My wife and I kicked off our car camping season last week with a trip to the Dolly Copp campground at the foot of Mt Madison in the White Mountains of New Hampshire.
On this trip, we tried out LL Bean’s King Pine 4 tent, in our seemingly endless quest to find the perfect car camping tent to suit our needs. All in, this tent comes pretty close to being perfect: the King Pine 4 has excellent cross ventilation, it’s spacious without being colossal, we can both stand up inside without stooping over, and it’s very easy to pitch, even in the rain.
I think my wife was surprised at how much she liked it, although we still plan to try out one other car camping tent this year.
The inner tent requires three shock-corded poles to pitch. All of the poles are color-coded and run through roof sleeves, before they are secured to side webbing straps that are staked by the sides of the tent. My wife and I pitched this tent for the first time in pouring rain, without looking at the directions beforehand and without getting a divorce, which speaks to how well LL Bean has idiot-proofed the pitching process. (Those are her words, not mine.) Now that I know how it goes up, I’m confident that I can pitch the King Pine by myself.
The King Pine is available in a 4 person and 6 person size. Having tried a colossal 6 person tent last year, we wanted to see how a smaller 4 person one would suit us. My wife and I bring a lot of odd and ends when we go car camping and there’s nothing minimalist about it. I think you could fit 4 people in the King Pine 4 if they lay side by side in mummy bags, but the space is quite roomy for two wide car camping sleeping bags/pads, with a vertical vaulted ceiling that increases the feeling of interior spaciousness. I can also stand fully erect in the tent (I’m just under 6 feet tall), which makes getting dressed and moving around effortless.
The King Pine tent has a heavy-duty urethane bathtub floor with taped seams to provide plenty of weather protection. There are large pockets sewn into the corners of the tent so you can get delicate items off the floor like your glasses or iPad, and there’s plenty of interior light from the lightly colored fabric used in the inner tent and outer rain fly.
Front Vestibule and Screen Room
The King Pine 4 has a front screened in porch that you can set up chairs in or use to get your gear out of the weather. It has four windows, with interior panels than can be closed for privacy or to keep wind and rain out of the tent. The panels do not zip closed, but are held in place using dowels, probably for increased durability since zippers are so prone to breaking. While the dowels don’t provide a fully waterproof seal, the solid panels do a good job at keeping rain out of the vestibule in heavy weather, because the bottom of the panel is sewn to the base of the tent, forcing water to exit through the mesh and not into the interior.
The front vestibule and screen room are not 100% closed to bugs since there’s a small space where they can enter between the main tent and the vestibule side wall, as well as from the ground since the screen room doesn’t have a urethane floor.
Still, we found that any bugs that do enter the front vestibule and sitting area gather along the top of the vestibule which has the most light, so they don’t bother you. If this is still a concern, your best bet would be to spray the vestibule/screen room ceiling with Permethrin which will kill any bugs that land on it. Spraying Permethrin on tents and hammocks is all the rage this year on the Appalachian Trail.
If there’s one thing that’s sub-optimal about the King Pine, it’s the bottom of the front door, which is easy to trip over when entering or existing the tent. The front door consists of two screened panels with a zipper in the middle and zippers at the bottom of each door panel. Below them is a piece of fabric that stretches along the bottom of the entire doorway, which you have to step over to enter and exit.
It’d be a lot easier if that panel wasn’t there, because even I trip on it about 50% of the time. I can only imagine what a problem it will be for younger children or people with less mobility than me. One way to modify the door without completely redesigning the tent would be to lower the base panel so that it’s at ground level, although eliminating it entirely would be the best option. It’s not a showstopper, and my wife are willing to live with it, but it’d still be better if the door was easier to enter and exit.
If you’re looking for a spacious, easy to pitch 4 person car camping tent, I recommend you take a long look at the King Pine 4 Tent from LL Bean. It’s easy to set up and take down, with excellent ventilation provided by having a front and rear door. The front screen room is also a very nice convenience if you want to sit up late in buggy conditions, without having to retire to a horizontal position inside the tent. I really like the fact that I can stand up in the tent and vestibule without having to stoop over as well as the feeling of security I have when it’s raining and thundering outside, knowing that I’m in a solid tent for the night.
- Easy to pitch
- High enough to stand up inside
- Excellent cross ventilation with a front and back door
- Screened in front porch area
- Front door “sill” is easy to trip over
- Floor dimensions 8’5″ x 7’6″.
- Tent area 63 sq. ft.
- Peak height 6’1″.
- Screen room area 35.8 sq. ft.
- Packed size 13″H x 9″W x 31″L.
- Minimum weight 22 lb. 14 oz.
Disclosure: LL Bean provided Philip Werner with a sample King Pine 4 tent for this review