Review: Review: The North Face Mica FL1 Tent
Fantastic piece of technical kit, perfect for the solo adventurer and those on a weight budget! 9.5/10
Now there are different schools of thought when it comes to going off on solo adventures and sleeping arrangements: Some will take a credit card and simply get a room, and be done with it. Others will travel crazy light and hope for a comfy bench but may well just sleep on a roadside kerb (it’s not ideal!)
There are technical solutions such as bivi bags or bag liners and ponchos to give a little more respite from the elements. Then there’s actual camping, in tents – you know, like you did when you were in school/cubs/brownies etc but tents have moved on since then!
And that’s the theme of this review of The North Face Mica FL1 tent.
As a family we have 2 tents, there’s the 2 person tent that has been handed around for about 15 years, taken to festivals, borrowed by brothers etc etc – if you look in your attic, you probably have your own version. The other is an enormous leviathan, capable of fitting 5 people in, on ruddy air beds that need electric pumps to fill – its huge, heavy and cumbersome – but perfect for taking a boisterous family of young boys away to a suitable campsite.
They both share some similar characteristics, heavy for their size, not particularly easy to pitch or pack, and their weather resistance depends largely upon how lucky you are that day! Suffice to say, because of these limitations they don’t get used all that much!
With thoughts of adventure at the forefront of my mind this summer I was obviously very keen to get myself into a tent both smaller and lighter than either of the ones we already possessed.
When what should land in an oversized box on my doorway but The North Face Mica FL1 – from hereon in simply called the Mica. It’s always amusing when large boxes get delivered to home or work, complete with an expectation about weight based purely on the size of the box, and the amusement comes when the two are totally mismatched (I get easily amused it must be said!)
The Mica FL1 is just 1.05kg in weight, or to put that in real terms that’s 4 bars of butter, or 1 bag of flour! It’s a super light weight, 3-season, solo adventure tent – and it certainly ticks that first box!
When a box first arrives my instinct is to tear it open and play with it, but sadly I was still in the dog-house from my wife finding out about my attempted ride across Europe, this meant I had to wait a couple of days until I could nonchalantly open the box and explore its contents.
When I did 48 hours later, I was astonished, repeatedly!
It’s lightweight was an obvious source of smiles, but the ease in which it was assembled in the back garden meant that on the first pitch there were zero errors and a total time of about 10 minutes, including reading the simple, yet effective instructions.
It’s a small tent, no doubt about that, but everything has been thought of and seemingly planned for in its construction.
Waterproof? Check. In it’s 8 days of use it coped admirably with 3 solid days of rain – got to love the British summer – and not a drop managed to pass through into the inner sanctum of the Mica.
Draught resistant? Check. There is potential during the pitching period to allow drafts to come into the tent, and with an entirely mesh inner liner those drafts will certainly be felt, but this can be alleviated, and eliminated, but simply pulling the mini-guys snugly onto each peg, bringing the fly sheet down to ground level and cutting out the wind nicely.
Ease of assembly of breakdown? Oh yes. 10 minutes first pitch, down to just 5 minutes for the 3rd pitch, and that’s without really rushing it, just being more efficient. It’s a simple design and with colour-coded peg holes it’s a doddle to put up.
Breaking it down the next day is also a breeze, no issues whatsoever. Everything rolls up nicely and there are separate bags for tent, poles and pegs. As an aside, no matter how well you roll the tent and expel the air, it will not fit into the pole bag! It will however fit nicely into the bag its intended to go into!
Ease of use? Check, and double check! super easy entry and exit, with a good space in the porch area to store bags, wheels etc – you won’t get a bike in there, but everything else fits nicely.
The Mica features reflective tabs making it easier to pick out at night, and plenty of reinforced guy points mean that it’s stable even in decent wind conditions.
It has a floor space of approx. 17 square feet, which means that you have enough room to roll down your mat, and not much else at the foot end. Up by your head it has widened out to give a decent level of both space and comfort, allowing assorted bits and pieces to share your headspace.
At a generous 5’7″ I am maybe not the tallest of people out there to test head room – however I borrowed a 6’2″ beanpole and plonked him inside and he had no issues with clearance at all.
As a 1 person solo tent it really doesn’t get much better than this, my only quibble being that the tent itself can pack down to a 12″ length whilst the minimum the poles can get down to is about 17″, this certainly won’t be an issue if backpacking but for cycling it meant I had to put the poles separately on the exterior of my, admittedly minimalistic, luggage – with panniers it wouldn’t be a problem.
Its weight, ease and speed of build, coupled with how roomy it is for such a small tent make this an absolute winner for solo adventures! It’s not cheap, around the £300 mark, but should last you for many years of adventuring – consider it an investment!
For those that like specifications…..
- Fabric: fly: super-lightweight, high-tenacity nylon ripstop, 1200 mm PU coating, silicone
- Fabric: mesh: nylon “no-see-um” mesh / floor: lightweight nylon ripstop, 1500 mm PU coating, silicone
- Trail Weight: 2 lbs 5 oz (1.05 kg)
- Floor Area: 16.9 ft2 (1.6 m2)
- Capacity: 1
- Total Weight: 2 lbs 12 oz (1.24 kg)
- Fastpack Weight: 1 lb 13 oz (0.82 kg)
- Vestibule Area: 5 ft (0.46 m), 5 ft (0.46 m)