The MSR Elixir 1 is a great solo tent. But before I explain why it is so brilliant, let's deal with the one obvious criticism – an issue that might be enough to stop some people reading beyond this point – the tent's weight. There is no getting away from it, compared to plenty of other solo tents and tarp-tents, the Elixir 1 is heavy. Mine weighs 2.07kg all in. That's double - or more - the weight of plenty of other one-man tents currently available, including other MSR models. I know for many ultra-lightweight backpackers that will be enough for them to cross the Elixir 1 off the list of potential shelters, but anyone else looking for a one man tent would do well to read on.
So why might you consider a tent that weighs twice as much as some of the competition? Firstly price. The RRP of the Elixir 1 is just £200, while many of those lighter tents are around a third more expensive, others twice the cost, and some that are made of truly remarkably light materials, are multiple times the cost of the Elixir 1. There are cheaper one-man tents too, but with the quality on offer here from MSR I think the Elixir 1 represents excellent value for money. Regardless of the cost, the Elixir 1 is really well designed and well-made, as are all its components. This is all the more remarkable when you consider the relatively modest price tag.
- Poles 541g
- Pole bag 16g
- Pegs x 11 171g
- Peg bag 13g
- Footprint 130g
- Fly 624g
- Inner tent 536g
- Tent bag 42g
- Total 2073g
Dimensions and livability
Secondly the Elixir 1 is BIG. In comparison to some "one-man tents" it is positively palatial – two really close friends could probably squeeze in it! In the summer I used it for a week-long road trip around various Scottish climbing venues. Normally if I'm going to be camping out of a car and not carrying the tent, I'd take a 2-man backpacking tent for my own use and enjoy the space. But the Elixir 1 felt only a little less spacious than my normal 2-person accommodation.
MSR say the inner tent is 2.18 by 0.84 metres – bags of room for me at 175cm and a tent worth looking at for taller campers. The inner is a metre high at the highest which means loads of room above my head when sitting up. The design of the tent with lengthwise poles make the sides quite steep as well, so the inner doesn't slope down rapidly from the highest point as with transverse hoop designs. The design even includes a small cross pole that widens the highest point of the tent. All in all, it's a really spacious tent. Additionally the Elixir 1 has a large front vestibule. This makes getting in and out easy, gives plenty of space for cooking under cover (be careful!) if it is raining, and easily fits a large rucksack or kit bag. Despite its weight, the amount of space on offer here would make me consider taking this tent on a multi-day hike where bad weather was a possibility; the Elixir 1 would be a lot more pleasant to be holed up in in poor weather than many other solo tents.
Inside the inner there are plentiful pockets including up at roof height, good for keeping all your loose items neatly organised. And MSR have thought of the little extras too - even the guys are reflective and the zip pullers on the inner glow in the dark.
On my own I can pitch the tent in around five minutes. There are instructions printed on the tent bag - helpful if, like me, you find yourself putting it up for the first time at midnight, in February, by head torch in a gale on a bleak Peak District moor! Pitching is very intuitive anyway, but MSR have made it virtually idiotproof with red and grey poles, which go into corresponding red and grey grommets on the inner and fly. The poles are good quality aluminum with clever connecting pieces that help setting the tent up on your own. Helpfully, the main fly is grey but the vestibule red, which really helps with putting it on the right way round when in a hurry, or in the dark, or both. The inner attaches to the poles with sturdy plastic clips. Perfectly good aluminium pegs are provided to anchor the tent firmly. Additional stability is provided by four guylines.
The inner is a mix of lightweight nylon and mosquito netting with a preponderance towards the former – no bad thing in the UK where keeping drafts out is usually more of an issue than getting cooling air in! The fly is a burly 68D ripstop polyester, which is thicker than most flys. It's well-cut and comes down low offering loads of protection from wind and driven rain. The groundsheet is made out of a tough-but-heavy 70D taffeta nylon with a PU coating and DWR finish. In theory this has only a 3000mm hydrostatic head (some groundsheets can have three times that, or more), while the fly has a weedy-sounding 1500mm. The relatively low hydrostatic head of MSR fabrics inevitably comes up whenever we review one of their tents, and our conclusion is always the same - in use none of our reviewers has ever experienced a leak. The Elixir 1 has kept me dry in several nights of heavy rain, so I've got no problem with its fabrics!
While its groundsheet is already thicker than those on many lightweight tents, the Elixir 1's is also backed up with an additional 'footprint' that gives a double layer of protection below you. Its weight is included in the headline figure for the tent, so you could save 130g by leaving it out, taking the total weight below 2kg. The footprint has corresponding grommets on it meaning it can be used as groundsheet with just the poles and flysheet to make a sort of lightweight tarp tent. The inner can also be put up on its own to keep bugs away on really hot nights; not a configuration many UK campers are likely to want that often, but worth knowing about if you're heading somewhere hot and dry.
This is going to be a short section. I've tried very hard to find something I don't like about the Elixir 1, and the best I can come up with is that I think it came with ten pegs for 11 pegging points. The other 'problem' is that the tapes that attach the four grommets to the footprint are slightly too long, so when you put up the inner tent and attach the footprint below it, and then pick the tent up to move it around, the footprint normally falls off as it is not under tension. This easily can be remedied by putting the fly on as well and then its grommets keep those of the footprint on. And it's only really annoying if you do move the tent once it is pitched – although that is one of the great advantages of free standing tents!
I think the Elixir 1 is bloody great: a clever, tough and spacious tent that doesn't cost silly money. Yes, at about 2kg it isn't light but it is big, airy and very 'livable' and with the money you save over some of its flashier competition you could probably upgrade some other bits of kit for lighter weight alternatives! It has proven itself durable, and kept me dry and snug on blowy and wet nights in some of the wilder parts of the UK over the last six months. I didn't use the Elixir in last winter's snows, and MSR make a separate range of winter specific tents, but with its good metal poles, four guylines and relatively steep sides, I will happily take the Elixir 1 out in the snow this coming winter.
Our most livable tent for solo backpackers and campers, the Elixir 1 combines a fast and easy setup with generous accommodation. The versatile tent features a large vestibule for storing gear and one easy-entry door. The tent body balances breathable mesh with solid canopy fabric to deliver ventilation, warmth and privacy. Inside, a built-in gear loft keeps smaller items organized and within reach, while the glow-in-the-dark zipper pull is easy to find at night.
- Weight: 2.07kg (1.94kg min)
- Floor area: 1.86m2
- Vestibule area: 1.11m2
- Interior height: 99cm max
- Fly fabric: 68D ripstop polyester 1500mm Polyurethane & DWR
- Inner fabric: 40D ripstop nylon DWR & 20D nylon micromesh
- Groundsheet: 70D taffeta nylon 3000mm polyurethane & DWR
- Poles: 2 x 7000 series aluminium
- Unique pole geometry optimizes headroom
- Adaptable rainfly allows for excellent views
- Built-in gear lofts and glow-in-the-dark zipper pulls
- Footprint included
For more info see msrgear.com