Budget Overland Ground Tent – Testing the Coleman Darwin 4+ for a family of 3
If you are looking for a budget overland ground tent then this Coleman might [or might not] be worth consideration in any of it’s 2, 3 or 4 person sizes. There is a huge amount of choice out there when it comes to ground tents, discover why we opted for the Coleman Darwin as well as how we intend to use it.
Why we chose a budget ground tent
Not everyone wants a roof tent, they’re expensive, there is no getting away from that and not everyone wants the added weight and bulk on the roof. When considering our sleep system as a whole we had to take into consideration that things had changed since we began overlanding both on a personal front and the way the world was with inflation and fuel prices etc.
Overlanding had become expensive all of a sudden so our plan was to invest in a budget ground tent until such time things settled down and we could think about more premium gear for the longer term. Essentially our budget overland ground tent was to last us a year or two then our youngest could have it for his exploits camping out with his mates.
If camping was to be predominantly on campsites then so be it, the important part was to be out there enjoying life.
After Mac’s stint in hospital we also wanted to take things easy for a while, the new chilled out approach was in full swing with importance being on family time and the whole work life balance… If camping was to be predominantly on campsites then so be it, the important part was to be out there enjoying life.
So, for a hair under €150,00 euros we pulled the trigger on a budget 4 person dome tent.
Coleman Darwin 4+ Specs
|Capacity||4 person tent|
|Set up||first: inner dome|
|Groundsheet||PE removable / fully integrated (bedroom)|
|Outer fabric||Polyester PU coated|
|Inner fabric||Breathable Polyester, No-see-um mesh|
|Pack size||58 x 20 x 19cm|
|Weight||6.2kg / 13.6llb|
|Carry bag||stuff bag included|
Like most tent manufacturers when they say a four person tent they really mean a three, yes you can squeeze four people into this tent but it wouldn’t be comfortable by any means. We had our double mattress and a single in there no problem but you would be struggling to get anything else in there.
Set Up and Take Down
This budget Coleman goes up in around 10 minutes, there is nothing fancy about, it’s poles and clips, basic but functional. I have to say that first time we erected this tent it was a challenge, not so much getting your head around the order of things but getting the flysheet lined up properly, if it isn’t exact then it does not fit properly.
For us there is not a large enough gap between the inner and outer of the tent, even with the fly on properly it still touches the inner on all sides and feels like a stretch to get it over properly, like a pair of jeans you try to put on backwards [c’mon we’ve all done it!].
The front porch area seems like a loose afterthought as the groundsheet, in reality looks awkward, in fact the porch area needs particular attention to get right because in the event of rain there is a strong chance of water entering this area as the fly does not always overlap the groundsheet especially when it’s windy.
How Does the Darwin Handle the Heat?
Not well. The vents on the Darwin 4+ are pretty much useless, they are not big enough nor are there enough, for ventilation this tent is begging for a back window or door. The tent became very hot during the day and while we appreciate we are southern Spain it got so hot you couldn’t even get in it.
Condensation was also a big issue, in the morning you would receive an automatic shower when you emerged from out of the canvas – it was that wet, the sides of the inner were also stuck to the flysheet, in a nutshell the entire tent was soaking wet and needed drying out for a significant amount of time before packing away.
Look online and there are hundreds of ground tents under the €200 euro mark, we settled on Coleman after researching many alternatives but the three below made the shortlist:
- Oztrail Skygazer – Nice tent but for us the extra features did not warrant the higher price
- Qeedo Quick Oak 3 – German brand with a unique set up system, very quick, would have been top choice if the ‘Quick Oak’ had been available as a four person.
- Gazelle T4 – Very disappointed with this company as our money would have been on the T4 all day long. No reply after after four emails sent to check EU availability or shipping from the US. We also contacted the company back in 2021, again, no reply.
Is It Good For Overlanding?
It’s a budget tent so it really all depends on the type of overlanding you do. For weekends away with the kids or for a one nighter this tent will do, although not so much in hotter countries. If you’re on a serious overlanding trip then forget it and get something better/quicker to put up and better designed.
Is The Coleman Darwin 4+ Tent A Good Buy?
For the money it’s about right, we were under no illusion when parting with €150 euros, there were also other factors in our buying process that meant we needed the tent quickly, For a budget four person it’s okay but that is all I will say, just okay. For us the tent gets us out there, it also means we can travel further and stay out without the need to return home the same day making trips longer.
Whilst we wouldn’t recommend the Darwin 4+ it does have very good reviews online so perhaps our experience with it was unique, there are however hundreds of tents in this price range to choose from, you get what you pay for.
We upgraded! Check out the Nordisk Thrymheim 5 hybrid tipi [full review]