MSR Access 2 Tent Review – The Ultimate Winter Shelter?

Discover the MSR Access 2 four-season tent, perfect for winter camping with its lightweight design, robust durability, and excellent weather resistance.
MSR Access 2

MSR Access 2

Uncover the Strengths and Features of the MSR Access 2 for Extreme Conditions
The MSR Access 2 is a lightweight, durable four-season tent ideal for winter camping, offering excellent weather resistance and user-friendly features.


Weather Resistance
Space & Livability
Weight & Packability
Durability & Build Quality
Ventilation & Condensation Management


  • Lightweight design
  • Durable materials
  • Excellent weather resistance
  • Easy setup
  • Ample storage
  • Good ventilation


  • High price
  • Limited headroom
  • Condensation management challenges
  • Small vestibule size


Brief Overview

The MSR Access 2 is a four-season tent designed for adventurers who need a reliable, lightweight shelter that performs well in harsh conditions. Crafted by Mountain Safety Research (MSR), a brand known for its innovative outdoor gear, the Access 2 is intended for backcountry skiers, winter campers, and mountaineers seeking a balance between weight and weather resistance. This tent promises to offer the durability of a winter tent without the bulk and weight typically associated with heavy-duty models.

Initial Impressions and Context of Testing

Upon unboxing the MSR Access 2, the first thing that stands out is its compact and streamlined design. The tent’s materials feel robust yet surprisingly light, suggesting a thoughtful balance of strength and portability. The vibrant orange color not only adds a touch of visibility in snowy landscapes but also exudes a sense of adventure.

I tested the MSR Access 2 in various winter conditions, including a snowy mountain basecamp and a windy alpine ridge. These environments provided a comprehensive assessment of the tent’s capabilities in different types of severe weather. Setting up the tent was intuitive, thanks to the color-coded poles and straightforward instructions. Within minutes, the tent was pitched and ready to face the elements.

Overall, my initial impressions of the MSR Access 2 were highly positive. The tent’s design and build quality immediately suggested that it would live up to MSR’s reputation for producing high-performance outdoor gear.

Technical Specifications

Key Features and Technology

The MSR Access 2 boasts several innovative features designed to enhance its performance in winter conditions:

  • Easton Syclone Poles: These poles are made from a cutting-edge composite material that is resistant to breaking in extreme conditions, providing a resilient framework that withstands heavy snow loads.
  • Xtreme Shield Waterproof Coating: MSR’s proprietary waterproof coating is three times more durable than standard coatings, ensuring long-lasting protection against the elements.
  • Central Support Frame: The unique frame design maximizes interior space and stability, allowing the tent to perform exceptionally well under snow loads without adding extra weight.

Design and Materials

The MSR Access 2 is meticulously designed with high-quality materials to ensure both durability and performance:

  • Fabric: The tent body is constructed from 20D ripstop nylon and 15D nylon mesh, while the fly is made from 20D ripstop nylon with a 1200mm Durashield polyurethane and silicone coating. The floor features a robust 30D ripstop nylon with a 3000mm Durashield polyurethane and DWR coating.
  • Weight: The tent has a minimum weight of 3 lbs 10 oz (1.64 kg) and a packed weight of 4 lbs (1.81 kg), making it one of the lightest four-season tents available without compromising on strength.
  • Dimensions: It offers a floor area of 29 square feet (2.7 square meters) and a vestibule area of 17 square feet (1.6 square meters), providing ample space for two occupants and their gear. The peak height of 39 inches (1 meter) ensures comfortable sitting room.

Performance Enhancements

  • Ventilation: The tent is equipped with large, easy-access doors and a strategically placed vent to minimize condensation buildup, ensuring a dry and comfortable interior.
  • Setup: Color-coded clips and poles simplify the setup process, allowing for quick and easy assembly even in challenging weather conditions.

The MSR Access 2 integrates advanced materials and thoughtful design features to deliver a high-performance, lightweight shelter suitable for winter adventures. Its combination of durability, weather resistance, and ease of use makes it a standout choice for those who need reliable protection in the backcountry.

Performance Evaluation

Fabric Performance

  • Breathability: The MSR Access 2 features 15D nylon mesh panels that enhance airflow within the tent, minimizing condensation and providing a comfortable sleeping environment. During my testing, the tent maintained good ventilation, even with the fly fully closed, which is essential for preventing dampness during winter nights.
  • Waterproofing: The Xtreme Shield waterproof coating on the fly and floor offers exceptional protection against moisture. In a heavy snowfall, the tent’s fabric repelled water effectively, ensuring the interior remained dry. The waterproof coatings are designed to last three times longer than standard coatings, promising durability and long-term performance.
  • Durability: Constructed from ripstop nylon, the tent’s fabric showed impressive resilience against abrasions and tears. After multiple setups on rocky and snowy terrain, the fabric exhibited no signs of wear, indicating its robustness and reliability for harsh conditions.

Weather Resistance

The MSR Access 2 excels in various weather conditions, particularly in cold and snowy environments:

  • Snow Load: The Easton Syclone poles and central support frame provided excellent structural stability, handling significant snow accumulation without collapsing. This feature is crucial for winter camping where snow loads can be substantial.
  • Wind Resistance: The tent’s aerodynamic shape and strong pole structure enable it to withstand high winds effectively. During a test on a windy alpine ridge, the tent remained stable and secure, with no signs of stress on the poles or fabric.

Practical Features

  • Doors and Vestibules: The tent features two large doors and vestibules, which are invaluable for easy entry and exit, as well as gear storage. The vestibules provided ample space to keep equipment dry and accessible without cluttering the sleeping area.
  • Zippers: The zippers are robust and function smoothly, even in cold conditions. They are strategically designed to be snag-resistant, enhancing the overall user experience.
  • Ventilation: The adjustable vents are strategically placed to optimize airflow and reduce condensation, a common issue in cold weather tents. These vents worked effectively during my testing, keeping the interior environment comfortable.
  • Ease of Setup: The color-coded poles and clips made the setup process straightforward and quick, even in adverse weather conditions. This ease of assembly is particularly beneficial in cold environments where setup time needs to be minimized.

In summary, the MSR Access 2’s performance is exceptional across key areas such as fabric durability, weather resistance, and practical features. Its thoughtful design and advanced materials ensure it stands up to the challenges of winter camping, making it a reliable choice for adventurers seeking a dependable four-season tent.

Space and Comfort

Sizing and Fit

  • Interior Space: The MSR Access 2 is designed to comfortably accommodate two adults with its 29 square feet of floor area. The tent offers ample headroom, with a peak height of 39 inches (1 meter), allowing occupants to sit up comfortably without feeling cramped. This is particularly beneficial when weather conditions confine you to the tent for extended periods.
  • Vestibule Space: The two vestibules provide an additional 17 square feet of storage space, ensuring that gear can be stowed away safely without encroaching on the sleeping area. This thoughtful design keeps the interior clutter-free and enhances overall comfort.

Comfort During Various Activities

  • Sleeping Arrangements: The tent’s rectangular floor plan allows for easy placement of two sleeping pads side by side. The width and length are sufficient to accommodate even larger sleeping bags, making it comfortable for taller individuals as well.
  • Ventilation and Condensation Management: The strategic placement of mesh panels and adjustable vents helps maintain good airflow, reducing the buildup of condensation inside the tent. This feature is particularly important for winter camping, where temperature fluctuations can lead to moisture issues.
  • Temperature Regulation: The double-wall construction provides excellent insulation against cold temperatures while allowing for adequate ventilation. During my testing, the tent maintained a comfortable interior temperature even when the outside conditions were harsh.

Ease of Use

  • Entry and Exit: The two large doors make entering and exiting the tent convenient, especially when shared by two people. Each occupant can use their own door, minimizing disturbances when moving in and out of the tent.
  • Interior Organization: The tent includes several interior pockets that provide convenient storage for small items like headlamps, phones, and personal items. These pockets help keep the living space organized and clutter-free.
  • Setup and Takedown: The intuitive design of the tent, with color-coded poles and clips, ensures that setup and takedown are straightforward and quick. This ease of use is particularly appreciated in cold or inclement weather, where minimizing exposure is crucial.

In summary, the MSR Access 2 excels in providing a comfortable and spacious living environment for two people. Its well-thought-out design features, such as ample headroom, effective ventilation, and easy access, make it a standout choice for winter camping. The tent’s ability to maintain comfort and usability in various conditions highlights its suitability for adventurers seeking a reliable and user-friendly four-season tent.

Pros and Cons


  • Lightweight Design: At a minimum weight of 3 lbs 10 oz (1.64 kg), the MSR Access 2 is remarkably light for a four-season tent, making it ideal for backcountry skiing and winter trekking.
  • Durable Materials: The use of 20D ripstop nylon and Easton Syclone poles ensures the tent is robust and can withstand heavy snow loads and strong winds.
  • Excellent Weather Resistance: The Xtreme Shield waterproof coating and well-engineered pole structure provide outstanding protection against harsh weather conditions, keeping the interior dry and stable.
  • Easy Setup: The color-coded poles and intuitive clip system make setup and takedown quick and hassle-free, even in adverse weather.
  • Ample Storage: Dual vestibules and multiple interior pockets offer plenty of storage space for gear, keeping the sleeping area organized and free of clutter.
  • Good Ventilation: The strategically placed vents and mesh panels effectively manage condensation, maintaining a comfortable interior environment.


  • Price: The high-quality materials and advanced features come at a premium cost, which may be a consideration for budget-conscious buyers.
  • Limited Headroom: While the peak height of 39 inches (1 meter) is sufficient for sitting up, it might feel a bit restrictive for taller users who prefer more vertical space.
  • Condensation Management: Although the tent has good ventilation, managing condensation can still be a challenge in extremely cold and humid conditions.
  • Vestibule Size: While the vestibules provide adequate storage, some users might find them a bit small for storing larger gear items like skis or snowboards.

In conclusion, the MSR Access 2 offers a compelling blend of lightweight design, durability, and weather resistance, making it an excellent choice for winter adventurers. However, potential buyers should consider its premium price and minor limitations in headroom and vestibule size.

Comparative Analysis

When comparing the MSR Access 2 to the NEMO Dragonfly Osmo 2 and the REI Co-op Half Dome SL 2+, several key differences and similarities emerge, highlighting the unique strengths and potential drawbacks of each tent.

The MSR Access 2 is designed specifically for winter conditions, making it heavier but more robust compared to the NEMO Dragonfly Osmo 2 and the REI Co-op Half Dome SL 2+. Its Easton Syclone poles and Xtreme Shield waterproof coating provide superior durability and weather resistance, essential for winter camping. However, its weight and premium price might be a downside for those prioritizing lightweight and cost-effective options.

In contrast, the NEMO Dragonfly Osmo 2 is an excellent choice for three-season backpacking, offering a balance between weight and space. Weighing in at a lighter minimum weight of around 2 lbs 9 oz (1.16 kg), it is more suitable for those looking to minimize their pack weight. The Dragonfly Osmo 2 also features a more spacious interior and larger vestibules, providing ample room for gear storage and enhanced comfort during extended trips.

The REI Co-op Half Dome SL 2+ is another versatile option, designed for three-season use with a focus on comfort and space. It offers a more generous floor area and peak height, making it ideal for taller users or those who prefer more interior space. Its dual vestibules and doors add convenience, but at a weight of 4 lbs 11 oz (2.13 kg), it is significantly heavier than both the MSR Access 2 and the NEMO Dragonfly Osmo 2. Additionally, its price point is more accessible, making it an attractive option for budget-conscious adventurers.

In summary, the MSR Access 2 stands out for its winter-specific design and durability, while the NEMO Dragonfly Osmo 2 excels in lightweight three-season performance, and the REI Co-op Half Dome SL 2+ offers spacious comfort at a more affordable price. Each tent caters to different needs and preferences, making the choice largely dependent on the intended use and priorities of the camper.


The MSR Access 2 is an outstanding choice for adventurers seeking a reliable, lightweight four-season tent capable of withstanding harsh winter conditions. Its robust design, featuring Easton Syclone poles and Xtreme Shield waterproof coating, ensures durability and excellent weather resistance. The tent’s ease of setup, ample storage, and effective ventilation further enhance its usability in challenging environments.

While the MSR Access 2 comes at a premium price and offers slightly limited headroom, its performance justifies the investment for serious winter campers and backcountry skiers. For those prioritizing weight savings and cost-efficiency in milder conditions, alternatives like the NEMO Dragonfly Osmo 2 or REI Co-op Half Dome SL 2+ may be more suitable.

Overall, the MSR Access 2 provides exceptional value for those needing a high-performance, winter-ready tent, making it a top contender for rugged, cold-weather adventures.

Further reading