I believe camping and backpacking are two pretty distinct things. I also find that, for me at least, “roughing it” is only a must when you’re backpacking. Camping can be as sparse or as lavish as you feel, and I usually feel pretty lavish.
That’s how I found myself buying a Coleman Skylodge 12-Person Camping Tent to be used by just two people – my wife and I.
A bit ridiculous? Yes, as noted by more than a few of the people at the Vermont campground we stayed at.
Amazing? Also yes.
Below, you’ll find my review of the Coleman Skylodge 12-Person Camping Tent. I think it’s an excellent choice for campers of all varieties. Excellent, that is, as long as you actually need a tent this massive!
Coleman Skylodge Camping Tent
- Price: $400-$450
- Key Features: 5 windows, mud room, over 7 feet tall.
- What I like: Sturdy, spacious, has ideal ventilation.
- What I don’t: Heavy, bulky, and cumbersome to set up.
Overview: This is a big, high-quality tent
It’s a big tent. Like 190 square feet and tall enough that almost anyone alive can stand up straight in it big. And, I have to say, it’s this tent’s sheer “bigness” that makes it so incredible.
We bought this tent knowing it was big, because we wanted to put a whole lot of stuff in it beyond an air mattress and a bag of clothes. Here’s what we put inside:
- A full-size air mattress,
- A 90-liter cooler,
- A foldable loveseat,
- A full camping kitchen (to the right of the photo, because the tent is that damn big),
- A 5 X 8 floor rug,
- And enough clothes/supplies to last two people 10 full days.
There is enough room in this tent for 12 people on sleeping pads, no doubt about it. If you want a true 12-person tent, this is it. But, most people don’t camp in groups of 12 and those who do usually have more than one tent… so I really doubt this tent is being used by more than 5-7 people at once.
In any case, it’s super roomy. Excluding the mud room, which isn’t really suitable for sleeping, you’ve got 150 square feet of floor space. It’s a 10’X15’ foot rectangle that is literally bigger than the living room in my apartment. Got more windows, too.
I wanted a “glamping” style experience (and I know how many people hate that word), which meant I needed a big tent that could hold all the stuff I wanted to put in it. I’m also a tall enough person that I hit my head on a lot of stuff. I wanted to be able to stand up straight in the tent, and this was one of the few on the market for less than $600 that would permit that.
I absolutely love how big this thing is. It makes me feel like I’m living in a tent like a true nomad, someone who lives a pretty decent life that just so happens to be packable. We had everything we needed in the tent, minus a TV; that would have fit in the tent, but it didn’t fit in the car.
Suffice it to say, if you need room in a tent, put this at the top of your shopping list.
Design: Muted Colors, Excellent Ventilation
I didn’t really care about the colors of the tents I was looking at; I mean, it’s a tent for crying out loud! That said, I did come to appreciate the muted, “earth-tone-ish” colors of this tent, because it keeps it from turning into an eyesore.
One of the other tents we considered buying was this Eureka behemoth:
I love the orange and blue in theory, but when you’re dealing with a tent this large, it’s going to be a LOT of orange and blue. The green and beige on the Coleman Skylodge helped the huge tent blend into the campground rather than dominate the view; when you’re “that guy” at the campground, it’s a nice thing to have.
When you buy a camping tent, ventilation should pretty much always be one of your chief concerns. Heat, humidity, and the stank of thoroughly sweaty hiking socks mean that airflow makes a bigger difference than just about anything else.
The Coleman Skylodge has ventilation covered, and then some. There are 5 huge windows on the main body of the tent, each with a bug net outer layer. Opening just one of them is enough to ventilate the tent with a slight breeze. Opening all 5 makes it feel like you’re under a gazebo, not inside a tent.
On top of those windows, you’ve got panels that open up the entirety of the mud room to the breeze, and a nice big vent in the back of the tent to boot. Our camping trip was cold – it got down to 33F our first night – so we didn’t find much use for the windows and vents. But, when it did warm up, we opened up the tent and it was perfect.
With a tent that has that many windows, vents, and screened portions, you might be wondering how well it protects you from a breeze that you don’t want, too. The good news is: if you don’t want the wind coming into this tent, you don’t have to have it. When we had the tent locked down at night, you could hear the wind blow, but you couldn’t feel it.
Sure, maybe if I really focused I could feel a slight breeze inside during a heavy gust, but this thing really is sturdy. Air can still get in from the spaces in between the tent roof and the rainfly, so it’s not stuffy. I’m simply saying that strong winds are nothing to worry about!
A little over $400 for a tent is a lot, and it took a few minutes of hovering over the “buy” button before I was ready to pull the trigger. But, at the end of the day, it’s Jan Levinson Gould who has the best quote when it comes to expensive camping gear:
“It costs what it costs”
That’s not to say we should be flippant about prices. It’s just that most camping equipment is priced competitively for the market. Overpriced for the value? Almost all the time. But, if every company out there has stupid prices, it doesn’t really matter whose stupid price you choose to pay.
Pretty much every tent seems like it’s overpriced; the Coleman Skylodge is no exception. I was looking at a number of tents in the $350-$500 range, and they all seemed to offer the same camping experience.
At the end of the day, tents are expensive, and you should stick to your own set budget. It’s really not worth choosing a tent that isn’t perfect for you just to save $40 (which is something I almost did).
Odds and Ends
There are a few more things that I really love about this tent, and a couple that I hate.
Love it: The super-basic layout
It’s got an extremely basic layout. One main entrance, one big living space, one small mud room.
A lot of the tents i looked at had weird layouts: segmented living spaces with fabric walls you have to step over, L-shaped tents that would’ve made it feel way smaller, and middle-entrances that force you to either go right or left as soon as you walk in (which ruins the benefit of square footage).
With the Coleman Skylodge, all you have to do is walk in the front, and you’re inside a large, rectangular space that you can do whatever you like with. No fighting with fabric, no floor space lost to ingress/egress.
Hate it: So many zippers, so little patience
I’m lazy as can be. The amount of time i spent zipping, unzipping, zipping, and unzipping just to go pee almost drove me crazy. Well, maybe not crazy, but almost to a kidney stone. If you buy this tent, bring your patience.
Love it: The rainfly
It’s a rainfly, so it’s not that special. But, it was incredibly easy to toss over the tent and anchor down. The other camping and backpacking tents I’ve used had rain flies that were hard to get in the right spot; the Coleman Skylodge’s rainfly didn’t budge an inch over 7 straight nights of wind and 3 different small storms.
Gotta love it.
Hate it: The lack of setup instructions
A few pictures on the bag, and that’s it. No instructions, no diagrams, nothing. Even the color-coding seemed poorly thought out. Now that I know how to pitch it, it’s fine (and my wife and I were still able to pitch it in 15 minutes). But, having clear instructions would have prevented me from installing one of the vertical poles upside down. I’m being nit-picky, but hey, it’s my review and I’ll cry if I want to.
Love it: Lots of little pockets
There are little gear pockets everywhere inside the tent. We didn’t have any sort of gear storage plan for small things like toiletries, medications and flashlights; the pockets took care of this for us.
My wife and I are notoriously unorganized people; I spend roughly 20 minutes a day looking for my wallet. This tent made me a slightly more organized person, which is something I never thought I would say about a camping tent.
Should you buy this tent? Maybe, maybe not. Here’s why I did.
We bought the Coleman Skylodge because we wanted to feel like nomads: people with a full-on home that just so happened to be made of fabric and poles. We had a whole studio apartment in there, and it was glorious.
What about you? Should you buy a tent this big? Why or why not?
Selecting a camping tent comes down to your budget and your needs/use case. With that in mind, I think that his is a great tent for all sorts of people and purposes, such as:
- Groups of 4+ people who don’t want to be cramped.
- People who want a glamping-style experience but don’t want to drop $1,800 on a canvas monstrosity.
- Tom Haverford and other “fully furnished” campers.
- People who like to camp for 5, 10, or 15 days at a time and need a little breathing room for gear and peace of mind.
- Anyone taller than 6’ who just want to avoid that crick in their neck after camping in a standard camping tent.
I give this tent my whole-hearted recommendation. But, that doesn’t mean it’s right for everybody. If you think it’ll fit your needs and desires, you should have no qualms about pulling the trigger. Otherwise, you’re probably better off with something smaller and more laid back.