I was first introduced to the Coleman Mackenzie blackout 4 by Andy (of Coleman) during an NEC camping show interview. TentLife wanted to test some affordable and good quality pole tents, so we took the MacKenzie Blackout 4 to see if it fitted the bill.
We took the MacKenzie 4 camping to Greenacres campsite next to the Forrest of Dean for 3 nights. The MacKenzie Blackout sleeps 4 people and is a steel poled. It’s a tunnel tent construction with 2 blackout bedrooms at the rear. It has a fully integrated groundsheet and the tent material has a waterproof rating of 4500HH and also has 50+ UV protection, and before I forget - go check out the photo at the end of this article.
Jumping right in as we do, we proceeded to put the tent up without reading the instructions. This is always a good test of finding out how quick and easy any tent is to pitch. There are only 3 main tent poles and a smaller side pole to deal with. Each pole is made up of sections that slot together easily. We noticed that one of the pole sets was coloured yellow and thought that it best to have a quick look at the instructions to make sure we didn’t stick it in the wrong place. Easily found attached inside the tent bag, the instructions said that the yellow one went over the bedroom section, which oddly enough has a yellow tab at the end (haha).
We laid the tent out on the groundsheet, we didn’t peg out the corners and set about sorting the poles. We put the roof pole sections together and slid them into the relevant mesh sleeves on the roof (colour coded), then we slotted all the pole uprights into place. With all the poles laid on the floor we began fitting the spikes at the end of the poles into the relevant eyelets at the base of the tent, starting with the pole at the front door. You will need to peg out the front guy lines to keep the pole upright whilst you move on to the 2nd and 3rd poles. It doesn’t take long and before you know it, the tent is almost pitched.
All that was left was to peg out the 4 corners, peg out the guys, attach the black pole clips and fit the pole over the side door canopy. Within 10 minutes the Mackenzie blackout 4 was up and ready to move into.
We got the tent up between rain showers and then the wet weather finally left us in peace to enjoy the tent and our wonderful surroundings. First priority was to get a coffee on the go, so as we were camping without an EHU, out came the gas stove and the kettle for our caffeine fix.
We then popped into the local village of Coleford (4 minutes drive) to get some supplies for the evening. Not much later, we were soon back at the tent and had the front of the MacKenzie 4 opened up and we sat outside enjoying the fresh air and thinking about cooking our evening meal of ravioli and pasta sauce – a nice easy first evening meal and maybe a cheeky bottle of red – perfect.
Whilst we were camping in this tent, some members of our Facebook group asked if would be easy enough to put the tent up on your own. So at the end of the trip when we were almost completely packed away we decided to semi-dismantle the tent and see if we could do the ‘difficult’ bits solo.
We removed the guy lines and disconnected the poles from the ground level eyelets. At this point one of us attempted to refit the poles to the eyelets and get the poles standing up again with the guy lines. We did it no problem, so would say that after a little test pitch (say in your back garden), this tent can easily be pitched by a person on their own.
We first experienced Colemans amazing blackout bedrooms when we tested some of the Air Valdes tents last summer. They are very impressive, here’s what we wrote then and nothing has changed - “On a number of occasions after a day out we returned to a tent as hot as an oven, but upon unzipping the BlackOut Bedrooms you could feel how much cooler they were inside”. It’s not just about blocking the light out for better and longer sleep but these bedrooms make a big difference in that department too.
There are plenty of storage pockets both inside the bedrooms and just outside the doors. These make it easy to keep the tent clean and organised, and personally for me they help me to find stuff quicker.
The centre section that separates the 2 bedrooms rolls up to the ceiling so you can have the tent with just one large sleeping area.
The top half of the doors on the blackout bedrooms can be unzipped to reveal a mesh panel. This is handy if you want more light or to regulate the heat but don’t want to let any bugs into your sleeping area. There are two similar smaller panels on the back wall of the bedrooms that can be unzipped for the same reason, a very handy idea.
We had a bacon and egg sandwich for breakfast, cooked on Campingaz 400 stove. Then we went off for a nice walk into the local town of Coleford for some supplies, a wonder around and to exercise the doggos. We found ourselves sat outside a lovely tea shop, partaking in some lovely scones and coffee. The patrons of the shop were a delight and also bought the dogs out some treats and water.
We purchased some vegetables and meat and later that day when we return to the campsite, we prepared and cooked a ‘one-pot’ meal over the fire pit. This is a wonderful way to cook, and as the tent has that wonderful big front door, we were able to sit almost inside the tent whilst enjoying our food and the fire pit too – heaven.
Doors and windows
The Mackenzie has a large front and a smaller side door. The side door has a rain canopy over it, great for standing under whilst slipping off muddy boots before entering the tent. It also has a handy zipped mesh inner. The zips on the outer door are 2-way, meaning that they don’t just zip from the bottom upwards. You can unzip them in different configurations to suit your living needs, half open etc.
The large front door also has an inner mesh panel which is perfect for when you want to let fresh air in whilst keeping the bugs out. Also if you have small children or pets, the mesh door should prevent them from escaping from the tent whilst still giving that feeling of letting the outside into the tent.
There are tall windows either side of the front door to let more light inside the tent, these are also fitted with privacy blinds.
There are good sized ventilation points at the front and rear of this tent. They are held open with guy lines and really do help to maintain the temperature of the internal living space and minimise the condensation build up.
This tent has a really good head height and the time that we spent inside the spacious living area was very pleasant. The tent material lets in plenty of light, but those windows when the privacy blinds are rolled out of the way make for a really light space.
During thi camping trip we also got to have a play with the Robens Woodsman stove. This is a clever little backpacking stove that you can use to recharge your mobile phone and other devices. Is it any good? You will have to read the review.
We’ve experienced with most Coleman tents some really handy and thought out features. The MacKenzie 4 is no exception, and here are just a few of those handy features;
Zip stops – You will find a bright yellow tab on all of the tents zips, marking the point where the zips will always be when they are closed. This feature is perfect for finding your way out of the tent in the dark, in a rush of if you are a child.
Front door – On the bottom corners of the front door are some metal eyelets, meaning that if you have a pair of king poles you can make it into a canopy and have it open over your head. Ideal for a either shelter or shade whilst eating perhaps, or just lounging about.
Fully opening side window - There is a funky side window, again with a mesh panel and privacy blind. But this window can also be unzipped and fully opened up to really open up the inside of the tent and bring that outside indoors.
Meshed pole sleeves – These reduce wind noise and wind resistance, preventing the tent from being blown about and making for a better living experience.
Clip fixings to attach the poles to the tent – Quick and easy to attach and detatch.
The many ventilation points really help maintain internal temperatures and control condensation build-up.
We would be returning home tomorrow, which was also my birthday. So on Saturday, all our daughters came to visit us so we could spend the day together. We decided on a walk in the Forest of Dean around the Sculpture Trail followed by a birthday tea at a local pub, after which, they returned home and we went back to the campsite for one more night in the MacKenzie.
We will do a review of the Greenacres campsite and our walk around the Forest of Dean Sculpture Trail. We will add the links here or you can use the ‘search’ at the top to find them.
The MacKenzie 4 Blackout does seem a very robust steel poled tent, the pack weight is 25kg which isn’t light but it appears super strong and be able to withstand some serious british weather should the Met Office throw you a curve ball. There is nothing like getting out into the great outdoors, no matter the weather – And who doesn’t like the sound of rain pattering on a tent :o)
The MacKenzie offers a rather affordable tent package that is easy to pitch and built like Fort Knox with some really useful features. This tent is rock solid, it really does feel like it would take a good battering from the weather. So that pack weight does get put to good use, when you are the only one still standing on the campsite.
Although the Coleman MacKenzie 4 will sleeps four people, we recon that this makes for a brilliant weekend couples tent. It offers plenty of room, is quick and easy to pitch (so no divorce when pitching) and would withstand some wind and rain when pitched up on the coast for example.
I can certainly imagine being sat inside the living, looking out onto the sea or a lake and thinking that there probably is not better place to be with my wife sat beside me and the dogs off chewing something. Mrs TentLife would probably disagree, but I don’t think we could get away with taking this tent as hand luggage on a flight to the Bahamas – They have white sand in Scotland you know :o)
You may also be interested to know that Coleman do a MacKenzie 6 Blackout. It has a extra bedroom to sleep more people and it has a larger living area too. But what it doesn’t have is that the big front opening door which we love on the MacKenzie 4, it really opens the tent right up and brings the outside in.