User Review: The North Face VE 25
Design: 4 Pole Geodesic Dome
Ease of Setup: Difficult
Weight: 10 lbs. 13 oz
Price Paid: $500 USD
North Face sucks for two reasons:
1) The company sucks
2) Their gear sucks
There is a lot of cause and effect going on between those two reasons. Let me explain.
North Face is the Microsoft of the outdoor world. They are the big corporation that tries to get their hands into everything. They print their logo huge on everything they make, so that anything you buy from them, you're assured to be a walking advertisement. Their slogan should be THE NORTH FACE: Never Stop Advertising. It's near impossible to find out how to get through to an actual person in their customer service department. If you do, they are generally no help.
2) The gear is crap. Let me give you an example. My friend Paul and I get flown out by a super cub and dropped off in the middle of nowhere for the spring break of '99. I know, not your usual idea of spring break, but we were in Alaska, so what the hell else were we supposed to do. Paul owned the US $500 North Face VE-25 Expedition Tent. It's damn cold in Alaska in February, although that week it wasn't too bad, at a balmy -20°F. We were wearing these expedition mittens from Outdoor Research (OR). Those are actually pretty good, like everything I've had from OR. However, they give you the dexterity of a lobster.
First, we find out the tent has no damn zipper pulls!! So, we have to take our gloves off, and freeze our fingers on the metal to work the zipper. Where the hell did they test this tent? Their backyard in Kentucky!? Then, we find out the bungee that connects the poles together doesn't work in the cold temperatures! This is their EXPEDITION TENT! Designed for mountaineering. It was a piece of crap! I don't want to even get into the actual experience of sleeping in that deathtrap. There was a 1-inch layer of frost lining the tent on the inside every morning. Yeah, good choice of breathable fabrics. I kick myself for not just digging a snow cave on day one.
So, we get back and call the company (which takes about three hours to get a person), and they say, "Uh...send us the poles and we'll fix them". So we do that, and when we get them back we take them to OUR backyard in Fairbanks, when it was -40° -- and they still don't work! We call back and tell them this, but they refuse to give Paul a refund! Fortunately, he bought it at REI, which has the best return policy around -- they'll take anything back for any reason forever.
So, lessons learned? Don't buy anything from The North Face. The North Face's biggest competitor is not Patagonia, it is Nike, as Nike is making a large amount of outerwear outdoor crap. As for outwear, Arc'Teryx is the cream of the crop.