I’m on my third tent of my expedition, a necessary requirement for cycling around the world being able to have the flexibility to stop wherever one wants due to exhaustion, or pure curiosity. It also saves an awful lot of money on the pocketbook as hotels and hostels can be quite expensive for luxuries such as a roof, and a door for the bathroom, that is if you are in an area where you can find any of these amenities. I’ve cycled for days on end without seeing people or signs of life other than the wildlife and it just doesn’t make sense to travel without one.
I purchased the MSR Hubba Hubba after carefully reading other users reviews on the internet factoring in some of the requirements when cycle touring.
- The tent should be lightweight – tent materials now a days are ultra light using new fabrics and technologies and there is simply no need to be hauling around gear that is too heavy. Less weight = happier cyclist.
- The structure should be able to blend in well enough into the environment – Sometimes cycle tourists are faced with the issue of having to setup camp in a non sanctioned area of land, known as “Stealth Camping”. An Orange tent is likely to stick out as a sore thumb when in this situation, and is surely to draw unwanted attention to you. Earth colours work best.
- It should be easy and fast to setup – This is a requirement I think for anyone on an expedition. When the weather is bad, you need to get this structure up fast to shield you from the elements.
- The tent should be roomy enough to stay inside for extended amounts of time – What if it rains for 10 days straight? Obviously cycling all of those 10 days is going to make for interesting moments, so being able to entertain yourself without being locked into one position for long amounts of time is ideal. Not only this, it should have enough room to be able to store your gear inside for quick access, as well protecting it from elements, or having it disappear randomly in the night.
I chose the MSR Hubba Hubba after they recently released their new 2011 model – In the past they only offered a Yellow Rain Fly with the tent, surely an eyesore and impossible to perform any sort of stealth camping, which means camping for free in public/private spaces without being detected. MSR also made upgrades to the materials of the tent, increased the height of the floor walls and shed some ounces making it easier to pack for backpacking or cycle touring. I purchased the tent and groundsheet for a reasonable price from a retailer in Canada, Mountain Equipment Co-Op – The price was right, and I didn’t have to jump through any hoops for cross border shopping, exchange rate confusion, and took advantage of their free shipping promotion of products sold over $150. It arrived in March of 2011 while I was stuck in St. John’s Newfoundland from a brutally cold winter, and after a brief setup to understand the inner workings of the tent, and to make sure that it was able to fit my Exped Synmat 7LW Sleeping Pad with ample room I packed it into my trunk bag awaiting my departure onto Phase 4 of my ‘Round the World journey. Read on for a detailed review of the tent.
The MSR Hubba Hubba is composed of an inner tent, which can be pitched without any stakes using only the tent poles for support, a rain fly which attaches to the inner tent and poles, requiring 1 peg for each left and right side for the vestibule, useful for storing gear during poor weather conditions, and shielding one from the elements. However to get the maximum benefit of the full space of the tent one would want to lay stakes at each of the 4 corners of the tent also for increased stability. The Inner tent is made from a combination of nylon mesh and coated nylon with two D-Shaped doors that can be opened and closed with zippers from inside or out of the tent. Additionally, mesh pockets exist at the front and back of the tent on the inside that can be useful for storing things like earplugs, a headlamp, but don’t try to put a full water bottle in them, as it will alter the shape of the tent. The mesh starts approximately 3.5 inches from floor and completes the remainder of the tent with the exception of a small white diamond shaped piece of rip stop nylon fabric at the very top of the tent likely for stability for the poles. It certainly doesn’t act as a moisture shield as ones feet and face will be directly under the mesh. The green fly made from ripstop nylon which is polyurethane & silicone coated with its left and right Vestibules attaches to the Inner tent Poles, with dual zippers on either side. At the four corners, one would attach the fly to the inner tent poles and pull on the straps to ensure a snug fit for further stability purposes. The MSR Hubba Hubba comes with 6 MSR Tent Pegs made from aluminum. Total weight of the tent with all accessories is 4 lbs. 8 oz. / 2041 grams and can be pared down to 4 lbs. / 1826 g for those who would like to travel lighter.
The single tent pole are made by DAC and are lightweight aluminum with multiple three way connectors to facilitate pitching the tent. A small molded plastic piece exists to connect the rooftop pole pieces.
MSR also offers a groundsheet for increasing the durability of the floor or for wet and muddy conditions, which weighs in at an additional 7 oz. / 200 g and has a grommet on each of the 4 corners and small tie loops for use for additional pegs.
It seems there are additional tie down spots for the fly at the front and the rear should one be in windy conditions, however MSR does not include any rope to facilitate this.
In a pinch, or where there is no threat of rain for the night one can pitch the inner tent in approximately 3 minutes, by laying out the 4 corners of the tent, connecting the pieces of the poles together and working from one end of the tent to the other starting by inserting the ends into the floor grommets followed by attaching 3 clips that are sewed to the inner tent onto the poles. It’s easiest to head over to the other and to repeat the process before attempting to attach the roof support poles into their respective grommets and attaching the other two clips. Once pitched the tent is very light and can fly away if you neglect to stake it down, so make sure you throw a sleeping bag inside of it quickly!
The Fly comes next, easily attached by connecting the roof support grommets to the inner tent poles and then working around the 4 corners attaching them to the inner tent poles. It’s a good idea to tighten the fly and stake down the 4 corners at this time before moving onto the left and right vestibules with an additional 2 pegs. I found it takes an additional 4-5 minutes to attach the fly to the inner tent, and have not found a suitable way to pitch the fly before attaching the inner tent effectively in the rain resulting in a wet inner tent.
If one was using the MSR Footprint Hubba Hubba tent, one could then attach the poles into the 4 corners, which can be frustrating as there isn’t much wiggle space left in the ends of the poles. Add 1-2 minutes to get the footprint on..
The pegs are lightweight, and not of the greatest strength, and I’ve since swapped to a heavier duty peg as I managed to bend a few in the first few days using a mallet into hard ground. The ties to connect to the notched pegs are very thin and wouldn’t surprise me if they snapped in very short order.
If you so wished, you could pitch the Footprint and the fly without the inner tent for a large storage shelter, useful in some situations where you needed to huddle a bunch of people away from the elements, but wouldn’t protect you from critters or bugs whatsoever.
The MSR Hubba Hubba tent is advertised as a tent with room for 2 people to sleep in at night. Like other manufacturers this information is subjective to the size of the people and how large one sleeping pad is. It is comfortable for 1 person alone to sleep in the tent with enough room to let my elbows rest off my sleeping bag while lying on my back and would be extremely cramped quarters if another person was in the tent. Lengthwise, it allows for my full length Exped Synmat 7 LW sleeping pad to fit inside with about 2 inches of room from at the head and foot of the tent reducing condensation issues from feet resting against the tent walls at night. Being a 5’9 human there is enough room to sit cross legged in the tent without my head hitting the top of the tent in the middle but due to the sloping design of the tent this is not the case at either end. If one is using the fly additional space is garnered for bags, clothing and other equipment in the two vestibules, however keep in mind if using the MSR Footprint it only fits below the inner tent itself forcing one to place the bags or equipment directly on the dirt, mud or sand.
In hot arid conditions, the inner tent works wonderful for sleeping under the stars, and protecting one from bugs, ants, and snakes which may cause a restless sleep. There remains a small hole in between the two zippers on each of the doors that can allow small bugs to make their way into the tent at night, which I found to be frustrating. With the fly on, after you’ve properly set it up and tensioned the 4 corners it can stand up to a reasonable amount of wind, with minimal flapping, although the coated fly does make an awful lot of noise in the wind. This is also noticeable in rainy conditions, and while the fly will keep the inner tent dry (that is if its not already soaked from pitching in the rain in the first place). One can adjust the airflow in the tent by either adjusting the zippers, or opening the doors and using the attached tie straps to keep them from flapping in the wind causing restless nights. If there is heavy wind and rain, I’ve found that rain can seep through the sides of the tent, nothing like huge raindrops, but a small amount of moisture, due to the mesh inner walls – however the most glaring issue would be the thin floor of the tent, which on every occasion that there has been rain has allowed water through the taped seams, resulting in a soggy mess of the floor in the morning. Worse, water can collect in between the floor and the footprint not helping the matter whatsoever. It’s also incredibly difficult to get both ties for each side of the fly doors onto the peg once inside the tent if you are looking for a sturdy shelter.
I think I expected more out of this tent based on the many positive reviews on retailers sites, expecting it to be “the one”. It’s showing its wear after a very short amount of time and continuously frustrates me when I have to set the shelter up beyond the inner tent. While it is advertised as a 3 season tent, i find it would be more suitable for summer excursions, and not expeditions. The enhancements they made to the 2011 model other than the changing of the colour of the fly actually reduce the usability of the tent making it wear out quicker. It offers a very light weight but for the cost there are other alternatives around the same price range, like the REI Quarter Dome T2 which offers a sturdier pole design, the same weight, and a larger area. MSR once offered an HP model of this tent at a lighter weight with better protection from rain and wind, but have since discontinued for the 2011 season sadly. After 30 days of using this as my main shelter I’ve since moved onto a different tent, back to a Hilleberg 4 season expedition grade tent. Better luck next time, MSR.