of the night learned that nature was no match for the Big House 6.
There are a few little quirks that I also enjoy on the Big House 6. Even with the rain fly attached, you still get a decent-sized skylight. Both doors have mesh screens that you can expose to allow a breeze to flow through the tent. When the overnight low on Culebra is in the mid-70s, it’s nice to have a cool ocean breeze as you try to fall sleep.
Lastly, for a tent this size, the Big House 6 is remarkably portable. The stuff sack holds the stakes, tent, rain fly, poles and has room for the footprint, as well. It all folds into a reasonably sized sack and weighs under 14 pounds. Perhaps too big for a backpacking trip, but perfect for car camping. I toted it on the eight seater plane to Culebra with ease.
Perhaps the only concern I have about the Big House 6 is that the zippers on the doors often catch on the large flaps of polyester that cover them. Several times I had to remove the flap after getting it caught in the zipper threading. Thankfully the polyester is durable enough to withstand this stress.
Big, portable, easy to assemble, durable and with an attached welcome mat that just makes you smile. Overall, I cannot rave about this tent enough and highly recommend it. You can find the Big Agnes Big House 6 in many outdoor and sporting goods stores but it appears that the best deal right now is on Amazon, where they’ve marked it down to $282.
I may not have grown up camping, but now I have a great tent as a grown-up.