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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I appreciated the niceties–like glow-in-the-dark zipper pulls and a window on each door–and experienced zero condensation during my testing.
Weight: 3 lbs. 10 oz. (poles, tent, stuffsack) $299 thenorthface.com