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The REI Co-op Kingdom 8 Tent is a high-quality, large and roomy family camping tent. It’s packed with features, including a room divider, versatile rainfly, and add-on options.
To get us a closer look, REI sent Man Makes Fire a review unit. This is what we learned:
REI Co-op Kingdom 8 Tent Review
The REI Co-op Kingdom 8 Tent is one of the best camping tents available today. In addition, it’s one of the best very large 8-person+ tents. REI also makes this tent in a 4-person option as well as a 6-person option.
Let’s start with the materials. The tent body fabric is a 75-denier nylon taffeta. It’s lightweight and supple. The rainfly is a seam-sealed 75-denier coated polyester taffeta. It sheds water well.
The floor fabric is a 150-denier coated polyester Oxford. It’s also seam-sealed and pretty durable, but it’s not a tarp-like tent floor that you sometimes find in cheaper 8-person tents. If you plan to set up a table and chairs inside of half of this tent, you might consider getting the footprint accessory or simply placing a standard tarp underneath the tent so that camp chair legs don’t grind the floor on a rocky tent site. Note: Footprints and under-tent tarps should always be a few inches smaller than the dimensions of the tent floor.
Would we like to see a thicker floor? Nope. It would just add weight and reduce packability. Get the footprint or a tarp if you want more floor.
The poles are a lightweight and strong aluminum — which is what you want in a premium tent this large. Some of the sections are slightly pre-bent to conform to the curve of the tent. This is by design, so don’t worry about it. The first primary tent structure uses two hubbed pole systems, which makes this tent easier to understand during setup. These hubbed pole systems connect in the middle of the tent and each end pole goes into one of the four corners.
The corners, straps and poles are all color-matched to help ease setup.
REI Co-op Kingdom 8 Tent: Setup
One key question for big tents revolves around setup. How easy is the REI Co-op Kingdom 8 Tent to set up? For me, it’s easy. I can set it up alone in 20 minutes without hurrying (but I have a lot of experience with tents). I think two people or an adult and a helper kid could set up the Kingdom 8 easily, though. The key is to lay out the floor first, then assemble the two hub-pole sets. You will have two “Y” sections that will connect at the bottom of each Y. Basically, the thickest poles will fit together to form the center support that runs lengthwise down the middle of the tent. The key is to slide each thick pole section underneath the white sheaths at the very top of the tent from the outside into the center so the two thick pole sections of the Y poles meet and connect in the middle. (This is harder to read than it is to actually do it!) Attach the two top clips to this main center pole, too, while you’re at it — but if you forget, REI includes zippers in the top of the tent to give you access from the inside.
The four ends of the Y sections will sprawl out past the four corners of the tent. Pick a side and place two ends of the poles into the corner straps. Walk to the other side. Grab a pole end and slowly, gently bend and lift the pole system to place one end into the corner strap. Repeat on the other side. Now you have your base structure. It will be kind of floppy. Assemble the other four pole sets. Run two center poles sets through the white sleeves in the middle section of the tent up and over the center ridge line.
You have two more pole sets. These are a bit tricky — they’re angled to arch over the doors. The gray bottoms go in the remaining gray bottom straps, and the poles arch over the doors criss-crossing with the ends of the Y poles.
The rest is easy. Stake out the four corners. Throw the rain fly over the top and rotate it until the door matches the front door. Don’t forget to connect the interior velcro straps on the rain fly to each pole — it will help with stability in wind and rain. Stake it all down, and stake out your guy lines. After your third time setting up the Kingdom 8, you’ll be down to twenty minutes, too, no problem. Also, know this: The first time for most every tent is slightly annoying and confusing. You’ll get through it!
There are several great features of the REI Co-op Kingdom 8 Tent. The first is the tall, roomy interior. You can stand in this tend and get dressed. That’s an awesome feature. Inside, REI included a fabric room divider. You can use it if you want — or not. It’s handy when you want to separate kids and adults or kids with friends from their siblings. Or help with privacy while dressing.
One half of the interior portion of the tent is nearly fully meshed — this is by design to let you roll back half of the rain fly. On a hot day and night, this will add a lot of ventilation — and let you sleep under the stars, so to speak, while keeping the bugs out.
If it starts raining, you can fairly quickly roll the fly back over and connect it to your stakes.
Alternately, a family of four could sleep on one side and leave the other side open for games during the day.
One of the best features is the abundance of stash pockets inside of this tent — there are at least two dozen. There are pockets all along the walls, corners and even in the ceiling in the REI Co-op Kingdom 8 Tent. Stash pockets are great for keys, wallets, flashlights, and tablets. Incidentally, you can place a tablet in a stash pocket with a movie playing on it. Your kids can watch the movie while you hang with the adults around the campfire.
Most tents are sized by how many people can sleep in the tent if they’re sleeping on relatively small sleeping pads. If you look at the floor space and give each person roughly 2-feet by 6-feet or so, you’ll be able to fit the stated number of sleepers.
Kids take up less space than adults, of course, and adults sometimes like to sleep on cots or larger air mattresses that take up more floor space. Do the math to make sure your sleeping plan is workable before you arrive at your camping destination.
REI Co-op Kingdom 8 Tent: The Mud Room Add-on
The built-in vestibule is pretty good, giving you decent space to stow shoes out of the tent but keep them protected from rain. For a massive upgrade, you can get REI’s Kingdom Mud Room add-on. It adds 50 square feet of vestibule space — a bit more than 8′ x 6′ of space.
It has zippered doors on both sides, so you can choose which entry point you want that best fits your campsite. Or the sidewalls can be unzipped and rolled up for greater airflow.
The key to the Mud Room installation is realizing that it installs on the “back door” of the Kingdom tent. This way you get to use the front door as a back door, which means you’ll get the Mud Room for massive vestibule gear space as well as the standard vestibule. If you’re paying attention, this means kids could sleep on one side with one door while parents could enter and exit through the other door. So you won’t step on a sleeping camper in the middle of the night.
Should you get the Mud Room add-on? If it’s in your budget, do it. We very much appreciate having the extra space that can protect gear. In addition, you can tuck coolers out of the sun in a Mud Room — or simply hide gear from sight.
Oh, one last point here: The Kingdom Mudroom packs down small enough to fit into the Kingdom 8 Tent bag, letting you keep everything together in one bag. Nice.
The Kingdom Porch
REI also offers a large sunshade add-on called the Kingdom Porch. It has two removable wind walls. For installation, it sort of just covers the front of the Kingdom 8 Tent but doesn’t attach to it like the Mud Room. You can use it at either end of the Kingdom 8 Tent, but you’re better off using the Kingdom Porch with the non-vestibule “back” door. Is the Kingdom Porch a must-have accessory? In our view, grab the Kingdom Porch if you want a freestanding sun shade that you can detach from the tent and haul down to the beach.
REI Co-op Kingdom 8 Tent: Ventilation and a Rain Test
One of the upgrades from the previous generation of REI Co-op Kingdom Tents is the inclusion of top vents in the rain fly.
On REI’s web site, I noticed that a couple of customers have posted concerns about the vents leaking in their Kingdom 8 Tents, so I took a closer look. The vents are fairly high on the tent, so it could be possible that pooling rain or wind-blown rain could get inside. To test this, I set up the tent in the yard and used a garden hose to shower the Kingdom 8 with a lot of water.
I could not get the Kingdom 8 Tent to leak.
I shook the walls of the tent with water streaming down from the top. No leaks. I opened the vents — and closed the vents — and no leaks. I then loosened the entire rain fly, as if I had done a poor job of setting it up, and I tried again. No leaks.
But here is what I did notice: I can see how wind-driven rain could possibly get into the top vents. How much is hard to say — depends on the wind and direction of windy rain.
I also noticed that if you tighten the straps on one side of the tent but leave them looser at the other side of the tent, the orientation of the vents will be out of position in relation to the very top of the tent . . . and more susceptible to wind-driven rain. This is an easy fix — just look up through the tent at your top poles and match the orientation of the poles to the seams in the rain fly. If they’re all lined up, you’re good to go — the vents will be centered where they’re supposed to be.
But I took this whole issue one step farther: Could I create an easy fix or improvement? Turns out there are three easy fix options. The first is to simply use a Velcro strip to tighten the vents. I attached one end of a Velcro strip to the bottom Velcro attachment point on the vent then slipped the strip over the top of the main support pole, attaching the other end of the strip to the other side’s bottom vent. This created a bit more tension and support for the bottom of the vent, resulting in improved water flow down the tent.
Vent closed rain test.
Adding a velcro strap over the top ridge pole gives extra tight support to the vents.
Vent with added strap.
Option 2 would be to use a waterproof double-sided sticky tape to tape the vents closed if you’re expecting really bad weather. The advantage of using tape is that it’s non-permanent.
Finally, there is another simple fix: Simply use Aquaseal to seal the vents closed entirely. You’ll end up with a totally waterproof rain fly . . . just like the previous generation ventless Kingdom Tent, which, it turns out, had an impressive 4.5-star customer rating at REI.com. Alternately, you could use Aquaseal to glue a fabric velcro strip across the whole vent, giving you perhaps the best of all worlds — extra closing power but you could still open it if you want more air flow.
But like I said, the risk is wind-driven sideways rain . . . and I couldn’t get the vents to leak from a garden hose torrential rain of water falling from above.
The Choice: Spacious Accommodations or a Windproof Tent?
Finally, the last major buying consideration you should think about is wind. Big tents and wind do not go well together. This is a fact of physics. Smaller, lower-profile tents do better in the wind. So what do you want? Livability? Or a windproof tent?
For most family camping, we error toward bigger, more livable tents because usually the weather in which we’re camping (summer) is pretty good. If the weather is very windy, we’re usually not camping in it. That said, if we’re heading out to a known windy area, we take smaller backpacking-style tents and some extra stakes. For instance, the 4-person REI Half-Dome 4 Plus Tent is surprisingly roomy but has a much lower profile than typical family camping tents. The downside is that you’re not standing up in the REI Half-Dome 4 Plus Tent — read our full Half-Dome 4 Plus Tent review for more detail.
Don’t forget to velcro the rainfly to the poles for added stability.
Sideview of front rainfly vestibule.
Color-matching straps and poles.
Angled view without fly.
Roomy Mud Room.
Tent bag plus Mud Room bag.
Front door vestibule.
So what do we do if we’re expecting wind with a tall family tent? We tighten every strap and do a good job of staking the tent down, using all of the guy line attachment points. When you stake down the Kingdom 8 Tent properly, it’s pretty good in the wind — it will flex and move, but the aluminum poles are durable.
All-in-all, the REI Co-op Kingdom 8 Tent is one of my all-time favorite tents. The interior space is huge and livable. At just over 25 pounds, the Kingdom 8 is very packable — and packability is something we appreciate even when car camping. The build quality and materials are excellent. The Kingdom 8 is not our first pick for heavy wind, but no high-profile 8-person tent is. We appreciate the overall quality, love the stash pockets all over the interior, and we’re fans of the rectangular layout, which makes sleeping arrangements easy to line up. Highly recommended.