Camping on the Northern California coast can test even the best tent. Gusty winds, blowing sand and cold, damp fog are but a few of the challenges. We chose to put the Kelty Hula House 4 through its paces on a trip to Bodega Bay and encountered all those factors. Luckily for us, the Hula House was more than up to the task.
The Kelty Hula House 4 withstood winds blowing consistently above 15 miles per hour and gusting above 25 thanks to the solid construction and roughly 14 stake and guy-out points. The combination of mesh interior and nylon exterior walls effectively eliminated condensation. The interior was so spacious and comfortable, it brought a smile to my face every evening as we bedded down.
Kelty built the Hula House as a two-wall, three season tent. The interior walls are almost completely mesh to aid in ventilation. The bathtub floor wraps up the sides and the seams are factory taped to protect the interior from moisture. The fly provides the exterior wall and it too is factory taped to prevent leaks.
The Hula House uses a pretty traditional design coupled with a unique addition that substantially increases interior space. The traditional part is the center crossing pole set. Hundreds, maybe thousands, of tents employ this approach. Simply feed two long poles diagonally across the center, pop the ends into a grommet and you’re done . . . well, not quite with the Hula House. Kelty added an innovative spin with a third pole – a completely round hoop – that attaches about shoulder height, slightly canted from front to back, that pulls the exterior outward for near-vertical side walls. With this addition, the interior feels absolutely huge in comparison to other four person tents.
Dimensions without fly: 96”x96”x72”
Dimensions with fly: 96”x146”x72”
Weight: ~12 lbs.
Configuration: Two wall, three season
Although it’s easy to assemble and attach the hoop, disassembly can be a challenge. Quick tip, hold the hoop at a junction point and push it gently away from you – either towards a partner or into the ground – to take pressure off those junctions so they slide apart. Then disassemble the pole two sections at a time. Despite this small challenge, the Hula House can be easily pitched or taken down by one person in less than 10 minutes.
In addition to the cool pole design, the Hula house has pockets at all four corners, near silent zippers, color-coded attachment points for the fly, and a large vestibule (22 square feet or so) for storage created by the fly.
What’s missing from the Hula House? Not much. It be nice to have a gear loft. Kelty doesn’t provide one with the tent, nor do they seem to sell one as a separate accessory. I found one from another manufacturer that fit perfectly (a North Face Gear Loft #2) once we removed the extra webbing at the corners. Additional stakes would help too. Kelty provides eight with the Hula House 4 which are not enough for all the guy-out points. And finally, it would be nice to have an alternative way of securing the vestibule door so that it could be only partially opened. Pretty minor stuff.
With the Hula House 4, Kelty built one of the largest four person tents on the market. When I first looked at the box I was knocked over by the dimensions. The tent is eight feet square and an amazing six feet tall inside. In a market that’s flooded with tents that top out around four feet tall – and require you to lay flat while dressing – the Hula House is a welcome anomaly.
Now to answer the age-old question, can you really get four people in a four-person tent? The answer is “it depends.” If you’re traveling light in mummy bags and sleeping pads, you bet, it can be done. But if you’re a tricked out car camper with air mattresses and all the comforts of home, you’ll be hard pressed to fit four inside. If you need more space, check out Kelty’s six person version of the Hula House.
The Kelty Hula House is one helluva tent. With a six foot ceiling height and hoop pole system, it bests just about everything else out there for interior space and feels enormous inside. And the construction and factory seam sealing provides top-notch protection from the elements. If you’re looking for a four or six person base camp tent, you owe it to yourself to check out the Hula House.