The New Assault 2 vs. the Old Version
The North Face updated the Assault 2, changing up the fabric and pole material, and increasing the price a hefty $140. The design of the tent itself is very similar, as noted in the photos below, with the most recent version on the left and last year's model on the right.
- New fabric — In the hopes of increased breathability and to help prevent condensation from building inside the tent, this model now uses a Drywall 3.0 fabric innovation.
- Pole material change —The new poles are DAC Featherlite NSL, which The North Face hopes will increase their durability.
- Price increase — With these changes, there has been a steep price hike, from $449 to $589.
The following review text refers to the previous version of the Assault 2.
Hands-On Review of The North Face Assault 2
The North Face Assault 2 is a versatile single-wall shelter that is packed full of features that help it to adapt to a wider range of conditions than most of the other bivy-style tents we tested. While not the lightest tent in our review, we think the Assault strikes a nice balance between weight and versatility. It's within a half pound of the absolute lightest models but has several features that make it more versatile for a range of trips. It's light enough to be used as a bivy tent, has enough ventilation and livability for a majority of mountaineering objectives and multi-day ski tours, and is sufficiently bomber for certain expedition uses. Best of all, it is one of the least expensive models in our review ($590), and that includes the vestibule.
The Assault was one of our favorite all-around models, particularly for alpine climbing and multi-day ski touring in the lower-48 and southern Canada. There are several venting options (which were useful because the fabric wasn't all that breathable), making it more versatile. It also comes with a detachable vestibule.
Ease of Set-up
The Assault 2 was one of the easiest tents to set up. It has two external pole sleeves that guide the pole into position automatically.
The third pole is a little tight to get into position and can be marginally challenging if its windy but our review team found it got easier with time as we developed a good method for getting it locked in.
One of the more versatile single wall models and not much heavier than the lightest options, the Assault has proven itself both on alpine-style ascents in Alaska and moderate summertime mountaineering in the lower-48.
Weather and Storm Resistance
The Assault has great weather and storm resistance in some cases and mediocre in others.
There are six bomber guy out points (or up to nine with the vestibule on). It handled big snow loads and decent winds well, and we think this tent handles moderate to high winds nearly as well as most traditional double walled 3-4 pole designs.
The Assault has six nicely reinforced guyline points on the main tent with an additional three once the vestibule is attached. The position was a nice height to maintain leverage against the wind while still supporting the poles as much as possible. We like the built-in plastic cam/adjusters, though the diameter of the guylines themselves was a little on the thin side.
In storms with high winds, the Assault performed similarly to most other bivy-style tents. The MSR Advance Pro and the Black Diamond Eldorado handled fierce winds marginally better.
The Assault 2 is okay for lower elevation expedition climbing and has been on dozens of hard alpine climbs as an "on-route" tent, but it isn't the burliest 4-season shelter. It does offer plenty of storm-worthiness for most people's alpine or winter adventures though and is perfect for mountaineering in ranges similar to the Cascades, Bugaboos, Sierras, or Tetons.
While the Assault 2 isn't the burliest of 4 season tents, it offers plenty of storm worthiness for most people's alpine or winter adventures. Its perfect for alpine climbing and ski touring in ranges similar to the Cascades, Sierra, or Tetons.
This tent didn't handle condensation or rain as well as some of the Black Diamond single wall tents (like the Eldorado, Fitzroy, or Ahwahnee). When humid enough, the fabric got slightly saturated (as you can see in this photo of the roof during a light rain) but we didn't find this any worse than similar ultra-light bivy tents like the Firstlight or Advance Pro.
The times when it didn't perform so well was in wetter weather (like rain or wet snow), where just a handful of other models had better weather resistance. We found that on several occasions the fabric would become saturated faster than other models, like the Black Diamond's Eldorado, Ahwahnee, or Fitzroy. It was still better than the Firstlight or HiLight though and worked fine in colder snow conditions.
Looking at the exterior of the Assault after some rain. The fabric didn't stand up to liquid moisture quite as well as some of the beefier Black Diamond models, but it certainly did better than the Firstlight or HiLight.
Weight and packed size
The Assault 2 has a 3 lbs 4 oz minimum weight and a 3 lbs 9 oz packed weight (tent plus pole bag, guylines and stakes but not the vestibule), and comes in at 4 lbs 15 oz (2240g) with the vestibule.
This is slightly heavier than the Firstlight (2 lb 13 oz minimum weight and 3 lbs 3 ounces packed weight) or the MSR Advance Pro (2 lbs 14 oz minimum weight and 3 lbs 3 oz packed weight). The difference was hardly noticeable without the vestibule.
The Assault has 27 square feet of interior floor space. The short cross pole added more headroom, making this tent feel roomier than most other ultra-light bivy-tents.
Livability and Comfort
The Assault has some of the better livability among single wall models in our review.
We felt this model had more headroom than the BD Firstlight, HiLight or Eldorado and was close to, though not quite as spacious feeling, as the Black Diamond Ahwahnee.
Geoff Unger looking out the second 1/2 door. This opening was more of a window and was great for adding additional ventilation if it wasn't too buggy. While we'd hardly call this a "door," we did use it as such many times, it just took a little more balance.
TNF Assault has 27.3 sq ft of internal floor space, which is more-or-less the same on paper as the Firstlight and HiLight. However, all of our testers agreed that because of the 1/2-length cross-pole the Assault felt roomier (even roomier than the HiLight which also has a cross-pole).
Looking from the main body of the Assault into its included and detachable vestibule. The vestibule added 10 square feet of additional storage and our entire testing team loved that this feature was removable because it allowed us to save weight on fair weather trips.
The included vestibule also increases the livability of this tent, and on trips where we brought the vestibule, it was nice to leave the internal door open, making it feel even more spacious inside.
This was the only single wall model in our review to come with a hooped detachable vestibule.
Like most of the other lighter weight models that we tested, the Assault sacrifices a bit on durability in order to stay under four pounds. While it won't last as long as TNF's Mountain 25, which is built for expedition use, it still impressed us more in this category than the BD Firstlight or HiLight.
Adaptability and Versatility
Aside from the Black Diamond Ahwahnee, the Assault 2 had the best versatility and adaptability of any of the lighter-weight single wall models in our review.
There are venting options on all four sides of the tent, though the front door and back "escape hatch" (half door) don't work well if its raining hard. If you carry the vestibule you can leave the front door wide open in a storm to increase ventilation.
The Assault has a short pole (shown here) that increases the interior headroom and creates two small awnings for the vents. While this does decrease this tent's overall strength in the most extreme conditions, the ability to ventilate even in the rain is a significant advantage.
It doesn't handle rain or very wet snow as well as Black Diamond's Bibler line of tents, the Ahwahnee, Fitzroy, Eldorado, but certainly out-performed the Firstlight and HiLight with comparable performance to the MSR Advance Pro.
Looking out at the 1/2 sized back door. As we mentioned earlier, this "window" provides awesome ventilation on calmer nights or at times when the bugs aren't too bad (as there is no bug-netting option). We'd be bummed if this was the only door, but this "escape-hatch" is just that, and we crawled out of it several times.
The North Face Assault 2 performs well on a wide range of trips that you need a 4 season tent to embark on. It's lightweight and compact enough for most alpine climbing adventures in the lower-48, livable enough for slightly more extended outings, and tough enough to go on several trips in the greater ranges. It wouldn't be our first choice for a Denali expedition tent because we don't feel it is quite bomber or roomy enough. We'd consider it for light-and-fast ascents as a secondary tent up routes like the Cassin ridge or alpine climbing in the Cordillera Blanca in Peru or the Cordillera Real in Bolivia and other trips of that nature.
At $589, The North Face Assault 2 is easily one of the best values for the type of 4 season tent that most people are looking for. It's the least expensive single wall tent that's actually waterproof. The Assault comes with a vestibule and is $10 less than the Black Diamond Eldorado, which doesn't ($700 + another $160 if you want the vestibule).
The Assault might not be the best do-everything 4 season tent, but it does perform well on a variety of trips and locales.
The North Face Assault 2 might not be the best all-around 4 season tent, but it will perform well on the types of trips a majority of alpinists, mountaineers, and backcountry skiers will do. It's perfect for trips to the places like the Canadian Rockies, High Sierra, or the North Cascades, and will still work for occasional climbs in further regions like the Andes or Alaska. Overall, the Assault found a nice blend of low weight, pleasant livability, storm worthiness, and weight, all for a very good price.