A sturdy, ultralight minimalist’s tent for fast and light trips.
Plusses: Ultralight, rigid and quiet
Minuses: Ventilation issues, expensive
Weight 924g / 2.42m2 + 0.81m2 vestibule
Features: This latest rendition of a North Face staple cuts away all of the fat for an ultralight experience. The single wall design uses 20D polyester for its main canopy, with a 15D ripstop floor.
A single external opening and zippable mesh divider provide entry and privacy, while two carbon fibre poles work in tripod formation to provide a competitive space-to-weight ratio.
Pitching: It’s not intuitive, but once learned it can be done quickly. The external pole, which creates a spine for the tent, uses simple sleeve and hook attachment points, but the internal pole isn’t so user-friendly. Once bent into a narrow U-shape, the pole needs to be squeezed through the door so its ends can be grounded into reinforced floor corners and the tent must be pegged down to do this. There are two attachment points for major guylines – one is at ground level, another a peg-length higher – providing fine tuning and extra internal foot room. It’s a smart addition that creates even tension and helps to reduce wind noise.
Comfort: The Tadpole SL prioritises weight above luxury although it’s not uncomfortable. Steep walls provide enough headspace to sit up comfortably – though the pole structure and tapered floor reduce space at the foot end of the tent. I’m 182cm and the tent is a tight fit for me, with my feet gravitating frequently to the tent wall, which isn’t ideal when considering condensation.
There are two hand-sized pockets to provide storage for essentials and the single vestibule will fit two stacked packs – which need to be clambered over when using the door. Ventilation is limited to the outer door, a single mesh divider in the vestibule and a small vent at the foot of the tent.
In use: One can’t expect bells, whistles or supreme comfort from an ultralight tent, but the Tadpole SL2 does well to balance liveability, rigidity and comfort. Its streamlined shape and guylines keep it taut and exceptionally quiet in wind. But with few ventilation options, condensation is hard to avoid. As for liveability, there’s a high apex and ample headroom, but the tapering towards the foot end means two have to sleep in a slight V formation, toes together. The single vestibule is suitable only for packs and boots.
Those pursuing ultralight hiking will be used to such space sacrifices. Given the tent’s footprint and weight, it’s hard to see how it could be lighter without encroaching into bivy territory.
Value: It’s dear, but with tramping gear value aggregates when weight is reduced, and this tent is light. For wild camping, I wouldn’t go without a footprint (sold separately) to protect the lightweight floor. It’s a weight addition worth considering. Time will tell how it stands up to wear.
Verdict: Clever design choices and a minimalist approach combine for a lightweight and sturdy take on a TNF classic.