MSR Advance Pro 2 Tent Review
The MSR Advance Pro 2 Tent is a two-person, wedge-style tent designed for professional mountaineers who are willing to sacrifice on tent comfort in exchange for light weight and a small footprint. Weighing 2 lbs 14 oz ounces, the single wall Advance Pro 2 includes a pair of Easton Syclone composite tent poles, connected by a single hub, which are designed to bend under high wind and heavy snow loads without breaking. The Advance Pro has a solid front door and a screened-in roof vent, but internal condensation is a real problem, even with just one person.
Specs at a Glance
- Type: Mountaineering Tent
- Capacity: 2 people, but that’s a stretch
- Freestanding: Yes
- Door: 1
- Vent: 1
- Weight: 2 lbs 14 oz
- Minimum number of stakes to pitch: 4
- Poles: 2, Easton Syclone composite
- Rainfly: 20D ripstop nylon, hydrostatic head of 1000mm, MVTR breathability rating of 10,000
- Floor: 30D ripstop nylon Durashield coated, hydrostatic head of 3000mm
- Dimensions: 82″ x 42″
- Peak height: 44″
The Advance Pro 2 has an externalized pole architecture so you can set it up without having to secure any internal velcro tabs around its arched poles. The tent poles are seated in pole sleeves that run down the rear corners and but are attached to external clips on the front. The poles are curved under high tension, so it takes some muscle power to bend them far enough to insert into the front corner connectors.
There are two tent poles that are connected by a center hub so that they cross one another at the top of the tent. That hub requires that you insert the poles into their sleeves simultaneously, which can be a little tricky, even if you’re not wearing gloves. Once seated, you have to carefully push the poles into the sleeves, taking care that the pole segments don’t separate in the process. This process is easier to accomplish if one person is setting up the tent and not two, which can be a frustrating experience since it’s difficult to coordinate the necessary steps across two people.
You can insert the poles without moving from one position at the corner of the tent, which is useful if you are standing on a ledge. Doing it while wearing gloves in a stiff winter breeze on a cliff is much more difficult though. For example, I’ve never been able to attach the front clips to the poles without taking off my liner gloves. The front plastic pole clips are under such high tension that you need the fine motor control of bare fingers to grip them.
When pitching the tent, you want to make sure that the front door is zippered closed so the wind doesn’t catch it and blow it into the next county. Even with the door closed, the tent acts like a box kite. I’d recommend attaching a leash to one of the guylines and connecting it to something heavy, like your backpack, to keep it from flying away in the wind.
While the Advance Pro 2 is truly freestanding, so you can pick it up and move it fully erect to a different location, you need to stake out the corners to expand the width of the floor to its maximum extent. The force exerted by the pole architecture is much more vertical than diagonal or horizontal, so it’s best if you stake out the sidewall guylines to help increase the interior volume and prevent the wind from blowing the tent sides onto occupants at night. It’s not strictly necessary, but the interior space shrinks markedly if you don’t.
While the Advance Pro 2 was designed as a two-person tent, the interior is really small, only 42″ wide. While you can fit two regular-sized (72 x 20″) sleeping pads in the tent, the best way to position two people, other than stacking or spooning them, is head to toe. Still, this makes it very difficult to get out at night to pee, because turning around inside is such a comical ordeal.
The narrow tent width makes it impossible to store any gear inside the tent except for a sleeping bag and what you can store inside it. There are no interior pockets for gear organization and no room to move around or change clothes without giving your tent partner a black eye. A vestibule is not available for the Advance Pro 2 at this time, so all your extra gear has to live in your pack and outside the tent.
But the lack of interior space is a common issue with many mountaineering bivy-style tents and one of the tradeoffs you need to make if you want a small footprint in order to fit into narrow tent sites. This tent isn’t intended for comfort, something to keep in mind when evaluating it.
A bigger issue with the Advance Pro 2 is the lack of ventilation and the buildup of internal condensation. While there is a small ceiling vent, there’s very little airflow through the tent unless you’re willing to sleep with the front door completely open at night. Opening it up partway isn’t effective, even when the tent is used by one person. The front door is not backed by mosquito netting so you can’t unzip the outer door to vent the tent if it’s blowing snowing or very windy outside.
While the steep walls of the Advance Pro 2 help direct internal condensation down the sidewalls, so it’s not dripping on you from above, it rubs off from the side walls. Be prepared to get wet in this tent at night from internal condensation. While that can be tolerable on a fast 1-night trip, it’s not something you want on a multi-day trip or tour unless you can dry your gear out in the sun.
The Advance Pro 2 is made with Easton Syclone poles, about which very little is known. They’re made with some sort of “aerospace” composite material, probably filament-wound carbon fiber, that makes them less brittle and more elastic. MSR has adopted their use across their entire tent product line and it will be interesting to see how well they perform in more consumer-oriented products. If you’re interested in checking out the wind tunnel tests that demonstrate the resilience of the Syclone poles, here’s a link to an MSR-Easton video that has more background.
The Advance Pro 2 is a single wall tent made with 20D ripstop nylon sidewalls that have a fairly low hydrostatic head of 1000 mm with a 30D floor that’s rated at 3000 mm. While the floor will keep you dry, the sidewalls of the Advance Pro are not as waterproof as most three-season tents, so it’s best used in freezing temperatures where the precipitation is solid and not liquid. The tent’s seams are all taped so it’s unlikely to leak in a passing rainstorm, but the Advance Pro is not intended for general-purpose, year-round use.
The Advance Pro 2’s sidewalls are breathable although that’s hard to tell with the level of internal condensation that occurs in it. “The breathability rating (Method A1 & B1) is 10,000, from the JIS L 1099 test standard,” according to MSR. However, it is difficult to compare it against other breathable mountaineering/winter tents because manufacturers don’t provide MVTR (Movable Vapor Transmission Rates) specs for them.
I wanted to review the MSR Advance Pro 2 to see how it compares with the Black Diamond FirstLight, which is a lightweight and freestanding mountaineering tent used by many winter backpackers, including myself. While the Advance Pro 2 is a tent designed for professional mountaineers, that line is blurred in New Hampshire’s White Mountains (where I live and hike), which is a popular place for mountaineering teams to train for expeditions because the winter conditions are so severe.
I’m not a professional mountaineer, so I can’t say that I fully comprehend the level of discomfort that professional alpinists are willing to tolerate in extreme conditions. But I wasn’t that impressed by the MSR Advance Pro 2 as a tent and don’t think it’s a slam dunk as a crossover for winter backpacking in mountainous terrain. It’s not a terrible tent for that purpose, but it’s not as good as the FirstLight, which is considerably less expensive, much better ventilated, freestanding, and easy to set up.
The Advance Pro’s biggest weakness is the lack of airflow through the tent and the level of internal condensation that occurs. If there’s one thing I would change on the Advance Pro 2, it would be to put an inner mesh door behind the solid front door. We usually keep the FirstLight’s front door open, but the mesh screen closed, and find that it minimizes internal condensation while still keeping blowing snow out of the tent.
Disclosure: MSR provided the author with a tent for this review.Editor's note: Help support this site by making your next gear purchase through one of the affiliate links above. Click a link, buy what you need, and some sellers may contribute a small portion of the purchase price to support SectionHiker's unsponsored and independent gear reviews, beginner FAQs, and free hiking guides.
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