Thermarest Tranquility 6: Not a bad tent for a first go around.
Roughly 20 months ago my wife and I welcomed a new member into our family unit. We told ourselves we wouldn’t let this little guy effect how much time we spend outside, and we promised ourselves that we would start indoctrinating him into the outdoor lifestyle as soon as he could hold his head up.
So far I think we’ve done a pretty decent job. He’s been backcountry skiing with us, slept soundly in his backpack while hiking through the Swiss Alps, and has been on countless runs in every type of weather. That said, the one thing we haven’t done with him yet is camping.
There’s no really good reason we haven’t gone down this road yet, but we did want to wait until we had a larger family camping tent. Our current tents are nice, but they’re small. We wanted extra space so we could spread out in the event of weather, and to provide some “indoor” space in the evenings and mornings when we can’t expect our son to sit still, but don’t want to chase him around the woods.
When we started our search things like weight and packed size went out the window. We knew, and accepted, that anything we found was going to be big and heavy. Initially we tried to find a tent that used to be made by Sierra Designs called the Mirage. It was a 4 person tent with a giant, floor-less vestibule you could fit a picnic table in. Unfortunately, this tent went out of production and we were unable to track one down.
We carefully went through the options looking at things like floor space and doing the best we could with evaluating the structural designs using online images. One of the things we realized pretty quickly was that it would be easy to go too big! Some of the tents out there are just massive!
Eventually we settled on the Tranquility 6 because it had a reasonable amount of floor space and, if we wanted, you could add on the Thermarest Arrowspace Shelter which is essentially a large floor-less awning. It’s not perfect, but it seemed like this was as close as we were going to get.
We haven’t yet purchased the Arrowspace Shelter. We wanted to first put the Tranquility 6 through it’s paces and see if we really need all that extra space. The Tranquility isn’t small, and if you add on the Arrowspace you’re looking at a huge footprint. Something tells me it’s a little unnecessary.
Anyway… we have yet to spend a night in the Tranquility 6, but I’m headed to Iceland in 2 weeks to spend time with my father and brothers. This should be the perfect opportunity to test out the Tranquility, and before I went I wanted to check it over, and get it ready to go. Keep reading to see what I think so far…
The Thermarest Tranquility 6 is a big, tall tent. However, it’s only tall in the very center. This allows you to be able to stand up in the tent, but reduces the amount of tent up high that is catching wind (assuming you set your tent up with one end facing into the wind… You do this right?). Also, with the well defined peak, and steep sides it should shed rain relatively well and I don’t expect any pooling issues.
The Tranquility 6 has a pretty unique vestibule design. The poles are actually incorporated into the vestibule making it usable even when the tent isn’t staked out. I’m not sure when I would use this, but it is kind of nice. I’ve never not secured my tent to the ground, but in the event that you couldn’t… It wouldn’t matter that much. You’re still going to get the best pitch if you properly stake everything out, but it’s not 100% necessary.
Here you can see the integrated “mud matts”, and 2 mesh pockets on the outside of the tent. Storage is something the Tranquility 6 does not lack. There are a ton of pockets, both inside and out, that allow you to keep items organized.
In this image of the Tranquility 6 you can see a couple of things. Inside you can see the divider curtain that splits the tent in half providing a small amount of privacy should you need it. Unfortunately these curtains aren’t removable. They can be detached from the floor, then rolled up and stowed, but the top is sewn into the ceiling. I really wish they were removable. I see no real reason to sewn them in. Using toggles all the way around would have allowed you to remove this bit and leave it at home, and it would most likely cost less to produce. Maybe next time. Also, in this image you can see the door fully unzipped and stowed in one of the outside pockets. I’m actually a big fan of the circular door. However, this one was poorly executed. The zipper appears robust and runs smoothly, but the placement of the attachment point to the tent is completely wrong. If you look, you can see that the door is attached to the tent on the right side. This allows you to stow the door in one of the inside or outside pockets. But, if you want to enter on the right side you can’t without entirely unzipping the door since it’s attached at waist level. The left side isn’t a problem. Here, if you position the zippers on left side you can just zip up or down the left side and then step through without having to open the whole thing. I really would have liked the door attached at the ceiling with a stow pocket up high. I would also like to see the zippers positioned so that the door is fully closed when there is a zipper on each side of the attachment point (does that make sense?). If the door was attached at the ceiling this would mean there would be a zipper on each side of the attachment point when the door was closed and you could just zip down either side and step through. The Thermarest website says they drew on their 45 years of camping experience when designing the Tranquility tents. From my perspective, what they really needed was some Tent Design experience.
Here’s another shot of the interior with our Thule Urban Glide stroller to illustrate how big this thing is. The walls and ceiling do droop considerably more than the images on the Thermarest website show, and there is no good way to add tension. However, with all of this space it really doesn’t matter too much.
Here you can see two more interior stow pockets. You can also see one half of the center divider rolled up and stowed. I still don’t understand why these aren’t removable. A divider is a feature that is unlikely to be used, and even less likely to be missed. I would rather have no divider and will most likely take a pair of scissors to these curtains in the near future. I do realize that it’s my own opinion that the center divider is an unnecessary and poorly implemented feature on this tent. If you feel otherwise please let me know in the comments.
This is one of the solar panel cable ports. This allows you to setup a solar panel outside and keep your tech charged and safe inside. I have to say… I’m not sold on the necessity of this feature. Maybe zippers are cheap… I guess… So why not. Again, if this is something that falls squarely in the benefit column for you please let me know in the comments.
The pole receptacles are color code and match the poles. This mades setting up the tent pretty dang easy. I’ve now setup and taken down the Tranquility 6 a couple of times by myself. It does take a touch longer due to the size, but it’s not difficult at all. If you’re on the shorter side you might need some assistance to reach some of the higher clips.
I am a little bummed that the stake loops don’t have tension adjusters. This just means that it takes a little more work to get a nice tight pitch with even tension on all sides. This shouldn’t be a big deal for those that are just using this tent at festivals. But it does illustrate that significant camping experience doesn’t necessarily translate into good tent design.
As part of getting the tent ready use I actually setup the tent and try and attempt to pitch it as perfectly as possible. Here you can see the center vestibule stake loop where I added a short length of cord. This was necessary to change the direction of tension. If you used the loop directly the tension pulled too much in the upward direction and easily pulled the stake out of the ground. Adding this short length of cord redirects the tension closer to perpendicular to the stake axis allowing the stake to hold more securely.
On the sides of the tent I had to get a little creative. What you’re looking at is a piece of cord and a quick clip attaching the exterior tent wall to the guyout point on the rainfly. What this does is add tension to the tent wall when the fly is guyed out. This creates a slightly sturdier pitch, and also helps to increase the interior space of the tent. The quick clip is so I can easily detach the tent body from the rainfly for packing purposes.
In the end I think the Thermarest Tranquility 6 will do what we need it to do. It appears to be a well made tent, though I am a little disappointed. The Tranquility 6 is not an inexpensive tent, and for the money I was expecting a better designed and thought through product from the Thermarest and Cascade Designs team. I guess I was hoping for a tent that incorporated more technically oriented design features. Instead I got a large tent that’s obviously intended for the casual user. Does this really matter… Probably not. It’s not like I’m going to be packing this thing into remote locations or using it to basecamp on Everest. I believe it will do exactly what we need it to do, but there are other tents on the market that offer a similar or greater amount of space for considerably less money.
For the last part of June I will be returning to Iceland to spend time with my family, and I will be taking the Tranquility 6. It’ll be interesting to see how it fairs with the Icelandic weather and whether or not it’s a comfortable home for 4-5 adults. The trip should be a good test since the tent will get setup and torn down every day for 9 days, and will most definitely see significant wind and precipitation. I’ll share a full report when I return, so check back if you want to know how the Thermarest Tranquility 6 performs in the real world!