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REI Skyward Tent Review

The REI Skyward is a well-rounded tent with a sweet balance of simplicity, spaciousness, and weather protection. It has near-vertical walls and a luxurious 6 ½-foot. peak height, so you can fully stand up and move freely inside. The Skyward is made with high-quality materials and it’s less expensive than comparable tents. We consider it to be an excellent value and expect it to last for years. We like the Skyward so much that we put it on our list of the Best Camping Tents on the market.

The Skyward is replacing one of our longtime favorite front-country camping tents, the REI Grand Hut.

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Quick Specs

REI Skyward

Price: $349-449

Sizes Available: 4P & 6P

Packed Weight: 13 lb. 11 oz. / 15 lb. 7 oz.(4P/6P)

Dimensions (LxWxH): 4P-100 x 87 x 78 in./6P-120 x 100 x 78 in.

Pros

  • Affordable
  • Quality poles & materials
  • Quick & easy setup
  • Spacious
  • Large doors
  • Vestibule with fly off
  • Awning over door
  • Storage pockets

Cons

  • Not the best in the wind
  • Cap-style fly isn't as protective
  • Only one door
  • Frumpy window flaps
  • Needs more stakes
  • Guylines not pre-attached

Pros

Affordable

The Skyward is an exceptional value considering the good quality of its poles and materials. Closely competing tents are often $50-$100 more expensive. You could spend less on a low-quality tent, but tents made with cheap materials may only last for one summer since they’re prone to breaking. In our experience, it’s much better to spend a little more on a longer-lasting tent, like the Skyward, that will be reliable for years to come.

The Skyward is made with high quality materials & will far outlast a cheaply-made, budget-focused tent

Quality poles and materials

The Skyward stands out among the camping tents we’ve tested because it’s made with high-quality fabrics and comes with stout, aluminum poles. The mesh, sidewalls, bathtub floor, and rainfly materials all feel durable enough to withstand the stresses of stormy weather and repeated use in challenging conditions. The hardware, including the zippers and rainfly attachment buckles, also feel tight and secure while being exceptionally user-friendly.

The Skyward’s mesh ceiling gives it an open feeling, even though the walls are solid for weather protection & privacy

Quick and easy setup

The Skyward is a freestanding tent that’s simple and straightforward to pitch. The setup process is so intuitive that we didn’t even need the guide the first time we set the tent up. We love that the instructions are sewn into the bag though, so they’re always close at hand if we do need to consult them. The Skyward is unique in that its roof assembly is separate. You insert crossed poles into sleeves at the top first, then raise the structure with four vertical poles at the corners. This makes it easy for one person to set up. Breaking down the Skyward only takes a few minutes as well, and it easily fits back into the stuff sack whether you choose to roll or stuff it.

A queen-size camping mattress fits easily in The Skyward tent with plenty of room for gear on both sides

Spacious

Comfort is king on car camping trips and we love being able to change our clothes, stretch out, and navigate through our gear without crouching. The Skyward has a 78-inch peak height, so it’s tall enough to stand up comfortably even if you’re 6’ 6”! Generous floor dimensions allow you to sleep facing either direction, and you’ll have some extra space for gear on all sides. The walls of this tent are near vertical too for maximum usable space all the way to the edges. We found theSkyward 4 to be a good size for 2 or 3 adults or a small family with kids, but a 6-person version is also available for those who need more space.

Large Door

The Skyward has a huge, D-shaped door that makes it easy to get in and out, maneuver large gear (like a camping mattress), and catch views. The low sill is also easy to step over and minimizes the trip hazard when entering and exiting the tent.

The permanent vestibule on the Skyward is great for privacy & storing gear even while the rainfly is off

Vestibule with fly off

On warm summer trips we like to leave the rainfly off of our tent for maximum breathability and sky views. The downside to leaving your rainfly off is that you typically don’t have as much privacy in a campground setting or an out-of-sight place to store gear. REI tent designers solved these problems by finding a way to make the vestibule separate from the rainfly. The vestibule is attached to the tent body itself and the mesh on the roof is covered by a small, cap-style rainfly that’s quick and easy to put on.

Awning over door

A brow pole extending off the front of the tent gives the Skyward extra stability in windy conditions and creates a small awning to protect the doorway from overhead drips.

The Skyward has 4 large mesh pockets near the entrance of the tent for easy access

Storage pockets

The Skyward has 4 large mesh storage pockets inside to make it easy to keep track of small items like your headlamp, sunscreen, keys, etc. We love that the pockets are both high and low for reachability. It’s also nice that the pockets are close to the door so you can easily grab stuff from the outside. We wish there were a couple more pockets at the “head” of the tent to keep things handy at night, but it’s no biggie.

Cons

Not the best in the wind

Like most tall tents that you can stand up in, the Skyward won’t perform as well as a low-profile dome tent in high winds. This tent has aluminum poles, so we expect it to hold up well if you use all the guyout points and stake it firmly in place. That said, there’s still potential for them to over-flex and break in extreme conditions. The Skyward may not be the best choice if you frequently camp in places that are intensely windy. But, if you usually set up in sheltered locations like most campers, it should be plenty sturdy.

The cap-style fly on the Skyward is quick & easy to put on, but its not quite as protective as a full fly in stormy weather

Cap-style fly isn’t as protective

The Skyward’s cap-style rainfly is easy to put on and it allows for great ventilation, but we’re a bit skeptical of its performance in really stormy conditions. We haven’t seen a drop of rain get inside the Skyward yet, but we would prefer a full-length rainfly, which would offer better protection in severe conditions with driving rain. That said, most people camp when fair weather is expected, and the cap does have some benefits.

Only one door

We prefer it when tents have two doors so you can open them up completely and enter/exit from both sides. The Skyward only has one door and a window on the opposite side. It’s not a huge deal since there’s still plenty of airflow and the front door is large, but two doors would make this tent more livable for multiple people.

The flaps that go over the mesh windows on the Skyward are a bit frumpy when open since they don’t have toggles

Frumpy window flaps

This is a small gripe, but we wish there was a way to tie back the window coverings in the Skyward tent. Once you unzip the solid panels to reveal the mesh on the door and back window, the fabric just hangs there. The unzipped window panels look frumpy and occasionally get in the way. We may add some simple toggles and loops ourselves later on.

Needs more stakes

It’s sadly common for tent manufacturers to skimp on tent stakes and guylines, and the Kingdom is no exception. The Kingdom 6 could use up to 8 additional tent stakes and guylines for all of its guy-out points. We recommend picking up some extra tent stakes and guylines for full weather protection in windy/nasty weather.

Guylines not pre-attatched

A staked out tent has more interior space, looks much sleeker, is far sturdier in wind, and has zippers that function better. But to stake out the Kingdom you’ll have to attach all its guylines on your first use. This isn’t a huge deal, but we wish REI didn’t pass this task off to the customer. The best way to attach guylines is with a bowline knot, which is one of the most handy knots for camping in general.

If you want to fully guy-out the Skyward, you’ll need to pick up a few more tent stakes & another guyline

Bottom Line

Overall, the REI Skyward is a simple, but a luxurious-feeling tent that will appeal to a wide variety of front-country campers. It has a great balance of quality and price, so we consider it an excellent value. We also appreciate that this tent isn’t overly heavy, bulky, or unnecessarily complicated. The Skyward is super roomy for couples or small groups and is one of the best tents on the market for fairweather summer trips without heavy wind.