The North Face Tadpole 23DL 2010

I remember using a The North Face Tadpole in the early Nineties but these days the Tadpole DL is lighter, easier to pitch and has better ventilation than it did 20 years ago to make this classic even better. The new version is designed as a stable three season backpacking tent for two.

The TNF Tadpole is an inner-pitched-first tent with colour-coded poles to make the task easier. There are sleeves for two poles but clips for the front pole to allow better airflow through the tent, which should help to reduce condensation. The poles are the latest Green Anodised DAC poles too which are said to be more environmentally friendly than standard poles in terms of their manufacture. The flysheet attached to the pole ends with ladder lock webbing strap adjustment to make pitching easier and faster. The basic design is similar to other tents here but inner projects into the porch a little more than others and also the porch is extremely long and narrow with a door on one side, rather than a front entrance. There is also a large vent at the back of the tent plus mesh panels at the front and rear of the inner, which should all help to reduce condensation.

On the hill
The first thing I noticed about the The North Face Tadpole was the stuffsack. This is a great example of how to make life easy for a camper in the wet, as it has three compression straps so that you can cram the tent in and then worry about reducing its packed size. Like other tents here pitching was a doddle. The pegs are reasonable too and can be used without hurting your hands. Compared to others you get fewer guy lines and so not surprisingly this did not feel quite as stable, but then it is designed as a three-season tent and not for use in snow. The feature I have never really liked about the Tadpole is the porch design. Firstly it is only side entry, so if the wind and rain turns in the night you find yourself opening the door straight into the eye of the storm. Also the door location means that if the top of the door is opened to create some venting, as there are not separate vents near the door, then rain can drip onto the inner doorway area. This is because the side door zip is so close to the inner and not in the centre of the porch. I’ve never liked the long porch either as once condensation has formed you can get pretty damp searching for gear.

Design three-pole geodesic
Poles shock-corded alloy
Materials outer: 75D 190T polyester ripstop with PU coating, 1500mm hydrostatic head; groundsheet: 70D 190T nylon taffeta with PU coating 5000mm hydrostatic head; inner: 70D, 190T nylon ripstop
Internal dimensions length 217cm; width 128cm; height 102cm
Packed size 50x15cm
Weight 2358g
Made in China
Stockist details – tel. (01539) 738882;

The The North Face Tadpole good tent for use in fine weather, but the porch is a drawback in typically unpredictable British wet and windy conditions.

Review by Graham Thompson
First published in Trail magazine August 2010