The MSR Carbon Reflex 1 person tent is very lightweight and only weighs 2 pounds and 8.9 ounces (on the sectionhiker scale). That’s very lightweight for a double-walled tent with a built-in vestibule. But, with an MSRP of $450 it is very expensive. Is it worth it?
The MSR Carbon Reflex 1 person tent comes with an inner tent, a rain fly, a stuff sack and two Easton-made carbon fiber poles. The inner tent has a PU coated bathtub floor but is almost completely made out of bug netting, with a large side door that opens into the vestibule. The rain fly drapes over the inner tent and provides a front vestibule with a reversible zipper and two doors which can be guyed out separately. The fly can also be pulled out a bit at the back of the tent to provide additional ventilation, but it is not accessible from inside the inner tent. Both the inner tent and the fly are fully seam taped and the fly is reinforced with extra fabric panels at all of the tent’s tie-outs points.
- Total weight: 2 pounds 8.9 ounces (mfg weight listed as 2 pounds 9 ounces)
- Carbon fiber poles: 6.4 ounces
- Pole stuff sack: 0.5 ounces
- Inner tent: 15.3 ounces
- Rain fly: 14.2 ounces
- Tent stuff sack: 2.2 ounces
- Aluminum tent stakes: 6 @ 2.3 ounces
- Tent stake stuff sack: 0.2 ounces
The Carbon reflex 1 also comes with two Easton carbon fiber poles, a short and a long one, which are connected with shock cord.
Pitching the Tent
To set up the Carbon Reflex 1, you stake out the four corners of the inner tent, insert the long pole into the two end grommets and then clip the inner tent to it. A final cross piece is tensioned over the long poles and inserts into two grommets at the top of the tent’s sides. Quite a lot of elbow grease is required to get this last pole in place and it can be a bit of a struggle. Pray that you don’t have to pitch this tent if it is raining heavily, because the inner tent will be plenty wet by the time you want to get into it.
The guy-outs at the corners of the tent are loops of cord with the same kind of line-loc tensioners you find on a lot of ultralight shelters. Staking them out at maximum tension, with the guy lines set at a 45 degree angle to the inner tent, is essential to maximizing the narrow, bivy-sized space in the inner tent. This can be a bit of a problem if the ground you are pitching on doesn’t provide a very firm anchor for stakes – like rock, sand, or unconsolidated pine needles . This tent is not free standing and you won’t be able to camp on those surfaces.
The space inside the inner tent is very narrow, with barely enough room for a narrow Neoir All Season inflatable sleeping pad and a sleeping bag. While the side walls are vertical, the ends above the feet and head slope up at about a 45 degree angle. I’ve got size 10 feet and they touch the tent fabric when I am in sleeping bag, making it a probable site for condensation transfer. The same holds for the panel behind the head.
There are a lot of loops inside the inner tent for hanging a headlamp in addition to four loops just below the top of the roof panel where one could hang a small gear attic (there isn’t one available for this tent). In addition, there are small side pockets on either side at one end of the tent, above the top of the bathtub floor for storing glasses or other small flattish objects.
I have to be honest, the inside of the inner tent is pretty cramped and they’re really not much room to do anything except sleep on your back. However, it gets downright claustrophobic when you put on the rain fly.
The Carbon Reflex Rain Fly is made out of PU coated 20 denier ripstop nylon with a shiny interior color and a flat external grid. It drapes over the inner tent and attaches to the carbon fiber poles using velcro tabs at the apex of the tent and along its sides. It also clips into the corner guy-outs points on the inner tent. Unfortunately, there are no other tie-out points on the exterior skin of the shell for anchoring it down in high wind. This appears to be an oversight, but it limits the range of conditions this tent can be used in.
The vestibule is not large, but it is sufficient for use as a gear shed in rainy conditions. The floor of the vestibule in cut a high allowing for better airflow, which is a nice feature , and there are separate tie-outs on each vestibule panel to secure it to the ground. There is a two way, waterproof zipper on the door, which lets you vent the top of the vestibule without having to leave the inner tent.
When I slept in this tent with both of the vestibule doors open, there was excellent ventilation and you didn’t ‘t experience any condensation. That wasn’t a surprise: the inner tent provides fantastic ventilation because it’s almost completely made out of bug netting.
But when I slept with the vestibule doors closed, I experienced a lot of internal condensation overnight. Part of the problem is that the fly lies very close to the surface of the inner tent right above your head and feet, which give off the most moisture at night. That moisture (primarily from your breath) condenses, drips onto the inner tent and onto your sleeping bag. This happened to me in fairly dry autumn conditions, but I’d expect it to be significantly worse in rainy weather.
If it’s raining, there is virtually nothing you can do with this tent to increase the ventilation because the bottom of the fly nearly comes down to the ground and the fly has a shape that defeats any attempts to pull it farther away from the inner tent. The only way to “fix” the problem is really to ditch the rain fly and use the inner tent as a bug bivy under a flat tarp. Of course, you don’t have to spend $450 dollars to do this.
Alternate “Ultralight” Pitch Option
If you decide to buy the $40 Carbon Reflex 1 Footprint for this tent, it is possible to pitch the rain fly without the inner tent. I didn’t test this option, but there is a segment in this video that shows how to do this with the 2 person Carbon Reflex 2. It’s an interesting option and probably cuts way down in the internal condensation one experiences with the Carbon Reflex 1. Still it’s a bit awkward to pitch and I’d hate to try doing it in pouring rain.
Don’t let the light weight of this tent blind you to the fact that it’s cramped, it can’t be pitched on surfaces that won’t hold tent stakes, and there are no external tie-downs to stabilize it in windy conditions. Those are all show-stoppers for me and I wouldn’t think about buying this tent, even if I could always use it non-rainy conditions when tent condensation might not be an issue. It’s definitely not worth $450 dollar and there are much less expensive double walled tents available that provide better features at a much less expensive price point.
- Small footprint – fits into tight spaces
- Front vestibule is symmetric
- Side facing doorway
- Cramped quarters
- Internal condensation when the vestibule is closed
- No exterior ties downs on the fly for windy conditions
- Not freestanding
- Floor dimensions: 86 x 26 inches (220 x 70 centimeters)
- Floor area: 17 square feet
- Vestibule area: 9.5 square feet
- Peak height: 37 inches (94 centimeters)
- Rain Fly Fabric: 20D x 330T ripstop nylon 66 1000mm DurashieldTM polyurethane & silicone coated
- Floor Fabric: 40D x 238T ripstop nylon 6 3000mm DuraShield polyurethane coated & DWR
- Mesh: 20D nylon mesh
- Canopy Fabric: 20D x 330T ripstop nylon 66 DWR
- Poles: Easton Carbon FX
- Tent Stakes: DAC Aluminum
Disclosure: SectionHiker.com owns the MSR Carbon Reflex reviewed here and purchased it with their own funds.
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