My Experience With The North Face Tadpole
The North Face Tadpole 23 is a great little backpacking tent. It is compact, lightweight, stable and durable.
I’ve used it on many backpacking and camping trips, and have been very pleased with its performance.
I bought my Tadpole in the spring of 2003. I was looking for a lightweight 2 person backpacking tent, and it fit the bill nicely.
The Tadpole 23 is a “geo-hybrid” design; basically a variation on the dome tent. It has two crossing poles which run lengthwise, and one pole running side-to-side.
The advantages of this design are several. First, having three poles makes the tent more stable and structurally sound. Second, it allows the tent to be lower and narrower in the back, reducing the amount of fabric and therefore the weight.
It has two short pole sleeves and about 10 pole clips. Set up is pretty easy due to the color-coded poles and webbing straps, although working with three poles takes a bit longer than a simpler two-pole dome design.
It takes 10 stakes to set up properly, although you can use as few as four due to the freestanding design.
The rain fly fits well, and the single vestibule is small, but smartly designed. It is easy to open and close, and can be rolled back and kept open when the weather is nice.
I’ve packed two backpacks (stacked) and 2 pairs of boots in there and still had room to get in and out.
The single D-shaped door is large and opens easily with dual zippers.
There are four inner storage pockets (two on each side) which give me plenty of room for small stuff like eyeglasses, watch, headlamp, etc.
There are three overhead hang loops — two in front, one in back.
I bought the gear loft and used it a few times, but it reduced the headroom too much (not to mention adding to the tent’s weight).
I retired it and haven’t missed it since.
The North Face Tadpole 23 is cozy; not large, but certainly large enough for two average-size people. I have always been comfortable sleeping in it.
However, it’s not big enough to do much besides sleeping in. Headroom is just adequate, and changing clothes can be difficult with two people present.
Also, I think it’s probably too short for anyone over 6 feet tall — I’m 5’10” and there isn’t much length to spare.
This tent holds up well in inclement weather. On one backpacking trip it rained for three days straight, and there were no leaks whatsoever.
The materials used in the North Face Tadpole are very high quality.
The only problem I’ve ever had with it was a broken pole section. I discovered it when setting it up after a friend had borrowed it. He didn’t remember breaking it (!), so I have no idea how it happened.
Otherwise, I’ve never had a tear, broken zipper, or busted seam.
The tent packs down small; the stuff sack has compression straps to cinch it down.
If you buy the footprint, you can set it up “fastpack” style with just the footprint, poles and rainfly.
I used it this way on a solo backpacking trip once, and it worked great. It rained all night and I stayed totally dry.
All in all, the North Face Tadpole 23 is an excellent tent that has served me well. I expect it to last for many years to come.