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Kelty Shadehouse Review

So, the night has ended or the rain has stopped and the sun is shining brightly on the world.  You can’t stay in your tent all the time because you’ll miss all the fun, but it’s nice to have a retreat area where you can relax throughout the day when things slow down just a bit. That’s exactly what the Kelty Shadehouse provides to help make your camping trip just a bit more comfortable.

Shadehouse-009aI was talking to a rep from Kelty about our annual gathering in the Carolinas and as we were talking about a tent to review, the subject of the Shadehouse came up.  It was suggested as an addition to the package because we were “basecamping” anyway, and I know even spring weather can be warm and bright down south.  I took the rep up on the offer to review the Shadehouse, and I’m actually glad I did.  But, first we’ll talk a bit about the specs of the Shadehouse for a little context.  Weighing in just a hair under 10 pounds, the Shadehouse provides around 99 square feet of shelter for those bright and sunny days, and even for those rainy ones as well.  The roof of the Shadehouse is made of 450mm polyester taffeta and seems quite resilient.  One really nice point is that the interior height is 72 inches.  So, for most folks walking around underneath isn’t an issue.  Even tall folks can easily manage it with just the duck of the head.

After we got the Palisade 4 put together, the Shadehouse was the next item on the list.  Thankfully, it was not as tricky as the Palisade 4, but it had its moments.  You definitely need a second person on scene to help you erect the Shadehouse.  One reason is that the poles are very long.  Two main poles are provided with the tent, and they fold down to a compact and portable package.  Additionally, there are two cross-section poles to place between the end pieces.  But, once you’ve got the main poles assembled, you’re looking at a little bit of an awkward assembly process.  The main reason is that the length of each assembled pole includes not only the width of the Shadehouse itself (the center portion of the pole), but it also includes a leg the height of the Shadehouse at each end of the pole.  The legs turn inward a bit so they can be shaped into the final structure.

Shadehouse-004aAt two points on each main pole, there’s a joint that allows for the insertion of a cross piece pole after you run it through the provided sleeve on the roof of the Shadehouse.  It kind of fits together like the old Tinker Toys, but once all the poles are flexed into shape, you get a very stury and robust package.  It just takes a little finaggling to get everything situated just right to make that happen.  The instructions were fairly decent, but just like other similar setups, it takes a couple of rehearsals to get the process down pat.  Once done, it becomes closer to second nature than you might think.  I was grateful to find that the disassembly process was much quicker and even packing everything back into the bag wasn’t any kind of an issue.  I always dread that process because it seems like when I use a tent or shelter, it never wants to go back into the bag from which it came.  That wasn’t the case with the Shadehouse at all.  We had it broke down and in the bag in roughly 7-8 minutes.

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Shadehouse-005aAfter the skeleton is put together and erected, you simply make your way around the shelter and attach all the provided clips to the poles to get everything good and snug with regard to the fabric of the shelter.  Once the basic shape of the Shadehouse is in place, you’ve got several means for securing the shelter and maintaining its rigidity.  First, at the bottom of each pole, you’ve got a little peg that you insert into grommets in several long webbing straps.  The straps run across the ground to the next pole (see first picture) and form the perimeter of the shelter.  The purpose of the long straps is to adjust the height and width of the shelter.  If you want it a bit taller, simply tighten the straps to cause the shelter to flex more and bow up a bit in height.  Once you’ve got that part right, you can then stake down the shelter at each corner with the provided stakes, and there are a few guy points higher up on the shelter that allow you to secure the shelter firmly so it will help stand up to heavy wind as well.

Shadehouse-002aI’ll have to admit that I liked the Shadehouse once we got it assembled and I had the chance to start using it.  It’s got nice lines and is a very modern looking shelter.  In fact, it was a bit ironic that Joe set up his old style Prospector mining tent from Woods CA right next door.  It almost looked like two different centuries were sharing the same piece of land that week.  What I liked most about the Shadehouse was the additional shelter it provided during the day away from the tent.  Yes, it was warm and the sun was bright, but the Shadehouse also did double duty as a rain shelter also.  We had a good amount of rain come down a couple of days during our outing, and though we had some hardcore woods people at the event, most people hung around camp and stayed under tarps, or in this case, the Shadehouse.  One day saw several hours of rain, so the Shadehouse was standing room only most of the time.

Shadehouse-008aAt first, I thought I’d have to coax folks to come over and try out the Shadehouse, but it turned out to be a natural migration.  Like the phrase goes, “If you build it, they will come…”  The same was true with the Shadehouse.  We had people sitting around chewing the fat, preparing their meals, and just working on their various projects including whittling spoons, making paracord accessory items, and in Tim’s (our Associate Editor) case, making a stick.  But, the Shadehouse had the highest population density during those times that the rain was falling.  And even though it wasn’t billed as a rain shelter, it did a great job shedding the water while keeping us outside in the fresh spring air.  I personally used the Shadehouse quite a bit during the week for the same actitivies and also for preparing most of my meals.  Additionally, it gave me a spot to keep stuff like my stove and kitchen items out of the weather at night while I slept soundly in my tent.  In fact, the Shadehouse pretty much became the hub of activities for several camps in the immediate vicinity.

Shadehouse-003aI received a lot of positive and unsolicited comments about the Shadehouse and how nice it was.  Several folks made the particular point of how well it did when the rain was pouring down on us at times.  Personally, I was pretty pleased with it myself.  Between the Palisade 4 tent and the Shadehouse, Kelty had me sheltered during the event in very nice fashion.  Though there was a bit of shade provided by some of the trees, the Shadehouse still did a nice job providing some cover from the hot sun each day.  Besides being a great addition to camp, the Shadehouse would be a very nice accessory to take along to the beach as well.  So, the Shadehouse can be as versatile as it is effective for the person or family that likes to spend a lot of time outdoors.

If you’re looking for a bit of additional protection from the elements, Kelty also sells accessory walls that you can attach to the Shadehouse.  Aside from helping with blowing rain, the accessory walls will provide even more shade for you on those hot days.  When the sun is lower in the sky in the morning and late afternoons, the actual shade from the shelter extends beyond the perimeter of the shelter itself.  This occasions the camper to move the seat around and a bit outside the shelter to remain in that shade.  The walls will give you that extra bit of coverage so you can stay under the roof during those times.

If you’re looking for a shelter of good size that will protect you from the beating sun and the pouring rain, you should give the Kelty Shadehouse strong consideration.  The build quality was robust, and there were no issues that I could find with its construction or the quality of the included components.  Though a bit quirky to figure out the first time or two, it can be readily assembled by two people and broken down quite quickly as well.  It comes in a roomy storage bag and includes the various accessories you’ll need to secure it in place including the webbing straps, stakes, and Nite Ize Figure 9 guyline adjustors (which I really liked).  All in all, I can’t find much of anything that I didn’t like about the Sunshade.  Who knows?  Give it a chance and you might just agree with me and have a new addition to your camping package!


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