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Reviews > Shelters > Tents > MSR Thru Hiker Mesh House Tent > Test Report by Steven M Kidd

MSR THRU-HIKER MESH HOUSE 1
TEST SERIES BY STEVEN M. KIDD
LONG-TERM REPORT
March 23, 2019

CLICK HERE TO SKIP TO THE FIELD REPORT
CLICK HERE TO SKIP TO THE LONG-TERM REPORT

TESTER INFORMATION

NAME: Steven M. Kidd
EMAIL: ftroop94ATgmailDOTcom
AGE: 46
LOCATION: Arrington, Tennessee
GENDER: M
HEIGHT: 5' 9" (1.75 m)
WEIGHT: 185 lb (83.90 kg)
SHOE SIZE 10.5 US

Backpacking Background: I've been a backpacker on and off for over 30 years. I backpacked as a Boy Scout, and then again almost every month in my twenties, while packing an average weight of 50+ lb (23+ kg). In the last several years I have become a hammock camping enthusiast. I generally go on one or two night outings that cover from 5 to 20 mi (8 - 32 km) distances. I also do several annual outings lasting four to five days covering distances between 15 to 20 mi (24 - 32 km) per day. I try to keep the all-inclusive weight of my pack under 20 lb (9 kg) even in the winter.


INITIAL REPORT

PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS

IMAGE 1
Image Courtesy Cascade Designs

Manufacturer: Cascade Designs, Inc.
Year of Manufacture: 2018
Manufacturer's Website: http://www.msrgear.com/
MSRP: US $149.95
Listed Minimum Weight: 10 oz (283 g)
Listed Packed Weight: 14 oz (397 g)
Measured Weight: 12.4 oz (352 g) {including bag and stakes}
Capacity: 1 person
Doors: 1
Floor + Vestibule: 20 sq ft (1.86 sq m)
Livable Volume Tent: 23 cu ft (651 L)
Packed Size: 8 x 4 in (20 x 10 cm)
Measured Packed Size: 12 x 4.5 in (30 x 11 cm)

Included for protection from inclement weather:

MSR Thru-Hiker Wing 70
Year of Manufacture: 2018
MSRP: US $179.95
Listed Minimum Weight: 12 oz (340 g)
Listed Packed Weight: 16 oz (454 g)
Measured Weight 14.4 oz (408 g) {including bag and stakes}
Listed Capacity 2-3
Packed Size: 9 x 4.5 in (23 x 11 cm)
Measured Packed Size: 7.5 x 2.5 in (19 x 9 cm)

I am testing the pre-released Thru-Hiker Mesh House 1. Mountain Safety Research (MSR) states that is "a trustworthy option for the no-nonsense backpacker who seeks only what she needs and nothing else, allowing her to move faster and farther in the backcountry". It is designed to be paired with a Wing 70 or Wing 100 tarp. I am also testing the 70 tarp. MSR already has both 2 and 3 person versions of the Mesh House on the market; this new entry is designed for the soloist.

The tent is a little larger than a traditional bivy, and has room to sit up in. I measured the peak height at 32 in (81 cm) and the width at 31 in (79 cm). The stuff sack is interesting. It has a tag that says it is the Thru-Hiker Mesh House 1, but the instructions on the inside flap are for a poled tent. Again, this is a preproduction model. The stuff sack says Made in Taiwan. Historically many of Cascade Designs (parent company of MSR) products were made in the USA. This is simply an observation, not a critique.

The tent needs a hiking pole or a stick attached for setup and it uses four stakes for each of the corners. The guyline that attaches to the pole has a mitten hook on the end. The MSR stock photo only uses tension for setup, and with no instructions, I am not 100% certain of the purpose of the hook. I am sure I will learn through trial and error! I typically do not include stock vendor images in my reports, but I am adding one for the reader to understand my thoughts and questions on this mitten hook and its potential purpose.

This series is designed to test and evaluate the Mesh House 1; however, the manufacturer also provided a Wing 70 tarp for protection from the elements, so I will also incorporate its performance into the series. The tarp is sold separately from the tent. It is a traditional hexagonal tarp with no catenary cuts. It came with six guylines and stakes. One for each of the four corners and two for suspension. It has two additional guyline loops on each side, but no lines were provided. In extreme inclement weather they could be used for additional protection. The Wing 70 is made with 20D ripstop nylon. I measured it to be 112 in (284 cm) long by 96 in (244 cm) wide. The bag says Made in China.

I would call the Mesh House maroon with black no-see-um mesh. I would classify the Wing 70 as bronze. The accompanying image make it appear gold in the sunlight, but to my eye, it is darker.

INITIAL IMPRESSIONS

IMAGE 2
Shelter & Tarp Compared to a 32 oz (1L) Bottle
The tent was quite simple to setup even though I am still uncertain about the mitten hook use. The structure will sag if I do not pull it taut. It is likely designed to allow for tightening if there is sag based on changing weather conditions.

The shelter is not super roomy, but it has ample room for a pad and sleeping bag. If weather is nasty, the ability to sit up is a nice feature as well. Since it is setup with a pole/stick and done with tension only I wonder what the impact of a severe crosswind would do to it? Time may tell.

I setup the accompanying tarp as well. I quickly learned that if I am using a pole setup to pitch both the shelter and the tarp that I will need three poles. If I used just two, the edge of the shelter comes right to the edge of the tarp and minimizes weather protection. If I am in the woods, I will likely suspend the tarp between two trees and stake out on the ground. That would alleviate this concern and I would actually only need one hiking pole for setup. If I am on a beach with no trees when I am kayaking, I can use my paddles for the three-pole system. Again, a 3 ft (0.91 m) stick will work just fine as well.

My measurements as compared to those listed for the items when in storage did not match. The tarp is actually in a smaller bag than the shelter. The latter is very roomy, but getting the tarp back in its storage sack takes a little work.

Basic observations are that the shelter is minimal by design. It only has one zippered door and tapers down at the feet. I wonder if condensation will accumulate on my sleeping bag or quilt if tent touches it at night. I like the simple design and I love the weight! I own a LuxuryLite minimalist cot that also happens to be made by Cascade Designs. If weight is not a priority, if I am kayaking, I would be interested in testing this inside the shelter. My concern again would be at the foot end.
IMAGE 3
Wing 70

The Wing 70 tarp is standard. I hammock camp quite often so I have my fair share of tarps, seven or eight in all. As I mentioned earlier this tarp is hexagonal and has no catenary cuts. The arc of a 'cat-cut' tarp can often make a taut pitch simpler. You will notice some sag in my image provided in the report. I know how to remove the sag it just takes a little work. Unfortunately during my initial setup a thunderstorm was about to pop up and had limited time as I had to get my son to baseball practice. I didn't want to haul a soaking wet setup inside when I hadn't snapped enough images, so I took the shot with the sagginess and hauled it all inside. I am sure you will see a better pitch in my Field Report. I would have loved to had the time to crawl in it during the storm that came through! I am sure I will have similar opportunities over the next four months!

SUMMARY

I am quite excited to take this shelter out onto the trail! This weekend our Cub Scout Pack is taking our Webelos out for a patrol weekend campout, so I will get to put the products into action right away. We are also expecting rain!
IMAGE 4
Thur-Hiker Mesh House 1

The designs both appear well thought out and the products are well made. I would expect nothing less from this manufacturer. Little things that are often overlooked by the casual observer. The tarp for instance, has line-lock tabs that allow the guylines to quickly be tightened without having to secure a hitch. It has metal tabs with holes in it on the suspension ends that are designed to secure to the tip of a hiking pole. Unfortunately, for me, my newer and lighter trekking poles do not have these tips...Darn it!

The shelter is simplistic, but well thought out. Wide enough to fit my large shoulders, but not so wide that it adds unnecessary weight.

As I close my initial report, I am pondering roses and thorns and having trouble coming up with any of the latter. I truly have no thorns, only a little speculation on the pole in windy conditions and the foot of the shelter allowing for condensation build up. Time will answer all these questions.


FIELD REPORT

FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

IMAGE 128 - 20 September 2018: Parrish Reservation, near Rock Island, Tennessee. This was a 3-day and 2-night Webelos only campout with the Cub Scouts. We hold this annual event in our Scout Pack that is more typical of the camping the boys will do in Boy Scouts and prepares the fourth and fifth grade boys for outdoor trips using the patrol method. Weather was brisk in the evenings with lows around 49 F (9.5 C), but the days warmed up to around 70 F (21 C). There was no rain on the trip, but it had rained heavily earlier in the week making our river hike adventurous, as the levels were higher than I had ever seen on the Caney Fork and the trails were wet and muddy.

12 - 14 October 2018: Henry Horton State Park, Chapel Hill, Tennessee. This is our annual autumn Cub Scout Pack campout for the entire unit, including parents and siblings. We had nearly 100 folks overall on this 3-day and 2-night trip. It is car camping at best, but the Scouts did take a 3.5 mi (5.6 km) hike with all their essentials on Saturday afternoon. The first two days were great with weather around 65 F (18 C) for highs and 45 F (7 C) for lows, but as per usual, my "Rain Crow" nickname, the skies opened up as we were packing up on Sunday morning.

26 - 28 October 2018: Big South Fork National Forest, near Oneida, Tennessee. I ventured on a 3-day, 2-night outing in late autumn with my dog. We covered an 18 mi (29 km) loop over the trip Highs reached 60 F (15.5 C) and lows were just above freezing. I encountered no rain over the weekend.

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

IMAGE 2
Notice the two hiking pole configuration
During the Field Testing phase of the report, I was able to use the tent on three distinct outings. The first two outings were Cub Scout trips so there was no backpacking involved. I really enjoyed the compact and lightweight nature of the Mesh House 1. It takes up minimal space in my pack. On the first Scouting trip, I learned something immediately that I would need to address for future outings, specifically on riverbanks without trees. The tent is designed for use with a hiking pole, but when in use with the Wing 70 tarp I found that I needed a third pole if I was not setting the latter up attached to trees. Of course, I generally only carry two poles.

In the woods, I can generally find two trees close enough to which to guy out the ends of the tarp, but on that first trip, I originally started out setting up the rig on the edge of a field with all the Scouts. I realized if I attached edge of the tarp to the same pole that was used to keep the tent erect; I was not afforded much coverage should wind and rain kick up. On this instance, I ended up moving into the tree line and using a tree on one end for tying out the tarp at the foot end and I used my two hiking poles to upright the tent and for the head end of the tarp. I was able to stay close enough to hear the boys at night and realize I would need to make adjustments on future kayaking outing if I had no trees.

I slept quite well on both this and the next outing. I had no room for any gear inside the setup. I kept a change of clothes, an air pad and my sleeping bag in the tent and nothing else. On the Cub Scout outings, I kept my gear in a trunk, and on my backpacking trip, I hung my pack from a tree and tossed a rain cover over it.

During the Initial Review, I was concerned I may have condensation build up near the foot end of the tent on my sleeping bag. This was not a concern on any of the six nights I used the tent and my 55 lb (25 kg) Australian Shepherd that thinks he's a lap dog crawled into the setup on the backpacking outing. It was definitely a little snug in there with him, but it was close to freezing during the overnights.
IMAGE 3
Mesh House 1 & Wing 70

It rained the final morning of my second outing, however, this was after I had already risen for the morning and I was starting to break camp. The fly was giving adequate coverage as far as I could tell. I was unable to experience an overnight of rain, but alas, I still had to return home and dry out my gear. Isn't that the way it always goes!

SUMMARY

With six nights behind me I am quite happy with the MSR Thru-Hiker Mesh House 1, and I am looking forward to taking in on a kayaking trip in December. I learned early-on that I need to adjust how I setup the tent and tarp when no trees are present and I'll report on that during the Long-Term portion of the test series.

So far my one concern of condensation has yet to be a problem. I enjoy the lightweight and compact nature of the tent and look forward to continued use.


LONG-TERM REPORT

LONG-TERM TEST LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

5 - 10 December 2018: Suwannee River kayaking trip. This was a 5-day/4-night river trip originating near White Springs, Florida at the Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center State Park and terminating at the Suwannee River State Park. The trip covered 41 mi (66 km) and we camped at river camps in the evenings. Mornings usually around freezing and daily high temperatures typically reached 50 F (10 C). The weather was clear and beautiful, however, for days and weeks prior to the paddle the local and upstream tributaries received record amounts of rain. In fact, the river was nearing flood stage on our first day and had it been a foot (0.3 m) higher we would have been prohibited from entering via a state park. The river camp hosts were required to abandon camp, so we had to camp at our own risk. Water continued to rise on the trip, but our seasoned group took multiple safety precautions and enjoyed the deserted river!

28 - 30 December 2018: Roan High Knob, Roan Mountain, Tennessee/North Carolina. This was a 3-day/2-night outing on Roan Mountain along the Tennessee-North Carolina border. Temperatures stayed around freezing throughout the day and dropped to around 10 F (-12 C) during the overnights. The trip was precipitation free. It's often snowing at this time of year at the 6286 ft (1916 m) elevation, but the ground was clear on this weekend

8 - 9 February 2019: Stone Door Area, South Cumberland State Park, Coalmont, Tennessee. This was an overnight outing with my same kayaking crew with the addition of my 10-year-old son. The evening was clear and cold. High temperatures started below freezing and fell to a low of 21 F (-6 C) by the following morning. It was quite chilly out, but we had an enjoyable low-key outing.

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

I logged seven additional nights in the tent during the Long Term phase of the test series. In advance of my kayaking trip I cut a piece of Tyvek to fit as a footprint to go beneath the tent.

As mentioned, the river was on the verge of flood stage the morning we set out. As we made it to our first river camp, we learned the hosts had been required to abandon camp and all water and electricity had been shut down, so we were back to the basics with true primitive camping. There were screen-houses available for use and plenty of trees up in the camps, but I decided to setup the tent and fly without trees. On the first evening, I used a single hiking pole to setup the tent and I used kayak paddles on the guy lines at the ends of the tarp. The tarp has small metal attachments on each end with a small hole designed to allow a hiking pole tip to fit into it. However, a kayak paddle certainly would not fit into this tip so I improvised by looping the guy line around the paddle twice and staking out with the paddle on a slight angle. It worked well! On a subsequent evening during the trip, I used half a paddle to attach to the mitten hook guy line attachment on the tent and used my hiking poles to support the tarp. Both setups worked, but I preferred the paddle-tarp configuration and did it that way for the remainder of the trip.

Being on the river in general was damp and I was prepared with synthetic sleeping gear, but on this outing, there was some condensation build up at my feet in the mornings. It was not bad enough to cause an issue. I would hang my bag out to dry in the mornings before we would hit the river and again when we made it to camp prior to bed. It was primarily moisture on the DWR of the bag, but I always took precaution to air out again at camp in the evenings because my bag was always stowed in a waterproof bag below deck all day and I wanted to ensure it was fully dry. Again, it was not a major concern.

On Roan Mountain, the winds can be very high at times, so I tied out to trees and tarped down as low as possible. This of course caused some condensation buildup overnight that led to some frozen condensation on my bag. I was using down on this instance, but I was able to simply brush away the moisture and daylight allowed everything to dry out.

SUMMARY

Overall, I continue to be quite impressed with this tent and expected some minimal moisture buildup to occur at the feet. This was a minimal thorn in comparison to the lightweight, compact nature I found with it. I like the tent and certainly plan to keep it in my gear kit for future use, especially on kayaking outings.

The tarp has a few nice features like line-loks for quick tensioning on the guy lines and tip holes to fit into a hiking pole. It works great with the tent, but is a little heavier than I prefer when backpacking. I'll likely use the tarp and tent in combination again on future kayaking outings when weight is not a concern, but when backpacking I have tarps that are both lighter and offer more coverage that I'd likely use.

In conclusion, both are excellent products. I would expect nothing less from Mountain Safety Research.

I would like to thank BackpackGearTest.org and Cascade Designs for allowing me to test the Mountain Safety Research Thru-Hiker Mesh House 1 along with the Wing 70 tarp. This concludes my report.

This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1. Copyright 2019. All rights reserved.

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