Hands-on Gear Review

North Face Tadpole 23 Review

North Face Tadpole 23
By: Chris McNamara and Max Neale  ⋅  Dec 21, 2012
Price:  $219 List
Pros:  Simple and strong.
Cons:  Very heavy and small for its weight.
Manufacturer:   North Face

Our Verdict

While this tent is no longer made, we have a slew of backpacking tent selections for your style of backcountry travel.

The North Face Tadpole 23 is very strong tent that's very heavy for the amount of space it provides. It uses a three pole design that was popular in the 1990's but has largely been replaced by other designs that offer more space for less weight. The Tadpole weighs over five pounds which is very heavy for backpacking. Many people do not need the static strength this tent provides and would be better off with a lighter tent; others weigh the same amount and have two doors and much more space.

Our Analysis and Test Results



The North Face Tadpole 23 is a strong budget three-season backpacking tent. It employs a time-tested three pole design: two cross corner to corner lengthwise while a third pole arcs over the door. The two longer poles run through a combination of sleeve and clips, making the tent very easy and quick to set up. Three pole intersections and a low profile give the tent a strong and stable base; the Tadpole has the greatest amount of static strength of any tent tested.


The Tadpole is very heavy (5.44lbs) for its size (26sq ft). It has the lowest space to weight ratio of any tent in its class. This is a bad thing. Low quality DAC Pres-Fit poles are heavier than higher quality poles.

We like the design and strength of the Tadpole, but wish it was two pounds lighter. Better poles and a lighter fly would help with this.

Best Application

Budget backpacking in exposed windy environments.

Other Versions and Accessories

Tadpole 2
The North Face Tadpole 2 Tent
  • 3 season tent for backpacking
  • Sleeping capacity - 2-person
  • Minimum trail weight - 3 lbs 15 oz
  • Floor area - 29 square feet
  • $300

Chris McNamara and Max Neale

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OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews

Most recent review: March 13, 2014
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Average Customer Rating:  
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100% of 1 reviewers recommend it
Rating Distribution
2 Total Ratings
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4 star: 50%  (1)
3 star: 50%  (1)
2 star: 0%  (0)
1 star: 0%  (0)

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
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   Mar 13, 2014 - 11:16pm
3rdlake · Backpacker · California
Over the years I have had two versions of this tent.The Tadpole design was first called the Starlight and another four season they called Star fire.
They have not changed much over the years but for a time The North Face discontinued it until it was brought back by popular demand.
As a tight two person or one person penthouse this tent is a mini bomb shelter,very strong in high winds and keeps you very dry in a major storm.It is a Little heavier than some tents in its class but when it comes to reliability I like it it.
The free standing wedge shape or dome is very stable and the best choice for one or two average size persons. You can store all your gear inside the large vestibule and ride out the toughest storms. It weighs more than a tarp but your comfort and bug protection is much better. Note there are to be sure many new lighter weight tents now on the market , however all of these tents have one or even two less polls to achieve their lightness. If your going on a light mid summer trip you might be OK but I have seen many of these so called bomber 2.0 to 3.5 lb tents blow apart even in the summer Thunder Storm.

There are only two ways to make a tents lighter. Less poles or lighter fabric. The fabrics of today are as light and strong as they are going to get give or take. Less poles means less stable period!

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.

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