Mountain Safety Research is known for delivering an amazing iteration of a product and then sticking with it. Many outdoor gear companies destroy their best products by cutting corners and pinching pennies. But MSR is a good example.
It’s always a good idea for product refreshes to look at your peers’ work. MSR’s Hubba Hubba NX backpacking tent could have used some minor adjustments to avoid feeling outclassed in the face of its increasing competition.
Blowin’ In The Wind
There are three versions of the Hubba Hubba NX: one, two, and three-person. The two-person version was tested, and I took it for a week of hiking through Texas’ Big Bend National Park. It ranged from cold forested mountains to hot desert hikes.
MSR reduced the weight of the pre-2022 Hubba Hubba X by 10 ounces. It is now 3 ounces lighter than the Big Agnes Copper Spur HTML2 and 6.5 ounces lighter than the Summit Telos TR2. MSR made the room feel larger by adding new poles to its 29-square-foot floor. The Copper Spur measures 28 feet, while the Telos measures 28.
To set up fully, freestanding tents do not need to be staked. They also tend to withstand higher winds better than semi-freestanding and non-freestanding tents (which only require a few stakes). This was especially useful in the desert, where the concrete-like desert floor made it difficult to drive even a titanium nail into the ground. I would pull out each guyline in high winds and drop a large rock on it. I would throw my gear in the tent on calm nights and sleep.
The Hubba Hubba NX was whipped around by strong winds at night. At dusk, cool breezes from the Chisos Mountains rolled down and gave way to a chill on the desert floor. This is where I stayed most nights. Although I couldn’t find the wind speed, to my delight, there was no cell phone signal on the Dodson Trail. The tent held firm with barely any ripples all night.
A three-season tent is sufficient for most people. It is lighter and cheaper than a four-season tent. The lowest temperature I experienced in the three-season MSR tent was in the 40s Fahrenheit. I used a 20-degree Marmot sleeping bag on a closed-cell foam pad. The tent has a pop-out vent that you can either close or leave open. MSR ventilated fresh, clean air, unlike other tents that can feel stuffy like some tents.
At 5’10”, I can comfortably lie in ultralight tents, with very little clearance between the tent walls & the ends of my sleeping bag. Although the Hubba Hubba NX tent is not the only one with a large mesh pocket at the foot of the tent, it is the most noticeable. It rubs me badly every time I look at it. It was uncomfortable to sleep in, as it would sag and bulge against my feet whenever I put anything in there.
Ultralight tents require some sacrifices to keep their weight down. The MSR uses 20 deniers ripstop nylon to make the tent floor and walls and a 10-denier polyester mesh to make the inner tent wall breathable. The typical double-wall tent will use the same fabrics as the semi-permeable inner and water-resistant outer walls. Still, they will be heavier and thicker such as 60 or75 deniers and have larger zippers which tend to work better.
The zipper must work smoothly on ultralight gear. The zipper should not catch fabric while zipping or unzipping. Because the fabric is so thin, it is much easier for a zipper to catch and tear it. You’ll need to repair your shelter and possibly stay there for a while.