Whenever I’m looking to buy any new item of outdoor equipment, it usually involves extensive research. I can spend hours pouring over reviews, and speaking to other outdoor enthusiasts. No one wants to make the wrong decision especially on gear that you’ve not only paid hard earned cash for but also could be trusting your life to on an extended trip in the backcountry.
Back in August I was in that familiar position thinking ‘I need a new tent’. I’ve bought quite a few over the years but I find with experience my requirements getting more specific. When I started it was, “I need a tent”, but now it’s more, “I need a 2 person lightweight tent, that’s freestanding and robust”. In fact that was pretty much the exact criteria I had for my last purchase.
Marie and I do a lot of canoe trips during the year but recently we’ve wanted to extend this to more long distance hiking trips. While we already own a number of small, freestanding tents, none of them fill the criteria of being particularly lightweight. Not much of a problem in a canoe when you’re not actually having to carry it any great distance.
With our planned canoeing trip to Finland imminent, a canoe trip to Scotland on the horizon and a more distant plan of hiking the Pennine Way next summer in the pipeline, we wanted a tent that was going to work well for all of these journeys.
That meant something lightweight for hiking and taking abroad, durable and from a brand with a good reputation, freestanding for use when canoeing and pitching on rocky surfaces and spacious enough for waiting out the odd storm in comfort. Ideally we also wanted two entrances so that one of us could get up in the night without waking the other.
It was important that it was freestanding to be able to pitch on rocky surfaces.
Money was not the primary factor in coming to a decision but we didn’t want to be spending much more than £500. That pretty much ruled out anything from Hilleberg. Fortunately we weren’t looking for anything that could withstand a huge snowfall as we tend to use our tipi more for winter camping. 3 season use would be enough.
We checked out a lot of 2 person tents but found many of them too small for spending any time in. Sometimes on a longer trip you have to spend hours or days sitting out the weather playing cards and reading, so it’s nice to have some extra room to make this more comfortable.
Finally, protection from insects was high on the agenda. Midges in Scotland and mosquitos in Scandinavia and Canada are not pleasant so whatever tent we chose had to have excellent insect protection.
Having looked at a lot of options, it was a visit to our local Cotswold Outdoor shop that finally swayed us to purchasing the MSR Hubba Hubba NX. A 2 person, 3 season tent that’s freestanding and lightweight. It also has dual entrances and vestibules which have plenty of space for storing shoes and a backpack. I already own a lot of MSR equipment including water filter, petrol stove and cooking gear so I know that their products are reliable and come with an excellent warranty.
My only concern was that being a North American design it seemed to pitch inner first, flysheet second. That’s not so much a problem in a drier environment such as in Nevada but in the UK it rains…a lot.
Tent inner pitched without the fly. This was taken in Finland on a lovely day but having the flexibility to pitch fly first is extremely useful in bad weather.
I had visions of the inner getting soaked as I battled wind and rain to persuade the flysheet over it. My concerns, however, we alleviated as I learned it could also be pitched flysheet first as most UK and European designs do.
It also weighs only 1.5kg including pegs and storage bags which shared between 2 of us is less than a kilo each. Excellent for hiking and when dealing with long portages.
We decided to buy the optional footprint and Gear Shed which brings the weight up to 2kg. Having the footprint not only protects the inner tent but also allows you to configure it in what MSR call ‘Fast and Light’ mode. That means pitching just the fly and footprint together, leaving the inner behind. Fine for when you’re not expecting insects to be a problem.
The Gear Shed adds an extra porch to one side of the tent. We’d leave this at home for backpacking but when weight isn’t so much of an issue it gives us some more room inside without too much of a weight penalty.
The MSR Gear Shed adds extra room for storing kit.
So, since buying the tent, what are my thoughts so far?
In the three months that I’ve owned the tent it’s been used for 19 nights in both Finland and Scotland. Not enough to come to any long term conclusions but enough to give some first impressions about whether it’s fulfilled the requirements I’d hoped.
I haven’t used it yet in any extreme conditions though I usually try and find somewhere relatively sheltered before pitching. Time will tell how it holds up in strong winds and torrential rain. It shouldn’t be long before I test it in both of these!
What has surprised me most is that I’ve come to love that I can pitch it inner first (or inner by itself). In Finland on some really warm days we could leave the flysheet partially or completely off to keep cool but also escape the mosquitos. It was also a pleasure to be able to lay in the tent and look up at the sky. After all one of the main reason I enjoy being outside is to get closer to nature, not shut myself off from it.
I don’t like to feel shut out from the environment. This beautiful sunset was taken while lying in the MSR Hubba Hubba NX.
The 2 entrances also allow you to open them both up and let air circulate through the tent. These were big enough for storing a reasonable amount of gear or for cooking in.
Other than being lightweight it also packs up pretty small. Only 46cm x 15cm. You can get it more compact if you put it in a compressible stuff sack. I can see that being a big benefit for backpacking but even for canoeing it means that you can fit more in your pack. I’ve already used this solo and I barely noticed it was there.
It’s incredibly easy to set up by yourself as the pole system is quite unique. The strong, DAC aluminium poles fit together as one piece, almost like a skeleton. Once attached, the inner hooks on to the poles with a number of plastic clips and the in fly is thrown over the top.
In bad weather the fly can be attached first and then the inner clipped in underneath. I did find this a bit more fiddly and took longer to do than the inner first method but at least you don’t get soaked.
The ventilation is good. Aside from being able to open both doors up there are openings at each end to let the air flow through. I’ve still had issues with condensation in the morning but no more than I would on any other tent. It’s handy to be able to remove the inner and leave the fly up to dry until breaking camp.
Good ventilation and access with dual doors.
The roominess is where this tent really shines. The headroom is 100cm so there’s easily enough space for two to sit up and play cards. Because of the way it’s been designed, the tent walls rise up quickly providing a lot of interior room given its relatively small footprint. That makes it much more comfortable for spending any length of time in.
Bad (ish) points
The material used is a lightweight ripstop nylon and as such seems fairly fragile compared to heavier offerings. I can’t say that this has caused me any concern as it doesn’t seem to be any less robust but I treat it with care as I do all my equipment. Just something to be aware of if you tend to abuse your kit.
I would have liked it to be included with more guylines. It does have a number of loops to attach them to but not enough cord to make them up. I ended up buying some dyneema cord to make up the extra guylines. I don’t keep them attached but have them with the tent in case it looks like it might be a breezy night. I’ve also added some more tent pegs as I’m not sure how much I trust the little stakes they supply with the tent. They’ve been fine so far but I always find it handy to have some different kinds for different ground types anyway.
Overall this tent has been as close to perfect for what we were looking for. Bear in mind these are only my first impressions having spent 19 nights in it. I’ll reserve judgement once I’ve had some more use out of it, however, I’m pleased with the decision. It’s a very well made tent that offers a great amount of interior room for it’s weight and fulfils a lot of different applications. If you have similar criteria then definitely give this tent a good look.