The North Face Tadpole
- Lots of shoulder room
- Burly feel for three-season tent
- Small footprint fits tight tent spots
- Only one door, one vestibule
- Set up is a little finicky
A great little tent for all kinds of backcountry adventures. Its small footprint slips into tight camping spots and its relative light weight goes easy on the back. Not the roomiest tent, but plenty of shoulder room for two to sleep comfortably. And it feels tough. Probably your best bet for shoulder season use, particularly in the mountains.
With a profile like a quarter circle, all the room in this tent is focused towards the door. The vertical door wall is 41 inches high, 54 inches wide. This is lots of shoulder room for two and plenty of height for sitting up and climbing in an out of the tent. The roomy D-shaped door makes the one door style usable, but watch your buddies face getting in and out. The asymmetric design means heads go at the door. Feet are at the narrow end of the quarter circle, which is only 42 inches wide. The lack of footroom was never an issue.
The compact tent packs small, easily squishing into overstuffed sea kayak cockpits and backpacks. The 4.5 lbs weight is not particularly light, especially considering there's only one door and one vestibule.
While the three pole design looks like it should be fairly easy to set up, it wasn't the first time and didn't get a lot easier, especially when working solo. With a second set of hands it wasn't too bad, but alone it was hard to manipulate the tent until all three poles were in place. In the rain we found the interior got pretty wet while we wrestled with the poles and fly.
This was the most durable and waterproof feeling of the tents reviewed. With a deep bathtub floor and steep angles on the roof we would feel comfortable in three season use, including light snowfalls. In the wind, the slanted walls deflected the breeze and didn't flap too much.
The vestibule is a reasonable 8.8 sq. ft. but because there is only one, that doesn't provide a lot of space for storing gear. We found a lot of stuff ended up inside the tent with us. We like the interior pocket size and position - big and overhead within easy reach at all times.
Definitely not the best value on this page, but a solid tent that feels more three-season worthy than any of the others.
How We Tested It
A small army of testers used and abused the shelters for a minimum of seven nights (and some much longer) on trips that ranged from car camping to a rain forest hike to a month long Baja sea kayak expedition. Then we set them up on our lawn and turned the hose on them, left them standing during a 40 mile per hour windstorm and released a pack of kids to test the zippers and run through them with their shoes on.
The products featured in this test have been loaned to the Gear Institute. For more on our policies regarding editorial objectivity and sample returns, see here.
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