Outwell's Montana is a camping classic, a tent that is so loved by its fans, they’ve given it a nickname. So the old saying “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” came to mind when I heard “The Monty” had been re-imagined for 2016 as an inflatable tent. But I was delighted to find that the new Montana 6SA – packed with features for comfort and convenience – was just as good as its predecessors, if not better. I was so impressed, we voted it Camping’s tent of the year for 2016 in the spring. But I was keen to find out how it would stand up to a long term test. It would be pretty embarrassing if we discovered that, after using it for a whole summer, it wasn’t actually as good as we first thought. That call to Outwell boss Henrik, asking him to hand back his trophy, would have been rather awkward, to say the least! Luckily, I needn’t have worried, because after several trips with this tent I love it even more than when we judged it at the start of the year.
We’ve taken the tent out three times this year – first was an overnight trip to Market Deeping in Lincolnshire, followed by a weekend in Cornwall. But it was during a week-long family holiday in North Wales that it really came under scrutiny. We stayed at the Black Rock Sands site near Porthmadog, right on the beach, and with five days of beautiful sunshine, a couple of chilly nights, followed by 48 hours of torrential rain and gale force winds, the Montana got to experience the full gamut of British weather, barring snow! Thankfully, it coped admirably.
First things first. This is a big tent and it takes up a lot of space in your boot. It’s also heavy. So if you have any notions of taking it away on your own, be prepared for lots of heavy lifting. It does come in a roller bag, which makes shifting it a lot easier, but try to park as close as you can to your pitch. Obvious as it sounds, make sure, as well, that your pitch is big enough to accommodate the tent, especially if you want to attach the front porch. It adds another couple meters to the overall length of the tent, but we found it really useful for cooking and sitting outside under shelter – from both sun and rain. The tent is a typical tunnel style, with a sloping front, leading to a single, large living area that is bright and airy thanks to the tinted panoramic windows. The enlarged bedrooms are at the rear and there’s a small annexe on the side, which has a removable groundsheet and multiple uses; as storage, an entrance lobby or even as a toilet cubicle. Opposite, there’s a mesh-backed door, which we used as our entrance and main source of ventilation during the day.
As with all inflatable, tunnel tents, pitching is really straightforward. You start by laying the tent out flat and pegging down the corners, then inflate via the single valve point. Before you start, check the deflation valves are all closed and make sure you open all the isolator taps to allow the air to pass from one interconnected tube to another. The size of the tent means you will really need a second person to help push the poles up into place as you pump them up. You’ll need a lot of puff to inflate the four tubes but we did it in stages and swapped places as each section inflated, which made it much easier.
As well as lending the tent a pleasing Gothic arch shape, the pre-angled tubes give the tent added stability and maximise the floorspace and headroom. This means you can fit in more furniture – assuming you can find the means to transport it of course. This is where a trailer becomes an essential piece of kit. Although we primarily used the side door, the front entrance has a drop-down step to allow safe access – and make it much easier to brush out the sand that gets everywhere when you’re camping at the coast. The side annexe was the perfect place to store the kids’ scooters and body boards, keeping them hidden from sight but not cluttering up the main tent. Cooking was done outside under the porch. The enlarged sleeping area at the back of the tent is split into two with a zip divider and there was loads of room for two adults and two kids and tons of storage space. The bedroom windows are a first, as far as I know, and we found them a really nice touch, if not exactly essential. The windows have zippable mesh panels for ventilation plus toggle curtains. There are also mesh panels on the doors.
Not a lot is the short answer, but if we could suggest one additional feature it would be a rain cover over the side door, to stop water dripping in when it’s opened. A small gap at the point where the annexe joins let in a little water but in the grand scheme of things this was a small issue for us that was easily remedied. The large pack size is obviously an issue, but for tents of this volume, it’s unavoidable.
First and foremost, the speed and ease of pitching. We had the whole tent up, pegged out and filled with furniture in less than an hour. Overall there was a sense of security and stability even in the strong winds on the last night of our holiday. The side annexe was great for storage and we loved the general feeling of spaciousness in the living and sleeping areas. And then there’s the small touches. The two cable entry points mean you don’t have to worry about stretching the cable to the EHU point, while bedroom windows, extra storage pockets and zip up curtains all added to the sense of homeliness.