Finding a large, lightweight, and affordable family tent is tough, but the Slumberjack Daybreak 6 hits the sweet spot. It boasts a simple and effective two-part design: The main body of the tent is all mesh with a bathtub floor, which you cover with a seam-sealed rainfly. In my experience, two layer tent designs almost never end up with moisture inside the tent.
So that is what first attracted me to the Daybreak 6.
Daybreak 6 Review: Overall Design
The pole design is like traditional smaller dome tents — two fiberglass poles cross at the top and bend into the four corners of the tent. It’s a free-standing design, which I find critical for ease of use and placement out in the woods, but because of the tent’s large size, you’ll want to stake it down if there’s any chance of wind.
In addition, Slumberjack includes two poles that bend over the top of the X-frame to lift and support the door and back wall of the tent. Works pretty well.
All of it comes together with fairly vertical walls that maximize floor space. As for height, a grown man can stand up inside of it, which is a bonus and makes the overall space feel huge. The floor, by the way, is 104 inches by 129 inches, and if you do the math, that’s about 8.66 feet by 10.75 feet.
In our use, we were able to line up five sleepers across the back wall, giving each sleeper about two feet of their own space, with another sleeper near the door. Oh, add in one dog as well as some duffel bags. Even then, the Daybreak 6 felt roomy.
Daybreak 6 Review: Mesh, Pockets, and Door
The 40D polyester no-see-um mesh on the Daybreak six isn’t as good as the mesh you’ll find in high-end backpacking tents, but it has held up well after several outings in Yellowstone National Park and on the Salmon River in Idaho. In fact, one nice feature of the Daybreak 6 is the full-mesh design, which lets you leave the rain cover off on warm summer nights. While camping on the river, we left the cover off, enjoyed stargazing, and could feel a cool breeze off the river.
I wouldn’t have thought this a few years ago, but it turns out that pockets built into a tent are super handy. They are a great place to put your car keys, smartphone, or a flashlight so you can find them fast. The Daybreak 6 has pockets built into each corner of the tent. It doesn’t come with a gear loft for the roof, but there are sewn in loops where one could be attached. I like to use the loops to hold a small battery-powered lantern that I leave in the tent bag.
What about the door? It’s big and tall, and the zipper seems durable enough. The best thing about the Daybreak 6 door is the vestibule that covers it up. If you have trekking poles, you can stand it up and open it like a covered porch — or you can just roll it up and out of the way. When the weather is bad, this vestibule is great for leaving shoes behind outside the tent — but also covered by the vestibule so they don’t get rained on. This backpacking tent style of vestibule is often left out of larger family-type tents, and it’s another key element that attracted me to the Daybreak 6 in the first place.
Daybreak 6 Review: Fantastic Packability
The previous family-sized tent I owned was a beast — it was durable and tall, but it packed up into a big hard-bottomed duffel bag with wheels. It was heavy and awkward and hard to pack. The Daybreak 6 is easy to pack and carry. It weighs just 16 lbs, 10 oz and stuffs into a small and light duffel bag.
In addition, you don’t even have to fold the tent up to get it back into the bag. I like to half-zip the duffle bag then stuff the fly into half the bag, followed by the main tent. Then poles go on top. Works great. Setup and take down is about 3-10 minutes depending on whether you’re putting the fly on and the kind of terrain you’re trying to drive stakes into. It’s straightforward, but not super easy, which brings up the only con to the Daybreak 6.
Daybreak 6: Any Cons?
Because the Daybreak 6 is such a large tent with a high ceiling and nearly vertical walls, the x-poles need to be very long in order to make the corner-to-corner span. What this means is that, when it’s time to bend them into position, they’re a bit unwieldy to handle. You have to pay attention, and while I was able to set up this tent twice on my own, I can’t say it’s easy to do alone. It’s much better with two people, and better yet, I recommend adding at least a kid for good measure. Here is the best way:
Spread the tent out and slip both of the main poles into the top sleeves to create the X. Pick a side of the tent and slip the poles into the corner straps. On this one side only, attach the two clips on each pole on the side you’re working with — but leave the opposite side unclipped. Get one helper ready to lift and stabilize the first corner while you feed the rest of the pole up over the tent and into the top sleeve portion. As it bows into place, you’ll secure your corner and attach two clips to your side of the pole. At this point, it’s a good time for your helper to step out of position to the other corner. If you have a third person, get them to hold the installed pole upright while you go repeat the process with the second pole. Feed it through, bend it upward, and secure it.
This is a big tent, so you’re going to have to pay attention. In fact, when I was setting it up at night on a beach, I pushed a pole too hard into the far side as I was lifting my side, which put a lot of pressure on a single section of fiberglass pole, which caused it to fracture. Was it my fault? A little. Was it a bad section of pole? Maybe. Does the Daybreak 6 need better poles? Hard to say, because after all, the challenge is finding an affordable tent this size. For less than the $199 MSRP, the Daybreak 6 is a great overall value. If you are ready to spend $600 on a similar family-size dome-style tent, the poles are going to be better quality — but that’s a tough spend for most families that are only going to set up a tent a few times a year.
So what happened next? I wrapped some duct tape around the split pole, finished setting up the tent, and had a great trip. My only recommendation to Slumberjack is to just go ahead and include an extra replacement pole section with the tent. As for campers, well, everyone ought to have a roll of duct tape in their car or pickup anyway.
The only other con is more of a tradeoff than a real con: The floor is made of fairly thin material. You can get a footprint to put under it, but your most cost-effective method is to buy an 8×10 tarp from your local hardware store and use that for those times you’re setting the tent up on gravel tent pads. On sand and packed dirt, not a big deal either way. This isn’t exactly a con, though, because the Daybreak 6 is designed to be a large-but-lightweight tent that’s easy to pack, which is what I appreciate more than a burly floor.
All-in-all, the Slumberjack Daybreak 6 blends the proven full-mesh-with-separate-rain-fly backpacking tent design with an affordable large-size family tent. The vestibule and front-porch design will help keep your shoes and boots dry, which is a handy feature — especially so because so many other affordable family tents skimp on the fly and vestibule coverage. The pole design isn’t as robust as family tents that cost three times as much, but that’s part of the sweet-spot challenge the Slumberjack Daybreak 6 is designed to address. What you get is a large but lightweight and affordable tent that’s easy to pack in any car — or even haul off the beaten path.
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