In short: A pretty substantial knife for everyday pocket wear, the Kershaw Link 1776 Assisted Open knife is well machined and solidly-built. The blade flips open with very little effort, but it’s not loose enough to be dangerous. Sharp right out of the box. This knife has been part of our gear for years.
The Kershaw Link 1776 Assisted Open knife has been part of our daily use (or rather, accessible for daily use) pocket gear for the last 5 years at least. We have to admit, it’s a pretty thick knife, and it’s not the most comfortable to have in the pocket if you keep your hands in your pocket.
The blade doesn’t open as fast as other Kershaw knifes (like the Leek), but the spring is strong, and the action is very smooth. If anything, this is a testament to the overall construction, thickness of material, and durability of the knife.
The liner makes a solid connection to the blade along the spine in the open position, which gives the knife a lot of strength when pushing down making kindling. The angle of the edge of the blade and thickness of the blade itself performed well during fire construction. We didn’t use it to split wood; although it crossed our mind.
Overall, it’s a good knife, a little big in the hand, but certainly durable and sharp.
In short: We love the Mora Bushcraft Survival Knife. At first, the plastic feel was concerning, but the knife performed beautifully, and it’s clear that the material used is top grade, because we believe this is going to last for the rest of our lives. Great balance, and good feel in the hand. A very hearty ‘click’ when sheathing the blade.
The Mora Bushcraft Survival Knife is perfect for first time campers. It’s a few steps up from the economy blade, but it’s price is no where near some of the other knives out there.
The synthetic material used for the sheath is really high quality stuff. It’s not going to crack on you after years of use, and it’s pliable enough to withstand whatever you can throw at it (that’s throw, not shoot). We liked that it’s also perfect for wet conditions. It won’t soak up water like leather or nylon weave, and it’s easily cleaned.
The spine of the knife is perfectly flat creating 90° corners, which makes getting some good spark off the flint incredibly easy. When storing the flint, there’s a nice ‘click’ that lets you know that it’s not going to go anywhere.
The one thing that we didn’t like was the size of the diamond plate. It’ll do in a pinch, but we suggest using a whetting stone.
All in all, we really loved this knife. Great balance, and good smooth feel in the hand.
Picking the right tent for your experience is really a personal matter. How many people will be using it? Do you expect to keep some of your gear in the tent as well? Beyond four walls, a roof, and floor, what other amenities do you need in order to keep camping fun? When we were growing up, the selection of tents was a lot smaller because the tents were pretty basic: Four walls, a door, and at least one window. In truth, this is all you really need (it may even be overkill if you’re one to sleep under the stars); however, as your family grows, it may be worth checking out tents that are designed for larger families or for those who want a bit of extra privacy in nature (not explicitly when nature calls; although, there are options for that too).
When we looked at the selection, we wanted to ensure that we were balancing functionality, durability, and cost. There are some awesome tents out there that can put a dent in your wallet, but that level of investment is not needed to have a good camping trip. Growing up in larger families, camping was the affordable vacation for us, and we want to pass that down to newer folks as well.
The one rule that we had when selecting the tents is that they must sleep more than 4 people. As we’ve mentioned in other areas, the tent sizing is based on the number of sleeping people the tent can fit. From our experience, more goes into the tent than just sleeping gear (e.g. luggage), so, for us, a family of four should have a five person tent (or more if you have young kids).
In short: The Coleman Elite WeatherMaster 6 Person tent is well designed and can support a family of 6; although we suggest maxing out at 5 people in order to keep a little elbow room. Awesome features like the cabin-style door and integrated LED lighting system give just a bit of added comfort to car camping. Set up complexity is moderate and requires more than one person, but it’s a family tent, so you have an extra set of hands or three running around you anyway.
This is a great tent for a family of 4 or 5 (it sleeps 6). The interior space allows for 2 queen-sized air mattresses and has beautiful meshed windows and skylights for awesome out-of-the-elements sight seeing and hot weather ventilation. For our trips, we bring one air mattress for our middle-aged bones, and the kids get to experience ‘roughing it’, which gives the tent a lot more living area for tent games like cards.
We’ve said it before, tent placement should be more about soft ground and avoiding flooding potential and less about the view; however, the skylights that the Coleman Elite WeatherMaster boasts make for stunningly beautiful stargazing on warmer nights. If you use the rain fly, you miss out on the stars, but you keep the ventilation while staying nice and dry.
We really dig the screened-in area that’s included with the tent. While there is no floor (a big miss to us), it gives you ample space to store non-food gear and provides a nice respite from insects in the evening.
One of the cooler advancements in tents is the inclusion of LED lighting. This means you don’t have to choose between lighting the tent or seeing on the way to the bathroom at night. The Elite WeatherMaster has a wall-mounted light switch that operates overhead lighting with three brightness levels. This is also a huge bump in safety because it removes the need to bring portable light into the tent. Too often, campers use fuel-burning lanterns in the tent, which is just plain dangerous. Burning propane releases carbon monoxide, which can lead to poisoning and possibly death. Additionally, fuel lanterns or heaters is a fire hazard.
The Elite WeatherMaster 6 is well-constructed and will easily last season after season. High-stress seams are reinforced with extra stitching and all external seams are inverted, keeping the needle holes inside the tent, which reduces ways that water can get into the tent.
We liked the ‘cabin-style’ door, which behaves much more like a real door than the typical flaps that just about all smaller tents have. One of the more annoying things for us is fiddling with the door zipper in the middle of the night.
All in all, this is a very solid (albeit heavy) tent that’s perfect for new or experienced families.
Coleman Tenaya Lake Fast Pitch Cabin with Closet 8-Person
In short: The Coleman Tenaya Lake Fast Pitch Cabin with Closet is a huge tent that lets you stretch out and relax. Given the design of the rain fly and wide open mesh skylights, we’d recommend only using this tent for warm / dry weather camping. The added room dividers are a great way to give you a bit of privacy, and the closet can keep your luggage and gear out of the main area. It’s a bit heavy, but set up is pretty quick for a tent this size.
The Coleman Tenaya Lake Fast Pitch Cabin is the perfect tent for those families who want a bit more wiggle room or extra privacy. Featuring room dividers and a small closet (including a hanger rod), this tent fits 8 people sleeping, but we recommend not using any tent at its capacity. Keep this at 6 to 7 people and you’ll have plenty of floor space so you don’t have to hop, skip, or jump across your camping party just to get outside.
We suspect that most families aren’t going to utilize the full 8-person capacity this tent is rated for, and that’s perfect, because the extra room can easily be used as an indoor play area for younger kids. We set up a small table and a couple of chairs that allowed us to enjoy some travel games at night after the fire had died down, and we were ready to call it an evening. While the tent floor is durable, we recommend putting a cheap blanket on the floor before setting up any furniture to help prevent any accidental tears. Just for good measure, we also recommend using a tarp underneath the tent to further protect against any rocks or roots that may have been missed when clearing the tent area.
Just in case you skipped the warnings about using fuel-fed lanterns or heaters in the tent, DON’T. It’s just not safe. There are plenty of really well-regarded battery powered lanterns on the market that are perfect for tent usage.
There is a huge miss when it comes to an effective rain fly. The rain fly for the Tenaya Lake tent only covers the roof. Typically, rain flies will stretch down the corners of the tent and form awnings above doors or windows. This way, as rain runs off the tent, it’s channeled away from these water weak spots. We’d have to say that the Tenaya Lake is not the best tent if you’re expecting rain. When we tested it, we noticed rain ran off the roof and hit the door window. Water then pooled in the pockets of material between the door’s mesh window and window flap getting us wet whenever we went in and out of the tent. Now, if you’re camping in wet weather, you and your gear are going to get wet; however, there are basic design features that can be implemented to mitigate this, and we were a bit surprised that more care wasn’t taken in planning for water runoff.
In the end, we really liked the Coleman Tenaya Lake tent provided that our trips are planned for warmer weather.
In short: The Coleman’s Instant Dome series is the standard of car camping and backpacking tent design. Not going for bells and whistles like some of the larger tents, the Coleman Instant Dome 5 keeps camping simple and fun by ensuring that your time is spent enjoying nature, not getting frustrated with setting up the tent. We think it’s a much better 3 or 4 person tent, so if you have a bigger family, go up a size.
The Coleman Instant Dome 5 Person tent is much more of your traditional camping tent with the iconic dome shape, which provides stronger structural integrity that some of the boxier tents like the Tenaya Lake or WeatherMaster, both from Coleman; however, it also means that the standing height is considerably shorter.
Personally, we really like these tents. The set up is incredibly easy and shouldn’t take you more than 5 minutes (and that includes installing the stakes and ties). The Coleman construction stands up over time, and the craftsmanship can be seen in the key stress points like zippers, ties, and stake loops. All of these areas are reinforced with extra or thicker material to prevent tearing.
The storage leaves a bit to be desired. By now, you know our refrain of tent sizing, so 5 is going to be really tight. We argue that this would be just fine for 3 people, but it starts to get a bit cozy at 4. Our opinion is that there should be enough storage pockets to support the capacity limit, and this is an area in which the tent falls a bit short (although, we understand that this is not part of the durability or main function of the tent). The Coleman Instant Dome 5 Person tent has 2 smaller mesh pockets for your pocket gear like phone, knife or multi tool. We’d like to see a 1:1 ratio of campers to pockets.
Beyond the door and window, there are two small vents at the top of the tent which provide marginal ventilation. This is a tent for which a portable fan would be very helpful in hotter weather.
The rain fly creates reasonable awnings over both the door and window, and they did a great job preventing water from hitting these water weak spots. We’d like to see a more exaggerated awning for the door so that you’re not as exposed when trying to zip or unzip the door. If it’s wet outside, you’re going to get wet, but anything the design can do to keep you a bit drier should considered. This is a good balance between form and function.
One of the features that we really enjoyed are the self-rolling windows. Depending on how old you are, back in the days, there were these slap bracelets that were all the rage. The same design applies to the windows. The thin piece of curved bendable metal is slid into the center sleeve of the window. When the curve is inverted, the metal stays rigid. Once you snap it back to it’s original bend, the metal curls up. Don’t expect a perfect roll, but it’s far better than the traditional ties, and it helps keep the tent organized.
Maybe it’s our own history with tents, but there’s not a lot to dislike about the Instant Dome series. It’s a basic design without many bells and whistles, but it’s incredibly durable and effective.
In short: The Coleman Instant Dome 4P takes the guesswork out of setting up shelter, and it gets you off on the right foot when starting out your camping trip. Pitching the tent required exactly zero minutes looking at the instructions or for missing parts. The beauty of the Instant Dome is that the tent is already put together for you. All you need to worry about is who sleeps next to whom.
Part of the joy that we had when camping with our folks was figuring out the old Coleman canvas tent puzzle. Before there were elastic ropes binding the correct pieces together, we sorted out the 1 inch aluminum poles by size and bend, and then methodically thread the poles through the channels and, as a group, lifted the sides in unison to have good tension on all walls.
Thinking back to those family camping trips still brings me joy, but so does the advancements that have been made in tent technology.
When you’ve pulled into the campsite late the last thing you want to worry about is struggling with unmarked or loose poles. That’s where the Coleman Instant Dome series comes in to play. Right out of the bag, the only loose parts you’ll see are the stakes. The rain fly and poles are all already attached to the tent. All you need to do is unfold the hinges along roof and extend the corner poles. There are instructions, but the Coleman Instant Dome series is so intuitive that you’ll know how to set up the tent without them.
As with all tents, we recommend going up a size, and there’s a reason for this. Tents are sized by the max number of people who can fit in the tent while sleeping. It doesn’t account for any gear like extra clothes, your portables, lanterns, etc. And it assumes that you really, really like these people. Adding an extra ‘person’ to your tent count will help give a little extra elbow room, which you’ll appreciate halfway through your first night. As an example, the Coleman Instant Dome 4P fits a queen sized air mattress plus some tight walking room. To us, that’s two to three people tops.
Key stress points (zippers, tent ties, and stake loops) were reinforced with extra material and stitching as were window and mesh areas. The flooring is a waterproof plastic that continues up the sides about 6 inches to provide additional protection from running water. Tip: Dig channels around your tent to direct any rain water away from your gear.
The integrated rain fly is a nice touch; however, we felt that it didn’t provide the same amount of rain / heavy dew protection as unattached rain flies. Rain or heavy dew can wick through tent walls if there’s something on the inside leaning against the tent. To protect against rain, rain flies should cover the tent without actually touching the tent walls. Because the rain fly for the Coleman Instant Dome series is already attached to the tent, it necessarily touches the tent ceiling and walls, which can bring some water into the tent.
Unless you’re into rain or snow camping, this probably won’t be an issue for your. From our experience, nothing is going to be 100% dry when the conditions are wet.
Overall, we are happy with the Coleman Instant Dome series, and we expect the Coleman name to be part of our gear for years to come.
In Short: An awesome tool to have with you for any reason, but don’t let the size put you off. Although the Schrade ST12 Keychain Tool is small, the features it carries and the quality of the construction can put this tool up against some of its larger relatives.
The Schrade ST12 Keychain Tool by BTI Tools is a small, but incredibly well-built multi-tool that gives you easy access to core tools that you’d use at camp, on the trail, or anywhere. Closed, the Schrade ST12 Keychain Tool has the same width and depth of a 9 volt battery and is only slightly taller.
Generally, we are skeptical of keychain tools for a couple of reasons:
Carrying keys in the front pocket can already be cumbersome, and we don’t want to add to the problem.
Keychain gadgets are not typically designed to stand up to any significant test of durability.
This is where we were surprised. The Schrade ST12 Keychain Tool easily unfolds to the open position and locks with a solid click. After inspecting the mechanism a bit, we noticed that the click is the result of the neck of the pliers fitting perfectly into the handle creating a spine that evenly distributes the pressure put on the pliers through the entire handle.
The pliers of the ST12 use a torsion compression spring which applies a more consistent pressure than a standard magazine spring making the movement of the pliers responsive enough to perform delicate tasks.
Despite the heavy lock, collapsing the pliers is easily accomplished with the same smooth and deliberate actions.
Accessing the outside tools takes a strong fingernail at the beginning; however, after fiddling with it for a while, the hinges for the various tools loosened up. The knife and scissors are very sharp out of the box, so use caution when attempting to open them before the hinges are looser.
The tweezers are made of quality metal. We didn’t see any fatigue or real wear and tear through our exercises (picking up beads or pulling pins).