Large, spacious, and highly livable, the Sierra Designs Nomad 6 is a fully featured car camping tent that is designed to be fast and easy to set up. This is my review:
The Nomad 6 is of course a 6 person car camping tent. It has a three pole design with the two primary poles crossing to create the center and peak, while the third pole bisects this crossed section to reinforce the frame from the sides. The floor and rainfly are constructed of burly 68D Polyester Taffeta, while the body is a combination of breathable ess15D nylon and no-see-um mesh. The poles are DAC 6061 Pressfit aluminum, with arched aluminum sheep style hook stakes to match. The tent comes in at 118″ x 106″ with a peak height of 72″. It weighs 12 lbs. 13. oz and retails for $474.95.
What I liked
Big and spacious sums up the sizing. Slipping into the Nomad 6 is like walking into a miniature backcountry mansion. Camping with 2 or 4 people inside the tent leaves plenty of space to place full sized or even oversized sleeping pads around the perimeter, while leaving the center completely clear and free as a walking path or hangout space. Alternatively, 6 pads can fit inside, but starts becoming a little more snug. Regular sized sleeping pads should be used at this point, just to preserve enough room for moving in and out of the tent. At 5’8″, I found that I’m able to stand completely upright inside, making changing and rearranging equipment rather easy and enjoyable. The large open top makes the tent feel even larger than it is, provoking a lovely sensation of freedom and relaxation. It also helps that there is a fair number of large interior pockets for organization, which helps clear up the floor plan.
Setting up the tent is fairly simple. The poles slide through the sleeves of the body, then they’re simply lifted upwards and clipped into the sturdy grommets at the corners. The pole tips are color coded, helpfully guiding the proper pole into the matching corner, basically eliminating guesswork and mistakes that could otherwise occur when trying line everything up. The tent does take a little effort to lift upwards during the pitch as the poles are rather long and the sleeves provide a little resistance. Still, one person can do it, but a couple can make it go up with little issue. The rain fly is just tossed over top and clips on witch cinches that buckle it down taut, which are also color coded. It goes up in about 5 minutes and breaks down just as quickly, making it one of the easier to pitch large shelter I’ve tested, largely thanks to the simple, intuitive design.
Build quality is very good. Both the floor and rainfly are constructed of durable 68D polyester Taffeta, which holds up great to prolonged and constant use. It isn’t ripstop, but with the thickness and protective coatings applied this hasn’t an issue. The poles are robust yet flexible high diameter 12 mm DAC aluminum. These hold up great to repeated flexing and pitching, without deforming after being set up for days on end. The stitching is good, with a consistency that is appreciated even if not 100% perfect. I managed to find a couple stray strings at the end of seams but nothing of concern. Everything is seam sealed and waterproofed out of the box, so no preparation is required before first use, and the materials are also highly repairable, which greatly extends the usable life of the shelter. The zippers slide really well, and all the clips and connection points are solid.
Wind stability has been great. Even with heavy wind and rain, the shelter moves around very little with minimal buffeting and sway thanks to the robust pole system that crosses over itself multiple times. The guy lines all land in the ideal locations, preventing the peak of the tent from shaking or shifting under gusts. With a proper pitch, the typical thunderstorm poses no problem, with nary a drop of water working its way inside. The combination of the thick poles, multiple frame crossings and the partial fabric sleeves that the poles slide through all work together to provide additional rigidity, which stabilizes and quietens the tent down. This results in a mostly silent tent that doesn’t move around, which makes it much easier to sleep when mother nature is getting rowdy.
Ventilation is solid. The mesh laden walls combined with two top vents provide more than enough air movement to combat condensation in all but the worse scenarios. Even when waking up with the grass outside being sopping wet from dew, the interior was mostly dry and condensation free. In the heat it manages to exchange hot air fairly well as long as there is a minor breeze, but it does heat up rather quickly inside when the temperatures start nearing 80 degrees F. With the top off it stays relatively cool while the mesh still offers some sun blocking, with the fabric walls being positioned carefully to not impede airflow, yet still provide some privacy.
I really enjoy the look of the tent and the interior color pallet. On bright sunny days the fabric lights up, evoking strong vibes of blue summer sky. On dreary days of rain, the blue and while colors, along with the touch of yellow, help keep spirits high.
What I didn’t like
While the interior itself is very spacious, the vestibule storage is just O.K. It provides plenty of gear stashing space for 1-4 people, but 5 or 6 can start to get a little bit tighter if there are lots of boots, backpacks, and cooking equipment to store. It is entirely serviceable, but keeping a clear pathway for entry and egress at both sides can take a little work. One side could be relegated to only storage, but then you end up crossing the interior to access equipment, or circling around to the back of the tent.
The included tent stakes bend rather easily. I was able to bend some of them just by pressing them into relatively soft, soil. They have no hope of surviving on dedicated camping pads, where the gravel can often compete with actual concrete when it comes to hardness. They can be bent back with a bit of effort, or even better be replaced with affordable and solid steel stakes (my recommendation). Still, I would rather see them replaced with something a little more robust in the future. For a pack in, they’re fine and they will get you by. Still, minor complaint and honestly kind of par for the course with shelters in of this style.
The Nomad 6 has proven to be a tent that can provide, above all else, an enjoyable camping experience. The stable build not only provides peace of mind when the weather gets rough, but also a blissful night’s sleep when the eyes get heavy thanks to the quiet, stoic build. It is spacious enough that 4 or even 5 people can each have their own sleeping zone with a little extra space to walk or store gear, and 6 full grown campers can happily rest inside without rubbing elbows. When it comes to value, the Nomad 6 at $475 comes across as a solid offering given the build quality and weight. It is easy to set up, lovely to be inside, and the construction inspires confidence that it will survive years of camping with the proper care. I do wish the vestibules were a little bit larger, and the included stakes could be improved, but these are minor complaints in a sea of praise.
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