A few weeks ago I wrote about the woes of owning a roof top tent. While I didn’t just up and ditch mine, I did purchase what I considered to be a high-quality ground tent: the Gazelle T4 Plus Hub Tent. If you’ve spent any time researching ground tents, you’re familiar with that sinking feeling of underwhelm.
Sure, there are a ton of options out there in the tent market, but most of what you’ll find in the $100 – $300 range are what you might call throw-away-tents. They’re disposable. These tents are found at Walmart, Amazon or even REI. They look okay, but once you actually experience one, it becomes clear that the quality is lack luster. And, by the time you need some obscure part or you have a problem, the model has long been discontinued and you’re out of luck.
We use a tent often enough that I’m willing to spend a bit for quality and a product that’s backed by a reliable manufacturer. Most cheap tents are of okay quality and you might get some type of warranty, but it’ll probably be a grind to get service. Then there’s the high-end tent market.
I thought a lot about buying a Kodiak Canvas tent but the price is tad much for my liking. Granted, those things are durable enough that it could be passed down for generations. Setup time on the Kodiak doesn’t look bad but, I really want something that sets up fast. I’m tired of spending time and energy deploying camp shelters. I have other sherpa-dad duties to spend time on.
It could have been an Overland Bound video, or maybe somewhere else, I can’t remember, but I saw this bright orange tent with the giant gazelle logo on the front and had to learn more about them. Once I saw how easy they are to set up (90 seconds for the standard T4 model) I was very much interested.
(I’m using images from Gazelle because I forgot to shoot photos of my own)
Gazelle is a tent company. I like this because it means they probably make a good product and back it up. Their design has been around for years and they’ve improved upon that same design over time. That’s another plus in my mind, they stick to their original design because it’s fundamentally good. And while these tents are not cheap, they’re also not astronomically expensive either.
For my family’s needs, I decided to go with the Plus model because it’s like having one T4 tent and a screen room that doubles as another T4 tent with a divider inside. This gives us enough room to sleep and store some of our gear in the screened area. It’s also nice to have rooms like this in a tent because if you get stuck in a long rain storm, you can still lounge in your camp chairs inside while waiting out the weather.
I paid $479.00 for this tent. That’s more than double what I could have paid for something of this size on Amazon. But, I decided that knowing this is not just a cheap product that’s got a limited production run and a questionable manufacturer, it could be money well spent.
Quirks and Features
The Gazelle T4 tents are what they refer to as “hub tents” because the sides and top have an aluminum hub with polls that stay in place. These polls are under tension. To deploy the tent, you just pull out on the hub strap and the walls and ceiling just pop out or up. That’s how they are able to claim the super-low setup time of 90 seconds and it’s true.
Even though mine is basically two T4 tents, the setup time is incredibly fast. Because I have the screen room, the front of the tent is not of the hub design, it requires 3 polls, but they’re easy to put in place. I can’t overstate how nice it is to deploy a tent in minutes with minimal fuss.
The down side to this quick deployment is the size of the packed-down tent. It’s big. It’s very big. The bag (we’ll discuss that shortly) is about 4 feet long and the thing weighs nearly 50 pounds. It’s not something you’re going to throw in the hatch of your Subaru Outback without folding seats down.
If you camp using a pickup truck, this will be no problem. I used ratchet straps and secured it to my roof rack, although, getting it up there was a struggle because of the weight. Quick to deploy yes, but not without a trade off. To me, that trade off is worth it.
Another interesting feature is the removable floor. These tents have a bathtub-style floor that swoops up about 4 inches and is secured to the tent walls using heavy-duty velcro. On our first camping trip with the T4 Plus, it rained and we tracked in some mud and leaves.
I stripped out the floor when taking it down to prevent dirt and mud from getting mashed into the walls when it was all folded up. When I got home, I just hosed off the floor sections, let everything dry out and velcroed them back in place. That’s a nice feature.
The bag. Yes, the bag. Maybe you posses the sorcery required to stuff camping gear back into the original bag or stuff sack. I have zero patience for that. Horrible, horrible words have escaped my lips aloud while attempting to stuff a tent back into its bag. I dread this. Well, the kind people at Gazelle tents provide a bag that’s not only big enough to fit the tent back in with ease, but you even have room to spare. That’s just beautiful.
The first time I packed this tent away, returning it to it’s proper home, my eyes welled with saline, a fine mist. I wept openly, prostrate on the damp soil below because of the empathy these tent engineers have for their consumers. Not really, but I was amazed at how simple it was to get that heavy thing back in the bag.
The durability of the bag is a bit questionable. It seems well-built enough, but I’m not sure it will last as long as the tent itself. I plan to haul it up on the roof rack to preserve room in the Discovery for our other gear and of course, people.
I’m not sure the bag will last when used this way, but Gazelle does make a heavier duty bag as part of their overland series of tents, but not for the T4 plus. We’ll see how it goes. At this point, the fluorescent orange bag is doing just fine, even after a 100 mile trip on the roof of the Land Rover.
Here’s something weird. Because of the bright orange color of the tent, pumping that oranginess into your eyes when you’re inside it on a bright day, when you step outside the tent, everything looks kind of blue for a minute. It’s because of the contrast of bright orange then the blue light outside. Your eyes get thrown off. Maybe it’s just me but I believe it’s a thing. It is.
One other feature that these tents have is lots of storage areas inside. There are several pockets and overhead compartments. These are nice because they keep loose items out of the way and easily accessible. One thing with tent storage compartments though, make sure you empty all of them before you break the tent down, stuff it into its bag, and mount it to the roof. Why you ask? Because the keys to your truck are still in the storage compartment, along with your glasses and now you have to completely re-deploy the tent to get them. Ask me how I know.
Let’s talk ventilation. This tent has lots of windows. Easy to access windows. You can open and close them fast. The T4 Plus has giant windows in the front section. That’s one of the selling points. This tent has an entire screen room so it’s all about air flow.
But, if you want to seal it up, just go outside and zip up the panels over the screens and velcro them at the bottom. You’re sealed in. I like that. Also, the roof is made up of two giant overhead screens. These are of course covered by the rain fly in the event of wet weather, but are great on a cool, clear night.
The final interesting feature is the rain fly. Not only does the rain fly double as a billboard for Gazelle tents (huge logo), it’s also pretty unique. It installs using 4 short polls that fit into a slot in each corner. The trick to installing the rain fly is to pull both tent roof sections down, install the fly then pop the roof sections back up. It fits nice and tight.
You then optionally tie the sides down using elastic guy lines. It has a nice low profile and it does a pretty good job deflecting wind up and over the tent. Oh, it also works great at preventing rain from getting into the tent as it should. You can also put things that you want out of the sun or light rain under the overhang of the rain fly. That’s nice too.
At this price point, build quality better be good. I mean, you can spend $150 on a (disposable) tent this size and get a few uses out of it. But, at nearly $500, I want this thing to last. I expect good materials and thoughtful design. So far, I’m not disappointed. The fabric of the main tent body appears durable and high-quality. It has tough stitching and is reinforced at all of the critical points of tension.
The built-in polls for the hub design seem strong and the velcro used throughout is solid. And, Gazelle chose YKK zippers for this tent. I don’t know about you, but I hate cheap ass zippers. If you’re going to design a tent that relies heavily on zippers, they need to be quality and these ones are.
The floor, again, removable, is made of a slightly thicker material, appropriately. I put a tarp down under my tents to keep the floor from getting torn on jagged rocks, but I think this floor would do pretty well without a tarp underneath. Also, I’m willing to bet you could call up Gazelle in the event of a torn floor and get a replacement, because, this is a product they’ve produced for years, so individual parts are available.
As I discussed above, the floor is easily removed for cleaning. Not only that, but they went to the trouble of providing little colored tabs (red and gray) on each side of the floor to help you velcro it back in the proper place. I love that they did this. Very thoughtful. The velcro that fastens the floor in place is about 1.5 inches tall and has some real bite. No worries about bugs slipping in here. The seam fits tightly.
Here’s something you should expect from a tent that warrants a high cost: it should be tight. Yeah, no flappy parts. The first time I deployed this tent was in my backyard while in quarantine with COVID. I had nothing better to do and why not pitch your new tent and spend some time outdoors waiting out the virus? I did just that.
While lying down on my REI cot in the tent, I reached out and slapped the wall, as one does. That’s when I noticed how tight the walls of this tent are. I mean, they’re freak’n tight. This hub design really pushes the fabric outward, creating confidence inspiring tension. This pleases me. Seems like that would do well in the wind. Not so fast. There’s a problem with wind and this hub design. Not a real problem, if you know the secret. We’ll get to that.
Things That Aren’t Great
This tent is not all wine and roses. There are a few areas that could use improvement. Nothing major, but some gaps in quality. For instance, the mesh on the screens have some variation in the pattern. You’re looking through the screens and it looks like something is caught in there, or some mold is growing or something. Nope. It’s just an imperfection in the patter of the mesh. A zig where there should be a zag. Strange. Not really a problem but something I noticed. And now, if you buy this tent, you won’t be able to un-see this flaw even though it’s inconsequential. Sorry.
The tent comes with stakes. They’re a joke. Like, why would you even ship these crap tent stakes with this good of a tent, Gazelle? The first thing you should do if you buy a Gazelle tent is this: get some solid-steal tent stakes. Must be a budget oversight or something. Anyway, it’s forgivable and easily remedied. The other thing I think may be an issue is the durability of the built-in hub poles. I have no good reason for thinking this will be an issue, but, man, there’s a lot of tension on them, which is also a good thing. We’ll see.
Okay, final flaw of this tent design that’s not actually a flaw, but is a flaw if you don’t know the trick. It’s not a trick. Just something you won’t (I didn’t) immediately discover until reading the directions (who does that?). See, it’s the wind. If you find yourself in a strong wind inside your Gazelle tent, one of the walls could violently pop inward, hitting you right in the noggin while you slumber in your sleeping bag. WTF!??? you will exclaim.
Those hub walls, the ones with the super-strong tension, they get blown inward with some serious force by a strong gust of wind and make a loud noise when coming back at you. Good thing Gazelle supplies guy lines and anchor points on each exterior hub point so you can tie those hubs to the ground preventing this whole wind-hub-popping problem from ever happening. Thank me later. Just use those guy lines every time and this won’t be a problem.
The Big Fat Conclusion
The Gazelle T4 Plus Hub Tent is a fine product. It costs nearly $500, Don. WTF? Is it worth that kind of money? I say yes. Gazelle has produced a quality tent that will last many years. Will you pass it down to your grandchildren? Probably not. If that’s what you’re after, buy a Kodiak tent (I hear they have easy financing and low interest rates). This Gazelle tent has great build quality, really fast setup times, keeps you dry in the wet, looks pretty cool and isn’t super-expensive. It’s also huge and heavy when packed down, has some wind issues that are really not a big deal and could use better stakes.
I would recommend this tent to anyone that plans to camp frequently and has the room in their truck/car to haul it. This is not a disposable tent. Gazelle has built a tent that will last. It’s pretty awesome. Considering a Gazelle T4 Plus Hub Tent? Get one here.