If you are looking for a spacious car camping tent that is easy to pitch, check out the Kelty Airlift 6, a spacious double-walled tent with a large front vestibule that can be pitched fully assembled, simply by pumping it up with air. Featuring a 60 square foot floorless vestibule and tall enough that you can stand up inside, the Airlift 6 is a virtual palace with plenty of room for 4-6 people and their “stuff”.
Featuring “Air Tubes” instead of tent poles, the Kelty Airlift 6 pack up into a medium-sized duffel bag because it doesn’t require any tent poles. This makes it much easier to transport the tent and to travel with, if you can check luggage. The inflatable tent architecture also lets you pitch the inner tent and the rain fly simultaneously – a very desirable feature if you’ve ever had to pitch a double-walled tent in the dark and pouring rain.
Pitching the Kelty Airlift 6 Tent
When pitching the Kelty Airlift 6, you need to pump air into two separate valves. A pump and hosing are included with the tent. The first valve inflates a 4 pole hub which holds up the main tent compartment, while the second valve inflates a separate tube that holds up the attached front vestibule. The valves have a narrow opening which you use to inflate the tent with: it’s a one-way valve so air won’t escape when you disconnect the hose, and a second wider opening which is opened for deflation.
First, unpack the tent from its duffle and lie it flat on the ground. Orient the tent, which has a rectangular footprint, so that you have about 3-4 feet on each side to pitch out additional guylines. Despite being inflatable, the Airlift 6 is not truely free-standing and must be staked down firmly for a taut pitch.
Find the valve on the middle tube on the left-hand side of the tent, if you are facing the front vestibule. Open the top part of the valve and attach the pump hose to begin inflation.
Partially inflate the left valve, which inflates a 4-section hub that holds up the main inner tent compartment. You’ll need a second person to help untangle the legs and hold them up while you pump to make sure there are no bends in the tubes and that air flows freely into them. Your helper can stand outside to do this.
Once the four air tubes that meet in the main tub are inflated – this doesn’t take long at all – this is what the tent will look like (see below).
Cap the left valve and find the other valve for the vestibule support tube. It’s located on the right hand side of the tent, on the first tube, if you’re facing the front vestibule. Attach the hose and begin pumping.
Once the vestibule in inflated, stake out all six ends of the air tubes. Be sure to pull the tubes as far apart from one another as possible, so that you get a taut pitch. This is important to ensure that the inner tent walls are vertical, there is good separation between the outer fly and the inner tent, and so that rain does not pool on the vestibule roof. Next, stake out the extra guylines on the exterior of the tent to provide added structural support and wind resistance.
With practice, it’s possible to get the entire pitching process down to 20 minutes with 2 people, but I wouldn’t recommend doing it for the first time at night and certainly not in the rain.
Deflating the Airlift 6 Tent
Taking down the Airlift 6 is a remarkably fast process, especially since the tent is so big.
First, release the both of the air tube values by unscrewing them to the open position and watch the tent deflate.
Pull out all the stakes and pack them away.
Next roll up the tent, first length wise and then from end to end. There’s no need to be too particular during this process.
Stuff the Airlift 6 into its duffel bag, with its stakes and pump, and away you go. The entire process only takes a few minutes.
If you’re forced to pack the tent wet, you will want to dry it out when you get home so mildew does not ruin it. The best way to do this (unless you own a barn with high rafters and a winch) is to repitch it in your back yard and allow it to dry completely before repacking and storing it.
Internal Space and Livability
The Kelty Airlift 6 is a huge tent with 96 sq feet of space just in the inner room alone, not counting another 60 sq feet in the vestibule. I can stand inside without touching the ceiling and enter and exit the tent fully erect. The ceiling is so high that you may need to get a brighter lantern to light the interior at night because it so far away from your head.
The interior “room” has one main door behind the vestibule that is almost as wide of the front wall, making it easy for occupants to get in and out at night. While you can theoretically fit six people in the Airlift 6, having the door in the front of the interior room means that the two people sleeping in front of the door will be woken up anytime someone has to go to the bathroom at night. We’ve found that sharing the tent among 4 people is more realistic and comfortable, in terms of bathroom egress, and means that the tent occupants can store their gear inside of the tent for easy access.
The interior room has three very large mesh windows for ventilation, but all are covered by the outer rain fly. The front door of the inner tent is solid, except for a rectangular mesh transom window along the top, so there are no views from inside the tent when the front door is zipped shut. Ventilation is still excellent though, even when the door to the inner tent is closed.
There are 4 interior pockets in the interior room, two each on the sides of the front door, which are about the size of a large laptop. Loops also hang from the ceiling which would make it possible to hang a gear loft (but are also good for hanging clothes), although a gear loft is not available for this tent, to my knowledge.
The Kelty Airlift 6 vestibule is best thought of as a floorless mud-room where people can store gear to keep it out of the rain or leave their shoes to avoid tracking dirt and debris into the inner room. It can also be used as a separate shaded sitting area or a covered one in the rain, with the front door zipped shut.
The vestibule has two side windows and a large garage style front door which is angled to provide more interior space. The windows have internal covers which can left open for ventilation but must be zipped completely shut if it rains to prevent water from the roof of the tent from coming in through the window mesh.
The front vestibule door can be rolled up and secured above the door in good weather or zipped down if it rains. Lightly colored fabrics help ensure that the vestibule area remains well-lit even in inclement weather.
Wind and Rain Performance
The Kelty Airlift 6 is bomb-proof in heavy rain and will keep you high and dry as long as its staked down well and you batten the hatches (door and windows) in the vestibule. All of the interior seams on the tent are seam taped, the inner room has high bathtub floors to prevent standing water incursion, and the vestibule zippers are covered with rain flaps to prevent rain from leaking through them. The double-walled construction of the interior room ensures that there is no internal condensation and the tent’s internal humidity is held in check by the large mesh windows, even when the vestibule windows and front door are closed.
With over 150 sq feet of living space, the Kelty Airlift 6 is nearly twice as large as the other dome-shaped camping tent my wife and I own with higher ceilings, better ventilation, capacity for more people, and much more internal storage space. Pitching the tent with its inflatable air tube suspension is easy with a little practice and packing it up is a breeze. The only downside to having so much space is that the Airlift 6 tent requires quite a large tent site to pitch on, which limits our ability to camp on smaller, more private tents sites and to pitch our 10 x 10 screen house.
Having used the Airlift 6 on several trips, my wife and I have concluded that it’s too much tent for us, even if we occasionally invite friends and family to join us on car camping weekends. Kelty sells a smaller version of this tent, the Kelty Airlift 4 which we expect will still satisfy our needs for more ceiling height and vestibule storage while requiring less space to pitch. While the Airlift 6 is too large for our needs, we’ve found it to be bomb-proof tent in some heavy weather and we like the convenience of being able to erect a double-walled tent fully assembled and not having to struggle with an external fly. If you’re on the market for a large family tent, check out the Kelty Airlift Series or some of Kelty’s other inflatable camping tents.
- Air tubes are quite firm and secure
- Fully integrated fly makes pitching a tent of this size much easier
- Floorless front vestibule serves as a mud room for shoes and wet gear
- High ceiling and brightly colored interior
- Packs away in a duffel bag which would be easy to check on an airplane
- Good ventilation – no internal condensation even in heavy rain
- Can’t see out of tent when inner door is closed
- Rain leaks into vestibule if windows are unzipped
- More reflective patches needed for nighttime visibility
- Seasons: 3
- Number of doors:1
- Number of vestibules: 1
- Capacity: 6
- Number of poles: 2 Air Tubes
- Packaged weight: 23 lbs 4 oz. / 10.5 kg
- Floor area: 96 square ft / 8.92 square m
- Vestibule area: 60 square ft / 5.58 square m
- Length: 120 in. / 305 cm
- Width: 120 / 110 in. / 305 / 279 cm
- Height: 76 in. / 193 cm
- Packed diameter: 14 in. / 36 cm
- Packed Length: 28 in. / 71 cm
- Pole type: Air
- Wall material: 68D Polyester
- Floor material: 68D Polyester, 1800 mm
- Fly material: 68D Polyester, 1800 mm
Disclaimer: Kelty provided Philip Werner (SectionHiker.com) with a sample Airlift 6 tent for this reviewEditor's note: Help support this site by making your next gear purchase through one of the links above. Click a link, buy what you need, and the seller will contribute a portion of the purchase price to support SectionHiker's unsponsored gear reviews, articles, and hiking guides.
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