Coleman Cobra 2 Review – a Gem of an Adventure Tent
Our roving adventurer and photographer Matt Lynch has pitched his trusty Coleman Cobra 2 tent all over the globe on wild camping expeditions. He gives us his thoughts and impressions on this lightweight gem….
Why we like the Coleman Cobra 2: Lightweight; Spacious; Great Value.
It had rained non-stop for the last three days. A storm was sweeping west off the North Sea and battering against northern England. I was about halfway through my week-long hike along the Hadrian’s Wall Path – an ancient wall built by the Romans 1,900 years ago. I was camped on an exposed ridge in Northumberland National Park.
With every gust of wind, rain hammered into my tent and rattled my tent poles. I pulled my sleeping bag tighter to cover my chin and listened to the sound of the storm passing over. I was warm inside my sleeping bag, and the interior of my tent was mercifully dry. I kept expecting water to leak through in the night, but it never did. If any tent was to go through a rigorous in-field test, the Coleman Cobra 2 had passed with flying colours.
My decision to buy the Coleman Cobra 2 was not simply about its ability to handle poor conditions, it was all the other features it offered. I needed something relatively lightweight, quick to pack down, and durable enough to survive long-distance hikes and wild camping in rugged and remote locations. It would also be nice if it looked good whilst doing so – and I can safely say, with its blue/black colouring and sleek finish, the Coleman Cobra 2 ticks all these boxes, and then some!
To further test its endurance, one month later, I took it to the Pembrokeshire Coast in Wales, UK. I was walking the 186-mile coast path over a period of 2 weeks. The weather was unusually sunny for September and I wondered how it would fare against heat and salt winds. Yet again, it surpassed my expectations. In terms of weight, something a touch lighter would have been great for a hike of this length, but when considering its price point and comfort rating over those 2 weeks, I can hardly complain.
Since then, the Coleman Cobra 2 has come with me to Iceland, Norway, and National Parks all throughout the UK.
Coleman Cobra 2 - Key Specs
The tent weighs 2.3 kg. This is a reasonable weight if you’re going on an overnight camping trip but may be baulked at if you’re a serious thru-hiker. There are lighter backpacking tents you can buy which have carbon fibre poles, but the price jumps up markedly when you opt for a lighter model. This is one of the best value tents that doesn’t completely compromise on weight.
The tent capacity is 2 persons, but as usual, 1 person fits plenty. There is also a 3-person option available which has more floor space.
The Cobra 2 has dual vestibules – the inner compartment has a zippable door flap on both sides. However there is only one exterior door flap which can be irritating if camping with two people and someone has to climb over the other person to get out.
The floor space for the tent is 257 cm length x 125 cm width for the inner module at the widest point. The tent is low to the ground and the head and foot of the inner tent taper down to about 90 cm and 53 cm respectively. The tent includes a carry bag and packs down to an overall size of 48 x 18 x 15 cm, which is pretty decent for a budget adventure tent.
The Cobra 2 is shaped like a structured wedge which provides good resistance when pitched head-on into the prevailing wind. It is squat and can be pitched close to the ground reducing the effect of adverse weather conditions.
It is a fly-first pitch which is useful as it prevents the inner module from being exposed if you’re in bad weather. The inner module comes pre-attached to the outer canvas. So, you can unroll the tent and pitch it in one, with the inside of the tent never being exposed to the elements. It can be easily set up by a single person.
The 2 poles used to pitch the canvas are aluminium 7001-T6, which is a light and sturdy material. The larger pole runs across the apex of the tent and is fed through a pouch on top. The smaller pole runs across the width of the footwell and is also fed through an outer pouch. Once the poles are inserted, clips attached to the fly can be hooked onto the poles to stretch out the canvas and provide more tension.
The groundsheet is made of WeatherTec™ polyester, 5000mm PU coated, which is essentially a weatherproof guarantee from Colemans that provides a strong waterproofing layer. The outer canvas fabric is also polyester and 3000mm PU coated. The tent comes with 17 pegs (16 for use and 1 spare) which are extremely hardy. They aren’t your bog-standard tent pegs and instead have an especially durable design. Even when stuck into hard, rocky ground, the pegs gain purchase, and I’ve never had an issue with any snapping or getting bent.
The whole tent is fire retardant, although it’s still advised to light a stove well away from the tent and to never use an open flame inside the tent. The inner fabric is a breathable polyester material that allows air to flow in. There is a small ‘no-see-um’ mesh down by the footwell, and another up at the top of the tent. There is a third mesh that can be zipped open and used on the doors of the inner module.
In Use and Overall Impressions
This is an adventurer’s tent and it’s designed to suit all the elements one might face. As mentioned, it is wind responsive and sturdy, even in storms. It is waterproof and can withstand a significant beating without letting much, if any, water through.
Wet Weather Performance
Note that if the tent is wet when rolled away, stored, then pitched again the following night, the water has an irritating way of seeping into the material. Therefore I would recommend trying to dry the tent out as much as possible before being put in its storage sack.
Only when the tent began to reach +6 weeks of full-on wilderness use did the floor begin to lose some of its waterproofing ability. Bearing in mind that I never use a groundsheet, this is pretty good going. Bring this review up to the present, the canvas of the tent is still as waterproof as ever and not one tent peg has been bent or guy rope broken.
The storage sack can be strapped horizontal to the outside of your bag. I use a 48-litre backpack and the tent fits tight to the outside. If you have a smaller backpack, you can separate the canvas to stuff it inside your backpack then tuck the poles into a sleeve on the outer edge to distribute the weight more evenly.
If you keep the groundsheet low to the floor, this tent can be pitched in challenging conditions. In good weather, it can be erected in under 5 minutes. In high winds, a bit more care may be needed but it’s still perfectly possible to do alone.
In hot weather, the breathable nature of the tent comes into its own. It is dark coloured which does absorb some of the heat, but there are pegs above the tent door which allows it to be rolled up and pinned open letting a draft of air into the tent.
3 Season Use
The tent isn’t warm per se and is more suited to 3-season camping. It can be used in frosty and even snowy conditions, gathered the user has all appropriate cold-weather gear such as a down sleeping bag, insulated sleeping mat, foil ground layer, hat, gloves, and thermals. But the tent shouldn’t be relied upon in isolation to keep you warm during a night’s camping in sub-zero temperatures.
The groundsheet is tough and can be pitched on rough ground with jutting sticks, rocks, stones, and thorns present. Of course, this should be avoided if possible as it will give you a poor night’s sleep, but it’s good to know the tent can handle the rough ground.
As mentioned, the Coleman Cobra 2 has low clearance and can be pitched among trees. The floor space is not as narrow as some tents, and an outdoor area of 2.2 m² is recommended by Coleman to pitch the tent on – although less than this will do in emergencies as I often found out! This means to fully stretch out the tent and to make the most of its waterproofing and wind-resistant abilities, it needs to be pitched on a spacious area of land. This is somewhat limiting if there is a lot of vegetation, trees, or uneven ground in the intended camping area.
Cleaning the Cobra 2
After every hike, I hose it down, brush out the dirt, and leave it to air for a couple of days in the garden. I then roll it up and put it away for my next hike, and it just keeps on going. It’s an excellent tent for the hiker or adventurer who wants something hardy and durable, without breaking the bank at ~£120.
Living Space on Offer
A small gripe is that there isn’t much room to sit up or move about. Sometimes, even when the tent is taut as can be, the interior sides are loose and can flop inwards with no way of stretching the inner layer out any further. This doesn’t cause it to flap, as the outer canvas stops the wind, but it can be a little irritating. On either side of the tent, there are gaps between the interior module and the outer canvas. If the inner module is full, this requires you to place some of your gear out on the grass where it’s a little exposed.
I once had a fox try and nab some of my food that I placed in the outer compartment which gave me a massive scare in the middle of the night! But that was my fault for not keeping food items tightly sealed inside the tent. In any case, if you’re worried about your equipment, just be aware that there isn’t much space to keep everything inside the inner module with you, particularly if there are two of you sleeping there.
Coleman Cobra 2 - Conclusions
The Coleman Cobra 2 is a great place to start for wild campers and outdoor enthusiasts. Experienced long-distance hikers may be put off by the 2.3kg weight, but for the price, durability, and reliability, this is an excellent tent for 3-season backpacking adventures. It has served me well on multi-week wild camping expeditions and so the weight is not really an issue in my opinion – of course, we always want more for our money, but I would not be looking to change the Cobra 2 unless I was able to at least double the budget to >£250.
The Coleman Cobra 2 is a fantastic budget-priced adventure tent, but its performance is anything but budget - this tent has served me well on many wild camping expeditions in the UK and beyond, and I would highly recommend it for the price.