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Gear Guy

Can I go wrong with a tent from The North Face?

I have been looking for a three-season alternative to my mountain tent, which has proven bulletproof for backpacking and climbing expeditions in mild conditions. The North Face Tadpole 23 seems to be a lightweight, good-looking choice, and since it's from The North Face, I have no questions on quality. What do you think? Christian San Diego, California

A: So-called "three-season" tents are the most popular backpacking tents out there, so there's no shortage of good candidates. The Tadpole 23 ($200; is one such. I believe TNF quit making this tent for a while, but it's back along with its popular "froggy" shape (if you squint until your eyes water, it does look sort of like a big ol' frog sitting on the ground). Lots of ventilation in the canopy, good full-coverage fly with a generous vestibule for boots and packs, pretty light at just under five pounds. Its 27 square feet is smallish for two, but it's adequate.

In short, you won't go far wrong with TNF. But there are lots of other tents out there that will work great. Sierra Designs' long-time three-season favorite is the Meteor Light ($250; It's substantially larger than the Tadpole, with 13 more square footage, and comes in at just under seven pounds. Marmot's Odyssey ($240; is in between the Tadpole and Meteor, size-wise and weight-wise. Both the Odyssey and the Meteor Light have a taller roofline and more vertical sidewalls than the Tadpole, so they will feel roomier overall. But of course, the extra material and pole length will also add ounces.

For something a little different, consider the GoLite Den 2 ($199), a sub-pound minimalist tent that still offers plenty of shelter. Well worth a look, I should think.

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