Budgets and backpacking rarely go together. Thankfully, Slumberjack has been focusing on bring quality, affordable shelters to the market. The Nightfall 2 is a spacious, externally pitching tent that comes in at an impressive $139.95. How does it hold up though? My review.
The Slumberjack 2 has a simplified external pitch design that speeds up set-up and allows the tent to be set up in the rain without the interior becoming wet. This works by attaching to the rain fly to the interior of the shelter with small clips, allowing it to be set up as one functional unit instead of individually. There is a single front door/vestibule, two interior pockets, loops for accessories, and it includes a stuff sack, 4 guy lines, and enough stakes for a complete pitch, including guy lines. The frame system is comprised of three 7001 series aluminum poles that attach to the tent using a combination of two sleeves up front, and several clips along the top of the fly. The tent body is made from 40D polyester and no-see-um mesh, with a 68D polyester floor and 66D polyester rain fly. The floor measures 31.4 square feet with a peak height of 29.5″. It weighs 5 lbs 10 oz packed, and retails for 139.95.
What I liked
The Nightfall 2 has one of the simplest setup procedures I’ve used. There is no need to pitch the inner body and the outer body as two separate steps, as the interior mesh body is connected to the fly (it can be separated), and the poles are inserted from the outside of the tent. Instead, the poles are simply snapped together, slid through the short sleeves on the front of the tent and finished with clips along the top. After staking it out, it’s finished. It takes perhaps 4 minutes after become familiar with it, and the color coded pole tips makes it pretty much fool proof by eliminating any guess work. The only thing that can be a little confusing is the fact that the sleeves of the tent almost disappear with the rest of the fabric, as it’s the same color. Thankfully, finding them is easy enough once you know where to look. Even the guy lines are easy to adjust, with thick, cold hand friendly rope and adjusters. It’s especially nice that the tent can be set up in the rain without any water getting inside, as the inner body never needs to be exposed to set it up. The shelter can also be set up without the inner body, allowing for a lower pack weight or more interior space. Taking it down is the same story, just in reverse. Fast, simple, and mostly effortless, even in the wind.
The tent has quite the spacious interior. Two campers can easily sit inside side by side with enough elbow room to sit side by side without creating a feud, plus it has generous head and foot room thanks the towering 30″ peak height and steep walls. This prevents the mesh from constantly rubbing the head and shoulders while moving about, and allows for plenty of room for changing, playing cards, or what-have-you. You could even stuff 4 sitting campers inside for a nice game of cards if need be. While laying, there is plenty of space for two 20″ sleeping pads, and many XL pads will also fit without pressing against the walls. I found that there are about 5 inches above my head and below my feet for stashing gear, and with standard sized pads I found that I had some extra room to my sides to sprawl out as well. This makes hunkering for long periods of time far more enjoyable, as I never really felt constrained or strapped for space.
The build quality overall isn’t bad. It utilizes aluminum poles, sturdy tent stakes, and materials that hold up exceptionally well in even the harshest downpours thanks to the thick polyester fabric and high hydrostatic head. The stake out points are all reinforced, and all the necessary seams are factory sealed. I had a few minor complaints, such as lower diameter poles than I would have preferred (6mm or so), some light fraying on the guy lines and mild creases in the fabric after being compressed, but nothing concerning.
Upon being fully pitched with guy lines and proper tension, the tent turns out to be fairly stable and robust in the wind. The use of small sleeves in the front and well placed guy lines goes a long way to prevent the tent from swaying and buckling in moderate winds, although harsh winds will likely cause some shifting and buffeting. For most conditions, it holds up quite well and does a great job of blocking wind and rain entirely.
The front door is large and easy to enter and exit. I can easily sit inside the tent with my feet out to lace up my boots, and I never found myself getting hung up on the top of the door either. The vestibule is large enough to hold a couple of backpacks and boots, but not too much else. It does have the added bonus that the door can be rolled completely , tying it back for better viewing or ventilation.
At just under $140, the Nightfall 2 is a great value. It includes decent quality aluminum poles, 12 surprisingly good “Y” shaped aluminum tent stakes, and a whole lot of sleeping space for a price that most companies can’t compete with. Often in this range you’ll be looking at fiberglass poles, sheep hook tent stakes (often heavy steel or worse), and cramped interiors. It’s a nice change of pace to see a package this competitively priced with minimal sacrifices.
What I didn’t like
As mentioned above, the tent poles are a bit thinner than I prefer. This result is a tent that’s somewhat susceptible to swaying under hard wind when not guyed out, and still only performs O.K. with all the lines down. The poles also tend to retain a slight curve from being bent into an arch while pitched, which holds after the tent has been disassembled. This being the case, I can’t really recommend it for those who do lots of high elevation camping or for 4 season outings, and it’s not likely to handle heavy snow loads too well either. Still, for most situations and conditions that backpackers usually camp in, it should be just fine, especially if it’s used within tree cover.
While the vestibule does provide enough room for the essentials, it’s overall a bit frugal in size. I found that I had to carefully organize and stack my gear to make it all fit, and even then I was usually required to crawl over stuff to get in and out. I found it to be a better option to simply store boots under the vestibule, and keep my covered backpack just outside of it to keep a free entry/exit. It’s also a really long reach for the zipper, requiring a bit of a crawl to get to as the vestibule goes all the way to the ground, pushing it too far away to reach from the inside of the tent.
Ventilation is probably my biggest complaint about the tent. There are no top vents, no double zippers to act as vents, and the rain fly nearly reaches the ground at every point around the perimeter, reducing the flow of air throughout. This makes for a stuffy tent in the hotter months as air really doesn’t have much of a way to circulate. Areas with lots of humidity will certainly find some condensation build up on the inside of the fly. Luckily, the inner body prevents the damp walls from touching anything inside, but packing it away soggy isn’t ideal. The only option for ventilation is leaving the front door open, which isn’t viable if it’s raining, and the meshy interior cannot be set up without the rain fly either, as the poles have no way to connect to the mesh by itself. However, it’s actually quite the nice shelter in the cooler months, as it traps some warmth and stops cold breezes from cutting through, but hot/muggy evenings are less enjoyable.
With great interiors come great pack size, and weight. It’s not terribly heavy, but at 5 lbs 10 oz, it’s not a shelter one would want to carry for huge distances either. It packs smaller if you avoid using the stuff sack, sliding the poles vertically inside the pack and just stuffing the body on top, but the packed size is still the size of a small log. If the weight is split up, it’s actually quite manageable, with poles and stakes in one pack and the body in another. It splits about 35/65 with the inner body and rain fly connected together, however. So someone is going to have some extra weight unless you separate the inner/outer body, which eliminates the dry pitch feature that I like so much.
For the casual backpacker, the Nightfall 2 represents an incredible value. Where most companies cut corners on design or slip in fiberglass poles and cheap stitching to reduce cost, the Nightfall manages to retain quality, albeit with some minor sacrifices. It’s light and packable enough that short distance backpackers will be able to take advantage of it, and it’s affordable enough to be a very attractive option at it’s price point. I do wish it had better ventilation and some beefier poles, but aside from that it’s a good option for those who are interested in a reliable shelter without breaking the bank.
For more information on SlumberJack and their wide range of gear, check out their website, https://slumberjack.com/
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I want to extend a huge thanks to SlumberJack for providing this product for review. We couldn’t do it without their help. Our full disclosure can be found here.
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