Gear Guide 2012: The North Face Asylum Bivy Tent

With best-in-class ventilation, this tent provides generous dimensions and a breathable single-wall for a comfortable and roomy experience.

[breathable single-wall]

It’s a bivy in name and weight only. The single-wall Asylum pairs unusually generous dimensions with best-in-class ventilation. “Other bivies often become steam chambers,” says our tester, who logs three out of every seven days outdoors, “but the Asylum trapped only scant moisture at 20°F.”

Credit the DryWall polyester fabric, which doesn’t need an extra chemical coating to make it fire-retardant. Less coating makes DryWall lighter and more breathable than most tent fabrics; two mesh vents further improve ventilation. The six-stake pitch is fast and drum-taut—it easily shed storms in Arkansas’s Hurricane Creek Wilderness—and the arched pole over the head creates good headroom with a 25-inch peak height. “I could stash extra clothes, a headlamp, and a water bottle at my head. It’s roomy,” reports our 6’2” tester.

Tradeoffs: No vestibule, and in rain testers had to close the door vent to seal out windblown drops, making ventilation merely adequate in soggy weather. $229; 1 lb. 10 oz.;