The North Face Mica FL 2 Tent Review
The North Face, perhaps more than any other name in outdoor gear, has made a dent in mainstream society recently. It seems that North Face down jackets are as much a staple of the young upwardly mobile’s wardrobe as dark denim and the polo shirt. Fear not, legitimate adventure enthusiasts! The North Face has lost none of their outdoor gear swagger as evidenced by the quality and performance of the Mica FL2 backpacking tent we just finished testing.
The North Face Mica FL 2 tent recently was awarded 2013 Gear of the Year from Outside Magazine, and we at AGR are pretty hot on it as well. Its primary feature is its feather-light weight. It tips the scales at just a couple ounces over 3 pounds – one of the lightest 2-person tents we’ve tested. It also packs down to a compact size (see photo at right). Its not often that I pack a tent inside my pack as they usually take up too much space, but on a 2-day trip with the FL2, I stowed it inside my pack rather than lashing it to the base, and enjoyed not having it flapping about while hiking.
What impressed me most initially about the Mica FL2 was the quality and substance of the materials and how well it seemed to be constructed. In my experience, to have extremely lightweight backpacking gear, you often have to be pretty gentle to avoid rips, tears, and seam failures. Not so with this tent – the textiles used are thin and light but seams feel secure, fasteners are substantial, and connection points were all significantly reinforced. We were very impressed with the build-quality of the Mica FL2 considering its feather weight.
The North Face Mica FL 2 Tent sets up super fast. Well…the second time it set up fast. The main body of the tent is one piece and the pole assembly is all one piece, including the cross pole. The poles are all one piece with a great circular hub at the junction and assemble quickly and logically connect to the reinforced webbing and metal anchor points at the corners easily. A cross-member positioned at the peak of the dome did a great job of opening up the interior and giving great living space inside this compact tent. Due to this and the handy vertical sidewalls, my wife and I were able to sit up across from each other inside the tent without much discomfort.
Clever TPU plastic hooks then connect the tent dome to the poles to give the dome shape. This process took all of a minute and a half. However, once we took out the rainfly, its irregular shape made it very difficult to determine how it should align to the tent body. Not one to look at directions, I spent a good 5 minutes fiddling with this before fishing into the tent bag for the directions. Perhaps The North Face wanted to avoid the cost of printing color directions or the time it would take to translate text directions, but a key feature of this tent is that the webbing tabs on the corners of the tent body and the rain fly are color-coded to make setup easy. Just match red to red and yellow to yellow – great feature. Perhaps they should mention that in the directions!
The ‘foot’ end of the tent is narrower than the top end of the tent, and the one pole that extends there anchors the tent in the middle rather than at the corners. This leaves the corners flapping just a bit, and if camping on a platform you might want to anchor the corner points with rocks or something else heavy to maximize space inside the tent. This wasn’t a sacrifice that bothered us much while using the tent. A small detail which impressed me was the quality of the provided stakes. Often tents come with cheap throwaway stakes that bend the first time you try to pound them into hard Colorado clay, but the included NF stakes were light but proved more than adequate, and I can’t see needing to replace them. They also included 12 of them – more than enough to keep this tent in place on a windy night.
Once fully assembled, I was impressed with the large entryways on either side of The North Face Mica FL 2 Tent which made it a piece of cake for two backpackers. This was made even better by the vestibule door-holding system of the rain fly. This tent really makes entry and exit easy. The full-mesh dome, along with the top vents in the rain fly did a great job of ventilating the tent and on a cool night with temps in the low 50’s, moisture buildup on the tent was minimal.
When inside the tent, I appreciated the assortment of hang hooks inside for hanging lanterns, etc. The inside corners also come equipped with gear pockets – great for my glasses and other items that tend to get lost under sleeping bags and such during the night.
Overall, I was very impressed with the The North Face Mica FL 2 Tent. I think it is the best blend of light weight, quality of materials and construction, and useful features that I have ever seen in a backpacking tent. REI has just put the FL2 and its accompanying footprint, which we purchased separately and tested with the tent, on substantial discount, so you can now get yourself the full package for around $300 – a great value!
For more information, visit www.thenorthface.com.