Hands-on Gear Review

MSR Dragontail Review

This tent didn't perform well in our scoring metrics but boasts a spacious interior.
By: Chris McNamara and Max Neale  ⋅  Aug 19, 2013
Price:  $550 List
Pros:  Spacious interior, innovative vent.
Cons:  Much weaker and less durable than double wall tunnel tents that weigh a similar amount.
Manufacturer:   MSR
75
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Weight - 25% 8
  • Livability - 20% 8
  • Weather/Storm Resistance - 25% 7
  • Ease of Set-up - 10% 7
  • Durability - 10% 6
  • Versatility - 10% 8
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Our Verdict

Update - May 2017
The Dragontail is being discontinued, but check out our current favorite 4 Season Tents here.

The MSR Dragontail is a single wall tunnel tent that scores below average in our ratings. It attempts to be a tunnel tent but doesn't actually have key tunnel tent features, like integrated pole sleeves. Our tests show that other tunnel tents perform much better in high winds and handling snow loading and weigh roughly the same as the Dragontail. For example, the Hilleberg Nammatj 2 is much stronger, more durable, far less prone to condensation and weighs only 6 oz. more. If you're after one tent to do just about everything we highly recommend the Hilleberg Nammatj 2, which only costs $60 more.


Our Analysis and Test Results

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Performance Comparison



Ease of Setup


The Dragontail previously had pole sleeves, which were easier to use and made for a smoother pitch — pole sleeves are arguably a requirement for a true tunnel tent — but MSR ditched them for pole clips. For what reason? We suspect that it was not motivated by the desire to increase performance because the tent's clips do not have that effect.


Weather Resistance


This tent offers far lower performance in high winds than the Hilleberg Nammatj 2 and Hilleberg Nallo. We feel that it's also significantly less capable of handling serious snow loading. The poles are attached with a bunch of plastic clips that don't evenly distribute force across the poles — they concentrate it at the clip areas. This causes a crinkly looking pitch that does not shed wind or snow as well as drum tight tunnels with pole sleeves.

The tent's fabric is okay but nothing fantastic. MSR could use much better materials.

Livability


The Dragontail uses an interesting top vent that helps increase air circulation and works remarkably well except when it's snowing or the wind is blowing spindrift. Like all single wall tents, the Dragontail is prone to condensation; much more than double wall tents.

The interior is very spacious and a pleasure to sit up in. The 41" peak height is maintained across a large area so that the tent feels very comfortable.

The MSR Dragontail also offers a pretty sweet venting system shown here- with zippered openings on both ends reveal a large area protected by bug mesh. The amount of air flow on this tent helps drastically  to reduce condensation.
The MSR Dragontail also offers a pretty sweet venting system shown here- with zippered openings on both ends reveal a large area protected by bug mesh. The amount of air flow on this tent helps drastically to reduce condensation.

The vestibule has two zippers so that you can unzip the top to prop something inside horizontally to create a small vent. MSR seems to think this is a good idea — they suggest the same practice on their Hubba Hubba — but in reasonable winds, it is rarely possible to keep something stuck in there. A proper vent would work much better. Again, the Hilleberg Anjan and Nammatj have real vents that can work well in foul conditions.


Durability


We haven't tested the tent long enough to confidently estimate its durability. Based on the fabrics and features, we give it a 6 out of 10. Silnylon is much stronger for its weight and more resistant to hydrolysis than the Dragontail's PU/sil fabric.

Weight/Packed Size


The body weighs 3 lb. 10 oz. and the poles weigh 1 lb. 7 oz. for a total of 5 lb. 1 oz. This is not at all impressive; the Hilleberg Nammatj 2 weighs only 6 oz. more and crosses Antarctica regularly.

Features


The tent doesn't have a clip to relieve stress from the vestibule. Rather, MSR uses two strips of adjustable webbing that are nowhere near as easy to use or as secure as standard clips. They also miss this feature on their Asgard tent. We think it should be on every winter tent.

We find that clips are much better for relieving stress from the vestibule zipper than the Dragontail's two webbing adjustments
We find that clips are much better for relieving stress from the vestibule zipper than the Dragontail's two webbing adjustments

Best Application


Ski touring? Camping in protected areas?

Value


At $550 retail this tent is a total ripoff. The Nammatj only costs $60 more.

Conclusion


The Dragontail cuts some serious corners in its quest to become a lightweight tunnel tent with lots of interior space. It's one of our lowest scoring tents.

Chris McNamara and Max Neale

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Most recent review: February 26, 2015
Summary of All Ratings

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:  
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  • 5
 (3.0)
Average Customer Rating:  
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  • 5
 (4.0)

100% of 1 reviewers recommend it
 
Rating Distribution
2 Total Ratings
5 star: 0%  (0)
4 star: 50%  (1)
3 star: 50%  (1)
2 star: 0%  (0)
1 star: 0%  (0)
Backpacker

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   Feb 26, 2015 - 10:08pm
Grady · Backpacker · Canaan , NY

This tent proved to be a VERY GOOD tent for the money. It sets up in a flash and the ventilation design works fairly well. This is NOT a thousand dollar tent.This sure acted like one when I became stuck at a state park in Virginia!! The Blue Ridge highway was closed because of a major winter storm was closing in. There was a storm that had crippled this road a few days prior. I just happened to have a bunch of my winter camping equipment with me in the car. The park rangers told me that all of the hotels were no vacancy so I could either sleep in my car or set up camp. they were great by the way. I was supplied with all the firewood I could use!! The tent did have a small amount of ice build up on the ceiling of the tent. this was kind of expected though because the temperatures dipped into the single digits. The snow load caused absolutely NO problem at all. Over all again…GREAT TENT!!!



Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.


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