Review: North Face Topaz 2

While I am normally hugely concerned with every ounce when it comes to gear, I recently purchased a North Face Topaz 2 tent from Adventure 16 here in LA (admittedly it was deeply discounted). I’ve been working towards making car camping more comfortable, partially for my significant other, and partially because I’ve discovered that it can be fun (shocking). Who doesn’t like making good food and sleeping in a comfortable tent in a campground with a bathroom? While the ultralight backpacker in me shudders, I know i’ll have plenty of time for bare minimum gear choices in the future.

Anyways, back to the tent: We used the Topaz 2 this past weekend in Joshua Tree National Park during some truly spectacular winds. Walking around the campground before dinner, I noticed that the winds were really taking a toll on the numerous Coleman and REI tents others were using, and was feeling concerned that we might need to opt to sleep in the Subaru rather than the tent (it’s happened before). However, the tent held up beautifully, and throughout the whole ordeal, during wind gusts that I surely thought would peel up the rainy fly, the tent stayed solid. While dirt and sand DID blow into the bottom of the tent, the fly comes low enough to generally minimize this, and I feel confident that it could have been much much worse.

Some random observations:

1. The pole structure seems very solid, and while some of the very powerful gusts caused some movement, it was minimal compared to some of the other tents I saw.

2. It’s roomy for two people, with jackets and other random things laying around the edges. It also has walls that are just about vertical so you can easily sit up and not touch the tent.

3. The rain fly worked really well, and blocked a good majority of the wind, other than some random sand getting in, which is probably a result of the sheer power of the gusts, and the low mesh sides of the tent.

4. At one point we had both vestibules pulled back and open, giving us a great view of the stars.

5. One thing to note, is that it can be tricky to get the vestibule areas pulled out enough via stakes. We found that when on soft sand, with occasional unseen rocks, that the stakes would either move around, or we were unable to get it in all the way. However, I think this is just going to be the case. We used some large rocks in situations like this.

6. Two door design: YES. Unfortunately I get up at night, a lot. So, it was great to not have to crawl over the boyfriend to do this. In the past, using my Big Agnes UL2, getting up means kicking the sleeping person next to you as you crawl past their head.

7. I don’t think this is a great backpacking option. It’s about 5 pounds of weight, and while replacing some of the metal stakes with lightweight alternatives might help, this would still not be my first choice for any kind of long-distance trip.

Overall, I highly recommend this tent for two-person car camping or shorter backpacking trips.

Update January 2015: We are still using this, and it’s still awesome for camping down here in Southern California. We took it backpacking on Catalina Island in March 2014, where we AGAIN encountered a lovely wind storm, and again, tent held up great. However, weighing in at over 6 lbs, we are planning to purchase a lighter backpacking tent and continue using this for car camping. To date, really my only complaint continues to be that sometimes the low mesh sides can let in some sand during really windy times, at which point I just cover my head while sleeping.

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