Published on August 1st, 2009 | by Greg0
Truly Outdoors: Columbia and Kelty
It’s been a great July. We’ve tried out bags from Crumpler, Osprey, and Lowepro, and grilled with Coleman and Iroda. We tested out a great cooking set, slept with Cabela’s and Napier, napped and dined in comfort, and looked at some camping meals. As the summer starts to edge towards back-to-school season, we wanted to make sure that we tried out a couple of other sleeping bags and one more tent, to make sure that we covered our bases. Columbia and Kelty both make a wide array of outdoors equipment, from hunting to backpacking to sportswear.
We’ve been testing out the Columbia Bugaboo II, a 12-foot by 9-foot tent aimed at families that can capably hold four to five people. At 21 pounds, it isn’t the lightest tent around but is both cozy and spacious, featuring two external storage containers, a gear loft, plenty of pockets, and several cupholders. As is often the case, the cupholders won’t fit every size of mug, and the external storage isn’t exactly sturdy, but both work reasonably well. They also included a nice feature called the CampPort, allowing easy passage of cables- we didn’t need it, but those wanting easy outlet access will. Setup is fairly simple, thanks to color-coded poles, and we were pretty impressed with the ventilation and the waterproofing, as it survived handily on a quite rainy and windy night.
We weren’t so impressed with the mesh and the open top, as it was large enough to let in some bugs and other undesirables, nor the seams, zippers, and materials- they seemed less durable than others we’ve tested. On the other hand, the relatively open top is great for stargazing and the rain fly itself seemed pretty solid, and it is one of the least expensive tents we’ve tried at around $150. For families looking for an inexpensive, reasonably versatile tent, Columbia’s Bugaboo II has you covered- just consider taking an extra tarp for some extra durability on the ground.
Kelty, on the other hand, makes a bit more serious gear. Lighter weight, more durable, you do pay a higher price. But we will get to that in a moment. First, let’s examine Kelty’s Gunnison 3.1 in a little more detail. This is a three-season, three person tent, more comfortable for a couple but large enough to fit a third in a pinch, or two smaller kids who don’t mind a tight fit. Smaller than the Bugaboo II at about 10×10 feet, there are two doors and mesh windows/vents on all sides and the top. The mesh if fine enough that we didn’t have any issues, and the floor seams were taped for better protection against water. Setting up was a pinch even for a smaller tent, with color-coded, two-pole construction- among the easiest we’ve tried. The Gunnison is also sexy- great colors, neat window placement- and the rain fly is one of the best we’ve used as well. It isn’t as large as some others, nor does it have quite as many features (no cupholders, for instance, and the internal pockets and storage were not as convenient). But the two doors make for easy entrance and exit, the freestanding design allows you to pitch it and then move it around (surprisingly handy), and it weighs only about six and a half pounds (without the optional footprint, which we didn’t need or try). The construction was sturdy, and our reviewers raved about the ventilation, even if it meant sacrificing a bit of privacy. It also packed the repack test, with a bag that doesn’t require hours of work to get it bag in. At around $200, it also fits a sweet spot for those upgrading from a basic tent to something more substantial without breaking your budget. No major complaints here- the Gunnison was just right.
The Kelty Coromell is a semi-rectangular, down-filled sleeping bag, meant for temperatures at or above 25 degrees F, perfect for most spring, summer, and early fall weather. The shape is a bit more comfortable than your usual mummy bag, and the down makes up for whatever warmth might have been lost. Unlike some bags, this one can be unzipped and lay flat so you can use it as a (slightly oddly-shaped) blanket- a nice feature for those who want to maybe warm by the campfire, it works great in a pinch. Both long and regular versions are available, and we recommend the long version for anyone taller- and those much above 6 feet might be a bit cramped regardless. The thickness of the bag means that you probably won’t require a sleeping bag, unless you’re sleeping directly on a bed or rocks or something (we didn’t try it, but we suspect it would be uncomfortable). Of course, that means it’s a bit heavier than some bags, but still weighs in at a very comfy 2.8 pounds or so. It isn’t quite as attractive as the tent, and doesn’t have much in the way of fancy extras- no pockets or pouches, say. But it does compress surprisingly tight, perhaps a bit too tight since we had some trouble repacking it. Solid construction from zippers to seams round out a nice mid-priced bag, aimed at a balance of weight, comfort, and price. At around $150, the Coromell is a definite a sleeper hit, one of the best in it’s class.