THE NORTH FACE
ASSAULT 2 FUTURELIGHT TENT
Futurelight has revolutionised The North Face’s outerwear line-up. Now it’s doing the same for its shelter.
(This review originally featured in Wild #185, Spring 2022)
By James McCormack
If there’s one thing that seems common among winter-slash-four season tents, besides the fact they’re bomber, it’s that they’re heavy. Compared to tents designed for the warmer months, these things weigh a ton. Well, OK, that’s figuratively, not literally. But many do weigh upwards of four kilograms, and one that hits three kilos on the dot is definitely on the lighter side. So when you’re on an alpine expedition, or on a long backcountry skin up the side of some peak, and you’re grunting away thinking, Man, I wish my pack was lighter, your thoughts immediately turn to the heaviest single piece of gear you’re likely carrying: your tent.
The North Face’s Futurelight Assault 2 tent is a radical departure from the norm, though. The tent is made of a 3-layer version of TNF’s proprietary material Futurelight, a waterproof/breathable membrane which we’ve spoken about in Wild in the past, and it allows this single wall tent to, not including pegs, tip the scales at just 2.3kg. But that’s including the removable vestibule. Take that away— the fact that you can opt to leave it at home is actually a pretty neat, and versatile, feature—and your tent and poles come to just 1.7kg. That, my friends, for a 4-season tent is impressive.
To be clear, similarly light winter tents aren’t impossible to find; they are, however, rare. And also to be clear, TNF doesn’t actually label the tent as 4-season, despite the fact that it seems that most of the tent’s end-users, including myself, regard it as such, and see it as winter shelter. Perhaps it’s that yes, in comparison to TNF’s Mountain 25 tent—which is unequivocally a 4-season tent—it’s not as robust. But the Mountain 25 weighs more than four kilos; if you’re heading somewhere that doesn’t require the most absolute bombproof of winter shelter, then the Assault is the far lighter option.
This is not to say the Assault 2 can’t handle winds and tough wintery conditions. I took it out on some blustery nights of snow camping, and decided to test the tent by not digging in or building any snow walls to protect it; the Assault 2 handled it just fine. And the Futurelight membrane stayed breathable despite some considerable cold. I’ve had it out on at least one night when the mercury dipped to nearly minus 10, and while there was the teensiest layer of condensed frost on the roof, I’m talking really bugger all. And that was with an inch of snow on the roof. I’ve certainly owned double-walled tents where I would have expected far greater build up. And by the time I returned from skiing for the day, it had all disappeared. Breathability is further assisted by two small vents (which tuck under the cross-bar) and a small rear window (the zip of which on mine, in heavy rain, gave a small drip, one that I’ll have to attend to with some seam sealant).
For a shelter that’s so light, I do wish the tent pegs were lighter. At 200g for 12, and we’re not talking snow pegs here, you’ll find lighter options elsewhere. (Since weight weenies are very much the target market for this tent and since they’ll likely want, or already have, lighter pegs, it’s for this reason I didn’t mention pegs in the overall weights I stated earlier). Still, getting lighter pegs is a relatively easy fix, one that should in no way influence your purchasing decision.
NEED TO KNOW
2 person single wall alpine/winter tent with removable vestibule
WEIGHT (AS TESTED):
Body only (incl poles): 1713g. Vestibule only (incl poles): 603g. Tent, vestibule, poles, pegs + stuffbags: 2,516g