The REI Kingdom 6 has been a mainstay in our Editors' Choice list for some time, and for a good reason. It sets the standard for large, family-style camping tents. It's not flashy, it's not particularly innovative, but it's effective. Functionally, the Kingdom 6 covers all the basics well, and then adds ingenious small touches like inner ceiling zippers to make connecting those otherwise high ceiling clips significantly easier. Other critical additions like an adjustable room divider and more pockets than a Levi's store make the Kingdom 6 highly adaptable to whatever situation you find yourself in. REI seems to have designed a great tent, then gone through it for potential flaws and weaknesses, then directly addressed those. The Kingdom 6 provides great options and versatility and is simply a bomb-proof and reliable tent that will only improve your outdoor experience.
REI Kingdom 6 Review
Cons: Only one vestibule, back door is more exposed to the elements, more poles than most.
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The REI Kingdom 6 is the lion in our jungle and the Elvis of our rock and roll. It's been holding down the top of our large family tent category for a few years now, and for good reason. Well-thought-out design (like small zippers inside the roof of the tent to help you reach and attach clips to the higher spots in the exoskeleton) and a unique, barn-like shape set it apart from the competition. Our other top-rated six-man family camping tents, the Big Agnes Tensleep Station 6 and the North Face Wawona 6 are great and worthy competitors, but also very similar to each other. The Kingdom 6 is a genuinely unique tent, and REI has managed to maximize the impact of small touches and important features.
At just over 83 square feet, the REI Kingdom 6 is not noticeably larger than any of the other tents we tested (in fact, it's technically smaller than some). But there's something about the long, barn-style design that makes it feel roomier. While most any family camping tent advertised at six-people is going to be cramped at capacity (and we typically recommend closer to four people), the Kingdom 6 might actually be the exception. Again, due to its longer design, you could put three people across on each end (each threesome with heads or feet at a door), and be as comfortable as any six-man tent on the market. Now, will it still be a little snug? Sure, but you'll be much better situated for the constant logistics of crawling over and around your tent mates.
As previously mentioned, both ends of the Kingdom 6 have near 360-degree doors that stuff neatly into a small storage pocket at the top, inside of each door. Moving air mattresses and any other large equipment (tables, chairs, etc.) into the Kingdom 6 will not be a problem.
Pockets! Pockets! Pockets! At our count, and we had to do this multiple times just to be sure we were seeing it right, the Kingdom 6 has a stunning 22 pockets! They ring the bottom of the tent (yes, the entire circumference), and then give you four more, one in each corner, up high. You could put each individual piece of clothing you've brought into its own individual pocket and still have room for your headlamp, car keys, phone, and toothbrush. Storage abounds.
For those who prefer the luxury of a two-roomed tent, or simply want to be able to shut yourself off (at least visually) from their kids, the Kingdom 6 comes with a handy room divider to give you your alone time. The room divider is a fairly common add-on in many larger family camping tents. What gives REI the edge here, however, is that there are multiple sets of loops to connect said dividing wall. That means that you can be a merciful camping God and divide the room evenly, or you can conquer more territory and spread out over roughly two-thirds of the total floor space, leaving your friends and family to crowd into the smaller, more peasant-sized end.
But wait, there's more! The room divider has a handy zip up the middle meaning you can open, close, and even secure it with loops on the side of the tent to accommodate all situations without having to crawl or limbo under the divider.
By the time you start to feel like the REI Kingdom 6 is failing you weather-resistance-wise, you're likely to be floating away somewhere downriver. The Kingdom 6 will keep you comfortable and dry in all but the heaviest extended downpours. The fly covers the entire tent, side-to-side, all the way to the ground. It also has pop-up Velcro vents in the ceiling of the fly (accessible through the ceiling zips in the main tent) to increase airflow and keep things from getting too muggy when it rains.
On one end the Kingdom 6 has a decent-sized vestibule; enough to store shoes and other smaller items, but not quite enough to sit comfortably in. A two-zipper design, meeting at the top-center on the front of the vestibule, gives you a multitude of options. You can open just one side of the vestibule for some sun-relief or adapt to any side-winds. You can keep just the sides up to create a more cave-like entrance area to the tent. Finally, those who enjoy the shade of a covered porch at home will feel equally at home under a shaded front veranda that can be created using a pair of hiking poles (or similar — REI actually sells adjustable poles for this, too) and staking/guy-lining out the main flap of the vestibule at a more horizontal angle. Voila! Instant camping porch. Add the lemonade or other beverage of your choice.
The other end of the Kingdom 6 is somewhat exposed. The fly only covers the outer edge, leaving the majority of the door open to the elements. While we don't doubt REI's claims of water-resistance in the polyester tent fabric, we also know that "resistant" isn't proof. That said, the fly does cover the top edge of the door, creating a drip line that should keep things relatively dry. Sideways rain could still be a problem.
As for stability, there are three cross-poles that stretch the length of the Kingdom 6, providing strength to the overall structure of the tent. Multiple loops on the fly along with guy lines also help to secure your wilderness home.
Ease of Setup
At first look, the Kingdom 6's longitudinal, barn shape we've been raving about thus far looks like a setup nightmare. Fear not. A two-part, two-hubbed pole supports each end of the tent, and then three more poles; one across the middle and one at each end to keep the doors vertical, complete the setup. Sounds like a lot, right? It's really not, so while it's not the fastest up and down of the tents we tested, it certainly won't keep you at it all night or have you swearing at the surrounding pine trees.
In our tests, it took two people 10-15 minutes to set the Kingdom 6 up and take it down each time. What you'll appreciate is that it's very straightforward and easy to figure out. No complicated poles twisting and crossing at odd angles to leave you feeling like you just bought something from IKEA.
We'll admit to occasionally being enamored with small details. One of our favorite features of the Kingdom 6 is the small zippers in the ceiling of the main tent. At first, because we typically ignore the directions, we were confounded. Zippers in the ceiling? Weird. Then the lightbulb came on. The zippers make reaching the high, center clips on the tent massively easier. Just connect the rest of the hooks, then step inside, unzip, and reach through to connect the highest clips with ease. Absolutely genius.
With a peak inside height of 6'3", and those clips another couple inches above that, being able to reach directly up, as opposed to over and across the outside of the tent, is truly huge. The Kingdom 6 is the antithesis of the Big Agnes Titan 6 mtnGLO in this regard. Where the Titan was awkward, even difficult to reach the high clips, REI solved the problem with a couple of small zippers.
Let's be fair, this is a large, six-person tent, it's going to occupy some space, even when packed. The REI Kingdom 6 packs down to roughly a normal suitcase size, not drastically smaller or larger than its contemporaries here. What it does have going for it though, is plenty of room in the storage bag (no stuffing your tent while huffing, puffing, and swearing), separate compartments for the tent, the fly, and the poles, and a few outer pockets for other accessories.
Finally, the coup de grâce, the Kingdom 6 has two shoulder straps that essentially turn your tent into a backpack. Say goodbye to the days of humping an awkward hot-dog-shaped monstrosity from your car to your tent site. The Kingdom 6 actually adds some range to your potential camping spots. You can walk it into stated "walk-in" sites with relative ease. Don't worry about pulling the car up right next to where you're going to set this one up, you're good to go the distance.
REI has a long history of making quality, durable tents. The Kingdom 6 is no exception. With a rainfly that sports a 75-denier thickness, and a tent floor at double that, damage from tree roots and rocks should be few and far between. The main, two-hub poles are thick enough (14 millimeters) to stand up to a strong breeze. The other accessory poles, while thinner at 11 millimeters, are still adequate and should benefit from the support of the thicker main poles. Seams are sealed to keep you dry. Cared for properly, the Kingdom 6 should last you many seasons of wilderness adventure.
The REI Kingdom 6 should be a no-brainer for mid-sized families or those who like to go camping with 3-4 friends. It's going to perform well in most any condition. It gives you tons of space in a well-designed layout, and it comes loaded with enough small touches to meet everyone's needs. While it's not the cheapest tent on our list, it's far from the most expensive, and if you consider that it should last you many seasons, it's a worthy investment.
Because REI sells its products directly to their customers, they tend to be a better value than many of the other big tent brands. At $470, it's solidly in the middle of the tents we tested price-wise. However, when you consider what that middle-ground price gets you, that's where the Kingdom 6's value begins to shine. It has been a consistent Editors' Choice here at Outdoor Gear Lab and doesn't stick it to your wallet for the privilege. Sure there are cheaper tents out there, but you're going to sacrifice the brilliant features and high-end quality you get out of the Kingdom 6.
The spacious and well-designed REI Kingdom 6 is one of our favorite tents, year-in and year-out.
— Wes Berkshire