The MSR Asgard is a strong, spacious two-person mountaineering tent that employs a unique "bow" pole design. There are five DAC 10.25mm Featherlite NSL poles — two cross from corner to corner, one cuts the tent in half vertically, and the other two loop horizontally around the tent. All of these poles (most four-season tents use only four) create a strong and stable structure with steep walls and a high capacity for snow loading. The three main poles have one capped end that allows you to slide them into a single-sided sleeve. The other end locks into a traditional grommet. This design is easier to set up and also stronger than the Mountain Hardwear Trango and North Face Mountain 25 because it lacks the large pole supported vestibule (usually the first thing to break in very high winds).
The rainfly attaches to the inner tent by sliding over the two "bow" ends and clipping six times at the base. Two long, pointed vestibules then extend from the either "bow." This long, slender design is very aerodynamic when oriented into the wind. The vertical walls make it less able to withstand strong winds from the sides, however. Inside, 33 square feet of space provide plenty of room for two and enough for a cramped third. Steep walls and a reasonable peak height make sitting up quite tolerable even for tall people.
The Asgard and the Fury are the only tents we have reviewed that have adjustable base level stake loops. These allow you to stake the inner tent taut then cinch each point down even further. We like this feature because it helps keep the inner tent wall taut. Reflective guy points make it easier to find the tent at night, too.
MSR Asgard pole structure
While the Asgard is strong and has some well-designed elements, it is not without faults. First, there is no mechanism to attach the inner tent to the fly walls. (The fly slips over each "bow" and clips at the base, but there are no attachment points at the walls or roof.) In this respect, the Asgard is infantile when compared with the Hilleberg Tarra and Mountain Hardwear Trango 2, which have 39 and 32 clips, respectively (counting the sleeves the Asgard has ten). If the fly is properly guyed out, but not connected to the inner tent, it will act like a balloon being pulled from both sides — becoming ever more stretched until, in the worst case scenario, it pops or tears. The inner tent literally floats about like an unconnected buoy inside the fly. This is a mountaineering tent! It is supposed be as strong as possible!
The next two greatest drawbacks to the Asgard are its lack of ventilation options and poor vestibule design. There are no vents! The only option is to leave the doors open, but then the vestibule design impacts air flow — the zippers run in a straight line down the ridge. Even when unzipped a foot, the vestibule door leaves only a small slit for air to pass through. This error is particularly detrimental when camping in snow, where the entire tent bottom will be buried, leaving open doors the only ventilation option. Curved doors would be better because they better manage condensation and make cooking safer. Most four-season tents provide a vent in the roof as well as curved doors. Thus, the Asgard has the worst ventilation of all the double wall four-season tents we've reviewed.
Returning to the vestibules. Their long, pointed design is strong and aerodynamic in high winds, but difficult to get in and out of. Closing the vestibule all the way requires even those with long arms to kneel down in the vestibule and extend their arms all the way to the ground. Several testers bumped their heads on the low lying "bow" while entering the tent. These drawbacks make the Asgard less livable than most other four-season tents.
The MSR Asgard has two long vestibules that are hard to get in and out of, difficult to close from within, and provide poor ventilation (the tent has no dedicated vents).
The Asgard had four tiny pockets (the second worst of any tent we've ever tested) and two moderately sized gear lofts. We like the gear lofts, but don't believe they compensate for the miniscule pockets. When mountaineering, we prefer many large pockets and a T-shaped clothesline hanging from the ceiling. The Trango 2, Mountain 25, Tarra and Jannu all have large stuff pockets and the Tarra even comes with an adjustable clothesline.
The stuff sack is also bad. It's designed like a rock climbing rope bag, with a small flap that rolls over the bag's contents and cinches down. This design has been carried over from the Moss brand. Although it may function well for rock climbing, we much prefer a traditional, simple and durable stuff sack with no accessories. This can easily be filled with rocks, snow or sand, and buried dead-man style as an anchor point. It's harder to do this with the MSR stuff sacks, and they're heavier, too.
Space. The curving walls make the Asgard much less comfortable to fit three people than the Trango 2, Mountain 25 or Tarra. Just something to keep in mind if you plan on going light with three.
The Mountain Hardwear Trango 2 is a better tent for the same price.
The Asgard and Trango 2 in Red Rocks, Nevada.