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MSR Carbon Reflex 2 Review

msr carbon reflex 2 backpacking tent review
MSR Carbon Reflex 2
Credit: MSR
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Price:  $500 List
Pros:  Spacious.
Cons:  Weakest tent tested, not suitable for three-season storms, unsupportive pockets.
Manufacturer:   MSR
By Chris McNamara and Max Neale  ⋅  May 10, 2015
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  • Livability - 20% 5.0
  • Ease of Set-up - 10% 7.0
  • Weather Resistance - 20% 1.0
  • Durability - 10% 5.0
  • Adaptability - 10% 1.0
  • Weight - 20% 5.0
  • Packed Size - 10% 6.0

Our Verdict

The MSR Carbon Reflex 2 provides a large amount of space for its weight, but our tests show that it's not suitable for use in serious three-season storms. The large steep walls catch wind like a sail. But, in this case, the ship has a weak mast, which is the problem. Our test model was the only tent that broke when pitched side-by-side in a storm with other similar tents.

See how the Carbon Reflex stacks up to other tents tested in our Backpacking Tent Review.

Our Analysis and Test Results


MSR makes three two-door backpacking tents: the Hoop, Hubba Hubba, and Carbon Reflex 2. The Carbon Reflex provides roughly the same amount of livability as the Hubba Hubba while weighing less. It does this by simplifying the pole design and by using slightly lighter Easton carbon fiber poles. At 52 ounces, this is the lightest two door double wall tent we've tested. It provides a luxurious amount of space for two people to enter and exit, sit up, and hang out.


The Carbon Reflex's simplified pole design takes the already weak Hubba Hubba and makes it significantly weaker. We believe the Carbon reflex's pole design is the weakest of any tent tested. We pitched this tent side-by-side with two other similar tents in a late fall New England wind and rainstorm that knocked the Carbon Reflex over. Wind gusts of an unknown speed pushed in the front of the tent and snapped the primary pole, sending it through the fly. The pole broke at the aluminum section junction, not at the carbon section, which is consistent with other carbon poles that we've seen break (see photos above). The Carbon Reflex and Hubba Hubba have only two guy points. In comparison, most other tents have four to eight guypoints that significantly increase strength in high winds. No backpacking tent tested here has a particularly strong pole structure. All rely on guypoints to increase strength and stability. We believe the Carbon Reflex and the Hubba Hubba have neither strong pole structures nor enough guypoints. Our tests show that they are not suitable for use in serious three-season storms.

msr carbon reflex 2 backpacking tent review - the morning after (a late fall new england storm). when pitched with...
The morning after (a late fall New England storm). When pitched with the same stakes and in the same manner the MSR Carbon Reflex 2 (right) snapped a pole. The Tarptent Double Rainbow (left) also uses one pole but is much stronger AND 10 oz lighter.
Credit: Max Neale
msr carbon reflex 2 backpacking tent review - easton carbon poles. the right connection shows the normal aluminum...
Easton Carbon poles. The right connection shows the normal aluminum join and the right side shows the broken joint.
Credit: Max Neale
The Carbon Reflex is very spacious. But it weighs 52 ounces, which is not even close to ultralight. The lightest tent tested here weighs 21 ounces less and has a much higher space to weight ratio.

The Carbon Reflex suffers from another, less serious drawback: it has terribly unsupportive pockets. They're fine for lightweight items like a headlamp, but adding heavier things, like a book or water bottle, causes the tent walls to sag. This is a minor drawback but it's worth noting. Most other tents tested have more supportive pockets.

Best Application

Lightweight car camping in protected sites.


The Carbon Reflex 2 is one of the most expensive tents tested. It's also one of our lowest rated tents. See our Price versus Value Chart to compare its value it to other tents tested.

Other Versions

MSR Carbon Reflex 1
msr carbon reflex 2 backpacking tent review - msr carbon reflex 1
Msr Carbon Reflex 1
  • Cost - $400
  • Packed weight - 2 pounds, 9 ounces
  • One person version of the Carbon Reflex
  • Lightweight, non-freestanding backpacking tent
  • Crosses the barrier from ultralight to hyper light

MSR Carbon Reflex 3
msr carbon reflex 2 backpacking tent review - carbon reflex 3
Carbon Reflex 3
  • Cost - $650
  • Packaged weight - 4 pounds 8 ounces
  • Three person version of the Carbon Reflex
  • 2 doors and 2 vestibules

Chris McNamara and Max Neale
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