If you’re going to camp, why not enjoy it? The Big House 4 from Big Agnes is a spacious, comfortable car camping tent that’s made to go up easy, and provide plenty of space to make that upcoming car camping trip that much more enjoyable. Because no one wants to sleep in a tiny tent. My review.
The Big House 4 Deluxe is a tall, spacious tent. It comes in at 96″ x 90″ for the floor, with a peak height of 68″ with steep, vertical walls. There are two doors, one on the front with a small awning, and second on the back of the shelter. Mesh panels are located on the side and top of the inner body of the tent to keep the air circulating, while smaller vents via zippered storm flaps on each door can be opened and closed to allow for additional air flow, or to simply provide a quick peek outside. The tent is constructed primarily from 1500mm coated polyester, with 4 large yet lightweight aluminum poles to form the structure. The rainfly connects via small clips that connect to the bottom of the tent body, with a thinner secondary pole forming an awning, which protects the door and also allows the front vent to be left open in the rain. The shelter includes 10 interior mesh pockets, 2 stash pockets, 10 aluminum stakes, the carry case and a full set of guy lines. The tent weighs 11 lbs. 4 oz, retails for $349.99 and is compatible with the DLX vestibule ($129 at 2 lbs. 14 oz.) for extra storage and shelter.
The Big House 4 Deluxe is simply the somewhat fancier version of the Big House 4 which retails for $299. The base Big House lacks the doormat, many interior pockets and the sweet carry case.
What I liked
The spacious interior of the Big House 4 Deluxe is ever so inviting. The warm glow of the yellow and orange fabric paired with the vaulted ceiling and vertical walls really makes for a warm, cozy environment, especially when the morning sun is just beginning to dance along the exterior. While inside, there is more than enough space to stand straight up without touching the ceiling. There is plenty of room to rearrange all the gear inside, and get changed without bumping into a single surface. The floor is wide enough that two people can easily stash two large cots, all of their gear, and still have some room to walk around. 4 people can sleep inside with plenty of shoulder room, but floor space will be limited. All in all, camping inside the Big House is a lovely experience. It’s open, spacious, and feels more like a destination than a fallout shelter.
Getting in and out of the tent is also quite simple as the doors open up tall and wide, each double zippered for ease of use. Getting through the entry ways only requires a slight hunch to progress, and having one door on each side, there is always likely a clear path. The zipper pulls are fairly long, and slide quite well as long as care is taken to avoid snagging the lightweight fabric.
Organization on the deluxe is fantastic. Pockets are strategically located in practically every nook and panel of the tent, providing huge amounts of storage high off of the floor. I simply could not find a way to fill them all with gear, even with huge amounts of stuff I pack on extended camping trips. The stash pockets in the corner are great for phones, headlamps and the like, just out of the way of a sleeping camper, and the larger pockets up top handily accept jackets, blankets, large cameras and much more. Gear loops are also speckled throughout, allowing for lamps and gear lofts to be attached easily. When it came to organizing larger items or things that needed to be accessed frequently, I found it quite convenient to pack them at the back of the tent by the secondary door. This kept the front entrance free and allowed me to quickly unzip the back, grab what I needed and get back to it without ever crawling inside the tent itself. For those with families or large amounts of gear, having so many options to store things up off the floor makes life appreciably easier.
The Big House turned out to be one of the easiest car camping tents to pitch that I’ve ever come across. It’s as simple as laying out the tent, sliding the two identical poles into the short sleeves at the top, popping them into the grommets while lifting the body, and applying the remaining body clips to the poles for a basic pitch. From there, a short pole is to be slid into the vestibule for the awning, and the vestibule is attached to the body via 4 color coded clips, eliminating any guess work. The entire pitch requires just 4 aluminum stakes, although I recommend guying the shelter out for wind stability. It’s fast and simple, taking only about 5 minutes when attempted solo. It requires basically no experience or practice to set it up properly, and instructions are included if they’re needed, although I never found them necessary.
Wind protection and wind stability was pretty good, especially considering the height and openness of the tent. Now, if you don’t guy it out, you’re going to get some sway and could potentially wreck your tent with the long length of the poles and the walls acting like sails, but a proper pitch with all 4 guy lines stabilizes it well. There are also small Velcro tabs on the underside of the vestibule that can be attached to the pole system, further strengthening its structure, and I can stress using these enough. After setting it up properly, moderate wind had little effect on it, with the frame easily holding it’s shape and brushing off typical gusts with no issue. Rain also wasn’t a problem. Even with both door vents wide open, the thoroughly waterproof floor and fly shed rain with ease, without a single drop working its way through the sealed seams or through open mesh panels thanks to the awning and well position fly cutouts. Once set up and guyed out properly, it’s a solid tent that instills confidence in rough weather, shouldering wind and blocking rain flawlessly.
Build quality is great. The floor and rainfly are both durable, weatherproof polyester with sealed, reinforced seams all around. The poles are thick, burly aluminum that resists deforming or bending, and the tent stakes are light weight aluminum J stakes which handle hard earth well. The stitching is consistent, without any fraying or loose threads to be found, and the clips all around are robust and stand up to repeated use with no signs of wear. Even the guy lines are nice thick cordage that that resists stretching and sagging when soggy, meaning there is no need for late night re-adjustments to keep the tent from blowing around. I’ve also found the waterproofing to be quite impressive. Even while wet and muddy, with rain caught between a makeshift footprint and the tent floor itself, over the course of several days no water was able to force it’s way through. Overall, it’s built great and should hold up for a long time.
The optional DLX Vestibule addition is great. It attaches easily to the main shelter via a couple of clips and a loop, and provides a huge amount of storage space easily capable of holding camp chairs, a table, bikes and extra equipment. Even better, it serves a nice sun shade and both doors can be opened up to create a nice breezeway. Personally, I highly recommend pairing the additional vestibule with this tent if you can spare the extra $129 bucks and 2 pounds of weight. The flexibility and storage space it provides cannot be appreciated enough.
I was pleasantly surprised with the ventilation on this tent. At first glance, it looks a bit stuffy with the rainfly on, but in actuality, the cut back “V” shapes on the sides of the rainfly stake and pull out quite far from the tent, allowing a great amount of air to flow through without creating a breeze. Pair this with the door vents that can be left open in the rain, and the open attic like top, all adorned generously with mesh and breathable nylon and it you have a shelter that easily deals with condensation and heat build up. Removing the rainfly is even better, with tall panels for privacy and sun shade, but now with a completely vented top half that works wonders in hot conditions.
What I didn’t like
Without the accessory vestibule, 4 campers won’t have a huge amount of storage space. There is enough room to keep a duffel’s worth of equipment at the base of every camper’s sleeping pad, and the pockets do a good job of keeping smaller items off the floor, but the tent does become a bit minimalistic when shoving 4 people inside. Those camping with large amounts of gear will either have to stack it, or perhaps store it outside under a rain cover or tarp, or under the DLX vestibule. Camping with only two or three people makes things much easier to manage, with the extra floor space coming in handy. It’s nice that the vestibule is optional, shaving the cost and weight off the tent considerably, but I definitely recommend getting one if you’re using the shelter to it’s full 4 person capacity.
The welcome mat sewn onto the front of the tent, while absolutely adorable, isn’t really that useful and can get messy in a hurry in the right conditions. It’s a nice place to store boots, but with it being permanently attached, it’s hard to clean. If it’s used in a wet or muddy area (basically my entire world here out East), it accumulates a lot of mud and dirt over a few days and folds up directly against the tent body when packed. I’ve found that dumping a bottle of water on it works well enough to remove most of the gunk, but I’d rather see this feature as a removable accessory that I can pull off and wash separately. I’ve found it better to tuck it under the tent or to cover it with another mat if conditions call for rain.
I’d love to see the storm flaps/mesh on the front door extend much closer to the ground, just for the sake of a good view when sitting or laying down. The tent is far from feeling claustrophobic, but I’m camping here. I want to be able to see outside.
I really like the Big House 4 Deluxe, especially paired with the DLX Vestibule. Despite it being a large, durable, spacious tent, it’s actually not that heavy or cumbersome to pack, setup, or even carry. On my previous camping trip I had to carry my gear for over 100 yards to reach camp over steep stairs and grades, and the (relatively) light weight 11 lb. pack weight paired with the convenient carry case, was a real back saver. While inside, the bright colors, ludicrous organization and well vented design makes waiting out long, strung out rain storms and dark nights far more enjoyable. I found that I could happily sit under the accessory vestibule with large camp chairs with both doors open to enjoy the storm, while still being shelter, yet outside with a view. Having the accessory vestibule as an option really opens up it’s possibilities, having room for expansion later on, and it’s compatible with other BA accessories too. It’s easy to setup, holds up great in the wind and rain, and is priced generously as well. It’s everything I want out of a car camping tent, without any of the fluff.
For more information on Big Agnes and and their wide range of gear, check out their website, www.bigagnes.com
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I want to extend a huge thanks to Big Agnes for providing this product for review. We couldn’t do it without their help. Our full disclosure can be found here.
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