MSR Access 2 Tent | Detailed Review - Outdoors Magic

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MSR Access 2 Tent | Detailed Review

The new MSR Access 2 is a beautifully built, impressively stable, four-season, two-person valley tent that weighs less than most three-season tents

‘The new MSR Access 2 is brilliantly light and packable for a tent that’s designed to handle all but the very worst winter weather conditions’

Outdoors Magic: Decently light, feels seriously stable and wind resistant, good build quality, deformable composite poles add resilience, two entrances, easy pitching, great tent bag.

Outdoors Tragic: Lacks insect mesh doors, pitches inner first, expensive.

Outdoors Grabbit? At a real world 1900g including bags and all pegs (118g less if you dump the bags) the Access 2 is impressively light for a year-round tent and feels stable, warm and wind resistant with a full frame-work of Easton Syclone composite poles. It’s not comparable to a full-on winter mountain tent, but should deal with winter valley stuff no problem. Two entrances with storage and useable internal space make it easy to live with. There’s no insect mesh though and it pitches inner first, so you need to be quick in the wet. Detailing is impeccable and the tent bag is genius. For year-round backpacking it looks near ideal if you can afford the £540 asking price. Recommended.


Full Specification

Lightweight all-season backpacking tent / Easton Cylone poles with full frame construction / DuraShield coated fabrics / taped bathtub floor / two doors / two internal pockets / multiple guy-points / compression tent sack / mostly solid fabric upper

Full Review Below

Heavier fabrics add strength and there are doors either side for ease of use - image: Jon Doran
Pitching is straightforward, peg the inner, get the poles in place then simply attache the inner with easy-to-use clips - image: Jon
Storage bag is a little piece of genius and makes it super easy to pack the tent away and compress it after use - image: Jon

MSR Access 2 Tent  | Performance

We first saw the Access 2 at the Friedrichshafen OutDoor trade show and were immediately smitten. Why? It’s a four-season tent that weighs less than a lot of relatively flimsy backpacking tents, or perhaps more realistically, a four-season valley tent. It’s not intended as a fours-season mountaineering shelter, though MSR makes those as well.

Our test tent weighs bang on 1900g in its bag complete with the original pegs and two extra guying ones we added plus tent and pole bag. Leave the bags at home and you lose another 120 grammes or so taking the realistic, usable weight down to 1780g.

So what makes it tougher than a standard MSR lightweight backpacking tent? First the fabric has been beefed up compared to the real lightweights with a 20D flysheet fabric – though that’s the same as a Hubba Hubba. Then the inner has only two small mesh panels, one on each door, to keep the interior warm and draught free.

Easton Syclone composite poles are light, strong and will spring bag after being deformed under load rather than failing catastrophically – image: Jon

But the biggest innovation is with the tent’s poles. They’re a new Easton composite design called Syclone and not only are they decently light, they can deform much further than alloy poles, then spring back rather than failing catastrophically.

The other advance over Easton’s standard backpacking tents is that while they use a familiar hub-based longitudinal pole, there’s an additional full length transverse pole compared to the truncated one on a Hubba Hubba NX.

The extra pole adds bracing, wind resistance and has the happy side effect of reducing flapping in the wind. In a stiff breeze, the tent barely moves.

Proven pole hub holds things together neatly while full cross pole adds strength – image: Jon

Pitching the Access 2

It’s early days, but so far we’re impressed, with some reservations. The tent is easy to pitch: peg out the inner, snap the longitudinal, hub-pole together then clip into the ground-sheet corners before clipping the inner tent into place.

Next you simply add the full-length transverse pole and clip the inner tent to that – top image – finally you add the fly-sheet. In calm weather that’s all dead easy, in wind it’s a little more fiddly, in rain you’ll need to be quick to keep the inner tent as dry as possible.

Ideally we’d prefer an all-in-one pitching tent for fast, foul-weather pitching, but that’s not the case here. Once up, you have the option of using the standard guys to add stability or adding extras to the optional, multiple guying points for increased strength.

Even in standard spec, the tent feels very stable, taut and confidence inspiring. No flapping or flabbiness evident so far.

Living with the Access 2

There’s lots we like about the tent. Inside it’s decently roomy with loads of head-room, so even with two of you in residence, it never feels overly cramped. There are gear pockets running the full width of the tent at either end for stashing kit and some handy lantern hanging loops along the ceiling.

Plenty of room for two people, sleeping bags et al plus a gear pocket at either end. Ambience is light and cheery – image: Jon

The bright orange outer – green is also available – and white inner tent make it feel light and cheerful. The twin doors are brilliant. Not only do you get extra storage area, but there’s less climbing over each other and, if the wind shifts, you may simply be able to cook on the other side of the tent.

Speaking of wind, unlike many US backpacking lightweights, most of the inner is solid fabric to keep draughts out and warmth in. There are small mesh panels at the top of each door, but that’s about the sum of it.

That has the potential to mean more condensation, but so far we’ve not had an issue with it and judicious use of the outer door zips mean you can vent the Access reasonably well. One omission though is the lack of insect mesh door panels, they may not be overly useful in full winter conditions, but not so clever in, say, Scotland in the summer time. Your call.

Other quibbles: the porch doesn’t offer as much versatility and cooking shelter as, say, a Hilleberg tunnel tent, tough there’s plenty of storage. And finally, there’s the price. We’re not saying £540 is unreasonable for what you’re getting, but you need to be sure that it’s what you need.

Clean lines, impressive stability and a very reasonable weight for the performance - image: Jon

MSR Access 2 Tent  | Verdict

We were impressed enough to include the Access 2 in our Outdoor 100 round-up of top spring 2017 gear. It’s a brilliantly light four-season valley tent, that’s been designed to shed snow and wind in particular without weighing you down.

What it isn’t, is a full-on, full-weight, winter mountaineering tent, but it feels significantly more capable than comparable lightweight backpacking tents. It’s not perfect, we’d prefer all-in-one pitching for foul-weather UK use, but if you can cope with the inner first design, its one of the few genuinely sub-1800g winter-capable two-person tents around.

For comparison, something like a Hilleberg Nallo two-person tent weighs approximately 500g more. We suspect the lightweight fabric won’t be as longterm durable as some heavier materials, but overall build quality and attention to detail is impeccable and goes some way to justifying the price-tag.

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