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Tam McTavish | 10.09.2018

The Assault 2 specs

  • Weight: 1.47 kilograms (2.24 kilograms with the vestibule)
  • Floor Area: 2.5 square meters
  • Peak Height: 107 centimeters
  • Capacity: 2 (with light gear)

Where to get it

The Bottom Line: The Assault 2 is the softshell of tents. It is water resistant, not waterproof. For windy, blustery cold conditions, it's great. Ideal even. But if the weather gets warmer and things start to get wet, you're always going to have to reach for that familiar hard shell for real rain protection. This is a good winter camping option for Alaska, the Andes, and Rockies, but if you're hoping for a quiver-killer tent in the Pacific Northwest, forget about it. 

The North Face Assault 2. Photo by Tam McTavish.

I've used the TNF Assault 2 in the Canadian Rockies and the Coast Range. In the Rockies it was used as a base camp tent for a mountaineering course near the Athabaska Glacier, a little winter camping, and a spring ski traverse shelter. It also was used for a lightweight approach tent for alpine camping in the Coast Range, also in summer. It's been through 40 km/h winds, very heavy rainfall, and it has had 38 centimeters of snow dumped onto it in one six-hour period. 

I spent several months trying to decide on my new winter/alpine tent. I wanted something light and strong. It came down to the Rab Latok 2, Black Diamond Firstlight or the Assault 2. The Assault 2 won out because it was just as light as the Black Diamond Firstlight, plus it came with a vestibule, amazing ventilation, and it had the best square footage. I thought I'd scored big time. 

My first camping experience was a classic Rockies camping night. Warm day followed by a 0-degree Celsius night with frost on the ground in the morning. When I awoke I was more than a little disappointed to see the whole upper part of the tent beading with condensation. Not unusual for a four-season tent, but then I had high hopes for the four rather large windows. Oh well.

Next trip it poured rain. Admittedly, it was pretty heavy rain for the Rockies. I woke with around 6 liters of water on the floor. I watched the dark blotches slowly seep water through the fabric. One other chap on the trip had warned me of this, and I had assumed his had been a defect. It turns out North Face's DryWall....isn't. Somehow it manages to be bellow average breathability and condensation management and not waterproof. 

The next trip was more in this tent's element. Ski traversing. On the first night it snowed very heavily. Our tarp outside was totally crushed in the morning. The vestibule was pretty worse for wear, having collapsed inward, though poor guying on our part certainly held some blame. The good news is that the tent was rock solid. The flatter than normal roof did seem to act as a catch point for the wetter snow. Even a good shake didn't dislodge most of it. Worse, our heat inside the tent was melting the snow, causing small bits of water to seep through. 

I can't use this tent in temperatures greater than -5 degrees Celsius lest it rain and I get soaked again. As a pure winter or high altitude shelter, I think there are a lot of good things to be said about this tent, though. I have used it frequently on mountaineering trips because it is very lightweight and super wind resistant, which is great for bivvying in the alpine when the forecast calls for bluebird weather but there is the possibility of high winds. 

The Assault 2 has loads of room. It's easily as spacious as my MSR Hubba Hubba. Even during winter camping situations when you want to avoid the condensation on the walls, this tent is still plenty big enough when the sides are well guyed out. The steep walls are a huge part of this, as is the third cross bar poll. The many guy lines are also really well designed with a great plastic cleat system that is fairly glove friendly. Even if the windows don't work for ventilation, they are well designed and great for surveying the area. You can open and close the mesh and full window easily from the inside. 

It is also definitely a really solid tent for it's incredibly small weight. Considering it packs up to the size of two Nalgene water bottles, it's a really great ultralight piece. It is tricky to set up. You really have to fight the poles to get them in the hole. I do not recommend doing this in a precarious place. 

I've been trying to find a waterproofing solution. This was never an especially breathable tent, so I'm going to experiment with treating the uppermost portions with silicone and see if that helps any. I'll keep you posted if this helps at all. 

I regret buying this tent for all around use and as a summer alpine shelter. I don't do enough winter camping or camping at high altitude climbing to justify using it. For someone looking for a two-season tent in the dry Rockies, this makes for an excellent quick shelter that is spacious and incredibly lightweight. So just be sure you know what you're getting this tent for and you will love it. 

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