With a desire to stay comfortable & somewhat connected, we purchased a bit of new gear for our long 2018 road trip. Our goal was to invest in quality products that we can use for years to come, although it’s worth noting that we didn’t blow the budget on high-end gear. We did not receive any of this stuff for free, nor are we getting paid to promote the product reviewed below. These are our objective opinions on our purchases, not true technical reviews.
For our first gear review, it just makes sense to start with shelter, yes?
Our plan to spend several months in 2018 living in a tent necessitated upsizing from our usual two-person backpacking tent. We chose a veritable poly mansion in comparison.
Designed as a four-person tent, REI Co-op’s Grand Hut 4 tent is super spacious and its near-vertical walls allow one plenty of headroom to stand up inside to change clothes.
The Grand Hut features several loops for hanging lanterns or gear line, and both lower and upper corner pockets for stashing small stuff such as books, wallet, keys, headlamps, hats & gloves, etc. We like to joke that the upper pockets are “magic pockets” because sometimes in areas with spotty cell service, putting my iphone in an upper pocket boosted the cell signal enough to use it as a mobile hot spot for the laptop.
Because there are only two of us, we have plenty of room in the tent for bags of clothing or to bring in camp chairs when we wish to get out of the rain but not be reclining or sitting on the ground. Two large doors make for easy entry from either side, and two large vestibules provide extra gear storage.
Assembly is easy with two people, but is a little tricky solo, particularly if one’s height is less than say 5’8″.
One feature that makes setup easy is the color coordinated corners. Just match the two red pole tips with the two red webbing pole attachment points.
Two of the clips/webbing on the rain fly are red too.
See the orange zippers in the top of the tent? Those open from the inside to enable one to open or close the vents in the rain fly.
The rain fly’s vents are held open or closed with velcro. We were a little skeptical about rain coming in through these vents when closed, however only once has the tiniest bit of water come in, and that was during an extremely windy, rainy night in Everglades National Park. The Grand Hut 4 footprint (sold separately) has kept us bone-dry.
On dry, warm, clear nights, we like to leave the rain fly off. The tent’s mesh top allows for awesome stargazing and provides excellent ventilation.
I will note that the Grand Hut’s high profile does not make it ideal for very windy conditions, and it is imperative that this tent is guyed out properly. You will need to purchase some extra line and a few more tent stakes for guy-ing the rainfly because the tent doesn’t come with quite enough of either, a silly oversight considering the price point and quality of this tent. And yes, I realize that our tent isn’t guyed out in a couple of my pictures, but that’s because in those particular sites the wind was still and additionally we had good wind blocks.
Even fully guyed out, 25+ mph wind may still may be an issue. A mighty wind kicked up overnight while we were camping at Alabama Hills, and our rain fly tore, resulting in lost integrity and bent tent poles. Sad face.
True to REI’s reputation for excellent customer service, the San Diego store replaced our tent. I am happy to share that we have used our second tent in sustained 25 mph coastal Florida winds, with gusts to 37, and the tent held up like a champ. I slept like a baby through this kind of weather several nights. Perhaps the first tent’s rain fly had a weakness in the hem attachment where it tore.
The zippers on our first tent got a little hung up sometimes where the mesh meets the nylon, however the second tent’s zippers open smoothly and easily, so I think that’s something that REI addressed on this model.
To sum up, we LOVE our Grand Hut 4. REI’s price of $299 is unbeatable for the quality when you put it up against comparable tents from other reputable outdoor brands.
UPDATE (Summer 2019)
Our second Grand Hut 4 has now been our home away from home for more than 60 nights since last fall. It has been our shelter from the sun of the Southwestern high desert, kept us (kind of) warm on a 16-degree Chaco Canyon night, iced over in Grand Staircase Escalante, and survived coastal Florida winter wind and rainstorms. About the only thing the Hut hasn’t seen is snow, though we will surely put the tent through that test later this year.
Read more gear reviews here.
View the complete list of parks we’ve visited here.