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MSR Fast Stash UL Tarp Shelter

MSR Fast Stash Tarp Shelter
MSR Fast Stash UL Tarp Shelter

The MSR Fast Stash is a bold crossover shelter that offers all of the ventilation benefits of tarp camping with the comfort of a mainstream hiking tent. Based on a traditional flat tarp pitch tarp called an Adirondack Wind Shed (my favorite), the Fast Stash is a 2 person, 3 season shelter that enhances a bare bones tarp experience with an overhanging porch, large mesh windows, a bathtub floor, horizontal rain and privacy protection.

Components

The Fast Stash is  hybrid single wall shelter with extra front and side awnings that can be used for gear storage and which help protect the shelter from horizontal rain. When pitched, the entire shelter is fully integrated and sets up in one pass.

Huge Side Mesh Windows
Huge Side Mesh Windows

Fully packaged, the Fast Stash weighs 4 pounds 1 ounce (mfg weight), but it’s possible to the replace the included tent poles with trekking poles, reducing its weight by 12.2 ounces,  down to a respectable 3 pounds 5.5 ounces (on the Section Hiker scale.) While that’s a bit heavy for one person backpacking, it’s a decent shelter weight for two people, especially if you’re the type of camper who likes to hike into an area, set up a base camp, and take day trips to nearby destinations.

  • Tent body: 2 pounds 15 ounces
  • Tent stuff sack: 1.6 ounces
  • Two DAC aluminum tent poles, can be replaced by trekking poles: 12.2 ounces,
  • Tent pole stuff sack: 0.5 ounces
  • 10 J-stakes: 4.0 ounces
  • Tent stake stuff sack: 0.4 ounces

Pitching the Tent

Pitching the fast stash is an easy process. Lay it on the ground and stake out the four corners. Next insert the front poles (or trekking poles) into the reinforced corners under the front awning, pull them forward so that the front wall or the shelter is vertical and the back wall slopes down at a 45 degree angle. Stake out the front guys to keep the front wall up and finally, stake out the side wings depending on your ventilation or gear storage requirements.

Guying out the Front Porch and Side Wing
Guying out the Front Porch and Side Wing

The side wings can be staked out in a variety of different ways or simply rolled up for maximum ventilation. For maximum warmth and protection stake out the wings so that they are flush with the side walls and cover the mesh, with the guy lines pointing forward.

Tent Interior

Although the inside of the Fast Stash is quite spacious for two people, the setup of the interior is sub-optimal because there’s not enough space for two six foot adults to lie perpendicular to the door (although two shorter adults or children probably could.) Instead they must lie side by side, requiring the rear sleeper to climb over the front one at night if they need to get outside and pee.

Fast Stash Interior
Fast Stash Interior

The rear sleeper is also penalized in terms of head room because the back of the tarp slopes down steeply and they’ll find themselves staring into yellow fabric right in front of their eyes. It’s possible to mitigate this feeling of claustrophobia a bit by pulling the rear wall up and out, which can be achieved by guying it to a tree at the rear of the shelter.

A far better alternative would have been to make the Fast Stash a wider shelter, capable of fitting three adult sleepers with their heads oriented in front of the door. While that would have added considerably more material to the Fast Stash, lighter weight, non PU coated materials could have been used to keep the shelter weight down near three pounds.

Venting and Condensation System

In addition to the large side mesh panels. the Fast Stash has a mesh “transom” above the front door that runs the length of the tent and an outer mesh door, which can be left open or covered with an internal nylon sleeve.

Wide Variety of Venting Options
Wide Variety of Venting Options

Together, these options provide 270 degrees of venting and more than enough airflow to prevent the formation of internal condensation provided you don’t cook in the tent (not recommended or safe). Some care is still required to orient and guy the tarp, depending on the weather, so that breezes flow through it or are blocked by the back wall.

Recommendation

The MSR Fast Stash is a hybrid shelter that’s one or two steps up in terms of luxury from a tarp, providing additional gear storage, bug and rain protection, and venting/warmth options that you’d normally need to carry a much heavier tent to enjoy. That said, it’s a bit cumbersome for fast and light backpacking travel, but is a nice shelter option for hikers who plan to stay at a campground or the same campsite for a few days and want carry a lighter weight tent. Despite the slope of the rear wall, the tent feels extraordinarily spacious inside and is quite comfortable to sleep in or wait out the rain.

Likes

  • Numerous ventilation options
  • Large living and gear storage areas
  • Great for base camp style camping and hiking trips

Dislikes

  • Poor headroom or door access for rear sleeper
  • Included tent stakes have poor holding power, replace with 8″ Easton tent stakes
  • Poor stability in very windy conditions

Manufacturer Specifications

  • Capacity: 2 people + gear
  • Livable volume: 82 cubic feet
  • Floor + vestibule 36.5 square feet
  • Interior height: 46 inches
  • Fly: 30d x 246T ripstop nylon 66, PU and silicone coated
  • Canopy: 20d nylon micromesh
  • Floor: 40d x 238T ripstop nylon, PU coated
  • Packed size: 20 x 6 in / 51 x 15 cm
  • Interior sleeping area: 66 inches deep x 90 inches long

Disclosure: MSR provided Section Hiker (Philip Werner) with a complementary Fast Stash for testing and review. 

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7 comments

  1. Good review.

    I would worry about ventilation on this. There are no real peak vents. This causes any warm, moisure laden air to puddle under the tent, except in windy weather.

    Actually, wind stability is quite good with the wings staked down. It provides a 270degree coverage. Only from the front quarter does the wind bother things. Anyway, more resistant than you would expect by looking at it. Due to aerodynamics, the tent actually will billow up in a 30mph wind…not get flattened. I *strongly* suggest several elastic hair ties on the corners to relieve some of the pressure. Longer guy lines in the front also add leverage to the system holding things down easily.

    I designed several Hunters style lean-tos. After the release of the “Thing” (which the Fast Stash replaces,) I realized that the ventilation was a real problem, despite the large volume of space. The Thing had a problem with poor ventilation and an inferior grade of PU laminate. Anyway, the Fast Stash corrects the material problem and the larger bottom vent *helps* with ventilation. But, the front wall needs to be pushed back level with the bottom of the awning for the top vent to work without a breeze. As you say, it is heavy. Too heavy, in fact, for solo hikes. A silnylon version would weigh about 2pounds. Condensation could be forgiven at that weight, given condensation issues with tarp tents is really no better. The nice dry entrance makes a huge difference in my book, and, it lets me remove my shoes out of the tent.

    • I’ve never experienced any condensation relief from a peak vent and have long suspected they don’t work because the moisture from your breath cools from vapor into liquid before it can be vented.

      I wouldn’t recommend this for 30 degree wind – that’s blowing, and there is still some skill required to pitch the shelter correctly to catch breezes if you want or avoid them if you don’t. Personally, I’m not into elastic guy lines, but to each his own.

  2. Four pounds? That strikes me as really, really heavy for something that looks pretty flimsy and is not freestanding. A comparable Tarptent is about half the weight. The Fast Stash is also really expensive. Am I missing something?

    • Lets compare apples to apples. Tarptent’s 2 person tents are more expensive and depending on which you get, close to the same weight. For example, A scarp 2 from Tarptent weighs 60 ounces or 3 pounds 12 ounces and costs $339. It has crappy ventilation compared to the Fast Stash which is built more like a tarp than a tent. The new Stratospire weighs 40 ounces and costs $325 but it has much less space inside, though close to the same in terms of ventilation.

      Although I’d recommend a tarptent for someone who backpacks, it’s probably not the thing that people who like to camp more than hike would opt to use, particularly if they like to buy things from a retailer with an unlimited return policy. Different strokes for different folks.

      Moreover, I try to review gear based on it’s own merits instead of being an exclusive mouthpiece for ultralight cottage manufacturers, unless the item being reviewed is so bad that a comparison to another product is in order.

  3. They revived the MSR Missing Link shelter.

  4. Hello!

    I just purchased the Fast Stash… and was wondering about two things: It says on the MSR as well as the MEC website descriptions that it has a bathtub floor. Up to now this meant to me that the floor is one piece of fabric that kind of goes up about 5cm on the sides.

    Now, the Fast Stash I purchased has a seam (taped but still stitched) approx. 20cm before the back end of the tent.

    Can someone tell me why and/or if that is the case with all of these tents or did I purchase a “made-of-leftovers” version??? (well, this is actually not funny for $300…)

    Thanks for replies!

    • Jennifer Blaikie

      Bath tub floor means that it come up about 10cm at the sides. The first hiking tent I had (a early 1990s Macpac eclipse) came with a heavy (by modern standards) coated floor with a taped seam and never had any issues.

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