Hands-on Gear Review
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Street Price: $360
Pros: Very spacious, gigantic vestibules.
Cons: Very weak, heavy, complicated.
Best Uses: Car camping in well protected forested areas or indoors.
Manufacturer: North Face
This tent is currently unavailable for purchase online. It is unclear if The North Face has discontinued this model or not. We recommend you check out our Backpacking Tent Review to see how the Minibus compares to the dozens of other tents we've tested. Specifically, we urge you to consider the REI Half Dome 2.
Our full review of the Minibus 23 is below if you happen to find one for sale or it becomes available online again.
Although North Face Minibus 23 is made with good quality poles and fabrics its deign is ludicrously unstable and weak. It's not suitable for serious three-season storms. But the tent is incredibly spacious and comfortable. It's best for mostly car camping and occasional backpacking.
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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review
The North Face Minibus 23 is the largest and most spacious tent tested in this category. While some may consider this a backpacking tent its design and construction are closer to that of a family car camping tent. It's winderfully gigantic for two people. The Minibus uses four high quality poles: two run parallel the length of the tent while two shorter poles lie perpendicular on top of the longer ones. From above, the pole structure looks like a tic-tac-toe box. It gives the tent vertical walls and a tall, slightly bowed roof. Inside, you can sleep three cozy people or sit up to five comfortably. Six pockets make stashing belongings a breeze, and a large polyurethane window makes checking the weather effortless. The vestibules, one for each door, are enormous. A small person could sleep in each one. Critically, the tent is 92" long and gives people over six feet tall plenty of space to lay down. The Minibus 23 is the most livable tent tested in this category.
The Minibus 23 is designed for those who primarily car camp and occasionally go on multi-day backpacking trips. The tent's package is reasonably sized but heavy (6.75lbs). it weighs two and a half times as much as the lightest two door tent tested here, and weighs nearly four times as much as the lightest tent tested here.
By chopping the end off two poles North Face added interior space while minimizing additional weight gain. The tent is unstable in high winds because the cross poles don't touch the ground and are attached by two plastic clips; the poles snap in AND out easily. Unlike most clips, there's no carabiner-like closure to prevent the pole from coming out. And this is exactly what happens in a moderate gust. Even with the rainfly on, the cross poles pop out and dangle like a broken bones. For this reason, the we don't believe the tent is not worthy of being pitched in anything except a well-protected forest. DAC, the firm that makes the tent's pole and pole-related accessories, offers a the same pole connectors with a closure mechanism that holds the cross pole tight. This is used, among other tents, on the Brooks Range Invasion. See the photos below for the poles on both tents.
Car camping in protected areas and occasional short duration backpacking trips.
A very poor tent for $360. We plot tent scores and prices in a Price versus Value Chart that illustrates how much bang each tent delivers per dollar.
Other versions and accessories
You can buy a $42 footprint. Or use make your own out of painter's drop cloth, Tyvek, or Polycro. We recommend a footprint for car camping. Add one to the insie of your tent if you camp with dogs inside your tent.
— Chris McNamara and Max Neale
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OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews
Most recent review: May 30, 2013
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