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Hands-on Gear Review
The North Face O2 Review
Cons: Heavy compared to pyramids and tarps, less durable
The O2 Tent from The North Face is one of only two models we tested in the ultralight review that comes with everything you need for set-up. This dedicated-pole double-wall tent provides great weather protection in all but the strongest winds, and the unique U-shaped overhead pole creates more headroom inside than most similarly light two-person double-wall tents. While this isn't one of the lighter shelters we tested, it is relatively roomy and simple to set up.
The Big Agnes Fly Creek HV2 Platinum also is a dedicated-pole double-wall tent, and is much lighter and a better overall performer, but costs considerably more than the O2. However, if you want the lightest double-wall tent with the best weather protection, the Fly Creek is the clear winner. The O2 Tent is a great choice if you're on a tight budget. You'll find several very light two-person tents in our Backpacking Tent review as well.
RELATED REVIEW: The Best Ultralight Tents, Tarps and Shelters
Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
The O2 Tent earned good scores for ease of use, livability, and weather resistance. Only lack of adaptability and heavy weight limit its overall score. Although it is the second heaviest model in this review, its 2 lb 7 oz weight would make it one of the lighter models if we judged it against the products in our Backpacking Tent review.
Weather resistance is one of the metrics where the O2 Tent earned an above average score compared to the other ultralight shelters we evaluated. It mostly meets the traditional protection goals of a double-wall tent: rain, wind, bugs, and wet ground. With no fly guy out points other than the standard stake out points, we were reluctant to use this model in high winds. To reduce weight, the fly does not completely cover the two ends of the tent, rather the inner tent itself has waterproof fabric here. High wind can drive rain inside easier than a to-the-ground fly like the Fly Creek Platinum's. The fly does attach to the overhead pole in two spots with Velcro. It would be nice if there were two fly guy out loops here.
Weighing in at 2 pounds 6.7 ounces with all included parts and stuff sacks, this is the second heaviest model we tested. Other than the Fly Creek HV2 Platinum, this is the only tent in the ultralight review that comes with everything you need for set-up included. The O2 Tent is a full 4 oz lighter than the Marmot Nitro 2P, which requires an additional trekking pole as well.
Weight Bottom Line:
Inner Tent, Fly, and Poles = 2 lb 2.4 oz
Included stakes = 4.3 oz
Stowed in the included cylindrical stuff sack, this model measures 16" x 6" round.
The North Face O2 Tent earns a good score for livability. Two average size folks fit with a little room to spare in the 26 sq ft of floorspace. While snuggling couples will want to sleep with their heads at the same end of the tent, it is more comfortable to sleep two folks head to toe. The 5 sq ft vestibule outside the door is just big enough for a couple pairs of shoes. Interestingly, the way the fly stakes out creates another covered area on the side of the tent opposite the door. If you have equipment you want to stow, and do not need access to from inside, this doubles the outside storage space. Two overhead pockets provide quick access storage, and are in line of sight rather than blocked by your sleeping bag on the side; the toggle door tie backs also work fine. Our 5'11" tester has about 3" of overhead room when sitting up. The similar-in-geometry Haven Tarp creates great headroom all the way across for two folks to sit up. If you are attracted to the roominess and side entry door of the O2, but hike with trekking poles, consider the Six Moon Designs Haven Tarp. It is a bit larger than the O2, uses your trekking poles for support, and has TWO side entry doors.
Like all dedicated-pole, double-wall tents, this one must be set up the exact same way every time. For the overwhelming majority of established campsites, this is not a liability.
The O2 tent earned a low score for durability. We feel the PU coated nylon ripstop will not be as durable over the long term as the SilNylon used on most high-end ultralight shelters. Additionally, even the bug-proof mesh feels lower quality. During our testing, we experienced no functional problems with this tent, other than the fly door zipper snagging sometimes. All that said, we don't expect top-quality fabrics on a tent that costs significantly less than competitors.
Ease of Set-up
The North Face O2 tent earned good scores for ease of use. Our trial set-up in the backyard took eight minutes; there is a little bit of a learning curve. An instruction card is included, and matching red string is used at the common corners of the fly and inner tent (rather than the yellow elsewhere) making aligning the fly simple. Four to five minutes saw us all set up at camp in the mountains. This is also one of the easier models for one person to pitch. All poles are included; one long articulated pole goes over the top reminiscent of a hoop tent and two shorter straight struts support the ends. Ten stakes are included, and that's just the right amount. A reflective strip in the guy lines and stake out string can be useful for finding your tent in the dark.
We feel the O2 Tent is a great choice for the budget conscious backpacker who wants to lighten their load. We would choose a lighter shelter for thru-hikes and really long trips, but the extra roomy interior is quite nice if you don't mind carrying an extra half pound. Above or below treeline, this is a good tent.
At $299 retail, and often on sale, The North Face O2 tent is a great value. It is not the lightest, but at half the price of the highest scoring ultralight shelters, it's compelling. Our only concern in the value department is durability.
The North Face O2 Tent is an afforadable and roomy lightweight tent. It is available from most retailers, and is a great way to get started lightweight backpacking on a budget. This tent has above average roominess relative to weight, and the side entry door is convenient.
North Face Mountain 25
— Brandon Lampley
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