Halfway through our adventures in Europe, we stopped using our Wild Country Hoolie 3 tent, ordered a double mosquito dome from Amazon and used it almost every day until we had cycled to the south of Spain to meet with my parents. When my parents flew out, they brought with them a brand new tent, something which would stand up to the unpredictable weather in South America, being both cool enough to deal with tropical climates and warm enough to keep us comfortable at 4,000m+. We had done intensive research and had decided on the MSR Elixir 2. It was not an easy choice, but we are so delighted and wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to any bike tourers with similar needs.
Note on tent brands
Picking a tent brand is incredibly difficult nowadays, with so many brands offering fantastic products at increasingly tempting prices. Reading around on the internet, you will come across lots of names: REI, MSR, Terra Nova, Big Agnes and many others.
Bear in mind, as we discovered when searching, that some of the products by these brands are just not available in Europe. This makes a lot of the comparison posts on the internet a little redundant and we hope to bring out our own tent comparison featuring brands only available in Europe to help consumers there.
Why we chose MSR
Those of you who have read our review of the Therm-a-Rest Trail Lite know that we sing high-praise for Therm-a-Rest’s customer support, even if we lacked enthusiasm for the product we purchased. MSR and Therm-a-Rest are both child companies of Cascade Designs and it seems that customer service is something which is emphasised across these two brands owned by Cascade Designs. Our first experience of MSR’s customer support was after we attempted pitching the Elixir 2 in unimaginably strong winds and ended up with severely bent poles at the end. They didn’t snap, fortunately, and we have been using the tough aluminium poles for two months without an issue. However, we did contact MSR’s customer support immediately and they had replacement pole segments sent to our parents’ address in the UK swiftly. The pole segments have finally reached us in Peru and we will be able to replace our damaged segments, all with minimal effort on our part to obtain the poles from MSR (a single email sufficed where more than a dozen failed to move Wild Country’s customer support to replace our completely failed poles).
Their reputation of good customer support, great availability of their products in Europe and the high quality tents led us to a decision between the Hubba Hubba NX and the Elixir 2.
Home is Where You Stake It
One of MSR’s Instagram sharing hashtags, #homeiswhereyoustakeit, it really rings true with the MSR Elixir 2. Wherever you pitch this thing will end up feeling a lot like home. The interior is bright, spacious and the mesh panels give great visibility to the outside world. This also keeps the tent cool in hot weather whilst providing complete protection from pesky insects. With the rainfly on, you gain rain-free vestibule space on either side of the tent, allowing you to keep any non-waterproof gear dry, your cooking equipment close to the tent and warm clothes nearby if it should get chilly in the night.
This tent doesn’t even need to be staked out. As a freestanding tent, you must simply attach the poles and the tent will support itself without the need for a single peg. It’s tough to understate how useful this feature is; it makes pitching the tent in any terrain completely hassle free. As long as you aren’t battling high-winds, you can pitch the tent on the hardest ground and not worry about finding rocks or other alternatives to your ineffective pegs. Most mid- to high-end tents are freestanding nowadays and with good reason. These tents are often a little pricier, but the convenience which comes with a freestanding tent more than outweighs the cost.
Elixir 2 in Bad Weather
The Elixir 2 is a beautiful tent and its spaceship-like appearance is quirky enough to grab attention, but how does it do when the winds pick up and the full force of the Peruvian rainy season comes down on it? Surprisingly well is the answer. For a 3-season tent, the Elixir 2 can really take a beating and shrugs off all but the strongest winds. The guy lines are not quite as thick as they could be and we are equipping our Elixir 2 with 5mm shock cord before heading down to Patagonia.
That being said, with the tent pitched feet or head first into the wind and all the guy lines pegged out, the Elixir 2 is a formidable structure which has stood up to some brutal winds. Only once has rain saturated the rainfly and come through to the vestibule area, and even then it posed no issues for us, barely dripping from the interior of the rainfly. That was also during the most torrential rainstorm we have ever experienced; 4,000m at the border with the rainforest.
A balance of Budget and Quality
When it came down to it, the decision to go with MSR (Mountain Safety Research) and the Elixir 2 was really one of balancing price, weight and quality to end up with a tent that would survive everything that South America and the rest of the world has to throw at it. It also had to be a freestanding tent; we really got fed up of pitching our non-freestanding tent and were determined to put that behind us. It is a 3-season tent, however, so we will have to be conscious about ending up in places like Patagonia or Canada/Alaska in their respective winter seasons (with the North American winter undoubtedly more terrifying!).
We are ecstatic that we weren’t forced to spend a huge amount of money getting a high-quality tent which suited our needs perfectly. We wouldn’t hesitate to make the same decision again and hope that the tent continues to serve us well over the coming years on the road.