The North Face Assault 2 FUTURELIGHT Review
Cons: Guylines are light duty, not quite as storm worthy as other models, fabric is less resistant to tearing and long term exposure to UV
Manufacturer: The North Face
Compare to Similar Products
The North Face Assault 2 FUTURELIGHT
|Price||$800 List||$900 List||$660 List||$626 List||$449 List|
$449.00 at REI
|Pros||Included removable hooped vestibule, above average breathability among single wall tents, excellent ventilation, good headroom, compressible, robust||Bomber, great durability, compact footprint, lighter than average weight, fantastic balance of strength, weight, and livability, ample guy points||Versatile, lightweight, double wall design works far better in rain than single wall models, handles condensation well, big vestibules, easy to pitch||Bomber, light and compact, small footprint lets it be pitched anywhere||Lightweight for a double wall tent, inexpensive, versatile, easy set-up, interior fabric handles condensation well, and longer-than-average dimensions make this a better option for taller people|
|Cons||Guylines are light duty, not quite as storm worthy as other models, fabric is less resistant to tearing and long term exposure to UV||Poor ventilation, slightly tricky setup, insufficient guy lines included||Isn't as strong as other 4-season models, offers a good but not excellent packed size||No bug netting, not very breathable, only 24 square feet of interior space||Tiny vestibule, one of the weakest 3(.5)-pole designs in our review, only one door|
|Bottom Line||A versatile single wall tent that works well for a greater range of conditions than most other 2-pole bivy-tent models||All-around uses are this model's forte, but it's still robust enough for when the weather turns gnar||The ski and summer mountaineering focused design perfect for almost any trip you can dream up||Perfect for trips where weight and packed volume are at a premium||A solid 4-season shelter at an excellent price. Great for summertime mountaineering or winter camping near treeline|
|Rating Categories||The North Face Assa...||Black Diamond Eldorado||MSR Access 2||MSR Advance Pro||REI Arete ASL 2|
|Weather/Storm Resistance (25%)|
|Ease of Set-up (10%)|
|Specs||The North Face Assa...||Black Diamond Eldorado||MSR Access 2||MSR Advance Pro||REI Arete ASL 2|
|Minimum Weight (only tent, fly & poles)||3.5 lbs (no vestibule)||4.5 lbs||3.80 lbs||2.88 lbs||5.75 lbs|
|Floor Dimensions||82 48 in||87" x 51 in||84 x 50 in||82" x 42 in||88 x 57/60/44 in|
|Peak Height||42 in||43 in||42 in||44 in||43 in|
|Measured Weight, with tent, stakes, guylines, pole bag||5.44 lbs||4.9 lbs||4.1 lbs||3.22 lbs||6.25 lbs|
|Type||Single Wall||Single Wall||Double Wall||Single Wall||Double Wall|
|Packed Size||7 x 22 in||7" x 19 in||18 x 6 in||6 x 18 in||6 x 6 x 20 in|
|Floor Area||27.3 sq ft||31 sq ft||29 sq ft||24 sq ft||32.9 sq ft|
|Vestibule Area||10 sq ft||9 sq ft (optional)||17.5 sq ft||0 sq ft||8.7 sq ft|
|Number of Doors||1||1||2||1||1|
|Number of Poles||4||2||2||1||4|
|Pole Diameter||9.3 mm||8 mm||9.3 mm||9.3 mm|
|Number of Pockets||Side: 2 Ceiling: 0||Side: 4 Ceiling: 0||Side: 2 Ceiling: 0||Side: 2 Ceiling: 0||Side: 2 Ceiling: 2|
|Pole Material||DAC Featherlite NSL||Easton Aluminum 7075-E9||Easton Syclone||Easton Syclone||Aluminum|
|Rainfly Fabric||FUTERLIGHT||3 layer ToddTex||20D nylon ripstop||20D ripstop nylon 2 ply breathable 1000mm||Nylon ripstop|
|Floor Fabric||40D ripstop nylon w/3,000mm PUR/silicone coating||Unknown||30D nylon ripstop||30D ripstop nylon 3000mm Durashield polyurethane & DWR||Nylon taffeta|
Our Analysis and Test Results
The North Face Assault 2 FUTURELIGHT is the latest in a long line of ever-evolving Assault tents. The latest version has the most breathable fabric yet with The North Face's FUTURELIGHT air permeable fabric and a few less obvious updates such as an easier-to-insert cross pole.
It is a versatile single-wall shelter that is packed full of features which help it adapt to a wide range of conditions. While not the lightest tent in our review, it strikes a nice balance between weight and versatility. It's within a pound of the absolute lightest models. More importantly, it's within ounces of its closest competition but is much more versatile. It's light and compact enough to be used as a bivy tent. It has enough ventilation and livability for slightly more extended mountaineering objectives and multi-day ski tours and still offers enough strength for certain types of expedition applications (like a carry-on-route shelter). We loved the included removable hooped vestibule, which adds both versatility and value.
Ease of Set-up
The Assault 2 is not one of the easier tents to pitch. It requires that two of its three poles are set up from the inside. The poles have fixed points and velcro tabs to hold them in place. This support the poles along their entire length. The body of the tent requires a little more practice and care while pitching, especially in windier conditions.
In the wind, we stood up and pulled the tent over our heads in order to secure the poles in their respective spots. The composite poles are also particularly vulnerable during pitching, and care must be taken not to over-flex them. They are strong once in the tent but are particularly exposed to breaking if set up in strong winds.
The 1/3 cross-length pole is now inserted and tightened from the outside. This is a big improvement over the previous model.
The vestibule is easy to attach and remove. It snaps in to connect to the main tent in three places. The Assualt FUTURELIGHT was far easier to pitch than any Black Diamond single-wall tent models. It was faster to pitch than the majority of double-wall models.
Weather and Storm Resistance
The Assault has decent storm resistance, fending off wind, rain, and snow respectably when compared to other four-season models we tested. Like many single-wall tents, it is just okay in the rain because of internal condensation as well as outside precipitation. The current FUTURELIGHT material is significantly improved from the previous version, which saturated quickly.
There are six bomber guy out points (or up to nine with the vestibule on) to help tie this shelter down. It easily handles big snow loads and winds. The small awnings that cover the "window" vents on either side of the tent don't catch that much light to moderate wind. However, they are not ideal in more extreme winds.
The Assault's third pole creates a bit of a "sail" depending on wind direction, and it performance in the wind is not as strong as others in our fleet, which is one of the main reasons we didn't find this tent to be as strong as other 2-pole models like the Black Diamond Eldorado.
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-time adventures. It's perfect for alpine climbing and ski touring in ranges similar to the Cascades, Canadian Rockies, Sierra, or Tetons. It's worthy enough for use in greater ranges in places like Alaska or the Himalayas as a short-term shelter for light and fast ascents.
The times when this model didn't perform so well was in wet weather (like rain or wet snow), and this model didn't do as well as any double wall model we tested or the thicker single wall models like the Black Diamond Eldorado or Ahwahnee. It performed about the same as the Mountain Hardwear AC2 and notably better than the Black Diamond Firstlight or Hilight in the rain or during wet snow storms.
Weight and packed size
The Assault 2 has a three pounds Six-ounce minimum weight and a three-pound 12 ounce packed weight (this includes tent plus pole bag, guylines, and stakes but not the vestibule), and comes in at four pounds 15 ounces (2240g) with the vestibule.
The Assault is slightly heavier than the Black Diamond Firstlight, Hilight, or MSR Advance Pro (all just barely sub 3-pounds) and is similar in weight to the Mountain hardwear AC2 but is far more versatile for only a few extra ounces.
While we generally just pack the tent loosely around harder, less packable items, we do appreciate the included compression sack, which actually does a good job and reducing the packed volume of this tent. We also liked that they didn't try to compress the tent with the poles and instead featured a few elastic loops to attach the poles to the compression sack. We liked this design more for helping us to keep track of the poles in storage rather than somehow carrying them in this configuration in the field.
Livability and Comfort
The Assault offers decent livability for a single wall bivy tent, and our review team found it far more "livable" than most 2-pole models in our review. This is because the shorter (quarter-length) pole, which is inserted crosswise in the middle of the tent, increases headroom to the point that two people can sit up can face each other. This model's 27 square feet is average in size among 2-pole bivy tents but its 2.25 pole design are what help it feel more spacious.
The FUTURELIGHT material also is among the more breathable and vastly out preformed the Mountain Hardwear AC 2 and MSR aDvanced Pro for its ability to handle condensation. FUTURELIGHT fabric is actually The North Face's proprietary air-permeable fabric, but they must be able to tweak the level of air permeability as this model, which is quite breathable, is not as breathable as some of their waterproof jackets made of the same FUTURELIGHT Material.
This model has two mesh-lined windows and a third window which is more of a half door (we dubbed it the escape hatch). Besides offering good ventilation also added to the livability of this tent by increasing airflow and just generally making the tent feel less cramped and stuffy. It also made it fairly comfortable for a model of its size to hang out if the weather ended up being poor, so long as it wasn't so windy that the tent's vents needed to be zipped up.
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.
Like most of the other lighter-weight models that we tested, the Assault sacrifices a bit on durability to stay under four pounds. While it won't last as long as some of the burlier options on the market, which are built for expedition use, it will provide enough durability for most people for years of use, embarking on several 2-4 day trips into the alpine every summer (or winter).
Adaptability and Versatility
The Assault 2 offers some of 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; however, the front door and back "escape hatch" (half door) aren't really an option if it is raining, as there is no awning over it. If you carry the vestibule, you can increase ventilation by leaving the front door wide open.
While not as versatile as most double wall 4-season models in humid, wet, three-season conditions, all of the Assualt's venting truly make it one of the more versatile single-wall options second only to the Black Diamond Awhanee for a single-wall tent with both 3 and 3-season versatility.
The Assualt still isn't a model that we'd pick for purely backpacking uses (something we'd consider the Awhawnee for) it is suitable for shorter, low-elevation trips or long approaches prior to getting above treeline and into the alpine. This is because ventilation features and FUTURELIGHT material helps this model handle moisture and internal condensation better than most single-wall models. The
Should You Buy The North Face Assault 2?
If you are looking for a weight-focused bivy-style 4-season tent primarily for summer mountaineers but want a little more versatility than a number of other single-wall 2-pole models, then The North Face Assault 2 FUTURELIGHT is certainly worth looking closely at. Providing very good versatility for its weight, The North Face Assault 2 strikes a nice combination of weight versus ventilation, and along with its included hooped vestibule, we found this model suitable for most 4-season trips to mountain ranges of the continuous-48 states and Southern Canada. This is because most trips into the "alpine" have some lower elevation camping that might be wet or buggy. This model is light enough for all but the most weight-focused users but packs in a LOT of extra versatility (and headroom) for just a little extra weight. It is okay for occasional climbs as an "on-route" bivy-style tent in further regions like the Andes or Alaska, but there are far options for those looking for a more svelte option or something to hike in and "base camp with."
What other 4-season tent should you should consider?
The North Face Assault 2 FUTURELIGHT competes with a host of other smaller, single-wall,m weight-focused shelters. However, it is a little heavier than most due to its plethora of vents and an included vestibule. If getting the lightest and smallest shelter you can get is your number one priority, then we'd recommend looking at the Black Diamond First Light or MSR Advance Pro 2. If you like the Assualt 2 but wish it was just a little more versatile, then we'd recommend looking at the Black Diamond Eldorado, Mountain Hardwear Outpost 2, or the MSR Access 2. All three of these tents are more versatile, but all are also heavier and less packable too. Lastly, if you like the idea of a super versatile single-wall option, then you should certainly check out the Black Diamond Ahwahnee.
— Ian Nicholson
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