Hands-on Gear Review

MSR Advance Pro Review

Perfect for trips where weight and packed volume are at a premium but you need a shelter that can still withstand some fierce weather.
By: Ian Nicholson ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Apr 9, 2018
Price:  $550 List  |  $549.95 at Backcountry
Pros:  The most bomber sub 4-pound tent, light and compact, externally pitched pole design is far easier and quicker than most other bivy tents, small footprint lets it be pitched anywhere two people stand a chance at laying down
Cons:  No bug netting, not very breathable, only 24 square feet of interior space
Manufacturer:   MSR
72
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#13 of 19
  • Weight - 27% 10
  • Livability - 18% 3
  • Weather/Storm Resistance - 25% 7
  • Ease of Set-up - 10% 10
  • Durability - 10% 8
  • Versatility - 10% 4
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Top Pick Award

Our Verdict

The MSR Advance Pro is designed for one purpose: to protect you from the elements at night without weighing you down during the day. The Advance Pro is one of the lightest models we tested yet performed among best in moderate to strong winds. It isn't super versatile and doesn't even feature a bug-mesh door, giving us poor breathability in wetter conditions or at lower elevations. It has the smallest-in-review interior space, making it the least comfortable model to hang out in — but that's not what this tent is made for. Our Top Pick for Lightweight Alpine climbing is for big ascents in the mountains where every ounce counts.

It's easy to set up in strong winds, and its small footprint means you can pitch it pretty much anywhere two people could come close to laying down. While we love many things about the Advance Pro, for most folks who are looking for a summertime alpine climbing tent, the BD Firstlight is better. It's a lot less weather resistant and not as easy to set up but has more space and bug netting, making it nicer for many trips in the lower-48.


Compare to Similar Products

Our Analysis and Test Results

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The MSR Advance Pro is a bomb-proof bivi tent with a minimal-weight focused design. Its among the lightest tents in our review and has the smallest interior floor plan with only 24 square feet, and not a lot of extra's, like no bug mesh on the door. This epitomizes the design of this tent: providing a robust shelter while not weighing you down, just to emphasize it's not for hanging out in.

Performance Comparison


The Advance Pro is our new Top Pick for the best bivy-tent. It is among the lightest and most compressible models in our review and is also the strongest of these super-light shelters  the easiest to set up  and sports the smallest footprint.
The Advance Pro is our new Top Pick for the best bivy-tent. It is among the lightest and most compressible models in our review and is also the strongest of these super-light shelters, the easiest to set up, and sports the smallest footprint.

Ease of Set-up


Along with The North Face Assault 2, the Advance Pro is the easiest bivy-style tent to set up in our review.


Unlike most 2-3 pole single wall tents, like the Firstlight, HiLight, or Eldorado, you don't have to crawl inside the tent to set it up and battle to try to find pieces of Velcro or plastic twist-ties as the tent blows around in your face.

The Advance Pro was the easiest model to pitch among 3.5-pound contenders and was the only one of these models that we didn't have to crawl inside of to pitch. This not only made it quicker to set up  but we also got less snow or rain on the inside since we could keep the door shut while we set it up. It has a hybrid of clips for the poles in the front and external sleeves on the back.
The Advance Pro was the easiest model to pitch among 3.5-pound contenders and was the only one of these models that we didn't have to crawl inside of to pitch. This not only made it quicker to set up, but we also got less snow or rain on the inside since we could keep the door shut while we set it up. It has a hybrid of clips for the poles in the front and external sleeves on the back.

Instead, simply unfold the poles that are pre-attached in the center, slide one half of each pole into pole sleeves and then clip three plastic tabs to hold the pole in place. Not only was this set-up quick-and-easy, but it was also bomber.

In the previous photo you can see the pole clips on the front of the tent  and in this photo  you can see the external pole sleeves highlighted by their red fabric.
In the previous photo you can see the pole clips on the front of the tent, and in this photo, you can see the external pole sleeves highlighted by their red fabric.

Weather and Storm Resistance


With the exception of the much heavier Black Diamond Eldorado, and possibly the MSR Advance Pro, this is the most storm-worthy 2-pole model in our review. If we new were expecting to get blasted by strong winds or heavy snow then this is the bivy tent we'd lean towards.


The Advance Pro has two poles that cross in an "X," a design that's fairly typical of lightweight bivy tents, but in this case, they are always connected using a hub-design. This adds a ton of structural integrity to the pole structure of the tent. The fabric is also pretty robust for this sub 3-pound tent, and was far more weather resistant than the Black Diamond Firstlight and HiLight and a little better than The North Face Assault 2.

The Advanced Pro gets a ton of its strength from its Easton Syclone composite material poles  which were easily the strongest among bivy-style tents. However  what really increased the storm worthiness of this tent compared to most other two-pole models is that the middle of the two poles is always attached (as seen in this photo)  adding a tremendous amount of strength.
The Advanced Pro gets a ton of its strength from its Easton Syclone composite material poles, which were easily the strongest among bivy-style tents. However, what really increased the storm worthiness of this tent compared to most other two-pole models is that the middle of the two poles is always attached (as seen in this photo), adding a tremendous amount of strength.

The Advance Pro has six guylines that are reinforced where they attach to the tent, far more so than with other sub 4-pound models. There is also a 7th reinforced tie-in point where an additional guyline (or the rope) can be attached to both the tent and the intersection of the poles, adding a tremendous amount of strength.

All of the guy-points are nicely reinforced. The center ones (shown in the photo here)  are crucial to maintaining strength and minimize flapping. On most models  they are the most common to tear out  leaving your tent weak and exposed  but that is not the case here thanks to the way MSR designed them  reinforcing them from the inside.
All of the guy-points are nicely reinforced. The center ones (shown in the photo here), are crucial to maintaining strength and minimize flapping. On most models, they are the most common to tear out, leaving your tent weak and exposed, but that is not the case here thanks to the way MSR designed them, reinforcing them from the inside.

Overall, we think the MSR Advance Pro was more stormy-worthy than the Assault 2. However, while this tent shed snow and wind fantastically and kept the rain-out, it wasn't as breathable, and condensation was a problem particularly in rainy storms. The Advanced Pro's fabric just didn't breath as well as any of the double wall models or single wall models like the Black Diamond Eldorado or Ahwahnee.

In addition to the guylines  the Advance Pro also sports a reinforced tie-in point at the apex of the tent where you could use your rope or other materials to tie it down if the weather really turns *sav-gnar* (savage and gnarly).
In addition to the guylines, the Advance Pro also sports a reinforced tie-in point at the apex of the tent where you could use your rope or other materials to tie it down if the weather really turns *sav-gnar* (savage and gnarly).

Weight and packed size


With a minimum weight of 2 lbs 14 oz (just the tent itself and nothing else) and a packed weight 3 lbs 3 oz (packed weight is tent plus guylines, pole bag, and stakes) the Advance Pro is among the very lightest tents in our review.


It is very close in weight to the Black Diamond Firstlight (2 lb 13 oz and 3 lbs 5 ounces), the Firstlight was not very weather resistant. The Firghtlight did have bug mesh doors for low-elevations and buggy evenings and had a slightly larger footprint.

The Advance Pro keeps the weight low but maintains its status as one of the most storm-worthy tents in our review because of a few factors. It was the only model with two carbon fiber poles which permanently intersect at the peak of the tent, it has no mesh door, and has the smallest floor area.

The Advance Pro offers the least amount of square footage of any tent in our review (24 square feet). The Firstlight  HiLight  and the Assault all felt bigger with their 27 square feet of space.
The Advance Pro offers the least amount of square footage of any tent in our review (24 square feet). The Firstlight, HiLight, and the Assault all felt bigger with their 27 square feet of space.

Livability and Comfort


At only 24 sq ft of interior floor space, the Advance Pro has the least amount of square footage of any tent in our review.


The BD Firstlight and HiLight and TNF Assault have 27 sq ft of space and felt bigger than the three-square feet might lead you to believe.

There is no mesh bug screen on this tent. Not a huge deal  but in warm and buggy weather it's certainly nice to have. The fabric on this tent is also not particularly breathable  meaning you want to sleep with the door open when the weather and bugs allow.
There is no mesh bug screen on this tent. Not a huge deal, but in warm and buggy weather it's certainly nice to have. The fabric on this tent is also not particularly breathable, meaning you want to sleep with the door open when the weather and bugs allow.

While small in square footage, MSR didn't just cut off the length, which our taller testers appreciated. There is only one small vent for ventilation, and the fabric was only okay for breathability. Even with the door left halfway open in the humid air of the North Cascades, we'd see condensation develope with two folks sleeping inside this tent.

The Advance Pro with two 6'1" people sleeping in it. It's a little tight (to say the least) and with the door zipped closed their heads and feet touch at both ends. Sleeping head-to-foot certainly helps  but this tent still only barely fits two normal sized Therm-a-Rests.
The Advance Pro with two 6'1" people sleeping in it. It's a little tight (to say the least) and with the door zipped closed their heads and feet touch at both ends. Sleeping head-to-foot certainly helps, but this tent still only barely fits two normal sized Therm-a-Rests.

Durability


The Advance Pro got a relatively high score for durability. All of its components are solidly made, however, when going so light you sacrifice a bit on long-term wear, and this tent likely won't last as long as the beefier 4 season tents in this review.


Adaptability and Versatility


The Advance Pro is not a particularly versatile tent; instead, it offers a very focused design toward creating a strong and weather resistant design with minimal weight and packed volume. This leaves little room for compromise.


This tent breaths poorly in the rain, features no bug netting and would be a bummer to hang out in for any length of time. It is best used as an alpine, mountaineering, or ski touring tent where its minimal weight and packed size combined with its storm-worthy design will be appreciated.

The Advance Pro's biggest disadvantage is its breathability. There's no bug-netting and only one tiny vent  which won't do much if you're forced to sleep with the front door all the way shut.
The Advance Pro's biggest disadvantage is its breathability. There's no bug-netting and only one tiny vent, which won't do much if you're forced to sleep with the front door all the way shut.

Best Applications


This model is good for one type of trip; multi-day alpine climbing and backcountry ski adventures where minimal weight and packed size are paramount but not to the point of compromising storm worthiness. This tent is great for alpine climbs where you want a bring a tent for warmth and potential storm protection, but you need it to have a small footprint so that you can set it up on small ledges.

The Advance Pro has a focused design  and while it doesn't work great for a broad spectrum of applications  it works well for any time you might need a lightweight and compact shelter that can still withstand the elements. Its tiny footprint lets it be pitched anywhere two people stand a chance of laying down.
The Advance Pro has a focused design, and while it doesn't work great for a broad spectrum of applications, it works well for any time you might need a lightweight and compact shelter that can still withstand the elements. Its tiny footprint lets it be pitched anywhere two people stand a chance of laying down.

Value


At $550 the Advance Pro is in line with other similarly designed bivi tents. If you like the Advance Pro but don't want to spend this much on a tent with such a limited purpose, the check out The North Face Assault, our Best Buy for a Single Wall model. While not quite as bomber, it has a lot more venting options, bug mesh and an included vestibule for $450.

The Advance Pro isn't particularly versatile but is fantastic at what it is designed to do  which is to be as light and compact as possible while still offering top-notch storm protection. This tent is poor for low elevation camping as it's not very breathable and sports no bug-screen doors  but it is the easiest bivy-tent to pitch and can be set up pretty much anywhere you can squeeze it in.
The Advance Pro isn't particularly versatile but is fantastic at what it is designed to do, which is to be as light and compact as possible while still offering top-notch storm protection. This tent is poor for low elevation camping as it's not very breathable and sports no bug-screen doors, but it is the easiest bivy-tent to pitch and can be set up pretty much anywhere you can squeeze it in.

Conclusion


The MSR Advance Pro is fantastic at what it's designed for: to provide a storm-worthy place to sleep while weighing you down as little as possible during the day. It's among the very lightest models in our review, but we think its the most storm resistant and weather-proof of the sub 4-pound models. It isn't versatile and doesn't even have a bug mesh door, nor is it comfortable to hang out in, but it is light, and it is bomber.

Ian Nicholson

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