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MSR Advance Pro 2 Tent Review

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.

MSR Advance Pro Tent 2

Comfort
Ease of Setup
Weather Resistance
Durabilty
Weight
Packed Size

Cramped Mountaineering Tent

The MSR Advance Pro 2 Tent is a lightweight mountaineering tent designed for professional mountaineers who are willing to sacrifice comfort for speed.

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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
  • Fabrics:
    • 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″

Tent Setup

The Advance Pro 2 has a 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.

The rear half of the poles side into pole sleeves, while the front halves are clipped in place externally.
The rear half of the poles side into pole sleeves, while the front halves are clipped in place externally.

There are two tent poles which 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.

The Advance Pro 2 has two crossed poles connected by a permanently attached center hub.
The Advance Pro 2 has two crossed poles connected by a permanently attached center hub.

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 side wall 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.

The interior of the Advance Pro 2 is very cramped for two people
The interior of the Advance Pro 2 is very cramped for two people.

Livability

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.

The Advance Pro 2 has a small screened roof vent
The Advance Pro 2 has a small screened roof vent, that zippers open in the interior.

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.

Construction

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.

Internal condensation would be much easier to control if the the Advance Pro 2 had a mesh inner door.
Internal condensation would be much easier to control if the Advance Pro 2 had a mesh inner door.

Assessment

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.

If you want a second opinion on the MSR Advance Pro 2 from a professional climber’s perspective, check out Andy Kirkpatrick’s entertaining Advance Pro 2 Review. He didn’t convince me to love the Advance Pro 2, but I do like his idea of cutting a hole in the floor of my FirstLight so I can dig a cooking hole underneath it.

Disclosure: MSR provided the author with a tent for this review.

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8 comments

  1. OK, this might seem a little weird, but I am curious. Would this tent be large enough for two adults to, you know, “get busy”? I ask because I am planning a backpacking trip with this wonderful girl that I have been seeing for a while and I want to be prepared in case the mood is right. I am looking for an intimate tent but one where we would have the freedom to move around and not be restricted to certain positions. Thanks for your honest feedback.

  2. I just purchased this tent. I thought it would be just about perfect for me to use as a one man tent, primarily on winter excursions into the Adirondacks, and sometimes the White Mountains.

    My primary criteria were: quick pitching, free-standing, relatively narrow footprint for more pitching possibilities, good headroom, storm worthiness, all at the least possible weight, of course.

    I thought the Advance Pro would fulfill these needs in spades. It seems the strength-to-weight ratio of this tent is quite high, and as a quick pitching bivy type shelter actually fairly luxurious in terms of ample room for one person (definitely too tight for two, unless used for alpine style assaults, as Phil so clearly point out). The apparent speed of setup, small footprint, and apparent robustness was what really attracted to me to this tent in comparison to others.

    However, once I received it, I discovered the flaws that Phil mentioned, as well as another fatal one. As Phil mentions, the Easton Syclone composite poles are a new technology. As I was setting up the tent for the first time, I felt a sharp stab. It turned out the outer material of one of the pole sections was starting to delaminate, and was presenting a sharp shard which could have penetrated my finger. A thin piece measuring about 0.25” x 2” piece had already peeled off, and was missing. All-in-all the poles seem quite strong, but they seem fairly brittle to me. Anyhow, this initial delamination of a brand new pole section was a deal breaker for me, and it is now on its way back.

    The other big issue is the inadequate ventilation, as Phil so clearly points out. A screen front door would make a huge difference. The small awning overhanging the front door appears to be completely incapable of blocking anything but the most gently falling snow from blowing into the front door, which clearly will need to be at least partially open to aid airflow. MSR really missed an opportunity here: the front awning extends from the apex of the tent forward, extending about three or four inches over only the top of the single door. This awning covers the roof fabric between the top of the door, creating a covered space. This area of roof fabric is a perfect spot where a second vent (protected with netting, as the rear vent is) could have been placed. While it would be relatively close to the rear vent, this front vent could potentially help significantly with moving moisture out, and would be fully protected.

    I also don’t like the fact that door is attached at the bottom, rather than one of the sides. I much prefer to secure the door out of the way to the side, helping prevent damage from boots or crampons. Another big plus would be the possibility of unzipping only the very bottom of the door to help create some ventilation coming from lower down, which could aid in airflow in the tent (with one lower source of airflow, and one upper source (the upper vent).

    So these are my main gripes, besides the relatively high price. Which was disappointing, because I really thought it might work out well for the type of winter camping I do. So for winter adventures for the foreseeable future I’ll be sticking with my Tarptent Stratospire 1, or my Mountain Hardwear Hoopla with floor.

    Oh, in regard to Kevinman’s query. As Phil pointed out, I wouldn’t think you’d want to use this tent in above freezing weather. There is a good amount of headroom, so I think you’d have enough room for most positions (although certainly not all), that you might come up with. This tent is definitely wider than my Tarptent Stratospire 1. But are you actually going to be doing this in below freezing weather? I suppose a fair amount of activity could heat up the tent somewhat. But be prepared for significant water vapor buildup.

  3. A “wedge” tent design is a FAILED design. My first double wall tent was a Jansport wedge. As soon as I opened the fly door on rainy or snowy day the precipitation fell right in on the floor. NOT GOOD. And shame on me for not foreseeing that before I bought it.

    I’d never buy another wedge tent, ever.

    • Failed design in what way? Good luck pitching a non-wedge tent up the small ledge you had to dig out of near vertical snow on some north face at 3000m. Wedge will fit. Geodesical will not. Simple as that.

      It’s a specialised bivvy tent, for crying out loud. Nothing more, nothing less. It’s for climbers. Not hikers.

      You use a bivvy tent like this to survive a night in a storm up the mountain, not for extended camping. Read the linked Andy Kirkpatrick’s article.

      “Specifically engineered for professional alpinists” in the tent’s description might give you a clue.

      Otherwise, Peter E’s points are valid. A small (add-on) vestibule and better ventilation could be nice, something like the BD I-tent has.

  4. I have used this tent now over 3 seasons from Spring to Winter and 7 nights from warm still weather to blizzards and -10 degrees. For my fast and light one night purposes I’ve found it to be brilliant though the fabric is the least breathable of all the bibler style tents I’ve had. As one person using it this has been perfectly manageable as you can stay clear of any condensation without it affecting your bag or gear. Two up would not be recommended. Ironically condensation is at it’s worst below zero in snow. It performs better in typical windy Scottish on off rain conditions. I have to say I love it, light, super easy to erect and reassuringly stable in turbulent weather. I’ve created a quarter bug mesh screen for the upper door which I’ll use this summer too, let’s see how it goes.

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