MSR Access 2 Review
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
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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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
— Ian Nicholson