It’s time for a Gear Review of my Wenger Dome Tent, which is affectionately known to us as the “Swiss Army Tent”. It’s a 3 to 4 person dome tent made by Wenger. My tent is a slightly older model of tent with a few design flaws, that I am happy to report are addressed in newer Wenger Tents. However, the better features of the tent, which are also carried forward to the newer models
This tent is not really a backpacking tent. It is better suited to be packed, by car, to a campground, where it is set up at the base camp for an expedition from the campground to the day trip of your choice. It does pack up into a breadbox-sized space, which makes it easily portable among your other campsite equipment.
My favorite feature of the tent is the fast set-up time. It takes less than 10 minutes to go from packed to pitched. There are four thin hollow fiberglass poles that link together in metal slots using an elastic string that holds the poles together, eliminating missing links. Next these four long poles slide through color-coded slots and match up with color-coded clips. The rainfly also has two poles that clip to the front and back, with clips to the four corners.
The Wenger Dome tent also has optional windows on the two sides, which gives it a cabin tent feel. One of my tent’s shortcomings is that the poles you pop in to the window slots are so tight, that you risk breaking the poles during normal setup. Over the course of ownership, I’ve broken two poles. I’m happy to report that Wenger has made it right both times and sent me new poles free of charge. Most recently, we dealt with a broken window pole in the field using duct tape. The duct taped section of pole is not as rigid as the others, so that specific window pole goes in more easily than the unblemished one. These two windows, plus the front and back doors of the tent, and lastly, the open roof, allows for very good ventilation, keeping the tent cool.
The open roof, even with the rainfly, while an asset in hotter weather, is a liability in the colder weather. During our trip to Lost Lake in the Hood wilderness, we got rained on, snowed on, and blown on by frigid winds down from Mt. Hood. The Wenger Dome Tent barely kept the wind, rain and snow out, forcing us to rely on our sleeping bags for warmth.
While it takes a lot to do so, the fiberglass poles splinter. These really fine splinters are very difficult to pull out of fingers, resulting in annoying attempts to fine and extract them, which eats up perfectly good day-trip time. The newer tents seem to have better poles that are a little more durable and less prone to splintering. The tent designs are also better, eliminating the unnatural bending to get the windows set up.
Another handy feature of the tent are the “shoe slots” in the front of the tent. These are compartments you can put your shoes through, or passages you can pass items into the tent without opening the main doors to let in mosquitoes.
My Swiss Army Tent has seen action on many trips, from the mountains and forests of New England, to the Oregon Cascades and Coast. Dan and Brian should remember this tent from Mt. Monadnock and Black Rock. More recently, over the past two seasons, the Wenger Dome Tent has seen action with me and Paula at Crater Lake, the Newberry Volcanic Monument, Lake Simtustus, Nehalem Bay, Silver Falls, Lost Lake and Paula’s parents’ back yard!
Wenger Tents like mine can be purchased at these online retailers below: