During my usual camp outings, I usually have a fairly simply approach to my shelter–especially during the spring, summer, and fall. I typically use a thin, silicone impregnated tarp for my shelter needs. But, this year at our annual Practice What You Preach (PWYP) gathering, I took a big step toward luxurious living with Kelty’s Palisade 4 tent.
Even though I usually go with a tarp for shelter, I’ve got plenty of experience with tents on the trail made by other companies. But, this was the first time I had the occasion to use a tent from Kelty, though I’ve enjoyed various packs from them over the years. What was significantly different about the Palisade 4 from different tents I’ve used in the past is size. Where I’ve typically gotten by with a 1-2 person tent in the past, the Palisade 4 is designed for a family size outing. This worked well for me for a couple of reasons. Since I was testing a double sleeping bag and using a large air mattress during the week long outing, I needed a bit more space than usual and most backpacking style tents wouldn’t work in this instance. Additionally, this was the first camping adventure with my pup Jethro, and I wanted a little extra room in the shelter to accommodate his crate. In the future, he probably won’t need the crate, but I wanted to ease his transition into camp living by allowing him to stay in his crate the first time or two before we go a different route with the sleeping arrangments. In this respect, the Palisade 4 met my needs exceptionally.
The floor dimensions of the Palisade 4 are 96 inches by 96 inches which is a good amount of real estate if you think about it. Besides the queen size air mattress, I was also able to slide Jethro’s crate into the tent as well. This still left plenty of room for me to move around in the front part of the main tent area. Changing clothes, washing up, and storing necessary gear (lanterns, clothes, tools) was no problem at all and I never felt cramped for space inside this substantial shelter.
The Palisade 4 has a very open and airy design to its main construction. There are large mesh panels on the roof and the sides of the tent to allow for excellent airflow in good weather. In fact, both the walls and roof are probably 80% mesh overall, so getting fresh air is no problem at all! The remaining wall material is made of 70D polyester taffeta and the floor material is 1800mm nylon taffeta and overall impressions were that the tent was well made. The only issue with construction quality was that the rainfly came out of the box with a hole about the size of a silver dollar already in the material. I wrote this as a one-off situation that could be easily remedied with a return to the retailer since any product on the market could have a bad item get through the manufacturing process. It was easy enough to repair the hole since I was also reviewing some gear repair kits from another company, and it took all of about two minutes to do the fix. While working with the Palisade 4, I didn’t notice any glaring problems with construction or material use with the rest of the tent, so I just chalked this one thing up to “stuff happens”.
Setting up the Palisade 4 was a bit tricky at first. I got to camp a day after a few others had already set up, so I had plenty of folks volunteer to help with the “barn raising”, so to speak. Four of us pulled everything out of the bag and got to work. Like a few tents I’ve worked with previously, the Palisade 4 has the usual two cross-member tent poles that provide most of the structural integrity of the tent. Those two long poles slip through sleeves on the roof of the tent and their ends pop into grommets on straps at each corner of the tent. Not too much of an issue so far…But, the Palisade 4 also requires the use of a large, circular hoop that you lower over the roof and strap to the other two poles. Once done, you then attach various straps around the upper portion of the tent to the “hoop” via clips attached to the ends of the straps. The trickiest part here was figuring out which part of the hoop went up front. You could tell that it wasn’t turned the right direction because it looked like a kink in a cord and lookoed out of line. Once we turned the hoop and had it in the right position, we clipped all the straps to it to secure it in place. At this point, the only thing left was to stake the tent in place and the biggest part was pretty much done!
Since I had some willing volunteers and there was a warning of heavy rain in the next couple of days, I went ahead and set up the rainfly as well. This was a little trickier since the instruction booklet wasn’t as specific about its setup and attachment points to the main tent. So, it took a little more time to get this set up and fastened properly. Besides points on the main tent where the rainfly could attach via buckles, there were also guy points along the outside to allow for setting up a good number of guy lines to ensure the rainfly’s integrity and to keep it in place during heavy storms.
The rainfly is constructed of 75D 1800mm polyester taffeta and did a nice job overall of keeping the rain at bay when it finally did come later in the week. With mesh comprosing 70-80% of the roof of the tent itself, the rainfly was the only real dividing layer between Jethro and I and the weather. But, it held up very nicely and I slept in a comfortable and dry environment with the soothing sound of rain pattering on the overhead fly. While I was inside, I took a couple of pictures of the rain on the fly just to show that it held up fine in the inclement weather. Now all of this I’m speaking of relates to the main portion of the tent–the living quarters. The addition of the rainfly also provides another advantage to the Palisade 4, and that’s the addition of a fairly large vestibule.
One thing that I liked about the Palisade 4 right off the bat was the substantial storage area provided by the vestibule built into the rainfly. Something that I have to contend with now a days is large amounts of gear that I have to transport and store during outings like this. When you consider review items, audio/video gear like still cameras and video cameras and accessories, and all the other stuff that goes along with us on trips like this, I had a bunch of stuff that I needed to protect from the weather. I was thankful for the ample room provided in the vestibule area of the Palisae 4, but then I got to scratching my head about a couple of design points that I believed might be a bit of an issue when the rain finally hit.
Built into the vestibule area of the rainfly are mesh panels in the front and on the sides as well. Presumably, these mesh panels are for better circulation when the weather is good. For those times when the weather is bad, there are panels of material that you can hang immediately behind the mesh ones in the vestibule. What perplexed me was the fact that there was nothing to keep the rain from simply pouring through the mesh, onto the fabric panels, and then down into the vestibule area. As you can see in the picture, though there is a fabric panel behind the mesh panel, there is nothing at the bottom to catch or redirect the water. The water simply drips down the fabric panel and onto the ground in the vestibule area. Granted, this occurs on the sides, and if you have just a little bit of rain, it’s not that big of a deal. But, I had the vestibule packed with a lot of gear, so every square foot counted. Add to it the fact there was a good amount of rain, and I did have some gear that got wet while in the vestibule. In all honesty, we predicted this when we saw its construction, but I felt the only way to prove it one way or the other was just to ride out the rain and see how the vestibule area held up. I kept the non-critical gear (stuff I didn’t mind getting wet) to the sides of the vestibule around the mesh and fabric panels. The important stuff stayed in the center where it had a better chance of staying dry.
After the first night of hard rain, I check out the vestibule and there was indeed decent sized pools of water that had collected after running down the fabric panels behind the mesh ones. So, I did have to spend a little time airing out and drying some gear. Now, to clarify something, this was just the vestibule area, not the main tent area. The main area stayed bone dry. In fact, my ground pad was a bit larger than it should have been and it caught a lot of water and allowed water to run and collect under the tent itself. I felt the water under the floor material with my bare feet, but the interior of the tent (particularly the floor area) stayed completely dry. So, I was very happy with the performance of the tent/fly in this regard. It was only the vestibule design that I had any real critique about with regard to holding up to the elements. I’m not a manufacturing engineer and have no idea what the cost would be to change this design, but it seems like a very simple fix. Simply do away with the mesh panels on the front and sides of the rainfly. Again, if you’ve only got a little bit of gear, it wouldn’t matter much since you could keep it in the center of the vestibule and it would probably stay fairly dry. But, since it’s a “basecamp” style tent designed for 4 people, I’m thinking that there’s going to be a good amount of gear most of the time. And since the rainfly comes just below the lip of the sidewall where the mesh begins on the tent, you can still get decent circulation by pulling the rainfly out a bit at the bottom when you set your stakes in the ground.
A couple of other things to point out about the Palisade 4 are the two entrance points. In the front, there’s a very large door that you can use as the main access point. In the back, there’s a smaller entrance that would be a great emergency hatch for those late night visits to the woods or for your pets to use as their main entrance. I found that Jethro was so tuckered out from the activities each day that he would actually beat me inside the tent for the evening’s respite. That smaller door is perfect for him to come and go, but still keep a good amount of privacy for the living area of the tent.
Other amenities of the Palisade 4 include cupholders in the vestibule area and a small shelf area and storage pockets for your smaller pieces of gear that you don’t want to get lost. I found these extras especially nice since I spent a little time inside because of the rain, and I’m the sort that collects things in my pockets all day, so having a place to safely deposit everything was convenient and allowed me to stay somewhat organized during the week. Also, the tallest point of the living area was 72 inches, so I had no problems bringing my 5′ 10″ frame to full height while changing and washing, and that was a huge plus for me. I can’t tell you the number of complaints I heard from people on site who talked about having to kneel, crawl, and squat while doing these activities in their own shelters. I just smiled inside and nodded my head in sympathetic understanding
The Palisade 4 isn’t a backpacking tent. It weighs in around 15 pounds once everything is packed up (including stakes and straps) and will weigh a bit more if you also purchase the footprint groundpad to go with it. This tent is for those times when you’ll have fairly easy access to your vehicle or for those individuals well-heeled enough to hire their own personal porters to schlep their gear around for them. It comes with plenty of stakes and attatchment points around the perimeter to make sure it stands up to the roughest weather, and the living area is very spacious and comfortable, at least it was for me and Jethro. I had the Queen size air mattress and he had his crate, so we were both living quite well in the Palisade 4. Your mileage may vary depending on how many folks and how much gear you try to pack inside. But, if you keep the sleeping arrangements simple, a family of four could get by very well with this package.
All in all, I enjoyed my experience with the Palisade 4 during our week long outing. I had plenty of space to store all of my substantial amount of gear both inside the tent and in the vestibule. The interior of the tent stayed dry during substantial rainfalls, and I had good clearance to move about inside and lots of elbow room. Breaking it down and packing it back into the storage bag was quick and very simple. The only real negative I can bring to light is the design of the mesh panels on the rainfly around the vestibule area. This could be remedied by elmininating the mesh on the rainfly. Short of that, if you want to really batten down the hatches and keep the vestibule completely dry, you could string up a tarp over the vestibule area. That’s actually not an unreasonable thing to do anyway. If you’re dealing with bad weather and you’re doing “basecamp” type of camping, you’ll want an area outside of the tent that’s protected from the rain where your family/friends can mingle, cook, sit, and still enjoy the outdoors.
With the caveat about the vestibule, I wouldn’t have any issues recommending this product to a family looking for a quality shelter with a roomy and sturdy design. If you’re in the market for such a product, the Palisade 4 just might be the ticket to your family’s fun in the outdoors!