The MSR Thru-Hiker Mesh House 1 is a bug shelter that splits the difference between a bivy sack and a net tent, with trekking pole-supported height at the head end, tapering down to the ground at your feet.
Specs at a Glance
- Minimum weight (shelter only): 10.0 ounces (manufacturer and measured)
- Packaged weight:
- 14 ounces (manufacturer)
- 12.2 ounces (measured with stuff sack, stakes and stake stuff sack, without bottle of seam sealant)
- 15.1 ounces as packaged with bottle of seam sealant.
- Stuff sack: 0.4 ounces
- Each stake: 0.4 ounces (1.7 ounces total for 5)
- Stake stuff sack: 0.1 ounces
- Floor dimensions: 88” x 33”
- Peak height: 38”
- Packed size: 8” x 4”
- Entry: One zippered side-entry door (right-hand side)
- Materials: 10D (denier) polyester micro-mesh, 15D ?ripstop nylon 1200mm Xtreme ShieldTM polyurethane & DWR
- Included: Gear Aid Fast Cure Seam Sealant, 5 MSR aluminum Needle Stakes
The Thru-Hiker Mesh House is primarily made of two materials: a 10 denier polyester micro mesh to keep out bugs, and a 15 denier waterproof nylon. The nylon fabric feels more robust than its specs, likely due to its microgrid of ripstop threads. Fixed stake loops are attached to a heavy-duty triangle of fabric that makes a wing at each corner. There is a rectangular mesh gear pocket on the left inside the shelter, near the head end, good for holding a headlamp or other small essentials. I appreciated that the weight of the shelter was right on spec: 10.0 ounces.
Sizable, stowable door
There is a single door on the right-hand side that follows where the mesh and waterproof nylon meet. The door is big and it’s easy for both a person and their gear to get in and out. The zipper is smooth-running one-handed until you get to the switchback curve, and then I often needed to use one hand to stabilize the zipper and another to pull the slider. The door can be rolled back and captured with a toggle so you can reach out and make your coffee or tea in the morning under the cover of your tarp while still in your sleeping bag.
The Mesh House comes with five of MSR’s famous needle stakes which people who own other MSR tents will be familiar with. They are nice to use in rocky soil as they slip between the rocks easier than a V or Y stake, and they pack up very compactly in their stuff sack, which also fits into the shelter stuff sack. The hook in the head end is tiny, and you need to make sure the guyline is well-captured inside it, as opposed to a shepherd’s hook stake with a bigger line-capture area.
The Mesh House is made in MSR’s signature shelter red, which is more of a deep wine or burgundy color as opposed to the bright red of their fuel bottles. Some people hate this color and see it as unnatural, but I’ve been using it in the Northeast US and I think it fits in nicely with the rich hues of our fall foliage.
Ease of Setup
The Mesh House is very easy to pitch. Lay it out in a rectangle, put one stake in a corner loop, pull the other side taut and put the other stake in, and repeat on the other side. The head end gets its height from the peak guyline, which goes through a line-lock adjuster and has a simple bar tensioner at one end and a mitten hook at the other end.
If your tarp has an attachment loop on the underside of the ridgeline, clip the mitten hook to it and adjust the tension with the line-lock. If you are pitching the Mesh House by itself, pull the cord through the line-lock so the mitten hook is flush against it like a stopper knot, run the cord over the top of your trekking pole handle, and guy it out with the fifth stake, using the bar tensioner to tighten things up. I also employed this method when using the Mesh House with a tarp that didn’t have an attachment loop, tying the head end of the tarp to a tree and pitching the head end of the Mesh House with the trekking pole.
The stuff sack is quite tight if you try to stuff the Mesh House. I had much better success rolling it tightly before putting it in the stuff sack.
The footbox of the Mesh House extends almost halfway up the length of the shelter, and it is made of the same polyurethane-coated nylon as the floor. This encircles your lower half with non-breathable fabric and traps condensation, leaving it with nowhere to go but onto your sleeping bag. In use, I woke up with the lower half of my sleeping bag soaked. I’m not sure why the footbox was designed this way: any time there is precipitation you’d use it under a tarp, so there’s no need for the lower half of the shelter to be waterproof on its ceiling.
Not quite enough headroom for sitting up
Lying down in the Mesh House, the spaciousness around your head and torso is a breath of fresh air over a bivy. The extra height is smartly placed where you’ll most appreciate it through the night. From the design, I imagined that it would be a great shelter to have headroom to sit up and change clothes or read maps while still being protected from biting insects while saving weight over a full net tent that maintains its height over its whole length.
In use, however, I found that while I could sit up, the peak was too low to be comfortable for any prolonged period of time. When I sat up on my 3-inch thick sleeping pad, my head pushed into the mesh peak, with the mesh on either side close to my face and I’m only 5’4”. You can, however, prop yourself up on your elbows for reading, which you couldn’t in a bivy sack.
Ultralight Bug Bivies and Shelters
|Make / Model||Type||Weight||Opening|
|Borah Ultralight Bivy||Bivy Sack||5.0 oz / 142 g||Chest|
|Mountain Laurel Designs Superlight Bivy||Bivy Sack||5.5 oz / 156 g||Side|
|Paria Outdoor Breeze Bivy||Bug Bivy||13 oz / 369g||Top|
|Six Moon Designs Haven Nettent||Net Tent||17.2 oz / 488g||Sides|
|Mountain Laurel Designs Bug Bivy||Bug Bivy||6.5 oz / 184g||Top|
|Katabatic Gear Pinon Bivy||Bivy Sack||7.3 oz / 207g||Top|
|Six Moon Designs Serenity Net Tent||Net Tent||11 oz / 312g||Side|
|Outdoor Research Bug Bivy||Bug Bivy||16 oz / 454g||Front|
|SlingFin SplitWing Mesh Body||Bug Bivy||11.2 oz / 318g||Front|
|Yama Mountain Gear 1P Bug Shelter||Net Tent||9.6 oz / 272g||Front|
The MSR Thru-Hiker Mesh House 1 is solidly-built and a good concept but it needs some modifications. I would love for the Mesh House 1 to have a taller headwall. But perhaps this is a case of managing expectations. If I think of the Mesh House as a sit-up shelter, I’m disappointed. But if I think of it functionally as a bivy sack, with ample headroom for sleeping, I think of it much more highly. However, a much more pressing issue is the need for the mesh to extend over the top of the footbox to prevent condensation. If you can do some basic sewing and are willing, it’s an easy modification. If not, I would look elsewhere for a bug shelter.
Disclosure: MSR provided the author with a sample for this review.SectionHiker is reader-supported. We independently research, test, and rate the best products. We only make money if you purchase a product through our affiliate links. Help us continue to test and write unsponsored and independent gear reviews, beginner FAQs, and free hiking guides.
You have to wonder how something like this actually makes it to market.
That was my reaction too. What were they thinking?
The condensation problem reminds me of an experiment I tried one very cold night. I wanted to see if I could take a light sleeping bag down to 13F by wrapping the bag in a space blanket. I had no idea (until then) how much moisture would be generated and the condensation had nowhere to go but into my backyard burrito. It’s a good thing that research project was performed forty feet from my back door rather than somewhere out in the mountains.
Thanks for this review! I have the Thru-Hiker Mesh House 2 and I love it, and have been considering this option for longer trips. Very helpful to know these pros and cons.
We purchased and used these for work: 30 day backpacking trips in the Winds this past summer as a COVID friendly option for our students. Roughly 50% failure rate on the bug netting along the door zipper seam, resulting in lots of field fixing. It happened to mine, so I don’t believe it was the fault of our clients/rough handling. Even in the arid west, we routinely had to dry out down sleeping bags each morning due to the foot box issue described above. I have and love my own Mesh House 3 (really a roomy 2p) but the 1 left a lot to be desired.