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Submitted: 12-06-2012 by jj.carroll

The Big Agnes Big House 4 was designed for the starting family and those looking for a great shelter under $350, including footprint. The BH-4 is for those who enjoy car camping, but lightweight enough to be split between two or three people for backpacking. Because it is presently on close-out sales it can be an excellent bargain and purchased for a lot less. It is too early to speak of the Big House series for 2013, but there will be no back door on the new design, only a front entry. Obviously this will change the design of the tents quite a bit, but there will be more red color.

This four person Big House legitimately has adequate space for three people, and that goes for most 4-person rated tents. It's most comfortable for two or three people and their gear. With features you expect to find in more expensive models, it includes color-coded coded webbing and buckles, locking pole ends with grommets, pole clips plus sleeves, sealed seams and has a bathtub-type constructed floor to prevent leaks.

The BH-4's excellent pole structure provides sufficient head room up to 5 feet 8 inches, and creates lots of livable shelter for family car camping. The poles are lightweight DAC PressFit, TH72M 7001 aluminum (the latest technology in lightweight tent poles featuring improved durability) and of varying diameters to save weight.

The sturdy three pole design does a great job in preventing collapse in strong wind gusts, as long as it's staked properly with provided reflective guy-lines. This freestanding dome tent has two large D-doorways. And the door's mesh access panels can be sealed. One drawback is the lack of a fly vestibule, the BH-4 uses extended brows, or awnings, for rain protection; but with a generous 65 sq. ft. it permits room for gear inside the tent.

From a pitching perspective this tent is a breeze. For first-timers setup might take 30 minutes to piece everything together, including time to read the instructions. But later it could be done in as little as ten minutes for only one person. However, the BH-4's rain-fly has reverse-side ties that need to be attached to poles, which might add a couple of minutes. Significantly you will find the tie-downs on inside of the fly - something you won't discover on cheaper tents. These side release buckles attach the fly to poles for fast easy set up and keep them from separating during storms. They provide overall strength and wind resistance that plagues cheaper high profile dome tents without them.

The best thing about the Big House tent is when the guy lines are out it allows the rain fly to be rolled part way, opening it up for air flow. You can furl the sides of the rain fly without removing the fly. When it rains it literally takes about a minute to unroll the surfaces and clip them down. While you might not want to sleep all the time, it's a nice bonus configuration. The floor is made of durable polyester, and not nylon. It comes with 1500mm waterproof polyurethane coating. Polyester is similar to nylon, but resists abrasion, UV damage, and acid rain better; and, it does not shrink, stretch or sag. The fabrics of the body, doors and fly are all 75 denier ripstop - usually found in more expensive offerings. All seams are waterproofed with solvent-free polyurethane. The polyester mesh ceiling, wall panels and ground level side vents promote air circulation.

Inside this tent are several mesh storage pockets that comfortably store most lightweight gear and electronics, keeping them off the floor or just organized. While it is freestanding it is a good practice to deploy the guy lines which gives added strength and stability when high winds or gusts occur. This Big House includes 14 superlight aluminum stakes. However, Big Agnes could put sturdier tent stakes in with this base camp tent, since the little hook ones bend easily. After all, it is not designed for back packing where weight is a factor.

The tent also features a welcome mat that provides a space for muddy shoes; but to be honest, Big Agnes could remove this feature as it is one of the hardest things to clean before packing up, especially after a rain. One solution: fold it under the tent because it is non-detachable.

Attention must be given to the care of the tent. Upon each tearing down of campsites I carefully clean every ferrule connector and tent peg, and give special attention to all of the zippers and pulls. And after camping I thoroughly clean the tent fabrics and lubricate the poles with silicon before putting them away. You can use products from Nikwax and McNett products for minor repairs, cleaning and waterproofing, along with lubrication of zipper pulls and silicon for tent poles.

As a suggestion, it is good practice to invest in more rugged tent stakes. One's that can be driven. And, I personally would get rid of the little plastic tensioners that come with the guy-lines, using others such as: MSR Cam Rings, Nite Ize Figure 9s or Taut-ties. Other purchases might cover optional equipment including a footprint, gear loft and an extra large zip-on front vestibule - 52 sq ft which hooped for more room. These are sold separately, and if there is need for a larger sized tent you can always move to the Big Agnes Big House 6.

You should note the outstanding customer service of Big Agnes is unexcelled. You won't have lots of aggravation if you have a problem; it is something that will be taken care of, and quickly. With Big Agnes you know they stand behind their products with a real life-time warranty, and not excuses.

Now, all we have to do is to await the Big Agnes' 2013 models of the Big House 4 to find out where they have made them better, if not for at a greater price than the current 2012 close-outs. Good Luck!

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