Kelty Discovery Basecamp 6 Tent
– Price: $169.95
– Weight: 13.8 lbs (6.3 kg)
– Floor size: 119” x 106” (302cmx 269cm)
– Peak height: 68” (172cm)
– Number of compartments: 1
– Capacities: 6 person/4 person
– Shape: Dome
– What we like: Affordable, spacious, great warranty, ease of set-up
– What we don’t: Fiberglass poles, no vestibule, thin floor, lower ceilings
The Wise Adventurer’s Verdict
Overall we found the Kelty Discovery Basecamp 6 to be a wise investment, and if you’re shopping for large camping tents that won’t break the bank (or break after one season of use), the Kelty is currently our favorite for the money. We enjoyed every aspect of the Discovery Basecamp in our field test, and living with this tent was a great experience from setup to take down.
It’s a relatively basic dome tent without the premium features of the more expensive options out there, but compared to similarly “cheap” department store brand shelters, the Basecamp is well made, spacious, and incredibly easy to use. It’s also backed by Kelty’s lifetime warranty (lifetime of the product, not lifetime of the user), so unlike the affordable no-name tents you find on Amazon, any factory defects are covered by a drama-free return policy.
Kelty has come a long way since they started making external frame backpacks out of a garage in 1952, but their focus has remained consistent over the years: Making high value, low budget, and fun-focused outdoors gear that’s accessible to everyone.
All right, let’s get into it!
Detailed Evaluation: Kelty Discovery Basecamp 6
We tested the Kelty Discovery Basecamp 6 over a long weekend in the mountains this summer. The weather was mostly warm and sunny, which seemed appropriate considering tents like the Kelty Discovery are primarily intended for casual car camping duty. We spent time evaluating all the most important aspects of any good camping tent, from interior space to weather resistance to outright durability, and were pleasantly surprised by the results.
Space and Comfort
This is a plus-sized camping tent, and as such, we expected overall space and comfort to be high points of the Kelty. We weren’t disappointed in that regard, and between the Basecamp’s wide floor plan and tall ceilings, we had plenty of room to spread out, change clothes, and pass in and out of the tent.
The Basecamp’s 68-inch peak height isn’t quite as tall as some of the more expensive models we’ve tested this year, but the ceilings still felt properly lofty and even our taller members were able to stand and change clothes comfortably in the center of the floor plan. This is a traditional dome-shaped shelter, so you can’t walk around inside the tent freely, but it never felt cramped inside either.
Like most 6-person models, we found the Kelty Discovery Basecamp was a reasonable fit for up to four sleepers on full-sized sleeping pads, but would be more comfortable for 2 or three campers to spread out inside with some extra room for gear storage. Speaking of storage we also found that the interior storage/organization of the Basecamp was adequate but nothing fancy with multiple mesh pockets placed strategically on each wall of the tent.
Kelty equips the Discovery with a simple pole-supported awning rather than an extended/full-length vestibule. This keeps costs down and makes for an easy setup, but rules out the possibility of exterior storage for muddy shoes and wet clothes when the weather is bad.
There’s only one way in and out of the tent (which isn’t ideal if you’ll be sharing the Basecamp with more than a single partner), but Kelty did a good job of making the most of the situation by adding mesh both on and above the door. This design allows you to keep the front window open in light rain, but still provides good airflow and ventilation should you need to batten down the hatch.
We didn’t get any heavy rains during our testing, but the Basecamp did well in what little precipitation we experienced. We would definitely prefer a full-length vestibule in a serious downpour, but the fly sheds water well and leaves no gaps along the tent’s generous bathtub floor for rain to sneak through. Seam sealing is thorough and well done, and we experienced zero leaks from the fly or floor.
Kelty equips the fly with one guy-out point for each corner of the tent, and while this feels reasonably secure and makes for easier setup, we’d prefer to see an extra anchor point on the back and sides of the fly. Again, protection is adequate, but this design leaves the rainfly free to flap against the side of the tent, which can get annoying on wet and windy nights.
Ease of Set-Up
The Kelty Discovery Basecamp 6 is one of the easiest 6-person tents to set up that we’ve ever used. Kelty’s “quick corners” system makes getting the tent poles in place an absolute breeze, even when pitched solo. It’s one of the most stable free-standing designs we’ve seen, and there’s zero chance of having a pole “pop out” when you bend them into place. A beginner can easily get this tent up or down in 10 minutes on their first attempt, and much faster on subsequent pitches.
We also love Kelty’s “shark mouth” duffel bag, and wish more large camping tents would adopt something similar. The Basecamp is legitimately simple to get packed back down and into the bag after your first use, which is more than we can say for countless other large tents we’ve used in the past.
The tent uses simple velcro rainfly attachments along the tent body, which feel cheap compared to other models. We’re not in love with this design, although it does further simplify the set-up process. (Thomas: Can you verify whether or not this makes setup easier/harder than other models you’re testing?)
Durability is our main concern with the Kelty Discovery Basecamp, and while we experienced no issues or failures in our testing, there are a few potential longevity concerns with this tent.
The first is fabric quality: All of the fabric in this shelter is 68D polyester, which is fine for the fly but concerning for the tent floor. You’ll definitely want to invest in a footprint for longevity’s sake, and protecting the floor from the inside with something like a moving blanket would also be a smart decision.
The tent poles are our second concern: Kelty uses fiberglass poles in pretty much all of their camping tents (with the exception of military spec models they produce for the government), and we strongly prefer aluminum for peace of mind in bad weather. Granted the 13mm thick diameter makes these some of the toughest fiberglass poles we’ve seen, but they’re fiberglass nonetheless. The brow pole holding the awning is thinner at 8mm, and although it’s not particularly stressed, we’ve seen brow poles from other budget brands break in the past.
Weight and Packed Size
Weight and packed size aren’t really a priority for camping tents like these (you won’t be doing any backpacking with a 6 person tent), but the Discovery does score high in this metric. The bag feels small and compact compared to similar models of this size, and the whole assembly weighs in under 14 pounds.
We would gladly haul an extra few pounds in exchange for thicker fabrics and an included footprint, but this is one of the easiest 6P models out there to carry, pack, and store. We haven’t added a footprint to our current test model as of this writing, but there’s definitely plenty of room left over to throw one in the duffel.
Despite the concerns described above, we still feel the Kelty Discovery Basecamp is a fantastic value. For well under $200, you’re getting a spacious shelter that isn’t afraid of a little rain, and also happens to carry a solid warranty.
With proper care and handling, we think the Basecamp will last for many years of regular use, and if you’re shopping on a budget, there’s just no better value out there for the money. A snapped brow pole or a torn floor would be a major bummer in the middle of a trip, but both should fall under Kelty’s material coverage for the “useful lifetime” of the tent should something fail after a season or two.
What We Like
For big tents on a budget, the Kelty is a great buy. You’ll want to invest in a footprint or ground tarp for the tent, but even if you opt for the model-specific footprint from Kelty, you’re only adding an extra $30 to your purchase.
As a casual camping tent for mainly good-weather camping, the Discovery is a smart buy. It’s huge, easy to pitch, and even easier to fold up and pack back into the carry bag. This is a well-made tent from a name-brand company (with reliable customer service) that costs the same (or less) than a questionable department store tent.
What We Don’t Like
Tents at this price point typically have their limitations, and the Kelty Discovery Basecamp 6 is no exception. The thin floor is definitely our primary complaint, and if it were to fail in the middle of a week-long trip, the value-added proposition of the Discovery would lose its charm. The same goes for the poles, although again, Kelty’s poles are nothing like the cheap fiberglass you’ll find on generic dome tents in terms of quality.
We’re also not in love with the simple awning design, or the single door that it protects. Kelty no doubt kept costs down by limiting the Discovery to a single door without a vestibule, but in a tent this large, two doors are very nice to have. You’ll have plenty of room to slip out for a midnight bathroom break if you’re only sharing it with one person, but as you add more bodies to the equation, it becomes more of an inconvenience.
What about Kelty?
Believe it or not, the Kelty company started way back in 1952 out of a home garage in Southern California. Its founder, Dick Kelty, revolutionized the backpacking industry by inventing the world’s first external frame backpack, a design which he painstakingly made by hand himself by forming and welding pack frames out of aircraft aluminum.
Kelty sold just 29 packs that first year, but he knew he had something special and stuck to his guns. He bet the farm on his new invention, quitting his full-time job to focus solely on outdoors gear by 1956, and within 10 years the innovative new “Kelty Pack” had become the go-to backpack for serious hiking and mountaineering expeditions.
In the decades that followed Kelty expanded their line of outdoors gear into everything from camping tents to coolers. Nowadays Kelty’s products are largely aimed at the budget-conscious outdoorsman, and while they may not manufacture the lightest or most technical goods on the planet, they enjoy a well-deserved reputation for reliable and above-average gear at below-average prices.
Kelty’s current approach to tents like our Basecamp 6 (and outdoors gear in general) is to keep it fun, accessible, and affordable without sacrificing overall quality. This same ethos is apparent in products like their rough and tumble camp chairs and budget-friendly sleeping bags like the beloved Cosmic Down 20, but they haven’t forgotten their roots either and still make their trademark external frame packs to this day.
- The North Face Wawona 6: Pound for pound, our favorite 6 person tent on the market. You’ll spend more for this much quality, but the interior space, weather protection, and outstanding storage vestibule make the Wawona one of the best values on the market. Read our full test and review…
- Nemo Aurora Highrise 6: A smart alternative to the Wawona above if you’ve got the money but don’t need the huge storage vestibule. Tons of headroom, outstanding weather protection, and premium quality materials throughout. Read our full test and review of the 4-person model…
- Kelty Wireless 6: Great alternative on a budget. Costs a few extra bucks, but includes double doors, a proper vestibule, and extra interior space.
- Department store tents: Brands like Coleman and Ozark Trail deliver comparable space and features for a few dollars less. Expect to take a gamble on material quality and weather protection.
The Bottom Line
If you’re shopping for an affordable tent with extra interior space, the Kelty Discovery Basecamp 6 may be the home run you’re looking for. Kelty knows their stuff when it comes to high-value/low-cost camping gear, and the Basecamp certainly delivered the goods for our group in that regard. We were particularly taken by how simple and intuitive the whole process was, and came away feeling confident campers of any skill level would feel the same.
If you’ve never experienced a big 6-person tent before, this is a great starting point for new campers or anyone looking for a comfortable shelter for casual camping duty. This wouldn’t be our first choice for heavy rains or serious wind, but if you invest a little time and effort in preserving the lackluster floor fabric, this Kelty should provide you with years of fun outdoors.