What is it?
The Pro-Action 6-birth tent is a tent sold by Argos and is a vis-a-vis type, that is, two bedrooms at either end of the tent with a living area in the middle.
At time of writing (June 2011), the RRP is £99.95 but after a recent promotion at Argos, they can be found for much cheaper. This one here cost £49.95 but there have been further discounts since.
It's a very compact tent when zipped up in its bag and weighs slightly under 10kg's. It's not exactly lightweight but it's nowhere near some of the behemoths you can buy. Packed, it measures a paltry 60cm long and 30cm wide and about the same depth; handy to know when packing the car with all the other camping paraphernalia.
Erecting was a straight-forward affair with four poles of equal length (no colour-coding needed) slotted into the rod-runs at the top of the tent. Two people make it much easier I have to say, one to hold the tent in position while the other pushes the poles into place. We found it easier to push all the poles through first before bending and slotting the metal pins into the pole-ends.
The hardest part was the metal pins. It's a very tight fit and we couldn't get the erect pole into the hole very easily. Swapping sides helped. Using my god-given strength, muscular physique and buff biceps, I could bend the poles more than Mrs P and this allowed just enough slack to fit them into place. I had to have a sit down afterwards though and a kebab wouldn't have gone amiss.
Once the poles are in position, it's a simple case of pegging out the corners then 'hanging' the two self-contained bedrooms up inside. The corner hooks that attach the rooms to the outside tent aren't the best with quite shallow 'hookage'. There's no safety clip and during erection, they kept slipping out. There's nothing worse than slippage during erection is there? The eye and bar fasteners for the rest of the tent work very well though.
While we were pitching, some daft apeth decided to park his ridiculous-looking motorhome only a few feet away from the entrance to our tent so I, in my infinite wisdom, decided to turn the tent around so we didn't have to look at the ignorant hairy pig first thing in a morning. Oh, if you ever see a sky-blue motorhome with a stupid air-brushed wheel cover, punch the driver and call him a pig for me. I'll buy you a lollipop if you do. Anyway, turning the pitched tent around was a doddle, but a two-person job. The bedrooms came unfastened during this reshuffling process but this was easily remedied.
There was a little confusion over the centre ground-sheet as we thought it was free-standing but it soon became apparent this was untenable. A few curses and a hunt around later, we found the clips to hold it in place. Why did they put the safety clips on the ground sheet but not the bedroom corners? Beats me.
Overall pitching time was about 30 minutes and 15 minutes of those were spent trying to get the metal fasteners into the tent rod-ends. With a bit more practice, I reckon we can get that down to about 20 minutes.
To say this is a 6-birth tent, it's rather compact and bijou. We managed to fit a double air-bed into each bedroom but there was not much space around the side. Conceivably, there's space for more than two people in each room but it would be a tight squeeze and they'd had have to be very familiar with each other. There's a 4-birth version of this tent and I'd seriously question whether that's big enough.
The central living quarter was equally compact. We'd only put a few essentials in there such as a bag of clothes and a freezer box before it started to look crowded. I'm 6 foot 1 and couldn't stand fully. By the end of our camping trip, I swear I'd got a permanent stoop and I resented the implication in the catalogue description of having standing room. Stooping room more-like. The door can be velcro'd back or pegged out with some extra (supplied) poles to give a kind of 'porch' effect. Most family-sized tents do this so don't ooh and ahh too much will you?
It's got a 1200 rating when it comes to rain-proofiness. I have no idea whatsoever whether that's good or not but I can say, it tipped it down during our little camping jaunt and we were dry as a bone inside. Apparently, the bigger the number, the more water-proof it is. I don't know how I could have been 'more dry' though. Perhaps the more expensive, higher-numbered ones come fitted with a built-in hairdryer or even a man-servant to pat you dry? Whatever, there were no leaks and we remained rain-free.
The handle on the carry bag tore quite easily. I never realised they made these things out of Kendal mint cake but apparently, they do. Thankfully, the tent itself is made of sterner stuff but this tear in the bag will most likely affect its resale value.
It's not a huge tent by any stretch and while we may have gone a *little* over-the-top with our equipment (the kids had to travel on *top* of the car on the way there, which they thought was 'way cool'), it was still a tight squeeze. The dimensions of each bedroom are listed as H140 x W180 x D210cm but they felt smaller. Overall, the tent is H150 x W230 x L530cm and a quick calculation reveals a living area width of 110cm. For trips longer than a few days, this could start to feel very claustrophobic.
The bedroom corner clips come out very easily and the low price point indicate some corner-cutting in this area. How much more would a safety-type clip add to the price? Very little, I suspect.
It's hard to find any grumbles about this Pro-Action 6 man tent for what it cost. At the higher, non-discounted price of £100, I think I'd be a little more critical but as it was half that, our expectations are certainly lower. For weekend camping trips it's ideal, being easy to put up, seemingly British weather-proof and just enough space for a few essentials. As mentioned, longer trips would be a pain but perhaps that would be remedied with better planning and better use of our resources and equipment?
To summarise, we have been very happy so far with our little sojourns into the country using this tent and long may they continue.