MSR Access 1 review

MSR Access 1 Review – Four-Season Tent

Kit Review
After using this four-season tent solidly from November to April in Britain, here’s my straight-talking MSR Access 1 review and accompanying video. Covering the pros and cons of the MSR Access 1.

Number of months used6 months in a bitterly cold winter
WhereWales and South England
WhenMid-November to April
WeatherMixture of rain, snow, sub-zero temperatures, light wind and drizzle
SizeOne person but it also comes in a two- and three-man version
MSR Access 1 Review – Overview

I was keen to start using my MSR Access 1 tent, even slightly excited, dare I say (as excited as you can be at the prospect of camping through an entire British winter). It is massively spacious, four-season, geometric with two full crossing poles, and on paper, doesn’t weigh a tonne. Its performance in the field, however, wasn’t as pleasing.

My MSR Access 1 review on Youtube which is more comprehensive than this post, so I’d recommend watching it if you can.

Advantages
MSR Access 1 Review – Space

The MSR Access 1 is huge, there’s no denying that. Perfect for extra winter kit that will fit nicely in the porch and down the sides of your roll mat. It has a high head clearance even when sitting on a thick roll mat and feels enormous when lying down and looking up at the ‘ceiling’.  The groundsheet isn’t rectangular, it actually goes out at the sides into a slight diamond shape giving you even more space.

MSR Access 1 review
MSR Access 1 review – look at the huge amount of space
MSR Access 1 Review – Waterproofing

I knew the MSR Access 1 would stand up to British rain as the hydrostatic head is the same as my MSR Hubba NX tent (review here) which did me well for spring to autumn. On paper, the hydrostatic head (how they measure waterproofing) is low; the fly comes in at 1,200mm and the groundsheet 3,000mm. But when thrown to the elements and packed up wet time and again, the MSR Access 1 has been no drama at all in the rain.

MSR Access 1 review
MSR Access 1 in the rain
MSR Access 1 Review – Freestanding

I love freestanding tents, it removes the worry of pitching on solid foundations or ice, which is the reason I’m not a big fan of tunnel tents. Be sure though, with the MSR Access 1, to peg / put stones on all the guylines to ensure the outer doesn’t touch the inner.

MSR Access 1 Review – Warmth

I’ve used my MSR Access 1 tent in temperatures as low as about -6 degrees. It is noticeably warmer inside than out due to a lack of vents. But that comes at a cost – condensation.

Disadvantages
MSR Access 1 Review – Condensation
MSR Access 1 Review
Condensation in my MSR Access 1 tent.

To be frank, this is a nightmare. The tent has only one small mesh window on the inner door and no vents at all. It seems MSR are trying to cut weight down to appeal to the lightpackers out there by having no extra vents. In reality, it doesn’t work in Britain’s damp climate. Not unless you’re in a decent wind throughout the night, but even then, the bath tub area (the red inner of the groundsheet) will have condensation clinging to it. My down sleeping bag is normally damp so I try to combat this by using the footprint under the groundsheet, putting my dry poncho on the inner floor and frequently popping my sleeping bag into a bivvy. Cue a silly amount of extra weight. It’s also not what you expect when the tent is so expensive in the first place.

MSR Access 1 Review – Pole Issues

Hmmm. MSR claim that they have strengthened the poles by using Easton Syclone, which in MSR’s words are “made from aerospace-grade composite materials, so Easton Syclone poles flex, rather than break, under the abuse of brutal alpine winds—adding critical durability to our all-season mountain tents”.

So why then, did my poles break three times in absolutely no wind at all? The first pole seemed to get the connecting part stuck in its partner pole, while the second pole splintered because there was too much elastic for it to go taut when erected. On my very last day of my hike through Britain, one of the poles snapped completely in half. The reason? Where the tent poles bend they weaken, you can see the marks in the poles, and this is where it snapped. Poor show by MSR.

The supplier, Elite Mountain Supplies, however, saw me right when the first one broke and sent me a new replacement set out within 24 hours (brilliant customer service) as they knew I was hiking for the next few months with the MSR Access 1 tent.
MSR Access 1 review

MSR Access 1 review – pole breakages

MSR Access 1 Review – Weight

On paper this tent looks super light; 1.6kg packed. Again, in reality, it isn’t. MSR have provided only half of the guylines (four out of eight to nine that are needed to keep the outer away from the inner); you also need eight extra pegs and I’d recommend the footprint if you want to reduce condensation. In total, I’d put the weight of the MSR Access 1 tent at 2.1kg.

MSR Access 1 Review – Price

It’ll set you back around £450 with the footprint if you shop around which is a huge price for something which doesn’t perform as it should.

Conclusion

For the performance I’ve had from my MSR Access 1 tent, I do not think it is worth that money at all. For use in Britain, with a damp climate, I personally wouldn’t recommend the tent based on my own experiences. Perhaps for drier climates it might work better, but the poles also worry me.

For a more comprehensive MSR Access 1 review, watch my Youtube video at the top of the page.
MSR Access 1 Specs
  • Total packed weight: 1.6kg say MSR; BUT with the 4-5 extra guylines and 8 extra pegs, plus groundsheet, it comes in at around 2.1kg.
  • Total pegs included: 8 – you will need 16 in total.
  • Floor + vestibule: 1.76+.23 sq m (19+9 sq ft)
  • Livable volume: 906+241 L (32+8.5 cu ft)
  • Interior peak height: 1.04m (41 in)
  • Poles: 2 Easton Syclone
  • Rainfly: 20D ripstop nylon 1200mm Durashield polyurethane & silicone
  • Canopy: 20D ripstop nylon / 10D polyester micromesh
  • Floor: 30D ripstop nylon 3000mm Durashiled polyurethane & DWR
Read my MSR Hubba NX Review with accompanying video.

 

Jane Batchelor spent a year hiking 3,500 miles from Shetland to Windsor, finishing in May 2018.

To get more updates on her outdoorsy nonsense, follow her Facebook and Instagram pages.

 

 

6 comments

  • Thanks for the no holds review. Having spent far too much on shelters over the past few years, it is great to finally get a review that tells it as it is. But where do you go from here, the price of “So called “ marquee shelters are getting beyond my pocket for sure. But I wonder how you will fare with your next purchases. MSR don’t seem to be that trusted company I had thought.
    Stay safe on your onward journeys…

    • I was really surprised by my MSR Access 1 tent’s poor performance, I must say. I’d used the MSR Hubba NX for 5 months prior to this purchase and didn’t have one single issue with it. My next tent? I’ll be making a tarp out of binbags at this rate as I’m too skint to buy another!

  • Hello,
    Any tent I have used in autumn, winter or spring suffers condensation. A buddy and me use a Force Ten mountain tent that has two porches with vents and double layer inner doors, where the nylon inner can be zipped away to leave 100% mesh, even with these features the tent still suffers condensation. In the middle of winter it is not practical to have vents open nor utilise the use of the mesh. I see from some of your photos that you also pitched the tent near sea level, the Access range really is for altitude to around tree level or above where a sheltered pitch can be found, and the emphasis placed on a warmer tent. I think a MSR Hubba or similar may have aided to a more comfortable outdoors pursuit for yourself.
    The weight penalty of MSR’s two person tents over the one person are negligible, two person tents offer so much more room and two vestibules, both of these features can dramatically reduce condensation especially if used by one person.
    I have spoken to a Scottish lad that uses a MSR Access 2 for wild camping whilst perusing his interest in photography and he highly recommends the Access tent for Scottish Highlands and mountainous areas.

    • Hiya, I used the MSR Hubba NX through summer, but camping with it in -10 degrees in winter would be nothing other than irresponsible. I’ve used the Access 1, a 4-season tent which is what I need in those temperatures, in various environments hiking for the past 1,200 miles. That’s included moors, the Beacons, and yes, parts of the coastal paths as well. Ninety percent of the time it suffers from bad condensation unless it’s blowing a hooley. I agree that using a two-person tent with one person inside would reduce condensation, but smacking an extra £150 onto the price for it for me isn’t negligible. (I do have a GoFundMe page where you are more than welcome to help towards my costs.)

  • I was very clouse to get one of this MRS Access 2, and now i don’t now what to do.
    Do you now another tend camp that works much better than this Mrs access?

    • Hi Cristian,

      I can’t recommend any from personal use but people on my Youtube video in the comments section have suggested alternatives. They might help. I’ve also read rave reviews about US firm Tarptent and their Scarp 1. Hope that helps!

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