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Reviews > Shelters > Tents > MSR Zoic 2 tent > Test Report by joe schaffer

MSR Zoic 2 Tent

Test Report by Joe Schaffer
INITIAL REPORT - April 6, 2019
FIELD REPORT - June 7, 2019
LONG TERM REPORT - August 7, 2019
NAME: Joe Schaffer
EMAIL: never2muchstuff(at)yahoo(dot)com
AGE: 71
HOME: Bay Area, California USA

     I enjoy California's central Sierras, camping every month with a goal to match my age in nights out each year. For comfort I lug tent, mattress, chair and such. Typical summer trips run 5-8 days; 40 lb (18 kg), about half food and water related; about 5 miles (8 km) per hiking day in the bright and sunny granite in and around Yosemite. I winter base camp most often at 6,000 to 7,000 ft (1,800 to 2,000 m); 2 to 3 nights; 50 lb (23 kg); a mile or so (1.6 km) on snowshoes.

fly open


Product: Zoic 2 tent

Manufacturer:  Mountain Safety Research (MSR), division of Cascade Designs, Inc.

    Features & pitched-tent pictures from website
        Full micromesh canopy
        Accommodates a 25-in. mattress for each occupant.
        Aluminum poles
        Xtreme Shield™ coating.
        Two doors
        Two built-in gear lofts
Color: Red     Weight: 4 lb 13 oz (2.19 kg)    Length:  88 in (2.24 m)   Width: NA 
Interior Peak Height: 39 in (100 cm)   Floor Area: 33 sq. ft  (3.07 sq. m)
Tent Volume: 54 cu. ft  (1529 L)
Vestibule Area: 18 sq. ft  (1.67 sq. m)   Volume: 19 cu. ft (539 liters)
Number of Poles:
2   7000 series aluminum
Yes   Packed Size: 21 x 5 in (53 x 13 cm)
Number of Doors: 
2    Rainfly Fabric:  40D ripstop nylon 1500mm Xtreme Shield
Mesh Type:
15D nylon micromesh   Floor Fabric: 70D taffeta nylon 3000mm Xtreme Shield

Warranty: Three years material and workmanship for non-idiot (my term for brevity) use.

MSRP: US $349.95

tent bottle

My Specs: 

        Weight: full package 4 lb 10 3/8 oz (2.107 kg)
          Canopy    1 lb 8 1/2 oz (697 g)
          Fly          1 lb 8 3/8 oz (691 g)
          Poles       1 lb 2 7/8 oz (533 g)
          Peg pack  4 3/4 oz (133 g)
          Tent sack 1 3/8 oz (40 g)
          Pole sack 1/2 oz (13 g)
          Length: 87 in (2.21 m)
          Width: 53 1/2 in (1.36 m)
          Usable peak height: 38 in (0.97 m)
          Pole, inc tips: 143 in (3.63 m)
          Pole pack: 19 1/4 x 1 3/4 in (48.9 x 4.5 cm)
          Packed: about 20 x 6 1/2 in  (50 x 16.5 cm)

Received: April, 2019

My Description:
    This is a freestanding, clip, 3-pole, 2-person, 2-wall, 2-door, 2-vestibule, dry entry lightweight rectangular canopy with a full coverage fly. The package includes a tent sack, pole sack and peg sack with eight red aluminum hook pegs.

        TUB: Above the tub (floor) the canopy is all black nylon no-see-um mesh. The 70D nylon taffeta tub reaches up about 14 inches (36 cm) on each end and a little of the sides; and about 6 inches (15 cm) along most of the side, matching the zipper track. The tub is not seam taped or seam sealed; but does have 3000 mm coating on the inside. I'm more familiar with 2000 mm coating for a light tent, which can let body pressure force water through the coating.
        ZIPPERS: The canopy zipper track runs a total of about 72 inches (1.83 m); beginning near the bottom corner of the canopy, running straight along the side for about 43 inches (1 m) at the tub/netting seam, then makes a sharp dogleg up the side, reaching all the way to the spreader pole end. The coil zipper has dead ends and double sliders with cord pulls. The zipper track follows the logical shape of the canopy, opening nearly at the bottom of the canopy and to the single-point top of the side.
        DOORS: Doors draw back when desired, with a retainer to hold each in place. Doors are "flipped" horizontally, allowing the fly to be placed on the canopy without regard to head-foot. The doors are very nearly vertical.
        ATTACHMENT: Fifteen clips attach the canopy to the pole set; plus a grommet at each bottom corner. Each of the four corners of the canopy extend a 2 3/4 inch (7 cm) clam bite loop of 3/8 inch (10 mm) webbing, sewn 1 1/2 inch (4 cm) onto the bottom side of the tub corner and the outside of the tub wall; and anchored to the corner seam on the bottom side. The corner fabric has a diamond-shaped reinforcing patch about 3 x 6 inch (8 x 16 cm). The outer edge of the webbing loop threads a metal bracket. The bracket has a slightly oblong hole in the center to receive the pole tip; and a slit to thread 1/8th inch (2 mm) reflective cord in a loop of about 6 inches (15 cm).
        GEAR STORAGE: Four roughly 6 inch wide x 8 inch deep (15 x 20 cm) mesh pockets attach at the tub/side seam in each corner. Two gear lofts suspend from the peak, supplanting an attic and sewn to the ceiling on three edges so as not to hang down. The openings face each other about a foot (30 cm) apart; and the lofts measure about 7 inches (18 cm) deep. Sewn into the pole seam track they are about 15 inches (38 cm) wide at the closed end to about 6 1/2 inches wide (16 cm) wide at the opening. A 1 inch (2.5 cm) peak loop hangs from the center of the ceiling.
    POLES: The main pole pack is 16 sections of 8.5 mm (0.34 in) (as best I can eyeball it) aluminum with a red coating. Each pole is 8 sections measuring 143 inches (3.63 m) including 3/4 inch (19 mm) plastic self-locking tips each end. The poles are shock-corded and the two main poles are connected through a hub at the juncture of the 'X'. The three-section, 47 inch (1.19 m) spreader provides support to extend the fly out from the canopy and over the doors. The pack measures 19 1/4 inches (49 cm) and not quite as fat as my wrist.

    FLY: The 40D ripstop nylon fly is grayish white on top with red 1500 mm coating. It covers the entire canopy, and then some, held to the poles via a single loop of hook and loop at about the middle of each canopy corner. The spreader pole over the top width of the canopy supports the fly beyond the canopy doors. This allows both fly and canopy doors to be open without rain falling straight down inside the canopy (dry entry). This pole sits atop the canopy and connects to the fly via a webbing-slung plastic ring to receive each end of the pole. The fly offers generous vestibules on each side of the tent. The door zippers run straight line from the bottom apex of the fly to the top apex, about 53 inches (135 cm). Zippers are double slider with box and pin on the bottom end, so the door can be separated at the bottom and pulled back. Rain shields cover the zippers and include hook and loop tabs at the bottom end and about half-way up to hold the shield down and to ease stress on zippers. Each fly door "flips" from the other to match the canopy doors. Vestibule peg points use the same style webbing and metal bracket as canopy corners. At about half-way up each corner the fly has a guy out point sewn into the seam, with about 67 inches (1.7 m) of 1/16th inch  (1.6 mm) reflective line. The line has a two-hole, slightly curved tightener so simple even I can use it. There is a guy loop in the center bottom hem at each end. There is no top vent or window. It is not seam sealed or taped.
    TENT SACK: The coated-side-in ultra light sack features a synthetic pull on one end and drawstring/cordlock closure on the other. A lid flap helps secure the open end and provides space to affix pitching instructions.

    POLE SACK: The coated-side-out ultra light sack has a drawstring closure with cordlock; and pitching illustrations imprinted on the outside.

    PEG SACK: The coated-side-in ultra light sack has a drawstring closure with cordlock.
    So as to establish the depth of my genius as a critic, I've made half-a-dozen tents to suit my requirements and in so doing spent many hours studying and experimenting with tent design; in addition to having a rapacious appetite for tent inventory on the gear shelf. This tent is a symphony of insightful design decisions. It strikes the perfect balance of heavier fabric for the tub and lighter for the fly. Pole anchors demonstrate enlightenment for simplicity that effectively blocks water from wicking up the webbing into the tent. I've not seen flipped doors used on many tents; the design doesn't distinguish which end the user wants to call head or foot; and doesn't care which way the fly goes on. That can matter a lot when hurrying to get the canopy under cover in a rain storm.
    Clips don't particularly suit me, nor do hubbed pole sets. I like to roll my poles tightly in with the tent and prefer to have a minimum of hard things with edges. Clips add a lot of those; and a hub another. I do like the strength of two crossing poles, made even sturdier being conjoined at the intersection of the 'X'. The spreader pole across the width of the top certainly expands shoulder and head space, much as I don't particularly like a 'loose' pole to lose. I'm not that eager to get rained on, but I would like to see how well the dry entry design element actually works.

    Pole sets most always have half the pole tips sticking out from the pack, if not more. This pack is flush. The very-slightly-bowed spreader pole is not connected to the main set, but packs within its length. All three poles are shock-corded; and the hub keeps the main set connected. The poles are not end-centric. Thus, erecting the tent requires no attention to which end for the poles either. Sometimes I strap my tent across the bottom of my backpack. I could put the poles vertically inside the pack, but I don't like to open it before getting shelter set. I could whine that the package being wrapped up will approach 20 in (50 cm) wide. This is something in the range of three inches (8 cm) sticking out on each side of me, depending on what pack I might have on. I have had occasion rummaging through rocks where the pole pack has abraded holes through the footprint (which I use instead of a tent sack) when scraped against granite. Brush also likes to grab anything sticking out. Shortening the pole pack would offer some advantages there, but the trade-off means more sections, more weight and less strength.

    On a longevity remark I would prefer a #8 or #10 zipper as zips seem the Achilles heel of every tent I've worn out. Tent zippers get a lot of stress; and a seamstress gets a lot of money to replace one, if even that long of a zipper tape can be found. I think the couple of ounces (50 g) saved in using the smaller size matters more to marketing than to the weight it adds. Of course I learned from rolling my own that a little bigger here, stronger there and nice-touch-for-that can pretty easily turn a 4 1/2 lb (2 kg) project into 5 (2.3 kg).

    I prefer polyester fly fabric for less stretching when wet and slower UV degradation. Polyester isn't initially as strong as nylon and increasing the denier to maintain strength adds weight. (Denier--D--refers to the circumference of the thread, usually accompanied by thread count. Larger denier and/or higher thread count makes stronger--and heavier--fabric much more resistant to scuffing.) Uber lights use even smaller denier, and I've seen the anguish of expensive-tent owners who scuffed holes in the fly from flopping it over a rock to dry. I think the Zoic fly at 40D is the right choice to save weight without putting the piece at high risk of damage.

    MSR makes a killer light peg, but did not include it in this tent. The Zoic being not exactly a cheap tent, I might whine that run-of-the-mill pegs don't seem up to the excellence of the rest of it; bright red dye notwithstanding.

    Few tents come with a footprint. To buy one for the Zoic adds $39.95 and 8 oz (227 g). Fabric is not specified on vendor website, though a retailer lists it as 68D coated polyester taffeta. The footprint has no attachment to pole tips--stake loops only--so I made my own from the tub of a tent that earned it's way to the salvage shelf. The Zoic's 70D floor fabric itself is sturdy, but I'm still not going to torture it with direct ground contact. My tent feels naked without a footprint. (And now with carbon core pegs and a footprint, I just added about $100 US to the cost of the tent!)

    MSR explains the lack of seam tape as a defense against prematurely failed seam tape. I don't know. I'm having a heck of time removing still tight and pliable tape from a worn out 10-year-old tent (from the above referenced salvage shelf). I have had a couple of seam taped tents with crumbled tape, one after maybe four years and another after ten; but many more approaching as much as 20 years old where the tape has yet to fail. Failed tape does make a mess of things, and seam taping of course increases production cost. I'm inclined to say that I'd prefer to pay a little more for the vendor to get good tape and put it on. Seam sealing's messy and takes an hour I'd much rather use up watching a Law and Order rerun. (And now it's a $500 tent!)

    Evidently it's never going to stop raining in California and I don't have room inside to set up the tent. I'm not going to get it wet just to look at it, so a more thorough inspection and user-pictures will have to wait until I'm willing to go camp in the rain.

Field Conditions:
    1. April 17-20, 2019: Tahoe National Forest, 3 nights backpacking 1 1/2 mi (2.5 km) on snow. 55 lb (25 kg) lv weight. 6,400 ft (1,950 m); 32-65 F (0-18 C); mostly clear.

     2. May 1-4, 2019: Catfish Lake, Stanislaus National Forest, 3 nights backpacking 8 mi (13 km). Leave weight 45 lb (20 kg). 5,600-6,100 ft (1,700-1,900 m); 35-75 F (2-24 C). Clear and sunny. 1 camp.
    3. May 10-14, 2019: Kibbie Creek, Stanislaus National Forest, California. 4 nights backpacking, 15 mi (24 km); leave weight 45 lb (20 kg); 40-70 F (4-21 C), sunny, no wind; 5,100-6,400 ft (1,550-1,950 m). 3 camps.
4. May 29-Jun 2, 2019: Kibbie  Ridge, Stanislaus National Forest, California. 4 nights, 2 mi (3 k) hiking and 11 mi (18 km) backpacking; leave weight 40 lb (18 kg); 45-75 F (7-24 C), half sunny, half cloudy with a few spits of rain and two heavy showers; 5,100-6,700 ft (1,550-2,000 m). 3 camps.
    1. Tahoe: This maiden outing for the Zoic was a snow camping trip, but an accommodating tree well's pine straw proved irresistible. Pitching the tent is easy as can be with no which-end-where attention needed for matching up poles, canopy and fly. The extended pole set gets a little unwieldly with the two poles connected and I did bump into the tree and some branches above me and the sides of the snow well, having little room to maneuver. I did not peg down the canopy corners to start (as recommended) and it is then necessary to have a foot on the near corner before stressing the pole, lest the canopy squirt away. The metal grommets don't initially grab the pole tips very snugly. In stressing the first pole the second one came free of the grommet, forcing me to trudge all the way to the other end of the tent to stress it from that end instead. 

I'm not a huge fan of a hub as it is a relatively giant (though small as hubs go) hard thing and somewhat complicates managing the pole set. It does strengthen the structure and could be removed. The door zipper track is way longer than I'm used to. It allows the door to be pulled back almost to the dimension of the tent's side wall; and of course it isn't necessary to travel the full track to get in and out. Several times the canopy zipper at the high side of the dog leg caught the fly zipper rain shield. The fly bottom center loops are not long enough that a seven-inch (18 cm) peg can secure them, and there's no cord tied to them. I prefer to have a stretch loop integrated in the vestibule pegging, so I made that adjustment. I removed the guy lines as I wouldn't expect ever to need them, though I will carry them as utility cord. The guys interface to the pole structure via a very small hook and loop tab, one at each mid-corner. Less hook and loop is better as the hook part plays havoc with netting, but this would be the most stubborn I've ever encountered.

Perhaps being solo and entrenched in the use of a small two-person tent I found the interior almost unsettlingly cavernous until I covered up with my blankie. The all-around see-through netting makes the interior feel even larger. The spreader bar opens up the inside of the tent enough that I can sleep on one side and sit straight up without my shoulder rubbing the wall. Even with my backpack and other gear inside, I still could have occupied the center of the tent. However, one of the tree well's attributes was not being completely on the level, encouraging gravity to have its way in situating my ultimate sleeping position. Pleasant weather gave no necessity to spend long waking hours inside, and alas, I had only one morning of the three to lollygag, until 92 F (33 C) drove me out.

    Having spent quite a few hours in the tent I'm as much if not more impressed than to start. I could think of some things I might do differently. As I dislike hard things wrapped in the tent, I don't like clips, for example. Any change develops its own consequences and I don't find anything that seems to have been inadequately thought out or overlooked. Stitching seems perfect, as expected in a premium tent. I don't find any loose threads or yarn ends. Zippers work smoothly, with a slight hitch at the top of the canopy dog leg. Reaching to the bottom tent corner to zip the fly seems maybe better than out to the center of the vestibule--easier to reach the tent corner than the bottom apex of the vestibule, especially with any gear in the way. The rain shield as presently located offers better opportunity to keep rain out of the zipper, though the door zipper will occasionally snag in the fly. Weight of zipper and rain shield is better supported as present than if running the center of the vestibule, which takes on meaning in rain. Door ties are toggles with rings, which work easily and well, but add eight more hard things.

    Zoic's attic pockets work much better than a single suspended attic. They don't cannibalize head room. The opening is narrower than the rest of the attic, which then follows the line of the poles and widens progressively. Reversing it wouldn't work very well. The only issue I seemed to have with it is that bugs have a hard time finding their way out. (The tent is bug-proof, but only when the doors are zipped shut.)

Kudos for making a light stuff sack with no straps and no unnecessary volume. Calling it a snug fit might be an understatement. I generally try to wrap stuff as tight as possible, but I won't do that with a clip tent. That being the case, and with the added bulk of a footprint, I can't get the tent back in the sack. I don't care, because I wrap the tent in the footprint and don't need a sack. I do burn through footprints when toting the tent outside the pack, but the layers of footprint do a better job of protecting the tent from granite scuffs than a single layer of tent sack anyway. Even at an ounce (28 g) it's still the weight of an energy gel and I can't eat it.

     2. Catfish: The tent pad was not real wet, but even through a footprint some damp spots did show through on un-occupied floor. The hub, which I'm never going to like, does make it easier to get the poles up with the only attachment being the tent corners. The poles then stay exactly in place for clipping the canopy. With a (not included) footprint it is possible to erect the pole set, pitch the fly, then the tent under it. The fly hook-and-loop tabs are too hard to peel open and I had no issue with the fly simply draped over and pegged. I forgot to hook the cross bar into the fly, but that was no issue either.    

    3. Kibbie Creek: While I much like cord for zipper pulls, these are too small and too short. Making them longer, and one even longer, would substantially reduce the time it takes to ferret out the right pull. In the world of product annoyances this may be insignificant. The zippers work so smoothly I frequently pulled both sliders at once, thereby walking away with the fly door unzipped all the way to the bottom. As it is, I must therefore actually look at what I'm doing. Such nuisance, that at least one longer/larger pull for the bottom slider would resolve. The added weight would be more than offset with smaller/fewer logos on the fly.

    Prepping for foul weather as forecast, I seam sealed the fly. Nasty did not happen, but two nights were sopping wet with dew. The seams did not leak, though whether they might have or not anyway I wouldn't know. The saturated nylon fly sagged into netting at each end of the tent. That patch of contact causes drops to bleed through the netting instead of drizzling down the fly or the top of the netting. Condensation on both sides of the fly was very heavy. I left the top six inches or so (15 cm) of the fly doors unzipped, but that didn't provide much ventilation. Environmental conditions were ripe for condensation and I don't think any amount of venting would have kept things dry. A ceiling vent would help mitigate interior condensation.

    The ground was almost mud from snow melt, and damp spots did appear on the floor. No water actually came through.

    4. Kibbie Ridge: Nasty did happen on this trip in two heavy showers of about an hour's duration each. In the first, drips came through the seams at 10 places. In the second, two days later, only about 4 places. Much of the water trickled down the netting with only a slight amount of spatter coming through. At home I spent another hour-and-a-half seam sealing the fly again, grumbling that such archaic procedure would be required when I could be sorting socks out of the dryer or straightening my collection of bent nails.

Field Conditions:
    4. Jun 11-14, 2019: Chilnualna Falls, Yosemite National Park, California: 3 nights, 9 mi (14 km) backpacking; leave weight 35 lb (16 kg); 2 camps; 50-90 F (10-32 C), sunny; 4,200-6,500 ft (1,300-2,000 m).
5. Jun 18-21, 2019. Shasta-Trinity National Forest, California, USA. 3 nights backpacking, 35 lb (15 k) leave weight, 3 1/2 mi (6 km), 2 camps, 85-38 F (29-3 C), sunny, 5,400-5,900 ft (1600-1800 m).
    6. Jun 21-22, 2019. Lake Shasta, California. 1 night car camping. 92-55 F (33-13 C), sunny, 1,100 ft (325 m).
7. Jun 30-Jul 5: Emigrant-Yosemite Wilderness, California. 5 nights backpacking, 41 lb (19 kg) leave weight, 12 mi (19 km) trail + 3 mi (5 k) cross-country = 15 mi (24 k), 4 camps, 80-38 F (27-3 C), sunny, 7,200-8,400 ft (2,200-2,600 m).
    8. Jul 10-19: Yosemite Wilderness, California. 9 nights backpacking, 41 lb (19 kg) leave weight, 17 mi (27 km) trail + 13 mi (21 km) cross-country = 30 mi (48 k), 8 camps, 85-40 F (29-4 C), sunny, 4,900-8,100 ft (1,500-2,500 m).

These trips had very high daytime temperatures. Hot as it was I would have roasted out anyway. A fly vent would have given me perhaps another hour of leisure before bolting. Partially unzipping the fly doors does not create enough opening for a draft; and pulling the doors back exposes the interior to direct sun.

    The Jul 10-19 trip was so warm I never put the fly on. I did notice a couple of things. One was a bear staring at me one morning, which I'd never have seen with the fly on. The red pulls to connect the cross arm attracted a hummingbird that must have come back a dozen times. Two evenings were quite damp, such that my hiking shorts left on top of the tent got quite wet again over night. Yet I noticed no dampness inside.

    A point barely worth making except for the vendor's trademark of 'Extreme Shield' waterproofing is that a small amount of moisture did penetrate. This is not news to me as every tent I've ever had will allow water trapped between the floor and footprint to seep through under pressure of a body on top of it. I am not surprised and not disappointed--just noting that the vendor's version of 'extreme' coating does not prevent seepage under these conditions.

    The Zoic 2 is wearing well. I'm leery of netting--this tent is mostly netting--scuffing and separating. A few netting scuffs have appeared and gentle fingernail scrubs have pretty much resolved them. The zippers are smooth. The tub remains crisp--coating does not appear to be wearing off yet. I'm paranoid of scuffing the sil-nylon fly and have consequently been seriously careful to avoid it, so far with complete success. Shock cord would not be expected to show sign of weakness and it does not.

    Perhaps I'm too set in my ways to accept without reservation the pole set hub. I still don't like it, but I'm certainly adjusting to the benefit of being able to set the poles in the footprint and not having to hold them together while clipping the tent. This allows me to get a good picture of the tent pad before pitching the whole tent; and makes moving it very easy. I'm the customer saying 'I don't like the thing, but I like what it does'.

TOTAL nights out: 18 solo and 17 couple = 35, with 25 pitches.

SUMMATION: Really well-balanced design for light weight, simplicity, strength, durability and lots of interior space. I would prefer seam taping and a fly vent.

a) BIG
b) Light for the volume
c) Easy set-up
d) Not seam sealed
e) Zipper pulls too small/short
f) No fly vent
g) No fly window

Thank you MSR and for the opportunity to test this product. Test reporting is concluded.

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Reviews > Shelters > Tents > MSR Zoic 2 tent > Test Report by joe schaffer

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