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Gear Review: The North Face Phoenix 2 Tent

With The North Face's new Drywall tent fabric and external clips, you can pitch the Phoenix 2 in the middle of a downpour without spilling a drop on the tent floor.

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New for 2011, the Phoenix 2 is an ultralight, single-wall 3-season shelter featuring The North Face’s new proprietary Drywall fabric. Since there’s no need for a separate fly, the minimum weight is reduced to a Lilliputian 3 lbs. 10 oz.

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Excluding the poles, the tent packs up to about the size of a football. Ergo, I didn’t have any trouble finding a volunteer to assist with testing, and he was happy to report that it was the lightest and most compact tent he’s ever had in his pack.

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This tent pitches extremely quickly. Just clip in the two crossing poles and a brow pole, and you’re done. Bonus: The external clips mean you can pitch it in a storm while keeping the interior dry, and the freestanding design is extremely stable.

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The swift pitch came in handy prior to a surprise summer storm in Zion, as we had to work quickly to beat the deluge. I didn’t have a chance to seam seal (which I do for all tents) before I left, and the Drywall kept the interior completely dry.

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Though headroom is plentiful (39″), width (52″), and length (85″) feel slightly pinched. I wasn’t uncomfortable sleeping head to toe with a buddy, but I’m 6′ and my feet and head brushed the end walls. That’s the price you pay for such a light shelter.

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Each side has its own door and vestibule, the latter of which provides just enough space for a mid-sized pack and pair of boots without denying egress.

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I appreciated the niceties–like glow-in-the-dark zipper pulls and a window on each door–and experienced zero condensation during my testing.

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Weight: 3 lbs. 10 oz. (poles, tent, stuffsack) $299 thenorthface.com