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MSR Access 2 Review

The ski and summer mountaineering focused design perfect for almost any trip you can dream up
MSR Access 2
Photo: MSR
Top Pick Award
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Price:  $600 List | Check Price at REI
Compare prices at 2 resellers
Pros:  Versatile, lightweight, double wall design works far better in rain than single wall models, handles condensation well, big vestibules, easy to pitch
Cons:  Isn't as strong as other 4-season models, offers a good but not excellent packed size
Manufacturer:   MSR
By Ian Nicholson ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  May 15, 2020
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77
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#2 of 12
  • Weight - 27% 8
  • Weather/Storm Resistance - 25% 7
  • Livability - 18% 7
  • Ease of Set-up - 10% 9
  • Durability - 10% 7
  • Versatility - 10% 9

Our Verdict

The MSR Access 2 is one of the few 4-season tents geared for multi-day ski touring and shoulder season mountaineering adventures. MSR focuses on versatility and moisture management and keeps the weight to a minimum. The Access's double-wall design works well mid-winter when dealing with moderate snow loads and colder temps but also performs far better than nearly all of its single wall competitors in damp, springtime conditions.

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MSR Access 2
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MSR Access 2
Awards Top Pick Award Editors' Choice Award Best Buy Award Top Pick Award Best Buy Award 
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Pros Versatile, lightweight, double wall design works far better in rain than single wall models, handles condensation well, big vestibules, easy to pitchBomber, great durability, compact footprint, lighter than average weight, fantastic balance of strength, weight, and livability, ample guy pointsInclued hooped vestibule, lightweight, excellent ventilation, good headroom, compressible, robustBomber, light and compact, small footprint lets it be pitched anywhereLightweight for a double wall tent, inexpensive, easy set-up, interior fabric handles condensation well, longer-than-average dimensions make this a better option for taller people
Cons Isn't as strong as other 4-season models, offers a good but not excellent packed sizePoor ventilation, slightly tricky setup, insufficient guy lines includedExterior fabric isn't as breathable as other models and absorbed moisture, guylines are light dutyNo bug netting, not very breathable, only 24 square feet of interior spaceVestibule is tiny, fine for most four-season applications but one of the least bomber 3-pole designs in our review, only one door
Bottom Line The ski and summer mountaineering focused design perfect for almost any trip you can dream upAll-around uses are this model's forte, but it's still robust enough for when the weather turns gnarIt's perfect for shorter trips, is versatile, and is packed full of featuresPerfect for trips where weight and packed volume are at a premiumA solid 4-season shelter at an excellent price, great for summertime mountaineering or winter camping near treeline
Rating Categories MSR Access 2 Black Diamond Eldorado Assault 2 FUTURELIGHT MSR Advance Pro REI Arete ASL 2
Weight (27%)
8.0
7.0
9.0
10.0
6.0
Weather Storm Resistance (25%)
7.0
9.0
6.0
7.0
7.0
Livability (18%)
7.0
7.0
6.0
3.0
7.0
Ease Of Set Up (10%)
9.0
7.0
10.0
10.0
9.0
Durability (10%)
7.0
10.0
7.0
8.0
7.0
Versatility (10%)
9.0
7.0
5.0
3.0
7.0
Specs MSR Access 2 Black Diamond Eldorado Assault 2 FUTURELIGHT MSR Advance Pro REI Arete ASL 2
Minimum Weight (only tent, fly & poles) 3.80 lbs 4.5 lbs 3.24 lbs 2.88 lbs 5.31 lbs
Floor Dimensions 84 x 50 in 87" x 51 in 82" x 45 in 82" x 42 in 88" x 60 in
Peak Height 42 in 43 in 42 in 44 in 40 in
Measured Weight, with tent, stakes, guylines, pole bag 4.1 lbs 4.9 lbs 3.62 lbs 3.22 lbs 5.87 lbs
Type Double Wall Single Wall Single Wall Single Wall Double Wall
Packed Size 18 x 6 in 7" x 19 in 7" x 22 in 6" x 18 in 6" x 20 in
Floor Area 29 sq ft 31 sq ft 27.3 sq ft 24 sq ft 32.5 sq ft
Vestibule Area 17.5 sq ft 9 sq ft (optional) 10 sq ft 0 sq ft 9.1 sq ft
Number of Doors 2 1 1.5 1 1
Number of Poles 2 2 3 1 4
Pole Diameter 9.3 mm 8 mm 9 mm 9.3 mm 9 mm
Number of Pockets Side: 2 Ceiling: 0 Side: 4 Ceiling: 0 Side: 2 Ceiling: 0 Side: 2 Ceiling: 0 Side: 2 Ceiling: 0
Pole Material Easton Syclone Easton Aluminum 7075-E9 DAC Featherlite aluminum Easton Syclone DAC Featherlite NSL aluminum
Rainfly Fabric 20D nylon ripstop 3 layer ToddTex 50D DryWall durable ripstop polyester 20D ripstop nylon 2 ply breathable 1000mm Coated ripstop nylon
Floor Fabric 30D nylon ripstop Unknown 40D ripstop nylon, 3000 mm PU coating, silicone water-resistant finish 30D ripstop nylon 3000mm Durashield polyurethane & DWR Coated nylon taffeta

Our Analysis and Test Results

The MSR Access 2 fills an underserved niche in the world of 4-season shelters. It's still light and packable enough for most summertime mountaineering adventures and ski mountaineering traverses but with double-wall construction that allows it to handle condensation and damp weather. The Access strikes an excellent balance between weight, strength, and livability while offering enough weather protection for mountainous trips. While it might not be able to cross over for use on expeditions to places like Denali or Aconcagua, it's versatile enough to work for the occasional 3-season backpacking trip.

Performance Comparison


All of our testers were impressed by the tremendous versatility that...
All of our testers were impressed by the tremendous versatility that this tent provided while being one of the lightest double-wall tents we tested.
Photo: Ian Nicholson

Ease of Set-Up


The Access is one of the easiest to set up and is quick to pitch, especially for a double wall model. It basically expands on MSR's mega-popular Hubba Hubba design — one of the most popular backpacking tents of all time — but is stronger and only uses two poles.


Showing the simple but effective pole clips as well as the pole-hub...
Showing the simple but effective pole clips as well as the pole-hub that is featured on each end of this tent. We found this design to be a reasonable balance or weight and strength and made pitching the tent quicker as there was only one pole to deal with.
Photo: Ian Nicholson

The primary pole that crosses the length of the tent has Y-junctions on each end, and a third pole arcing over the middle adds strength and resists snow loading. These poles slip into metal eyelets at the base of the tent that is held in place by plastic buckles.

The pole attaches to the base of the body via basic albeit strong...
The pole attaches to the base of the body via basic albeit strong clips. The fly also has metal tabs which are very similar to the one in the photo (and attaches the fly to the body and poles). This is design simple, easy to use, and effective.
Photo: Ian Nicholson

Our review team found these plastic buckles far easier and quicker than pole sleeves, particularly if it was windy. Once the body was assembled, the fly was easy to clip on and utilized the same buckles as the poles.

This tent is super quick and easy to pitch and uses a hub-system on...
This tent is super quick and easy to pitch and uses a hub-system on its poles and clips to hold them in place. This system is advantageous while pitching it in the wind, as is minimizes the chances of the poles being bent or broken, a common problem with models that use pole sleeves.
Photo: Ian Nicholson

Weather/Storm Resistance


The Access 2 is decent for moderate winds and some snow loading. While it doesn't perform quite as well in strong winds and heavy snow loads as many of the single wall tents in our review, it offers above-average performance in damp and rainy conditions.


This tent is certainly suitable for above treeline camping in alpine...
This tent is certainly suitable for above treeline camping in alpine terrain in places like the Cascades, Tetons, Sierra, or the Canadian Rockies.
Photo: Ian Nicholson

This is thanks to its double wall-design and light interior fabric, which handles moisture and condensation far better than many in our review. Thus, it's more likely to keep its inhabitants dry on incredibly rainy trips — something that folks looking for a summertime mountaineering tent or a shelter for multi-day ski touring can appreciate.

The Access is a solid 4-season tent that handles moderate snow...
The Access is a solid 4-season tent that handles moderate snow loading and wind well. It keeps its inhabitants incredibly dry even in the pouring rain. This was something all of our testers appreciated for spring ski-mountaineering traverses or rainy mountaineering trips.
Photo: Ian Nicholson

This isn't our first choice for Denali, Mt. Logan, Aconcagua, Antarctica, or similar style trips. It simply isn't strong enough for trips at higher elevations in the greater ranges. We also think people looking for an expedition tent might find this one slightly on the small size. It's great for most alpine camping in the lower 48 in places like the Cascades, Sierra, Tetons, and the Canadian Rockies.

While we loved this tent for more modest 4-season adventures it...
While we loved this tent for more modest 4-season adventures it isn't strong enough for 4-season camping in more extreme envirmoments like Denali, Aconcagua, or Antartica were strong wind and/or heavy snow loading is a possibility.
Photo: Ian Nicholson

It could work as a base camp tent in places like Alaska's Ruth Gorge, but no doubt other tents will offer better performance in this realm.

The 42" peak height is nice and felt roomier than most other models...
The 42" peak height is nice and felt roomier than most other models. However, because of its steep roofline (which is what enabled it to shed snow so well), it wasn't nearly as comfortable if both people wanted to sit up at the same time while getting ready in the morning or playing cards.
Photo: Ian Nicholson

Weight and Packed Size


With a packed weight of slightly under four pounds, the Access is one of the lighter models we tested. It offers a fantastic balance of versatility-to-weight and is nearly half the weight of many double-wall models. When it comes to weight, the bottom line is that it's possible to buy a lighter tent; however, it will be difficult to find a lighter tent that you'd want to hang out in, like we did in the Access.


The Access provides a high level of livability for the weight, and...
The Access provides a high level of livability for the weight, and is stormworthy, especially for summertime or spring trips, where wetness and fierce condensation can be an issue.
Photo: Ian Nicholson

Livability


Space and comfort for weight are the reasons you buy this tent. It's easily one of the more livable tents for its weight, livability referring to how nice it is to spend time inside it. This, of course, has a few meanings; the first is the Access offers a surprising amount of interior space and feels far bigger than its stated 29 square feet of internal floor space.


This tent offered a pretty reasonable space for its weight and is...
This tent offered a pretty reasonable space for its weight and is certainly a tent you can hang out in. While hardly as comfortable as more expedition focused tents it is a step up in livability from 2-pole bivy tent designs.
Photo: Ian Nicholson

It felt more spacious than many ultralight two-pole single wall models, and its two large vestibules made things easier on stormier days. While it didn't provide a ton in the way of ventilation (just two small mesh panels on the body of the tent), the lightweight fabric and double wall design handle condensation well.

We also found that this models two doors, each with their own small...
We also found that this models two doors, each with their own small vestibule made the tent feel bigger and more livable than its dimensions might seem. This is because each person could exit the tent without having crawl over the other as well as provide each occupant's personal storage area.
Photo: Ian Nicholson

Despite being the lightest double-wall tent in our review, it...
Despite being the lightest double-wall tent in our review, it features a fair amount of internal space - 30.3 square feet; this is more than nearly all the other four pound and below tents, including both single and double wall models. As you can see from the photo, it can fit two full-sized pads, with even a little room to spare.
Photo: Ian Nicholson

Durability


Unlike a lot of "heavier-duty" 4-season models, the Access 2's fly isn't meant to be exposed to the alpine sun for months at a time. This type of exposure can affect and degrade the tent quicker than models that are treated for such exposure.


This tent is not a "heavy-duty" 4-season tent. Instead, it is geared...
This tent is not a "heavy-duty" 4-season tent. Instead, it is geared towards being light and more packable rather than burly.
Photo: Ian Nicholson

Its floor and fly fabric are constructed with a lower denier (AKA is thinner), which makes the tent lighter but less durable. This shouldn't be a pitfall for the types of trips this tent is meant to be taken on, and it's easily worth it for the decrease in weight and packed volume.

Showing the body of the Access 2 without the fly on. This...
Showing the body of the Access 2 without the fly on. This double-wall design allows it to handle, warmer, wetter conditions far better than most single wall models.
Photo: Ian Nicholson

Versatility


The Access is quite versatile across 3-season and moderate 3-season use.


It's one of the better performing models for more traditional 3-season backpacking use, thanks to its low weight, packed size, and ability to handle condensation relatively well. It's perfect for summertime mountaineering, multi-day ski touring, or below treeline snow camping. It isn't ideal for classic expedition applications in extreme environments.

Versatility and low weight are why buy this 4-season tent. While not...
Versatility and low weight are why buy this 4-season tent. While not very expedition worthy it is perfect for the majority of trips that most overnight trips that people go one alpine terrain. Here the Access 2 is being used on night three of a ski crossing of the famed Ptarmigan Traverse.
Photo: Ian Nicholson

Value


From a price perspective, the Access is in the middle of the road. While not nearly as bomber in stormier conditions as other tents with a double-wall design, the Access is, in most cases, far smaller and more compact. It's similar in price or slightly cheaper than many single-wall models, but does give up some of the stormworthiness or packability benefits.

At just a hair over four pounds for its true packed weight, the...
At just a hair over four pounds for its true packed weight, the Access 2 impressed us as one of the lightest double-wall models we tested. While light, it doesn't give up anything for its versatility and compresses smaller than a number of single-wall options.
Photo: Ian Nicholson

Conclusion


The MSR Access 2 is a fairly unique all-season shelter that fits the needs of several rather large user groups rather nicely. It isn't necessarily the strongest but it is more than adequate for most trips you'll go on. It excels on multi-day ski mountaineering trips, where its low weight and minimal packed size are significant. It's also storm worthy enough to handle the weather if conditions turn bad, and is livable enough to make hanging out inside manageable. You can buy a lighter tent, but it will likely be less versatile and comfortable. You can also buy a stronger tent, but those models wont be near the weight or packed size of this one.

MSR built this tent for multi-day ski mountaineering trips which it...
MSR built this tent for multi-day ski mountaineering trips which it works fantastically for keeping condensation to a minimum. It offers good vestibule space and is light and compressible. While we think this tent is fantastic for multi-day ski trips, it's also a great option for summertime mountaineering objectives and modest snow camping trips.
Photo: Ian Nicholson

Ian Nicholson