XT Northstar – $799.98
The XT is the latest model in Kathmandu’s Northstar hiking tent range. Like previous Northstars, the XT is a geodesic dome tent that is marketed as a true two-person, four season alpine tent.
Set-up is relatively straightforward. It can be pitched either inner-first, or with the fly already attached to the inner. Pitching the inner first is a lot simpler, but in wet weather having the fly protection from the start is a good option.
I found if I was pitching the tent on my own, the best way was to do the inner first, position the tent, then throw over the fly. With the fly already attached I was constantly having to move the fly around to find the sleeves for the poles and guide the poles through.
There are four poles, two red and two grey. The sleeves are colour-coded red and grey, which the instructions are very proud to point out: ‘Whoever invented colour-coding is a genius’. Unfortunately their genius didn’t extend to knowing that people who are colour-blind cannot distinguish between red and grey. But it’s a minor quibble.
Once you have the grey poles locked into their eyelets the tent becomes quite taut, which makes threading the red poles more difficult, especially if you’re alone. I found the trick was to push the red poles through until the kink was directly in the middle, then insert the ends into the eyelets. The inner is also attached to the poles by clips (easy) and velcro (more fiddly, and probably not essential). The poles felt strong and I never felt I was in danger of snapping them. Same goes for the nylon ripstop inner, which felt like it could take a bit of abuse without ripping.
The geodesic design means the tent is now free-standing, and can be moved into the desired position. Draping the fly over is easy, and quick-release buckles hold it firmly to the inner. I found it was difficult to tension the fly so that the openings on the vestibules is perfectly taut and even, but close enough will usually be good enough. There are three self-aligning guy lines on each side, which work fantastically, but I did somehow manage to slice one clean in half, which was slightly concerning.
The Northstar XT is a long tent at 385cm and even if you don’t include the vestibules the sleeping area is a generous 230cm. Inside feels luxurious; the inner is tight and the fly held away a good distance. Entry is from either vestibule (it’s a symmetrical tent). Having the entry on the narrow ends means getting in and out can be a little cramped and tunnel-like, particularly if you’re using the vestibules for gear storage (and really there’s no other option). The benefit of the twin, symmetrical entry points is that two hikers can allocate an end to each person if they wish, potentially eliminating tensions that can arise when two people are living in close quarters and sharing a common area.
One of the most impressive and important things I found about this tent is the ease in which the zips operate. It’s all but impossible to get a zip caught.
The inner is strewn with a multitude of storage pockets, as well as a sizeable gear loft. One of the most impressive and important things I found about this tent is the ease in which the zips operate. It’s all but impossible to get a zip caught. I tried being as careless as possible, but still the vestibule zips ran true (if only I could say the same about my raincoat). Another great feature is a zipped inner vent that allows you to open the top section of the vestibule only, giving you both ventilation and a view of the weather outside.
The fly is 50D polyester ripstop WR seam-sealed. With a waterproof rating of 2000mm it may not be waterproof forever though. The fly hovers about 10cm off the ground, too, which is good for ventilation but could be a concern if you’re unlucky enough to experience driving, horizontal rain.
The tent performed well in high-winds, particularly if aligned correctly. Put simply, this is a tough tent that is built to withstand most conditions you’re likely to face in the outdoors. I found its freestanding versatility a fantastic feature. On a cold night in Mount Wellington Park the only flat ground I could find was a large rock in a river bed. I pitched the tent with ease, tying the tent down with rocks wrapped around the guy lines. Pack-down was simple, and the bag is more than big enough for the tent and inner even when wet. I didn’t have to be particularly fussy about how I folded it up either, which is a good thing in trying conditions; just shove the damn thing in and pull the drawstring to tighten. Easy.
The major downside with the Northstar XT is its weight. At 3.55kg this is not a lightweight tent, nor is it very compact. It would not be suitable for arduous, long days unless you’re willing to do the donkey work. But if you want a mid-priced, four season tent that will keep you dry and won’t come crashing down or leak in adverse conditions this is a great option. It would suit hikers who want comfort and are willing to carry it. I’ve found it slept two adults and a child comfortably, not including gear.
Like any tent, you’ll need a few goes to learn the tricks for quick erection and tensioning, but once up it’s a very homely and welcoming shelter.
Capacity: 2 person
Weight (fully pitched): 3.55kg
Design: Full geodesic dome
Intended use: Alpine expedition and four-season hiking
Packed Size: 18cm x 58cm
Packed Volume: 13.7L
Overall dimensions: 385cm x 140cm
Maximum internal height: 105cm
Floor area: 2.83 square m
Vestibule area: 0.74 square m each
Fly fabric: 50D Polyester Ripstop WR seam-sealed
Fly waterproof rating: 2000m
Floor fabric: 100D Nylon Taffeta WR
Floor waterproof rating: 10,000mm Hydrophobic PU WR
Inner fabric: 40D Breathable Nylon Ripstop WR
Poles: 4 x 9mm DAC Featherlite NSL Alloy
Additional guy points: 4
Pegs: 18 x Alloy
Repair kit: Fabric patches, pole sleeve, fly buckle