Dusk falls in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, and I still haven’t inflated my air mattress. Instead of digging for a headlamp, I press a button in my tent to turn on the lights.
Instantly, the interior is bathed in soft LED illumination, and I grab my sleeping pad, no blind fumbling required.
A new kind of tent, the Big Agnes Gilpin Falls Powerhouse 4 mtnGLO, is built with strings of LED lighting. It comes with a battery pack with USB outlets that can run the lights and recharge your gadgets.
These are convenient features, but the battery pack adds $150 to the price tag compared to a similar model.
I camped out in the Gilpin tent last week. Here are my observations on the unique new design.
The Gear: Big Agnes Gilpin Falls Powerhouse 4 mtnGLO ($600, available now)
Where To Test It: This is an ultimate car camping tent, but it will also work well as a crag basecamp, for canoe camping in the Boundary Waters, or in other situations in which weight is not a primary concern.
First Set Up: Without reading directions, a couple buddies and I pitched this tent for the first time in less than 5 minutes. With just two main poles, two secondary poles and a clip-on body, the tent is easy to figure out.
First Impressions: Even for a car camper, the Gilpin Falls is moderately heavy, and I noticed the 13lb. 5oz. weight right away compared to my usual tents. Once I opened the carry sack, I noted high quality, well organized tent poles, strong zippers, and nice connection points.
Once set up, the tent is sturdy, big and tall. The top half of the tent body is made of mesh, so ventilation is excellent with the fly off. Once the rain fly is installed, the tent loses some of the airy feeling of the body alone, but air does still move through the three inch space between the fly and ventilated body.
Welcome Mat/Vestibule: The tent has two vestibule spaces, one over each door. They are sufficient for storing two backpacks each.
There is an attached “welcome mat” below the front door. It’s a small detail, but a great idea to keep mud and dirt out of the tent.
Who’s It For: Certainly not a cheap tent, this product is an investment for people who plan to spend a lot of nights sleeping in campgrounds. I spent my youth traveling around the country on long road trips in a VW bus, and this would have been a perfect model to pitch anywhere from a Nebraska KOA to a walk-in site in Yosemite.
With ample pockets and convenient lighting, the Gilpin Falls is also ideal for those who plan to pitch a camp and leave it for a few days. There are lots of pockets for organizing personal gear like flashlights, phones and pocket knives, and enough room for four adults to sleep side-by-side.
This tent is too heavy for all but short backpacking trips, however could be broken up into tent/fly/poles and carried by three different people for group backpacking. Even then, it would be useable but heavy.
‘mtnGLO’ Lighting: LED lights manufactured into four seams of the tent body light up with the touch of a button. The system provides plenty of ambient light for simple tasks (like removing contact lenses) inside the tent at night. The lights are a bit too dim for comfortable reading.
The two strands of lights can be powered by three AAA batteries in a small controller, or by the battery pack (called the Joey T55 Charger) that ships with the tent.
The lighting strands are barely noticeable when not turned on and are very thin and light weight, adding little to the tent bulk.
The lighting system can be purchased separately for $40 and used to light up any tent or campsite.
Joey T55 Charger: When you buy the tent, you also get a Joey T55 Charger. Basically a mid-size, USB rechargeable battery in a neoprene case with couple USB cables, the Joey stores enough power to keep two or three smartphones or a tablet going through a weekend (5,500 mA). Big Agnes says the Joey can power the LED lights in the tent, but the pre-production model I tested did not mesh with the Joey.
To charge things like an iPhone, the Joey works simply; just plug in a USB chargeable device and it turns itself on, charging the gizmo.
Packed Size: The Tent packs to the size of a duffle bag. The included carry sack is convenient, with three compartments (tent body, fly and poles) and the tent easily fits back inside the bag.
Specs: The rectangular tent measures 90″x 96″ for 60 square feet and is 68″ tall in the center. Vestibule area is 19 square feet. Packed weight 13lb. 5oz.
- Two doors and two vestibules
- Mesh pockets on interior for tablets (enable movie viewing)
- Symmetrical pole structure and color coded webbing and buckles
- Reflective guylines and webbing on tent corners
- Polyester rip-stop fly and floor
- Polyester rip-stop and polyester mesh body
- 12 interior mesh pockets
- Briefcase style carry bag with shoulder straps
- Light strand can also be powered by any USB source
Made In: China
Awesome: For a big tent, the Gilpin Falls is super easy to set up, seems durable and has well planned storage areas. The LED lighting is really just a nice bonus on an otherwise great car camping design.
Flaw: At $600, this tent, with all its added tech, is among the priciest in its class. The inclusion of the “Joey” charging system will be nice for those who don’t already have some kind of remote charger. But the Gilpin Falls lighting works with just three AAA batteries — lighter and a lot cheaper. If you already have one of the many other charging devices available on the market, or if you don’t really care to charge devices while camping, consider the less expensive ($450) Chimney Creek 4 mtnGLO.
Who Should Buy It: If you’re looking for a car camping or basecamp tent that will last and is backed up by a great company, the Gilpin Falls Powerhouse 4 is worth investigating. If you’re a technophile who loves keeping gadgets charged or watching movies while camping, this tent knocks it out of the park.
Contact Brand/More Beta: Big Agnes Gilpin Falls Powerhouse 4 mtnGLO