Okay, so I have a small/huge obsession with tents. I love tents, how cool are tents, right? Like a little home, (granted without windows and heating) on your back. I found out possibly a bit too late in life that ‘tent architect’ is actually a job title! But yeah I’ve always had a fascination with forts and places that go above your head. So when it comes to actually choosing a tent, I get quite picky: weight to size ratios, colour, number of poles, sturdiness, floorspace, storage, ventilation and height. Height is where the MSR Elixir came into play for me. It’s very easy to pick up a lightweight tent, but you will often end up spending every morning and night caterpillaring in and out of your clothes because you can’t sit up. The Elixir is just over 1m tall, which doesn’t sound like much, but because of the shape most of the tent is that height, so you can actually move around. Compare it to the Vango Banshee 200 (another brilliant tent) which is 1m at it’s highest on the outer canopy, but you can’t do much more than prop yourself up on your elbow once inside. Aside from that it’s also the sturdiest tent I’ve owned, and thanks to it’s separate footprint, it’s also super versatile. You can pitch just the flysheet, or just the inner, depending on how much weight you want to carry and the climate.
Okay, I’ve already said it’s pretty right? There are technically three poles but the two main ones are attached on a hinge so they cross each other, and a small one goes across the top to widen that head space and make the tent even sturdier. The pole design makes the tent super sturdy too, although bending in strong winds and storms while I was in the mountains, it was never enough to worry me and in most conditions I didn’t hear a peep out of it. The Elixir is symmetrical, so it has a door on either side of the inner and outer with enough space between to store a medium sized backpack. There are two ventilation windows on the flysheet which stop most of the condensation. What little condensation I did experience ran straight down the fly and onto the ground, no drips onto me! Typically for a two person, you wouldn’t want two people and two backpacks in the tent, which is why the porch area is great, when using it solo I found a lovely amount of room to stretch out. Much of the inner is made from mosquito netting, making it really nice of a warm night to just sleep under the stars, however this does come at the compromise of causing difficulty when setting it up in the rain. It is possible -if you’re carrying the footprint- to set up the fly first, but it is fiddly and frustrating.
Weighing in at 2 kilos the Elixir is well in the mid-range for backpacking tents (Vango Banshee: 2.35kg), but you get the extra height! Also if you want to go super lightweight, just take the footprint and the flysheet and you’re down to 1.6kg!
Pitching the Elixir 2 is a doddle, the colour coded main poles go into the colour coded loops on the inner, then attach the colour coded clips to the colour coded poles. The final colour coded pole slots into the top. Then simply chuck the fly over the top and attach the buckles to the inner.
As I mentioned earlier, you can also pitch the fly and the footprint. This is much the same method but without colour coding. If you have all three pieces you can also pitch the outer first in the rain and then scrabble around inside attaching the inner. It’s not pretty but it works and comes in handy if you want to shelter from the rain with you damp friends while you eat before bed.
At LeftRight Repeat we pride ourselves in being able to test a lot of gear thoroughly. I took the Elixir 2 900km across the Pyrenees for LRR2015. About 2 weeks into the 6 week trip a began to notice a tiny crack on one of the poles where it joined, I kept an eye on it but it didn’t grow over the following weeks so I assumed it would be okay. Until our last night, pitching the tent and ‘snap’ there it went. Luckily MSR supply a repair tube which slotted over the top nice and easy and has kept it standing and sturdy since. Since then MSR have been extremely helpful, massive kudos to their customer support crew who replaced the tent pole swiftly. The Pyrenees have varying degrees of weather, from sunny and calm to stormy with gale force winds. Throughout all of these the tent stood proud and didn’t let any water in, even when camped on slopes.
At £220 RRP the MSR Elixir is on the upper cusp of mid-range backpacking tents, but what makes it stand out is the extra features, headroom and versatility. I can’t recommend it enough, rather than trying to get my hands on another tent I’m taking it to Chile this May-August to see how it holds up in Patagonian winter, and having two people in it!
Also, for a better deal than most, and great customer service, head over to Floodies to nab it for £180