Coleman Sundome 6
Floor area: 100 sq. ft.
Weight: 16 lbs. 10 oz.
Capacities: 2P, 3P, 4P, 6P
What we like: Bargain basement price; great ventilation.
What we don't: Questionable build quality and partial rainfly limits waterproofing.
See the Coleman Sundome 6
A popular choice among car campers and festival goers for years, Coleman’s Sundome 6 (also known simply as “the Coleman Dome Tent”) is offered at a bargain basement price that is tough to match. With enough floor area to fit two queen size mattresses, 6 feet of head room at the center, and good ventilation, it checks many of the boxes that people are looking for. Below we break down the Sundome 6’s interior space, weather protection, ventilation, storage, durability, and more. To see how the it stacks up against the competition, see our article on the best camping tents.
We tested the six-person version of the Coleman Sundome, which offers a healthy 10 feet x 10 feet of floor area. However, camping tents rarely live up to their capacity numbers in real life—unless you want to sleep like sardines and leave little space for gear or daytime activities—and the Coleman was no exception. To gauge livability, we brought along two adults, a portable crib, and a dog, and found that the Sundome 6 provided more than enough room for summertime adventures. We were able to move around comfortably, the sleeping space easily accommodated the aforementioned crib and a double-wide, 52-inch mat, and the generous amount of mesh made for an airy feel overall. In practice, we almost always recommend sizing up your tent, and we think the Sundome 6 work bests with groups of three to four people. Coleman also offers the Sundome 4, which we think is ideal for two campers and a dog.
In addition to floor area, peak height and tent shape are other key factors in determining interior space and livability. While the 6-foot peak height was plenty tall while standing in the middle of the tent, the sloped walls meant that taking one step in either direction resulted in our head coming in contact with the tent walls. At 5’9” and with arms spread out, our tester was easily able to touch all sides of the tent while standing in the middle, something that’s not possible on tents with more vertical walls like REI’s popular Kingdom series. A general takeaway regarding interior space is as follows: budget tents like the Sundome often have simpler pole designs with heavily-sloped walls, while pricier tents often have more elaborate pole structures that pull the tent up and out, resulting in more roominess. If you’re looking to save with the Sundome, head space is one notable sacrifice.
If there is one area where the Coleman Sundome 6 let us down the most, it certainly would be weather protection (or lack thereof). The rainfly only extends about halfway down on all sides, leaving the lower portion of the tent body exposed, and you won’t find any sealed seams to help keep water out. While the tarp-like material on the bathtub floor didn’t allow water to soak through, the rest of the tent’s construction was a major let-down. We experienced one moderately rainy night in the Sundome and awoke to find a number of puddles on the inside of the tent floor. Furthermore, the walls had soaked through and wetted out. Our best guess is that the water ran down the rainfly, made contact with the tent body, and then proceeded to leak through the seam where the wall is sewn to the bathtub floor. All in all, we were pretty disappointed in its wet weather performance. If you think you’ll experience rain on your camping adventures, you get what you pay for here and it’s probably best to look elsewhere.
With a double-wall design and generous use of mesh on two sides and the ceiling, the Coleman Sundome 6 offers very good ventilation. Adding to the breezy feel is its partial rainfly, which when guyed out allows for a significant amount of airflow on warm summer nights. You also get a zippered mesh door and back wall along with a floor vent located at the back of the tent. Overall, we were impressed with the airiness of the Sundome 6 and think it would be a solid companion for warm weather camping, granted you don’t expect significant precipitation (see our “Weather Protection” section above).
As with most budget-oriented products, there are bound to be shortcomings, and the Sundome 6 is very limited in terms of storage. In stark contrast to premium models like REI’s Base Camp 6 and its 14 interior pockets of varying sizes, the Sundome 6 features a paltry two pockets. Located on both sides of the tent around waist height, these hanging and floppy pockets are constructed of cheap feeling mesh. To make matters worse, their small size is only able to handle basics like keys, a phone, and a headlamp or two.
Unfortunately, the lack of storage options continues to the exterior of the Sundome 6. Unlike most other camping tents, such as Kelty’s popular Discovery 6 model and its full-length rainfly, the Coleman’s partial design does not create any vestibule space. Typically, covered tent vestibules are a great place to store items like shoes, camp chairs, or anything else you’d like to keep out of the elements, but not so with the Sundome. This may not seem like a big issue as your car likely will be parked nearby, but we appreciate a good vestibule and it’s an unfortunate omission here.
Despite its inexpensive price tag and overall lack of features, the Coleman Sundome is a highly durable camping tent that should have no problem standing up to years of use. The bathtub floor is made of a thick, tarp-like material, and the body and mesh don’t feel in the least bit fragile. Although the seams may lack sealing of any kind, the stitching itself is free of defects and looks neat in general. There are, however, a couple areas of concern. First, the zippers used on both the door and back vent feel especially cheap, often snagging while in use. Second, we’re not a fan of fiberglass tent poles—we find aluminum to be sturdier and less prone to splintering. Having said that, most casual campers who take decent care of their gear should see many summers of camping with the Sundome.
Weight and Packed Size
Weighing in at 16 pounds 10 ounces, the Sundome 6 is easy to haul from the car to the campsite and store when not in use. For comparison, the Sundome 6 is around a pound and a half heavier than Kelty’s Discovery 6 (15 lbs. 4 oz.) and on par with Alps Mountaineering’s Meramac 6 (16 lbs. 1 oz.), while the pricier and more fully featured REI Kingdom 6 comes in heavier at 21 pounds 6 ounces. For carrying, the included rectangular bag for the Sundome is simple in nature, but the full-length zipper and well-placed handles get the job done. We would have loved to see internal dividers like those found on the REI Kingdom bags, but those likely would have raised the price of the Coleman.
Set up and Take Down
Having tested a number of six-person tents of late, we’re happy to report that the Coleman Sundome 6 was among the easiest to set up and take down. The two simple and identical poles were quick and painless to put together, and the lack of color coding between them and the tent body minimized any type of confusion or missteps along the way. Further aiding to the straightforward set up was the relatively small rainfly, which was easy to toss over the tent. Even assembling the Sundome 6 solo was a smooth process, which took less than 10 minutes from start to finish at a leisurely pace. And while Coleman attaches the instructions to the inside of the storage bag, we still think it’s a good idea to do a dry run in your backyard before heading out on a trip.
Other Capacities and Versions
For this review, we tested the six-person Sundome, which we think is just about ideal for families of three to four people. For smaller groups or those confined by small campsites, Coleman offers three other size options. For groups in the two to three-person range, we think the Sundome four-person should be just about right. If you are camping solo or with a furry friend, we’d recommend opting for the three-person or two-person models. Keep in mind that as you size down in capacity, you do lose a significant amount of headroom. The Sundome 2, for example, has a maximum peak height of just 4 feet compared to 6 on the Sundome 6, and that’s a very significant difference.
In addition to the various capacities, Coleman also makes the unique and rather intriguing Dark Room Sundome. Built using the same structure as the standard model (it’s only offered in 4P and 6P sizes), the design utilizes a special fabric on the tent body and rainfly that blocks a claimed 90% of light. Why go through this effort? For one, it has serious potential appeal among late sleepers or parents that are hoping to enjoy an uninterrupted cup of coffee in the morning. The dark fabric also helps keep the tent cooler, which is a nice plus in the hot summer months. Cost-wise, the Dark Room will set you back approximately $30 more (depending on current sale prices) compared with the regular Sundome.
What We Like
- A great price for a camping tent. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a cheaper option from a respected outdoor brand.
- The Sundome 6 is easy to set up, take down, and store.
- We love the thick and durable bathtub floor, which should stand up to many years of camping.
- The generous use of mesh and partial rainfly make for a tent that ventilates very well in hot weather.
What We Don’t
- The Sundome has heavily-sloped walls and therefore lacks the livability and roominess of pricier camping tents.
- Poor wet weather performance. After just one night of moderate rain, we awoke to find multiple areas of standing water inside the tent.
- While the partial rainfly is great for promoting airflow, it leaves the bottom of the tent exposed to the elements and susceptible to soaking through.
- There is a general lack of storage. The two pockets inside the tent do little in the way of keeping things organized, and there is no vestibule on the exterior.
|Coleman Sundome 6||$99||100 sq. ft.||1||16 lb. 10 oz.||72 in.||2P, 3P, 4P, 6P|
|Kelty Discovery 6||$200||97.5 sq. ft.||1||15 lb. 4 oz.||71 in.||4P, 6P|
|Alps Mountaineering Meramac 6||$192||100 sq. ft.||2||16 lb. 1 oz.||72 in.||2P, 3P, 4P, 5P, 6P|
|Coleman Instant Cabin 6||$147||90 sq. ft.||1||25 lb. 8 oz.||72 in.||4P, 6P, 8P|
|Coleman Montana 6||$127||84 sq. ft.||1||17 lb. 0.8 oz.||68 in.||6P, 8P|
Among budget-oriented car camping tents, Kelty’s Discovery 6 is another popular option. The Sundome 6—which often can be found for under $100 on Amazon–wins out over the Discovery 6 ($200) in price, but the Kelty offers a noticeable increase in performance. Considering our location in the rainy Pacific Northwest, we place a premium on the Discovery’s full-length rainfly. Not only does this help in terms of waterproofness, but its large vestibule is a great place to store items overnight or during daily rain showers. Additionally, we think the materials used throughout the Discovery 6 are of a slightly better quality than those found on the Sundome. If you rarely camp or on a strict budget, the Sundome is a fine choice. For a step up in features and quality, we like the Discovery.
Another relatively inexpensive alternative to the Sundome is the Alps Mountaineering Meramac 6. Both tents feature a simple two-pole design, similar floor dimensions and peak heights, and generous use of mesh for airflow. However, with its full-length rainfly (on the sides of the tent) and seam-sealed construction, the Meramac 6 is superior in the weatherproofing department. Furthermore, we like that the Meramac features two doors as opposed to the Sundome’s one, making entry and exit easier should you need to get up in the middle of the night. And finally, the materials used throughout the Alps Mountaineering Meramac 6 are noticeably better. For us, the combination of increased weather protection and nicer materials make the more expensive Meramac 6 well worth considering.
From within Coleman’s own lineup, we also like the Instant Cabin 6. Both tents can fit two queen-size air mattresses, feature a single door for entry and exit, and boast 6 feet of headspace. That said, the two Coleman tents differ in a few key areas. To start, the Instant Cabin’s speedy set-up time (a claimed 60 seconds) is a standout feature and impossible for the Sundome to match. Second, the Instant Cabin doesn’t include a rainfly, although the tent body is said to be waterproof without one. And finally, the robust and quick-deploying frame of the Instant Cabin adds significant weight—it clocks in about 10 pounds heavier than the Sundome. While we love the idea of setting up a tent super fast, we’re not convinced the Instant Cabin is worth the extra cost and questionable rain protection.
Last but not least, Coleman offers another intriguing budget option in their Montana tent. Stacked up against the Sundome, the Montana 6P is smaller with 84 square feet of floor area, shorter with a 68-inch peak height, and costs a little more at $127. Where the Montana gets the edge is livability with an included awning and taller side and end walls. However, neither design is particularly impressive in the wet—the Montana’s rainfly offers better coverage than the Sundome’s, but it still leaves the lower portion of the tent body exposed to the elements. In the end, we prefer the 8-person version of the Montana ($220 at the time of publishing) for families wanting to spread out, while the taller Sundome is the better budget choice among 6P options.