The North Face Wawona 6 Review: Our Detailed Field Test

Pound for pound, we found the North Face Wawona 6 to be one of the best camping tents we’ve ever owned. We were hard-pressed to find anything to complain about, but here’s our best attempt.
The North Face Wawona 6 Review - Intro
This is our field test and review of the North Face Wawona 6, one of the best-equipped, most well-rounded camping tents we’ve ever stepped foot in.



The North Face Wawona 6 Tent

– Price: $475
– Weight: 20.9 lbs (9.5 kg)
– Floor size: 120” x 96” (305cm x 244cm)
– Peak height: 76” (193cm)
– Number of compartments: 1
– Capacities: 6 person (4 person available)
– Shape: Dome
– What we like: Quality, livability, ventilation, price
– What we don’t: Set-up takes some extra effort




The Wise Adventurer’s Verdict

The North Face Wawona 6 truly does it all: It’s fantastically well suited to all types of weather, packs a ton of living space both inside and out, arguably has the best rainfly/vestibule combo out of all the tents we used, and does it all for less money than the other premium 6 person models we brought along.

The North Face Wawona 6 Review - Verdict
The North Face Wawona took top honors in our most recent camping tent field test. There’s a lot to love here.

The North Face takes both its name and inspiration (and logo, for that matter) from the famous Half Dome granite formation in Yosemite National Park. It’s a fitting moniker for a company that started in 1968 as a Bay Area climbing supply company, but climbing is just the tip of the iceberg for The North Face nowadays as they make everything from hardcore mountaineering supplies to trail running shoes, as well as some of the best camping tents on the market like the Wawona series tested here.

We spent a long weekend this summer with the Wawona in our favorite little mountain valley under mostly clear skies and hot and humid conditions. As is the case with all the tests we test here at The Wise Adventurer, we selected The North Face Wawona 6 after untold hours of research (both online and in-person), purchased the tent with our own funds, then took it out in the field for a proper shakedown.

Right, let’s dig into the details.




Detailed Evaluation: The North Face Wawona 6

The North Face Wawona 6 was part of our intensive field test, and as such, was evaluated on all the most important performance aspects of any camping tent worth having. We take a hands-on approach to everything from the up-close inspection of materials and craftsmanship to the big picture that is overall livability. The Wawona scored high marks pretty much everywhere, so if you’re considering one yourself, here’s what to look forward to.

Space and Comfort

Space and comfort are the main reason most campers choose a 6 person tent over smaller 4 person models, and the Wawona absolutely delivers the goods here. We were already impressed by the Wawona with just the canopy setup, but as you’ll read below, the sleeping quarters are only half the equation.

Ceilings are impressively tall at well over 6 feet, and The North Face did a great job making the most of the Wawona’s dome shape by adding a brow pole over the front door. This flattens and stretches the fabric at the entrance to the tent, so the Wawona felt tall front the back rather than just in the center or the tent like some of the other dome tents we tested.

The North Face Wawona 6 Review - Space and Comfort 1
The Wawona feels huge even before you pitch its massive vestibule/gear garage extension.

You can absolutely leave the tent as such in good weather, but if you really want the Wawona experience, pitching the rainfly is a must. That’s because the fly’s vestibule effective adds on another 45 square feet of living space to the Wawona’s existing 86 square feet of interior space, which we took full advantage of come lunch time.

The North Face Wawona 6 Review - Space and Comfort 2
The Wawona 6’s gear garage has many uses, chief among them is a shady lunch spot for two.

We had no issue setting up a pair of camp chairs and a table inside with plenty of room left over. It’s a great place to store gear like shoes, packs, and even bikes out of the weather, which allowed us to take full advantage of the available interior space.

As is the case with most 6 person models, we found the Wawona was best suited to sleeping four or less adults (this setup leaves enough room for egress around your camp mates), but with the right pads and a little planning, the 6 person figure isn’t out of the question either. The latest version of the tent includes a second door on the back wall as well, which isn’t as large as the front, but is completely functional for late night bathroom breaks or for extra air flow on hot days.

The North Face Wawona 6 Review - Space and Comfort 3
We found a four person setup with nice big sleeping pads was a happy medium for the Wawona 6.

Weather Resistance

The North Face Wawona has a bulletproof reputation for all manner of three-season weather, and although we experienced mostly-sunny conditions, the tent handled what little water it was subjected to without complaint.

The North Face uses a full coverage front/partial coverage rear rainfly design for the Wawona, which was initially a concern for us but we left testing feeling confident in the design. The tall walls of the tent carry the same 1200mm waterproof rating of the fly, and when the tent is fully buttoned up, there are no exposed areas for rain to slip through. Seam taping is applied throughout the tent, and looks like some of the cleanest and most consistent in our testing.

The North Face Wawona 6 Review - Weather Resistance 1
All seams are well sewn and cleanly taped throughout the tent.

As far as wind is concerned, the Wawona is an absolute tank, especially for a camping tent this size. The poles are thick and strong (more on those below) and the guylines are abundant and smartly placed. With the Wawona properly tensioned, we felt confident it would handle thunderstorm strength winds just fine, which is more than we can say for some of the other models in our test.

We will also point out that even with the rainfly on, ventilation in the Wawona is fantastic. Between the adjustable side sections of the fly, the mesh rear door, and large mesh wall protected by the front vestibule, the interior of the tent never felt hot or stuffy. We didnt’ get to sit through any serious rain inside this tent, but with this much mesh and the dual pop-up vents near the front door, we don’t expect any issues in the future.

The North Face Wawona 6 Review - Weather Resistance 2
Both sides of the fly can be unzipped and rolled up to dial in optimal airflow in dry conditions.

Ease of Set-Up

While there are definitely easier 6 person tents to pitch, we didn’t have any problems getting the North Face Wawona 6 pitched, even with a single person. The color coded poles kept the process intuitive (even on the first attempt), and the clip-in canopy simplified things even further.

If we were going to dock the Wawona for anything here, it would have to be the vestibule. Since there’s no option to remove the roomy gear garage from the canopy portion of the fly, it’s essentially an all or nothing proposition. Sure, you could leave the fly off in good weather, but because the vestibule adds so much livability to the tent overall, we’re not sure we ever will.

The North Face Wawona 6 Review - Ease of set-up
The vestibule is well worth the extra effort, and yes, we were able to pitch the Wawona solo.

The fly isn’t particularly difficult to set up, but because it uses its own pole and needs to be staked/guyed out to function properly, it does add another step to the process over comparable models such as the Nemo Aurora Highrise. The Wawona definitely wasn’t the only tent in our test with a pole supported vestibule though, and considering it’s probably our favorite vestibule of the bunch, it’s hard to fault it here. Our first setup took about 15 minutes total (learning process included), and we were able to shave it down to about 10 after a little practice.

Speaking of setup and takedown, we also appreciated the Wawona’s carry sack, which has a nifty wide mouth opening with a draw string closure. This makes the tent particularly easy to get back in the bag, and once everything is packed in, there are no zippers to fight and stretch to get the whole production ready to travel.

Durability

Our group all felt that durability was another high point for the North Face Wawona 6, and the poles and tent floor shined particularly bright.

The latest version of the Wawona specs upgraded DAC MX tent poles, which The North Face states are stronger than the outgoing set, but add no weight to the overall package. We haven’t used the original single-walled version of the Wawona, so while we can’t draw a direct comparison, we’re happy to report that the new poles feel impressively robust, and snap together with zero drama.

The North Face Wawona 6 Review - Durability 1
The Wawona’s color coded poles have been upgraded to the latest DAC MX aluminum units.

Both the canopy and rainfly use 75D polyester, which strikes an agreeable compromise between weight and robustness, but as we mentioned above, the floor strikes zero compromises whatsoever. The North Face uses a burly 150D non-ripstop polyester throughout the tent floor, so it feels super tough, but shouldn’t have any issues with accelerated wear and tear from friction or snagging.

The North Face Wawona 6 Review - Durability 2
The 150D polyester taffeta floor feels particularly rugged and adds value to an already outstanding shelter.

Everything else about the Wawona essentially follows suite here: The mesh feels strong and durable, the zippers feel smooth and well made, and while the tent stakes are a simple untapered “L shape” design, we had no issues with them bending or flexing when setting up the Wawona.

Weight and Packed Size

While weight and packed size aren’t a major concern for a tent this size, we’re happy to report the Wawona loses no points here compared to the competition.

The tent bag didn’t quite pack down to its original 32” x 10” dimensions after our first use, but it wasn’t very far from it either. With a total weight of just under 21 pounds, we found the Wawona fit right in the middle of the pack compared to our other 6-person models, which is definitely a complement considering the massive amount of interior and exterior space it brings to the table.

The North Face Wawona 6 Review - Weight and packed size
Storage sack being carried by Thomas after first use) Caption: The Wawona’s storage sack definitely looks a bit “puffier” after the first pitch, but getting the tent back in the bag was easy to do. 

Value

The North Face Wawona 6 looks and feels like one of the most expensive tents we’ve tested, but perhaps its most charming quality of all is that it isn’t even close. In fact, the Wawona is the most affordable 6 person model in this year’s roundup aside from the Kelty Discovery Basecamp 6, which is a solid tent in it’s own right, but isn’t even close in terms of features or build quality.

The North Face Wawona 6 Review - Value
There are lots of great tents in this picture, but the Wawona stands out in terms of outright value.

Even if we were strictly looking at the Wawona in terms of interior space and material quality, it’s sub-$500 pricetag would be tempting. The fact that it also includes one of the largest (and arguably the best overall) external vestibules in our testing ultimately drove it to the top of our list, earning it the best overall camping tent title by a healthy margin.

What We Like

In short: Pretty much everything. Aside from the slightly more involved setup required by the Wawona’s extended vestibule/rainfly, there’s not much to complain about here.

We’d even go as far as to say that the Wawona’s gear garage is our favorite feature of the tent. Yes, it provides plenty of room for storing things like bulky gear and wet boots out of the rain, but it does so much more than that. It’s a place to relax, a shady spot to eat, and a clever way to keep clutter to a minimum inside the tent to boot.

The North Face Wawona 6 - What We Don't Like
We’re big fan’s of the Wawona’s gear garage (or dining room)!

Value is the other big seller for us here: Every aspect of the North Face Wawona is high quality. The poles are some of the best in the industry, weather protection is robust and reliable, and yes, interior space is fantastic. The fact that it accomplishes all of this for at least $100 less than the competition just can’t be overstressed. Typically we have to resell our tents after testing to recoup some of the costs of running The Wise Adventurer, but we’re putting some serious thought into keeping this one for ourselves.

What We Don’t Like

Again, poking holes in this tent feels wrong, but no product is perfect and we managed to find a few gripes to round things out. The first, as we mentioned above, is the extra setup time imposed by the rainfly design. We’re not sure we’d change anything about the Wawona’s vestibule setup, truth be told, but if you’re the type that doesn’t have any use for it’s massive gear garage, you might prefer something with a more traditional (aka not pole-supported) vestibule for simplicity’s sake.

Aside from that the only improvement we’d make to the whole package is probably the tent stakes. Again, we didn’t manage to break or even bend any of the Wawona’s stakes in testing, but they’re a very simple design, and the basic “L” shape wouldn’t be our first choice in rocky or loose soils. We’d prefer to see either a chunkier tri-beam style stake or a tapered galvanized steel version in the bag, but considering the comparatively low cost of even the most premium stakes out there, it’s a minor complaint at best.

The North Face Wawona 6 - What We Don't Like
The tent stakes of the Wawona: Nothing major to complain, but might deserve an upgrade.

Alternatives

  • Nemo Wagontop 6: If you love the massive vestibule of the Wawona but want even taller ceilings and a more cabin-like feel, the Wagontop is a solid choice for a few extra bucks. Read our full test and review...
  • REI Wonderland 6: A particularly roomy 6 person tent (it’s even got two rooms) that’s very easy to pitch. Read our full test and review…
  • Nemo Aurora Highrise 6: A smart alternative to the Nemo above if you’ve got the money but prefer traditional vestibules. Tons of headroom, outstanding weather protection, and premium quality materials throughout. Read our full test and review of the 4-person model…
  • Kelty Discovery Basecamp 6: Great all-around tent for basic camping duty on a shoestring budget if you don’t need exterior storage. Read our full test and review…

The Bottom Line

If you’re ready to step up to a big camping tent from a premium manufacturer, we believe the North Face Wawona 6 is the best option for most campers after spending a few nights inside one ourselves. It does everything you want a large camping tent to do with a spacious floor plan, tall ceilings, and an outstanding vestibule, and manages to do it all for less money than the competition.

The North Face Wawona 6 - Verdict

Materials are top notch, construction is high-quality, and weather-proofing is some of the best we’ve seen on a large three-season tent. The fact that it includes one of the most well designed and versatile vestibules in the category was just icing on the cake for us, and whether you’re using the Wawona as your basecamp for mountain biking, fishing, or climbing, you’ll have plenty of room underneath to store all your gear and then some.

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