View Full Version : The North Face Sputnik 2P tent... a backyard review.

05-04-2011, 00:08
Hi Guys and Gals,

I had a chance to set up a new The North Face Sputnik 2P, single-door, dual-vestibule tent over the weekend and give it an overnight backyard test. This is one of THF's new single-wall tents that, along with the larger 2 door/2vestibule Phoenix, utilizes a new breathable fabric TNF calls "Drywall", that is supposedly very strong, light, waterproof and breathable. That, along with multiple venting options, is supposed to help reduce or eliminate condensation - the bane of all single-walls.

So this is what I found:

The Sputnik appears to be the love-child of TNF and Henry Shires (Tarptent), and in fact utilizes the same strut-type, two-point stake out corner design as his Sublite, Moment, Hogback, etc. These struts appear to be made of aluminum and remain permanently in the tent. You cannot remove them. The Sputnik + poles weighs in at 2lbs, 14oz exactly and will pack down into a 13 x 6 stuff sack with careful folding/rolling. The included compression sack is quite a bit larger, but is made of high-quality sil-nylon and weighs in at just 2.4 oz. Eight high-quality DAC aluminum stakes are provided, as are sacks for the poles and stakes (regular nylon, not sil-nylon).

The Sputnik uses a 2-pole design (main and brow) which are constructed of high-end DAC Featherlite NSL aluminum, with the main pole having a unique taper to it - wider in the middle, narrower at the ends. According to TNF, this was to help facilitate the very tight bend of the design. The poles weigh in at 7.6 oz. Very light. Interestingly, they did not include a pole repair sleeve. The tent is not free-standing, but still goes up rather quickly if you stake out the mail pole loops on the tent body before clipping it to the pole. Once that is done, you can easily adjust the tent to where you want it, then stake out the 4 corners, then the door and back vestibules, tighten up the two-point struts at each corner, followed by a final tug on each of the vestibules. Took me about 5 minutes the first time to set it up. I tried two other times, and got it down to about 3 minutes or so, with each time resulting in a tighter pitch.

So... the Sputnik is huge inside. I mean, HUGE! TNF specs 82" x 56.5" floor dimensions, 30.7 sq ft, and a ceiling height of 39". This specs like a true 2-person tent but it feels much larger (it dwarfed my two Thermarest prolite pads). The brow pole and the very steep vertical multi-panel walls allow two full-sized adults to stretch out and fit comfortably. You could certainly squeeze 3 in a pinch. 4 people could easily enjoy a game of cards inside due to the already mentioned vertical walls and a ceiling height that remains nearly constant across the entire roof line. You can't help but be surprised when you first go inside. Once there, you'll notice loops for attaching a gear caddy, as well as two pockets for storage.

I complained recently about the size of the vestibules in the Nemo Obi 2P, but the Sputnik is the new champ and makes me feel like a whiner! It is a very good thing the Sputnik is so large inside, because these two vestibules are very small. TNF specs 3 sq ft each and I'm sure that is about accurate! To make matters worse, you only get a very small doorway on the non-door side vestibule to access gear (see pix). I'm thinking a pair of boots is about all you could squeeze through. Even a partially full pack will have difficulty passing through the doorway, unless you are going crazy ultra-light with a 1800 to 2300 cu in pack. Maybe this would be a good place to put a small pooch or possibly store your cooking gear, but I'm thinking a pair of boots is the ticket. One other thing, and this is a real stickler for me, the door and vestibule are situated so that water will absolutely fall into your tent during inclement, rainy weather. I really wish that tent designers would address this in their designs. Seems a no-brainer to me. Just saying...

Ok... so what about venting options? Along with the already mentioned breathable "Drywall" fabric, you have several additional options to keep condensation at bay. Aside from fully opening and tacking back the main door vestibule, both it and the back vestibule allow you to fold up the bottom 3rd and stash it up to an elastic loop, thus increasing the potential for air flow considerably. You can, of course, raise up and put them back down from inside the tent. The door's dual-zippers also allow you to open from the top to create additional venting. It works, but the door and the vestibule's top flap lack a leg and velcro to prop up the vent, so its effectiveness is somewhat lacking. There is nothing stopping you from propping something in there to create a more effective vent, but I think TNF dropped the ball here. The did include a small window, however, so you can check on the weather from inside the tent.

Another area they blew it (IMHO) is the color choice. What were they thinking? Light gray and silver-ish colored walls, dark, cement gray floor, bright, 80's era neon green and mis-matched neon-yellow accents? Really? Come on guys! Maybe this would look good on the moon, or maybe in some really bad episode of Miami Vice, but out in the back country? Not a chance. Seriously, it is not a good looking tent. But... looks aren't everything, right? Bottom line: don't expect to impress your friends with your tents ability to "blend" into the wilderness!

Ok... so I put in a backyard overnight in the Sputnik, just because I could. The night was cool (about 38 degrees) and the early evening winds had died down to maybe 1 or 2 MPH, if at all. I had the vestibules raised up for max ventilation and did not utilize the door's upper venting option, but rather had it fully closed for the night, specifically to test the breath-ability of the Drywall fabric. When I awoke, the grass in the yard was very damp and there was clearly condensation on the non-drywall vestibules. I checked all the internal "Drywall" fabric and found it nearly 100% dry. Only in a few small places did it feel even remotely damp, and even then, it was more cold than anything. I was impressed, as similar conditions have left other single-wall tents I own dripping with condensation by morning. I was hoping for more wind, as those large walls might be the tent's Achilles heal, but alas, did not get it. I have a suspicion that all the panels provide some level of wind resistance, and am also wondering about the Drywall fabrics ability to be 100% waterproof for extended periods of rain - remember the first Black Diamond breathable tents? Seems a good trashing in the back country might be in order? I'll see what I can muster up!

Ok... There you go. TNF has an intriguing tent design with the Sputnik 2P. It is seriously light in weight, packs small, has an incredible space/weight ratio, is simple and quick to set up, and the Drywall fabric seems promising. On the downside, the color is horrible (IMHO), the door vent needs work and the small vestibules are a limitation. And as of yet, the tents inclement weather performance (especially its ability to fend off strong winds and prolonged rain) are untested, to me of course. But as it now stands, as a legit 2P tent at just 2lbs, 14oz, this is one interesting tent and as a 1P palace, and you would have more than enough room to store all your gear and still flop around inside like fish out of water if you wanted.

Let me know if you have any questions.


05-04-2011, 10:49
Great review, thanks! I've been waiting to hear more about this tent. And your pix are great. The only others I have seen are from TNF, and they don't do the tent any justice.
What size pads are those?
How do you feel about the length? Good for 6'3"?

05-04-2011, 13:58
Hi Mykl,

The pads are 20" x 46" Thermarest and they were swallowed up by the tent. My 72 inch air pad had plenty of room, both fore and aft. The floor dimensions listed by TNF seem pretty accurate at 82" x 56", and with the vertical nature of the walls at the base due to the strut-type corners, I believe you would be just fine. I will set up the tent later today if I have a chance and take some actual dimensions.

I did want to make one correction to my review: The vestibules do not adjust up at the bottom a 3rd, as initially written, but rather by about 5 or 6 inches. Also, my complaint about the fly allowing water into the tent of course had to do with entering and exiting the tent during or after rain.

I also just got a chance to look at the footprint for the tent. It appears to be made of the same material as the tent floor, comes in a mesh storage sack in what appears to be the same material as that used in the mesh of the tent, but unfortunately it is about twice the size it needs to be. It weighs in at 7.6 oz without the mesh sack, and 8.4 oz with.

Let me know if you have any additional questions.


05-04-2011, 19:05
I took a quick pic of the Sputnik footprint this afternoon to give an idea of the shape and over-all size of the floor layout. The pads are 20" x 46" Thermarest. There is about 6 inches above and roughly 30" below the pads. As the actual tent floor is larger (inside the tent, the pads side-by-side had an easy 5 inches between them and about 2 more on either side) and with the vertical perimeter walls, you get to use every inch of space. Again, not bad for 2lbs, 14oz!

05-04-2011, 20:25
I was just looking over my Campmor Catalog and noticed the specs of the Sputnik vs. the Mica 2. For less than a pound more you get about the same interior space, double walls, allowing you to use just the inner on steamy summer nights, and a usable vestibule.
The single walled theory is fine in a completely waterproof fabric. You know that it may allow condensation to form from time to time which you will have to wipe off so it doesn't drip on you or get knocked down by rain outside. It's likely that the wp/b fabric that the Sputnik is made of works best in cold conditions when the conditions outside (dry) are conducive to the movement of warm, moist inner air through the fabric. This is the case with Gore-tex and e-Vent, both of which I own and use. In warm weather they are hardly breathable at all, allowing you to sweat readily. Adding waterproofing will always lower breathability (by nearly 100%).
The other caveat is that wp/b fabrics are highly dependent upon the durable water repellent treatment of the outside of the fabric. Once the dwr gets weak the fabric will leak (hey, that's kinda catchy). This is absolutely true with wp/b garments, and I don't see why it wouldn't be with wp/b tents.
What the owners of the Sputnik will be in search of is more ventilation options on a muggy night.
The Mica 2 looks like a much better (though lower -but proven tech) deal.
That's my take.

05-04-2011, 21:33
No tent can do it all, and I agree that a hot muggy night could be less than ideal for the Sputnik. It is more of a fringe design than your typical double-wall tent and I would hesitate to recommend it as an backpacker's only 3-season backpacking tent. If, however, a person is familiar with the strengths and weaknesses of both single/double and hybrid designs (of which I would classify the Sputnik) I think it could be a very good addition to a tent arsenal, and would certainly be worth looking at if you are shopping for a shelter with its design edict.

One interesting note: The silvery color of the Sputnik did an amazing job of keeping the tent cool on the inside during mid-day direct sunlight. It was about 85 degrees when I first set it up yesterday, but here in NoCal, the humidity was only about 10%, so muggy it was not. Regardless, it was much cooler inside, even after 45 minutes in the direct sun, than it was outside the tent. I think the Tarptent Sublite with its white Tyvek body exhibits similar characteristics.

I tried to locate the Mica 2 at Campmor and also online. Couldn't find it. Did you mean the Mica 12?

I found this press release from TNF about the Drywall fabric.

05-04-2011, 21:35
Sorry... here is the link to the propaganda from TNF about Drywall: http://www.paddlinginstructor.com/press-releases/the-north-face-announces-new-drywall-tent-technology-4029.html

05-04-2011, 22:10
Sorry. I meant the Meso 2.
Looks like a winner for hot,humid, buggy summer nights on the AT.
I don't know about the climate of NoCal, but in the Appalachians there aren't too many dry days.
Still, it's nice being the "first on your block" to have the "latest technology". I hope TNF proves me wrong on this one :).
If only physics didn't get in the way of dreams...............;).

05-04-2011, 22:50
Hahaha... I know, right?

I plan to go up into the High Sierras later this month. My last few trips there around this time I took single-walls and had mixed results. I'll see if I can bargain the Sputnik for a test and will of course report back my findings.

Oh... I did recently take the Kelty Salida 2 on a trip and had excellent results. Now THAT is a bargain deal for a good, solid "nothing fancy but more than gets the job done" 2P double-wall tent that actually fits two normal sized adults and weighs in under 4lbs trail weight. I believe the owner paid $129 + $30 for the footprint. I would take that one over the Meso if dollars are high on priority!

I'll post pix and a general review when I get a chance.


05-04-2011, 23:40
@Tinker... just located the Meso 2. Sweet looking double wall for a great price as well. Nice pic! :)

05-10-2011, 17:39
All... had a chance to do another backyard test of the Sputnik before I returned it to the owner. I posted it here at Backpackinglight.com: http://www.backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/forums/thread_display.html?forum_thread_id=47315&skip_to_post=403302#403302

Bottom line... it did not fare well on this second night. Lots of pix, etc.