REI Co-op Base Camp 4 Tent
– Price: $449
– Weight: 16.8 lbs (7.6 kg)
– Floor size: 100” x 86” (254cm x 218cm)
– Peak height: 60” (152cm)
– Number of compartments: 1
– Capacities: 4 person / 6 person
– Shape: Dome
– What we like: Great weather protection, works in the cold and hot, quality materials
– What we don’t: Lower peak height, more expensive
The Wise Adventurer’s Verdict
The results from our test were overwhelmingly positive, and we found the REI Co-op Base Camp 4 to be an outstanding value for the money for several reasons. This tent stands out for its overall quality, both in materials and construction, and is one of the most versatile camping tents we’ve ever tested. While it may not be quite as large as your typical plus-sized camping tent, it more than makes up for its size with its rugged all-weather construction and fantastic ventilation that works great at any temperature.
The Base Camp was an unexpected departure from REI’s usual camping tents like the Wonderland 6 we recently tested, and just goes to show that the Co-op still has what it takes to make high-quality, long-lasting, and impressively technical outdoors gear. The Base Camp almost feels like a return to form for REI, who famously got their start some 80+ years ago as a cooperative of like-minded friends who were tired of overpaying for technical mountaineering equipment. We don’t need to tell you that REI has since gone on to define the retail market for outdoors goods, and if the Base Camp 4 is any indication of things to come, we’ve got a lot to look forward to from the Seattle-based retailer.
Right, let’s dig into the details!
We spent a long summer weekend in the REI Co-op Base Camp as part of our camping tent field test this year, and evaluated it on all the most important features we look for in a good camping tent. We looked at everything from material quality to weather protection to determine both the overall quality of the tent as well as the value it brings to the table, and found the Base Camp to be a genuinely impressive piece of kit. If you want to know more about our methodology, you can check out the details here.
Space and Comfort
While the REI Co-op Base Camp 4 is no slouch in the comfort department, we immediately noted that it looks and feels compact compared to many of the other tents in our test. The floor plan of the base camp is nice and roomy though, and thanks to its above-average 100” width, we had no problem fitting four sleeping pads into the Base Camp side by side. You’ll have to stash most of your gear outside the tent in the large storage vestibule to make it work though, so we felt that either two or three campers was the sweet spot for this shelter.
Where the Base Camp falls short, however, is peak height, which at 60”, isn’t quite a stand up height for most adults. It doesn’t feel cramped like a backpacking tent, but we certainly felt jealous watching our friends stand up and stretch in their cabin-style shelters. The same goes for shoulder room, which scores comparatively low due to the sharper inclined walls of the Base Camp’s dome shape. Again, it’s by no means cramped, but it does feel much more like a traditional camping experience.
The Base Camp is still a cozy spot to hang out though, and we were particularly impressed by its ventilation (more on that below), especially considering most of our testing took place on warm summer days.
Weather resistance was one of the main selling points here for us, and after a weekend in the woods, we left feeling confident that the Base Camp 4 was as storm-worthy as they come. Everything about the tent from the extra-burly pole structure to high-quality fabric in the full length vestibule felt like it would keep us protected in even the gnarliest wind-blown rains.
The REI Co-op Base Camp is advertised as a “three-season plus” tent which means it’s designed to handle much colder weather (albeit no heavy snows) than your typical three-season model. This is made possible by reducing the amount of mesh in the canopy, but what’s really impressive here is that the Base Camp doesn’t get hot and stuffy in warm weather either.
That’s because REI designed each mesh panel of the Base Camp to be fully adjustable by adding zippable panels of solid fabric behind each. That includes the large windows on the doors as well as the ground level windows, and let us tell you, the system works wonders. Even with the rainfly fully deployed and guyed out, we found that ventilation on the Base Camp was a high point of the tent, and with all the mesh left open and the dual chimney vents propped up, the tent stayed surprisingly comfortable.
Ease of Set-Up
We went into our field test expecting the REI Co-op Base Camp 4 to be a bit of a bear to pitch, but we’re happy to report that just isn’t the case.
Even with the two extra poles and their added sleeves, we had zero complaints setting up the Base Camp. Aside from backpacking-inspired tents like the Marmot Tungsten-4, this was actually one of the easier tents to pitch, and felt on par with notoriously beginner-friendly models like the Kelty Discovery Base Camp.
This was due in part to its more compact size, combined with a well-designed color coding system and simple dome-style construction. It may take an extra minute or two to set up the pole-supported vestibule, but there’s nothing difficult about the process from start to finish.
The Base Camp 4 takes much of its inspiration from hardcore expedition tents like the Mountain Hardware Trango 4 we recently tested, and as such, it feels similarly indestructible. REI intentionally built this tent to be significantly tougher than your average camping tent, and their effort shows in every aspect of this shelter.
The five-pole structure, for instance, feels considerably overbuilt for three-season work (trust us, that’s a good thing), and all their extra intersections make the tent feel ready to combat gale force winds. The poles themselves also feel incredibly strong, and REI’s generous use of pole sleeves in addition to the simple clip-in attachments on the canopy, make the Base Camp feel like a veritable fortress for four.
The floor fabric is just as impressive, and its hefty 150D polyester oxford is outclassed only by a few models like the Nemo Wagontop, with its 300D fabric. The full-coverage rainfly also felt particularly well put together, and its pole-supported vestibule left us feeling confident that the Base Camp could weather a storm with the best of them. REI says the Base Camp isn’t designed for heavy snow loads, but if we had to get caught in unexpected powder, we’d feel much more confident waiting it out in this tent.
Weight and Packed Size
There’s really nothing notable to report in this metric, and although the Base Camp 4 includes extra poles and extra burly fabrics, its weight and packed size are both pretty average for a four person model. It’s a bit heavier than some four person tents at just shy of 17 pounds, but it’s still an easy one-hand carry and once it’s in the bag, its dimensions are nearly identical to most camping tents.
Getting it back down into the bag after was similarly unremarkable, and we experienced no notable issues in that regard. The Base Camp uses a standard draw-string carry sack rather than the wide-mouth bags found on some Kelty and North Face models, so while you have to be a little more mindful about how you fold the tent, packing it up still feels pretty straightforward.
While the REI Co-op Base Camp 4 costs a few dollars more than your average three-season model, but it’s no average tent. Both material quality and weather protection are notably above-average here, so we felt the added cost was more than justified. This is a tent that will last you a very long time, and that’s always a plus in terms of value.
We also felt that the Base Camp’s additional cold-weather capability added to the overall value of the tent, and if you’re the type who likes to push your outdoor pursuits into the shoulder seasons, we’re confident you’ll get more than your money’s worth here. The Base Camp’s highly effective ventilation really pushes this tent over the edge for us: You wouldn’t expect something with cold-weather construction to feel this comfortable in the summer, but everyone in our group agreed the tent lacked nothing in spite of its extra fabric coverage.
Honestly the only tradeoff we found in terms of value here is interior space, but that’s an important aspect to note. Although the Base Camp is not small (you can absolutely fit four full-sized sleeping pads inside it), it does lack the stand-up height ceilings and spacious vertical walls of other premium three-season models. We felt that the added weatherworthiness of the Base Camp makes a strong argument here though, so ultimately it all depends on the kind of camping you plan to do.
What We Like
In short, just about everything. This is an incredibly versatile camping tent that’s ready to go places other three season models fear to tread. We didn’t experience any heavy rains during our testing, but everything about this tent screams “stormproof” and that’s more than we can say for some tents that cost hundreds of dollars more.
The fact that the REI Co-op Base Camp 4’s ventilation will work well in anything from hot and sunny days to cold winter nights is a huge bonus too, albeit an unexpected one. On top of that, the above-average quality of the tent’s materials left us feeling that it would soldier on through years of abuse, which makes the Base Camp feel like a particularly smart investment.
What We Don’t Like
Our complaints concerning the Base Camp are minimal, but as we stated above, it did have some tradeoffs compared to some of the larger three-season camping tents we’ve tested. Peak height is notably shorter at 60”, which is far from the “stand up and stretch” ceilings found on shelters like the Nemo Wagontop or Big Agnes Bunk House.
The Base Camp’s aerodynamic dome shape also felt lacking compared to other 4 person models we’ve tested, so although the actual floor space is on par with some of the best tents out there, it doesn’t feel nearly as large in terms of shoulder room. The walls slope in at a much sharper angle, so while you get the benefit of added wind protection, you’ll likely miss the vertical (or beyond vertical) walls of cabin-style tents like the Nemo Aurora Highrise or North Face Wawona.
- The North Face Wawona 4: Another great four person tent at a fair price. Great interior space, high quality materials, and proper three-season weather protection. Read our full test and review of the 6-person model…
- Nemo Aurora Highrise 4: Not quite as weatherproof, but offers more interior space and class-leading peak height. Read our full test and review…
- Big Agnes Bunk House 4: A roomy 4 person model with premium materials and a stand-alone fly that doubles as a portable canopy. Read our full test and review…
- Mountain Hardwear Trango 4: If you want to get serious about winter camping, this tent is built for anything mother nature throws its way. Read our full test and review…
The Bottom Line
In terms of outright versatility, we found the REI Co-op Base Camp 4 to be unmatched in our evaluation. Here is a tent that’s reasonably spacious, built to last, and more than capable of tackling the worst kind of three-season weather.
The fact that the Base Camp also dabbles in camping well into the colder months only adds to its overall value, which is made that much sweeter considering it’s still a viable option for hot weather exploits as well.
We would definitely prefer a cabin-style shelter for clear-weather camping with a family or larger groups, but this is no claustrophobic backpacking tent either. If you don’t mind the Base Camp 4’s traditional dome shape, we’re confident it will last you for untold years of outdoor shenanigans rain or shine.