Should I go North Face?? Help please..

1:51 a.m. on February 23, 2009 (EST)
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I am a frequent camper all year long. Most of this is in South Mississippi, but I also travel in the winter to camp so the weather I encounter then is alot colder than what I am accustomed to living in the south. I currently own many many tents, and seldom encounter problems with any of them, even though they are all either Wal-Mart or Academy brands. Just cheap impulse buys really. Well I am finally going to get myself some quality tents but I am a first time buyer so I could really use some help here.
I want one tent to be able to get me through the harshest of winters wherever I go. It has to be at least a three person - something big enough for two people and two large dogs, as well as a decent sized front vestibule for gear as well as one in the back for a couple pairs of boots. The Most Important thing with this tent is that it has the capability of keeping me warmer than the tents I already own. One of which has no screen (except for two windows) and a full fly. So I think that the material itself should be my deciding factor. I researched many many tents and the one I liked the most was The North Face VE-25. But I read a couple of questionable reviews on this site, so can someone please tell me, am I making a bad decision here??
The second tent I want will mostly be used in the remaining three seasons here in the south. It needs to be much larger because we often have more people then. It also has to withstand serious winds and heavy rain, as these come unexpectedly here on a regular basis. So another full fly and vestibules are needed, but with more ventilation (screen). I have come up with three possibilities for this tent. The first was the Kodiak Canvas Tent With Awning and Screen Room. But due to the way it is put together, I did not feel that It would stand up to the wind (mostly) and rain here. The second one I considered was the Coleman Exponent Northstar X8. I really liked the design of this tent, especially the floored screen room and the awnings. But again, I just don't know if it would hold up to the weather. So, with no intentions of going with the same brand, I decided that The North Face Trailhead 8 would have a way better chance of handling the winds and rain, and that because of this it would be worth sacraficing the awnings and screen room that attracted me to the other two. So is there anything that I have forgotten to consider here? Again, I am needing to know if I am making a bad decision with this tent? I just really really need to know that the money spent is going to make me happy that I did and wonder why I had not already done so. I would hate to feel like I wasted my money on something I could have gotten at Academy with just a little sacrafice in quality. Someone please give me some confidence to get these tents lol. Or suggest ones that I should consider instead. Thank you so much.

11:01 a.m. on February 23, 2009 (EST)
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"I would hate to feel like I wasted my money on something I could have gotten at Academy with just a little sacrafice in quality."

There is a world of difference in quality from a brand such as the North Face to Academy. There are lots of tent options at the price point of a VE-25 from various manufacturers, you may wish to spend more time researching; Sierra Designs, Mountain Hardwear, MSR, Hilleberg. All of these are better, and considerably more expensive, options than something from Academy. Academy tents, along with all other discount store tents are disposable. One good storm and they are trashed and into the bin they go.

2:13 p.m. on February 23, 2009 (EST)
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So would you say that these brands are better than The North Face? Because I did look at all of the above, and found a couple that I sort of liked, I just liked the VE-25 more all around, but If I should reconsider brands I will.

2:47 p.m. on February 23, 2009 (EST)
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To say that one particular brand is better than another is kinda silly, in my opinion. My gear comes from several different companies, including those mentioned by Alan (except Hilleberg) and lots more. The North Face, Marmot, Kelty, REI, Mammut, Sierra Designs, MSR, Mountain Hardware, LL Bean, Garmont, GSI, SnowPeak, Primus, etc., etc.

TNF has been recognized as making quality gear for a long time, and their gear has never let me down in any big way--FWIW. I've never used the VE-25, but I've seen both very good reviews as well as some that were less laudatory. I suspect it would be very much up to whatever you're planning, but there's no way I can know for sure.

It sounds like you're trying to do your homework here, and that's a good thing. Reading the reviews, the tech. specs from companies, etc. should put you in position to make a good decision about which tent(s) to buy.

Good luck.

2:48 p.m. on February 23, 2009 (EST)
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IMO, You should try to get your tent from a store/outfitter that has it already set up on the floor. That way, you can examine every nook and stitch. You can also compare it to other tents which are also set up. If you can't view the tent set up, you should go somewhere else where you can. Same goes for buying online, unless you know someone who already owns the tent you are looking to buy.

BTW, I'm not talking about Barbie and Ken sized replica tents either - I'm talking about the real thing! :-)

3:24 p.m. on February 23, 2009 (EST)
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At the price range of a VE25 you are getting quality products from all the manufacturers. Setting up the tent and crawling around may be the best bet. If you do not live in or near a town with a good outfitter, than I'd suggest finding a mail order site with a good return policy. You may need to order several tents with the intention of returning the ones you do not want. As someone mentioned above, the North Face has a long history of making quality gear, but plenty of others make as good or better gear.

The industry is very competitive. What you won't find is a $150 tent that is comparable in quality and features to a $500 tent (I'm talking about regular retail prices). Look at all the high-end brands, decide on the features you want, narrow down your choices to a couple and watch for a sale.

3:39 p.m. on February 23, 2009 (EST)
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All the folks who responed to your questions have had great solutions.I think the hardest part of your quest for the "perfect"tents is that not having and personel experiance with the top branded gear is that you really dont know all of the questions or solutions you may need to have.This is just the way it is when we start into something new.There is no way to compare WalMart tents to TNF,Marmot or who ever.Over the last 35 years i have used many styles and brands of tents.It took time to find out my favorite flavors.The best advice i could give is as has been mentioned go to a good outfitters store and take a good look.Then go out and use your choice as much as possible.Within a year or two you will know if this is what works for you and will you need to try other brands.I dont think you will be unhappy if you chose from any of the better brands.It will just come down to personel likes and dislikes.Happy shopping and please let us know what your final choices are.

1:26 p.m. on February 25, 2009 (EST)
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I totally agree with f klock and Skimanjohn. I live on the Alabama coast and have had to rely on other peoples experience to rate products. We just don't have any good outfitters in this area that can help with practical decisions. I started out with Sears tents and now love the Sierra Designs Meteor Light. That purchase was based on other backpackers reviews (Backpacker Magazine's Gear Review specifically). Tents are like cars, you have to try them out to get the best match for you and your specific needs. Getting in and "crawling around" is indeed the best way to choose short of a "field trip". Like Skimanjohn stated, you may have to try several over time before you find the best for you. Hard to go wrong with any North Face product though. Any company that sends a warranty registration card out with their Tee shirts can't be too bad! If you find an outfitter in the area that has more to offer than Academy, please let me know!

4:28 p.m. on February 26, 2009 (EST)
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Peedro, a friend of mine who is a very experienced winter camper and a sometimes poster here has the VE25. We used it on a winter trip to Yosemite. It is a fine tent and will last a long time if you care for it. It is tried and proven design that has been around for years. I would look on eBay or Craigslist for one. People often buy these tents for a one-off expedition to Denali or somewhere like that, then sell them off when they get back. That might save you a couple of hundred bucks depending on how patient you are to get one.

Having said that, the criticisms of it are probably based on use other than winter. 4 Season tents tend not to breathe well and really aren't suitable for 3 season camping. You can use them, but there are better and lighter alternatives. The reviews here on Trailspace are overwhelmingly positive. The one reviewer who said you could shed 4 lbs off it by redesign is being unrealistic.

There are other good brands out there as already mentioned. One thing to consider is that single wall mountaineering tents and winter camping tents are different in design and purpose, which will add to your confusion.

HOWEVER, after re-reading your post-a VE25 may not be big enough for what you want-two people and two big dogs. I would look at the Hilleberg tents like the Nallo GT or Kaitum GT which have big vestibules the dogs could use. These are not cheap tents. They are very expensive, but also very high quality. Or get a big 3 person dome tent.

The problem with high wall family style tents, by the way, is that in a wind, the chances of them getting blown down is pretty high. Go out and hold up a sheet of plywood in a moderate wind and you'll get the idea quickly.

Also, don't expect a tent to keep you warm. Other than blocking the wind-that's all they really do, unless you buy a tent like a Snowtrekker or Titanium Goat teepee that is designed to be used with a small wood stove, but that is whole other style of camping.

9:37 p.m. on March 2, 2009 (EST)
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I would go with a Big Agnes Big House . There is no sense in buying two tents when one tent could serve both purposes, that is unless you feel like stimulating the economy. The Big House comes in a 4 and a 6 person configuration and is $150-$200 cheaper than the North Face. They use these things at the Base of Everest, plus it has great ventilation for the summers. For about $100 more you can get a vestibule that you can park your car in. Good Luck!

1:22 p.m. on March 6, 2009 (EST)
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Here's an interesting web site if you're wondering if The North Face tents are superior because of their design:

Bob Howe has designed some of the most creative tents over the past 30-40 years, including the great TNF ones.

Unfortunately, the VE-25 is not a well ventilated tent for summer climes - but the Eureka K2-XT is (same format - same price range). Read some reviews on the K2 - I have one and it's a fantastic tent and just slightly larger that the VE-25 and a little heavier because of all the zippered windows. And believe it or not, it is warm when it's below zero because you can close it up tight and just open the celing vents to insure there's no condensation. It's also got the same huge front vestibule as well.

2:28 p.m. on March 8, 2009 (EDT)
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I would suggest you look at the Coleman Exponent Phact X3 Tent or the LL Bean Backcountry Dome Tent 3 Four Season Tent for starters.

I have to admit I would consider either of these tents, since I too am in the market for a quality four season tent. I need to point out I live in my tent 'year round-spring through winter.

I must admit I do like The North Face VE-25 Tent. It's quite a solid pitch when properly staked/guyed-out. I believe this tent can withstand hurricane-force winds.

You asked a good question Peedro.

So how is south Mississppi? Do you camp in the Desoto National Forest btw? I know last year you had several hurricanes pass through south Mississppi.

10:54 p.m. on April 17, 2009 (EDT)
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All of the original line of Northface is substantial , any oldschool gear is the absolute best. Northface is still Top notch and made well , I would count on their gear any day.

12:22 a.m. on April 18, 2009 (EDT)
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My personal experience has led me to using the Chinook brand 4-season tents, specifically the Cyclone 3. It is a true 4-season tent for 3 people and it has a rather large vestibule in the front and another one in the back where you could place your boots as you mentioned. This tent has proven itself beyond words for me and a volunteer doing raptor research. It has withstood steady 40-55 mph winds for 4-5 hours and gusts of 85 mph and a big thing I can boast about is it is completely silent in the wind. There is NO flapping of the fly on the tent wall. It has been in horrible rain storms and has not leaked a single drop and it has withstood 2 feet of wet, heavy snow on top of it without collapsing on us and it shook off easily when we awoke. There has be no condensation at all in the tent either. Along with me and a volunteer we also have our bags of clothes in it and a tent heater as well. There is probably enough room for 2 people and your large dogs. It is great for winter but I don't personally recommend it for summer use....even though it is a phenominal tent, it is extremely hot in the summer time, even with the screened doors open and the fly off. Also, the fly is a full size and also creates the large vestibules which is also what you mentioned as a key point of interest. As f_klock mentioned, definately go to camping stores that specialize in camping, tents, trailers and gear as they usualy have full size tents set up inside the store so you can get inside and check them out before you buy them. True 4-season tents from Brand Name Supliers are definately expensive so buy what suits you best for your needs! Since it sounds like space is a definate issue, you may want to look at the 4 to 6 person, 4-season Base Camp tents as well!

10:39 a.m. on April 18, 2009 (EDT)
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I see someone does use Chinook brand tents. That's real good to see.

I would like to suggest the Tatonka Sherpa Dome Tent. Its appears to be very similiar to the TNF VE-25 tent in design. I like the fact in comes in more natural colours too:

12:39 a.m. on April 19, 2009 (EDT)
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LOL, I've not really noticed too many people use the Chinook tents but I love mine!

10:45 a.m. on April 19, 2009 (EDT)
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TNF quality is slipping. They've chosen to mass produce clothing and gear in China and have lost my respect all together. I hate anything that is made or sewn over there which eliminates 85% of the tents on the current market. Two brands that I own: Hilleberg and NEMO. Hilleberg is made in Sweden. They are famous for their expedition quality tents but are very pricey. NEMO, or New England Mountaineering is, oddly enough, made in New Hampshire. NEMO is a shining example of Made in the USA = Quality. Excellent customer service and both brands have lifetime warranties. To me, its worth a little extra to not fund anything from Chinese market. One other brand worth considering is Eddie Bauer. Not the crap sold at Target but their new Ascent Line. They have a tent coming out this year that should be bombproof. Get a catalogue and take a look. Hope this helps.

11:19 a.m. on April 19, 2009 (EDT)
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I don't own very many TNF products, but I've noticed what Patriot said... the quality doesn't seem to be what it was in the past.

I mainly quit buying it because it's such a "poser" brand... that is, I see people wearing it all over the place (in the city) who I know never make it out of cell tower range. For some reason that bugs me.

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