Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Columbia Cougar Flats II Tent Review

Recently I started the quest to find a large family tent for car camping.  My wife and I looked at several tents at Sportsman’s Warehouse and Bass Pro, looking for a tent that would hold our family, stand up to various weather and would last us many years.  We found a couple we liked at Bass Pro and searched the online reviews to find the good and bad about each tent.

Columbia Cougar Flats II tent at Taylor Reservoir
After a considerable amount of research, we decided on the Columbia Cougar Flats II tent.  Columbia was a name that I recognized and most of the reviews of the tent were positive.  We liked the size of the tent, 10x14 feet, with a divider in the middle to create two rooms.  The build also appeared to be a little sturdier than some of the straight-walled tents that we looked at.  We also liked that the tent has numerous large windows, including two bay windows that overhang, providing some protection from the rain while open.  There is also an awning over one of the big bay windows.

Once we bought the tent, we took it home and set it up in the back yard.  I would highly suggest setting up any new tent at home before heading out on a camping or backpacking trip.  The Cougar Flats II had color coded sleeves and hubs for all of the tent poles.  Following the instructions the first time to get used to the proper order of set up made it easy to set up the tent after that.  I also appreciated that the tent came with enough tent stakes to stake down every ring or tie down on the tent, I am amazed that some tents that include stakes do not include enough to stake down everything.  When out in inclement weather it is always best to stake your tent as secure as possible to get the maximum performance out of it.

Columbia Cougar Flats II at Blue Mesa Reservoir
Our first trip with the tent was to Blue Mesa ReservoirWe found a campsite near the marina, but the few sites with trees were already taken.  As a result, we set the tent up overlooking the Cebolla Basin of Blue Mesa.  Every afternoon we had heavy winds and two nights we had rain.  The tent held up great in the wind and we stayed completely dry inside.  The only issue we had was one of the poles from the awning fell over twice during the trip.  While inconvenient, it didn’t affect the inside of the tent or the performance of the rain fly.  On the last night I secured the awning down in front of the bay window (one of the ways it is designed to be used), further protecting us from the rain and wind.

While at Blue Mesa we were able to put the whole family in one of the rooms, and then use the second room (where the entrance doors are) as a storage area.  The last day we set up a table in the entry room and used it to eat dinner while it was raining.  Just be careful cooking inside a tent, it’s always better to cook outside, but if you have to cook in the tent, keep any open flames well away from the walls of the tent and make sure that you have plenty of ventilation.

The second trip we took with the tent was to Taylor Park Reservoir.  While at Taylor Reservoir, we didn’t have to worry about wind, but we had lots of rain.  In fact, the first night it was pouring so hard that we couldn’t talk to each other inside tent without yelling.  All three days that we had the tent set up we had rain to deal with, everything from torrential downpours to light misting.  We never had to worry about the tent leaking or letting in water.  The only time the inside got wet was the first night when we had to open the door to get inside while it was raining hard.  A small pool formed inside the doorway during the brief time it took us to get inside.  This was another great reason for the second room, as despite the water in the entry way, our sleeping area never got wet.

Columbia Cougar Flats II Interior
We did have a couple complaints about the tent, although overall they were easy to live with.  The first is with the awning.  It extends out over the bay window, which makes it easier to open the window in the rain and gives you a place to set your chairs, but it would have been nice to have the awning over one of the doorways, especially during the rain.  At 10x14 feet it is a big tent, while it is nice to have the room on the inside, it may be difficult to find a place to put the tent in some campgrounds.

The other thing I didn’t like is the fact that the big bay windows on each end of the tent do not seal at the top.  They use two clasps each to secure the top, which means that when the wind blows against it, the air flows directly up the window and in to the tent.  With the entry room towards the wind, I found that when I closed the doors to the sleeping area, we did not get any of the wind in the sleeping area, but it would be nice to have the zippers go all the way around the big windows.

Overall, I am very pleased with the tent.  Both trips we have taken it on have tested it, in both wind and rain performance.  So far the tent has held up well and will probably serve us for years to come.  Do you have a family tent that you like?  Share your thoughts in the comment section below!
Columbia Cougar Flats II Tent Interior

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