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The North Face Vario 33

rated 5.0 of 5 stars

The Vario 33 has been discontinued. If you're looking for something new, check out the best three-season tents for 2023.

photo: The North Face Vario 33 three-season tent

I purchased this tent because my girlfriend at the time and I became dog owners and needed a tent that would hold us, our dog and survive 3+ season camping in the Canadian Rockies. We used it a few times in perfect weather while backpacking and were in general very happy with the ease of set up, the taut walls and the living space. Our dog (a hyperactive husky cross) was even OK with it.

Coincidentally I needed a tent for a 5-day summer mountaineering trip to the remote Brazeau Icefield in Jasper National Park and considering my only other tent is a heavy winter bombshelter, I elected to bring the Vario and hope for nice weather...what a nice thought.

Our first day was pleasant as we followed the discontinuous games trails and flood plains leading to the icefield. As we set up our camp on an exposed ridge next to the snout of the glacier at about 9500 feet it started to snow lightly. For 2 days it snowed and as Mike and I sat in our little "1 season" tent while the maelstrom erupted outside we were surprisingly dry and very comfortable, stable and quiet while guyed down the tent performed wonderfully.

During dinner the first night (cooked in the vestibule) the other two members of our team were suffering in the latest BD single wall bivy tent so we invited them in for a round of cards, enormous talk and scotch tasting. This theme continued for the next days! 4 in a tent made for 3, sitting round very comfy like.

We left the Brazeau with nothing but fond memories of hanging out in the Vario yukking it up, eating and drinking.

Buy this thing.

Design: 1 season tent that will work for 3+
Sleeps: 3
Ease of Setup: A child could do it in 2 min
Weight: under 4 lbs
Price Paid: $350

TNF says 3 person, but this is REALLY a 2 person tent with room for gear. At 5 pounds (measured weight) it's still light and surprisingly sturdy in the wind (if you guy it out properly). The cross-pole at the top forms 'eaves' so you can leave the tops of both doors open even in pouring rain - VERY COOL feature. With two side doors and vestibules, it's a hybrid between a single-walltent (on the ends) and a classic double-wall tent (most of the roof and both sides). The eaves cause the vestibule to have limited headroom, but there's room for a cannister stove if you're careful.

In hot weather, being able to completely roll back both sides while still having bug screens and shade from the eaves is fabulous. In blowing snow (or dust, as I just found out) the lack of a fabric cover for the screen portions can let spindrift in - a common problem with today's 3 season tents.

So far I've only used it on snow and in the desert, but with all the roof vents I can't imagine condensation will be any problem at all.

Design: three season, free standing except vestibule
Sleeps: 2
Ease of Setup: great - exterior poles with simple clips
Weight: 5 pounds actual weight
Price Paid: $339

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Price Historic Range: $239.98-$359.00
Reviewers Paid: $339.00-$350.00

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