Do you wake up ridiculously early when camping? Does the light wake your kids who immediately start demanding breakfast? Then you need a large blackout tent. Check out this Skandika Montana 8 Sleeper review to find out how we got on and whether it improved my family’s night sleep.
Most of my camping happens over the summer when it gets light very early. In June the sun rises before five and even in July and most of August sunrise is before six. As it begins to get light about an hour before the sun comes up it means many people do not sleep well when camping.
While eye masks work for some people, others feel uncomfortable wearing them. And getting a young kid to wear one is as likely as getting them to eat brussel sprouts. Pitching your tent with trees to the east helps, but very early mornings beckon no matter what you do.
Also in direct sunlight most tents warm up very quickly. This means even if the light does not bother you, an hour or two after sunrise a tent can be insufferable hot. And this is in the UK, hardly the warmest of countries. Take your tent somewhere hotter and it is far worse.
Tent manufacturers have realised this and started to make tents that block the light and help to keep temperatures low. So we were in the market for a large blackout tent that will fit a family of four with plenty of space. In this Skandika Montana 8 Sleeper review you can find out how we got on.
Skandika are a German camping and outdoors brand who make a large range of gear. They are not that well known in the UK but are big on the camping scene in Germany. Skandika also sell camping tables, chairs, backpacks, sleeping bags and sleep mats.
Their 100+ high quality tents range from two to twelve person and tipi to tunnel style – so they’ll have a tent that suits your needs. I have previously reviewed the excellent Skandika Copenhagen and Skandika Gotland both of which are top quality six berth tents.
It is not just Skandika tents I have tested, I have found their camping furniture, sleeping bags and matts to be great quality and excellent value for money. You don’t see Skandika camping kit for sale in stores in the UK, but you can buy direct from Skandika via Amazon and eBay, often at a much lower price then their RRP.
To test this large blackout tent I took the family to a Evergreen Farm Woodland Campsite near East Grinstead in West Sussex. We camped for two nights in lovely sunny weather at the start of July.
A couple of weeks later we spent two nights in Alfriston Camping Park in East Sussex. This time we experienced mixed weather, including strong wind and about 12 hours of rain.
The first test of any tent is how quickly and easily it can be put up. Now this is a large tent, bigger than I would normally use for a short camping trip, so I didn’t expect it to be quick. But I was pleasantly surprised.
It is a tunnel tent with separate roof and leg poles. The roof poles are flexible shatterproof 12.7 mm fibreglass, which slide through colour coded sleeves. The 19/16 mm steel leg poles attach to the roof poles via plastic clips and to the base of the tent by the usual pins.
Now the biggest difficulty with tunnel tents is getting them to stand the first time, and to keep it standing while you stake down the end guy ropes. The first time I put the Montana up there was a light breeze with some stronger gusts causing a minor nuisance, but nothing too bad. Overall compared to other large tunnel tents I have erected it was very easy.
As per the instructions we began by putting the roof poles in place and then started with the middle leg poles, working out in steps until they were all done. It was certainly a two person job, with my wife holding the poles and me getting them all in place.
Next it was a case of pegging it down. There are ten stake style pegs for the base of the legs and then many normal pegs for the guy ropes and pulling out the ends. As the weather was good on the first trip we only used the end guy ropes. With heavy rain and strong winds we also used the side guy lines the second trip.
This large blackout tent does not have a fitted groundsheet. But once the outer is erected you can clip in place the inner sleep pods which have fitted groundsheets to keep out creepy crawlies. There is an additional groundsheet for the central living area to keep your gear off the ground.
All in all the first time it took about 40 to 45 minutes to erect. However, I wasted around five minutes looking for the pegs that I mislaid under the tent. Furthermore, my wife only helped getting the outer tent up. I did the pegging out and clipping the inner sleep pods on my own while she sorted the rest of the camping gear.
The second time took about an hour. Partly because the ground was hard and rocky so each peg took a few attempts and many ended up bent. With bad weather expected the tent needed to set it up properly. This meant untangling and attaching the 10 side guy ropes – this was very time consuming.
With the guy ropes now attached, next time it will be quicker to erect. I imagine that with two people and good ground for pegs you could erect the Skandika Montana 8 Sleeper in around half an hour. Being a big tent having no wind helps too, but compared to tunnel tents with single arching poles this is much easier to handle in the wind.
On the first trip we were camping only a couple of weeks after the longest day of the year. Sunrise in East Grinstead was before 5am and twilight began much earlier. It was noticeably light from just after four in the morning so there was scope for my up-with-the-light kids to get the day off to a horrifically early start.
On previous camping trips the kids have regularly woken before five in the morning, it is then a battle to keep them quiet. Often we are out of bed giving them breakfast before six, while trying to avoid awakening fellow campers. As we camp with other families our kids have become known for waking everyone up…
But during this Skandika Montana 8 Sleeper review our kids woke up around seven each morning, just like they do at home. One morning my eldest woke up needing the toilet at 4:30 am. On the way to the toilet block it was light enough to see, but once back in the large blackout tent by Skandika it was dark enough for him to fall back asleep.
The blackout nature of the tent also stops the tent getting so hot. This is noticeable when clipping the inner tents in place. The first time it was about three in the afternoon, bright sunshine and lovely weather. However, inside the sleep areas it was shaded and quite cool. Once the sleep pods are clipped in place this is even more noticeable.
One morning after my wife got up with the kids I managed to sleep in until nine thirty. This was despite the sun heating the tent for more than three hours. In comparison the rest of our group had been forced out of their tents by the heat by around 8am. I would have stayed in bed longer if I wasn’t forced out of bed to go hiking!
I discovered a negative effect of the blackout technology at the end of the first trip of this Skandika Montana 8 Sleeper review. It was a nice sunny day again, but unfortunately it was our time to go home. While packing up I noticed that the inside of the flysheet (outer tent) was wet with condensation.
It was only on the side of the tent away from the sun, between the sleep pods and the outside. It’s only where the tent is blacked out so I am pretty sure this was down to the temperature difference. As we needed to pack up I took down the inner pods and then wiped the condensation with a towel and opened the doors. It quickly dried it out.
This demonstrates what a difference this large blackout tent by Skandika makes to the temperature in the sleeping area. It certainly isn’t a big problem and did not happen on our second trip – but we’d had the vents open and it was windier so no condensation built up.
Another slight negative – but one you can’t complain about – is that a blackout tent is pitch black at night. This means you can’t get away without a torch like you often can in a normal tent. And stealthily getting into bed without waking my wife – particularly after a few G&Ts – was rather difficult. It is also so dark it is difficult to find things even during the day.
On the first trip it was a gloriously sunny weekend so we didn’t test the waterproofness of the tent. Fortunately (for this Skandika Montana 8 Sleeper review but not for the campers!), on our second trip we were not so lucky.
We had some heavy rain overnight on the first night, and then light rain on and off all morning. This was followed by very heavy rain for around four hours accompanied by strong gusty wind. So the second camping trip really put the Skandika Montana large blackout tent to the test.
Fortunately, the Montana is built with these kind of conditions in mind. The 100% Polyester, 185T, PU coated flysheet is rated as 5,000 mm waterproof. Most tents are rated around 3,000mm, so this is a significant improvement. Tents often leak where materials are joined, but with fully sealed seams the Montana kept the bad weather out.
The light rain we had should not be a problem for any tent but the heavy rain reached the point where other campers were getting wet. However, the Montana kept my family and all our gear perfectly dry. My wife and kids were inside throughout the worst of the rain and there were no leaks at all. I was outside under a makeshift shelter getting a fire ready for dinner.
Usefully the non-fitted groundsheet in the central area is shaped like a tub. This stops surface water from entering and getting your gear all wet. Unfortunately, as it is not fitted it does not stop creepy crawlies from getting in – we had an ant problem one day.
The Montana 8 is a much more than just a large blackout tent. In the centre is a living area measuring 2.5 by 2.8 metres with plenty of room for table and chairs for wet weather entertainment. On each side are double doors with fly screens which can be fully opened and rolled up, or used as a big porch with the supplied poles.
At one end the sleeping area is split into two seperate bedrooms. This is great for older kids who want their own space. Or groups with separate couples as each pod can sleep two people. It would be a slight squeeze, but at 215 x 135 cm you can just about fit a double mattress.
The other sleep area is one big room for up to four people. For just my wife and I there was plenty of room. There is a divider that splits the room in two if you want some privacy.
All the sleep pods have doors with fly nets, so you can open them up to let as much light in as you wish. There are also windows that can be opened or closed from the inside which let a little light plus ventilation windows that can be opened from outside.
Inside the sleep pods there are pockets on each side. These are useful for stowing your phone, torch, ear plugs or other small items that are easy to lose in a tent. Unlike other Skandika tents I have tested there are no pockets on the outside of the sleep pods which was disappointing as I find them very useful.
Within the central room there is a clip for hanging a lantern. There is also a special zipper opening that is used for electric hook up.
A quick shout-out to the bag. This is by far the best tent bag I have ever used. There is no need to roll the tent up carefully to get it packed away as there is loads of space. And rather than struggling with a zip it is closed with a drawcord which is much easier. When packing away we just folded the sleep pods, fly sheet and ground sheet separately and then put the poles in.
As this is a large and very robust tent it certainly doesn’t pack up small and light. Weighing in at 28 kilogrammes the Montana 8 Sleeper is a car camping tent. But fitting up to eight people with plenty of space it was never going to be small and lightweight.
First and foremost this is an excellent tent. It is large, spacious inside and has plenty of headroom with nearly vertical walls. It is perfect for longer camping trips with our family of four – as we all get plenty of space. But for shorter trips I would be happy to camp with another family as it fits up to eight people.
For a large tent it is easy to erect. The first time putting it up took two of us 40 minutes. I imagine we will get this down to half an hour with a bit more practice. And to top it off it packs away easily. On the downside it is large and heavy, but if you want a large blackout tent for up to eight people that is a sacrifice you will have to make.
The blackout sleep pods are a game changer. Not only did they keep the kids asleep for two more hours than usual, but you can have a layin as they remain cool. A blackout tent would be great for a festival and although this tent is too heavy to be carried very far, if there are a group of four or more you can spread the load between you.
This is also a very weatherproof tent that handled strong winds and heavy rain with ease. Plus I love the huge bag that makes it very quick and easy to pack away. On the downside I would prefer a fitted groundsheet throughout and more pockets.
To conclude this Skandika Montana 8 Sleeper review I would highly recommend it. This tent has significantly improved our camping experience just because the kids are not waking so early. Getting more sleep is always a bonus, particularly when you have been sat around the campfire drinking G&Ts until far too late!
We hope you found this Skandika Montana 8 Sleeper review useful you can find out more here: www.skandika.com/montana-8-sleeper. The RRP is €699 (approx £640 or $830) but you can buy it for around £360 (approx €395 or $465) directly from Skandika on eBay or Amazon.