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Reviews > Shelters > Tents > The North Face Tadpole 23 > Owner Review by Travis Beals

Owner Review - The North Face Tadpole 23

The North Face Tadpole 23 is a free-standing two-person three-season backpacking tent.

April 21, 2007

Product informationThe North Face Tadpole 23 tent

Manufacturer: The North Face,
Year: 2005
Minimum Weight (as listed; tent, fly, poles only): 4 lb 4 oz (1.92 kg)
Total Weight (listed): 4 lb 14 oz (2.21 kg)
Total Weight (as measured): 4 lb 14 oz (2.21 kg)
Interior area: 27 sq ft (2.51 sq m)
Vestibule area: 7 sq ft (0.65 sq m)
MSRP: $239 US

Description: The North Face describes this tent as a freestanding two person, three-season tent. This description is accurate, except that the fly must be pegged out at two spots, and those two people had better be on friendly terms. As a one person tent, it's very spacious.

Reviewer Information

Name: Travis Beals
Age: 26
Gender: Male
Height: 6' 0" (1.83 m)
Weight: 190 lb (86 kg)
Shoe size: 9.5 US (9.0 UK, 43 EU)
Email address: trbeals (at) gmail (dot) com
Location: Berkeley, California, U.S.A.

Backpacking Background: I've been camping since I was a kid, and was a Scout for a while, but only really got into backpacking about four years ago. I started with "traditional" pack weights of 40 lb (18 kg) for a three-day trip, but have pared down to 24 lb (10 kg) total weight, or about 11 lb (5 kg) base pack weight, putting me in the light-to-ultralight range. My wife and I do several trips year-round, ranging from overnighters up to five days. We usually backpack in the Sierra Nevada range, but occasionally do snowshoe trips in the mountains of western Canada.


Tent design

The tent's single door is made of mesh, and is positioned at the "head" end of the tent. The tent's geometry is a variation on the common two-poles-in-an-X configuration; two DAC aluminum poles run between opposite corners of the tent, while a third runs from midway along the base on one side to midway on the opposite side, providing extra ceiling height at the head end of the tent. Large amounts of mesh in the tent body provide ventilation and, if set up without the fly, a view of the stars.

When combined with the matching footprint (sold separately), the tent can be set up in a fly-and-floor only configuration. This saves weight, but leaves one vulnerable to bugs.

Tent setup

The North Face Tadpole 23 tentThe tent body is quite easy to set up. The three poles snap together quickly, with the two longer poles sliding through sleeves in the tent body. Pole ends are placed through grommets on webbing attached to the tent. Finally, about a dozen plastic clips are snapped onto the poles.

The fly is then placed over the tent, and attached to the poles at a few points with hook-and-loop fasteners. Adjustable webbing straps are located at eight points on the fly, and six of those have grommets, allowing them to be either attached to the ends of the tent poles or pegged out directly. The remaining two straps must be pegged out or otherwise anchored to secure the vestibule and fly door. Two additional loops on the sides of the fly and a few guy lines provide additional peg-out points.

Despite the large number of peg-out points on the fly, I had a hard time getting it really taut. This was never a problem, but I never experienced severe weather while using this tent.

Field use

The North Face Tadpole 23 tentI have used the tent at altitudes ranging from sea level to 7,400 ft (2250 m), in temperatures ranging from slightly below freezing to about 80 F (27 C), and in everything from desert-dry to inside-a-cloud humid. While using the tent, I've experienced mild rain and wind, but never a real storm. I've had no problems with the tent's weather-worthiness. From the design, I don't expect it to have any problems with heavy rain, but suspect the fly might flap a bit in a strong wind, due to it being difficult to get the fly really tight. In very humid conditions, dew will condense on both inner and outer surfaces of the tent, but this is true of any tent I have used.

The tent has held up through about a dozen trail-nights of use with no signs of wear, except for a tear in the stuff sack and some bent pegs.


When inhabited by two people, the Tadpole becomes a bit cramped. The tent is tapered, and at its widest is only 46 in (117 cm), which is large enough for two standard-size sleeping pads to fit side-by-side. Those with unusually wide sleeping pads may have trouble. The tent is just slightly longer than 6 ft (1.83 m), which means that I often found one end or the other of my sleeping bag touching the tent wall. In humid conditions, this can wet the sleeping bag with condensation.

There are four pockets inside the tent--two on each side--and loops for attaching a gear loft, but that's it as far as space for gear. My wife and I were able to fit our essential gear (e.g., glasses, headlamps, a change of clothing, and two water bottles) inside the tent with us, but there was little extra room. Fortunately, the vestibule was large enough to store our boots and some additional gear.

The single door means that it's difficult to get in or out of the tent without bumping the other occupant. It's possible for one person to sit up in the tent at a time, but there's not room for both occupants to sit at the same time. This would make it awkward for two people to play cards inside the tent or do much aside from sleep. In other words, being stuck in the tent with another person on a rain day could be unpleasant.

As a solo tent, the Tadpole is very spacious, allowing room inside the tent for a modest amount of gear, with plenty of space in the vestibule for a single pack. When using the tent solo, I found that I was able to lie on a slight diagonal and thus avoid touching the ends of the tent.

Review Summary

While there are other tents in the same class that are lighter, they're substantially more expensive. The Tadpole is a good value as a lightweight, spacious solo or smallish two-person tent (provided the occupants aren't too tall, don't mind sharing close quarters and just use the tent for sleeping).

Pros: Good value, easy setup, great as a solo tent.
Cons: Not good for people 6 ft (1.83 m) and over, heavier than some other tents in its class, difficult to make fly completely taut.

Read more reviews of The North Face gear
Read more gear reviews by Travis Beals

Reviews > Shelters > Tents > The North Face Tadpole 23 > Owner Review by Travis Beals

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