Most tents still use solid metal, fiberglass and composite poles, but a few manufacturers, including Nemo, have experimented with inflatable poles to limit packed size and make set-up easier. Now Colorado-based Kelty can be added to their number with its AirPitch tents that leave the irritation of bendy, shock-corded poles in the past. The tents use inflatable poles, which Kelty claims guarantee quick, easy set-up and tear-down. Less time hacking together your shelter means more time spent with your family ... or knocking back a cold one while enjoying the views.
With its large four- and six-person car camping tents, Kelty really isn't worried about a small pack size, but it is concerned with simplifying the pitching process. Similar to German manufacturer Heimplanet, it takes advantage of the quick set-up of inflatable design to offer family sized tents focused on ease of use.
Kelty's AirPoles eliminate the stereotypical headache of reading instructions, piecing together pole segments, and carefully adjusting and attaching the rainfly. Instead, you simply lay the tent flat, inflate the AirPoles via two individual valves and call it good within less than a minute – although staking the tent out will certainly take you past the minute mark.
Each AirPitch tent includes an integrated rainfly, so there's no separate attachment process and you can set the tent up from inside in the event of a rainstorm. In the morning, simply pop open the valves and the tent deflates back into flat form in about the same minute time-frame it took to inflate.
Kelty says another advantage of AirPoles is that they won't bend or break like hard poles. Of course, AirPoles could spring a leak, which would be the equivalent of a broken aluminum pole. A leak is potentially easier to fix in the field, assuming it's small and you have a patch kit.
However, it remains to be seen how inflatable poles in such a large, broad-sided tent stand up to wind.
Each AirPitch tent includes a floor-less, screened vestibule for gear storage. The Mach 6 has two separate three-person sleeping modules, and the Mach 4 includes one four-person sleeping area. Each tent comes with a dual-action hand pump. Other features include taped seams, internal storage pockets, fly vents for air circulation and guy outs.
The Mach 4 will retail for US$400 and the Mach 6 for $500 when they hit the market next January. Check out the video below to get an idea of how they set up and break down.