The North Face Spectrum
This is a very lightweight tent with many plaudits, but with a major downside that makes me seriously think twice before using it. It’s obviously very lightweight, coming in at under 2kg. It’s also very easy to erect, with colour coded poles threading easily into their respective sleeves. One thing to be aware of when erecting the Spectrum are the plastic swivel joints on the top which only work in one orientation. This is easy enough to spot when it’s light and conditions are fine, but may prove problematic otherwise.
It’s incredibly stable in high winds (it’s theoretically rated to 130mph by TNF, although in practise any tent fabric is likely to be shredded by a real hurricane). It is reasonably roomy given its light weight. However, despite some fairly decent venting, it becomes incredibly wet inside. I first used it in high winds and very light rain on top of Kinder Scout in the Peak District. We smugly got inside and settled down into our sleeping bags, and were pretty disappointed that within minutes condensation was forming on the inside of the tent (we didn't even have a stove going, though we were obviously sweaty from the run up). The wind that was rattling the tent simply caused the condensation to rain on us for the entire night! We experimented with the vents in the roof, but they had little effect on the overall situation – we were getting wet, in a brand new tent!
The vent in the roof actually seems to be a fairly major design flaw, since it is effectively horizontal. Although it has a zip so that you can close it off, the zip is not waterproof so it is absolutely vital to pitch the tent with the door facing into the wind in order to avoid any driving rain from collecting on top of the zipped vent and finding its way in. By morning, we were thoroughly wet and fed up. In drier conditions (the weather on top of Kinder was extremely humid) the tent does fare better, but it certainly has some breathability issues. This is a real shame, since it is excellent otherwise.
Retail Price: £225
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