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Reviews > Shelters > Tents > Mountain Safety Research Skinny One > Test Report by Edwin L. Morse

MSR SKINNY ONE TENT
TEST SERIES BY EDWIN MORSE
LONG-TERM REPORT

INITIAL REPORT - March 14, 2009
FIELD REPORT - May 28, 2009
LONG TERM REPORT - July 21, 2009

TESTER INFORMATION

NAME: Edwin Morse
EMAIL: ed dot morse at charter dot net
AGE: 71
LOCATION: Grawn, Michigan USA
GENDER: M
HEIGHT: 5' 8" (1.73 m)
WEIGHT: 145 lb (65.80 kg)

I started backpacking in 1979 with two weeks in northern Michigan along the Lake Superior shore. My gear was cheap, heavy and sometimes painful. My starting pack weight was 70 lbs (32 kg) with food but no water. Since that first time I have made one and two week trips in Michigan, Maine, New Hampshire and Pennsylvania. Late last summer I did a 2 week hike on Isle Royale. My starting pack weight was 32 lbs (14.5 kg), including 10 days of food and 3 qt (2.8 l) of water. I am slowly learning what lighter gear works for me.


INITIAL REPORT

PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS

Manufacturer: Mountain Safety Research
Year of Manufacture: 2009
Manufacturer's Website: Mountain Safety Research
MSRP: US $199.95
Listed Weight: 57oz (1616 g)
Measured Weight total tent as delivered in stuff sack: 55.7 oz (1579 g)
Other details: measured weights after all hang tags removed
Tent alone: 40.0 oz (1134 g)
Stuff sack: 1.4 oz (36.7 g)
Poles: 8.9 oz (252 g)
Stuff sack: 0.5 oz (14.2 g)
10 MSR stakes: 3.4 oz (96 g)
Stuff sack: 0.3 oz (8.5 g)
Supplied cord: 0.4 oz (11.3 g)
2 cord tensioners: 0.0 oz too light to register on my scales
Foot print: 4.3 oz (122 g)
Stuff sack: 0.7 oz (19.8 g)

The tent stuff sack measures: 6 in X 6 in X 18 in (15 X 15 X 46 cm)
The pole sack measures: 4 in X 19.5 in (10 cm X 50 cm)
The stake sack measures: 5 in X 9 in (13 cm X 23 cm)

The tent floor is a rectangle 29 in X 50 in (74 cm X 127 cm) at the door end and an Isosceles trapezoid at the end opposite the door with a base width of 29 in (74 cm), the narrow width of 18 in (46 cm) and a height of 33 in (84 cm). In other words, the "foot" end narrows from 29 in (74 cm) to 18 in (46 cm) over a length of 33 in (84 cm).

INITIAL IMPRESSIONS

The tent came neatly folded in a stuff sack. The two poles and repair sleeve were in a stuff sack. The ten stakes, two guy out cords and two line tensioners were in a stuff sack.

According to the hang tag that was tied to the stuff sack cord the fly is "40D x 238T ripstop Nylon 6 1500 mm polyurethane & silicone coated". The Canopy is: 20D polyester mesh. The floor is: "40D x 238T ripstop Nylon 6 10000 mm polyurethane".

The same hang tag states that the minimum weight is 2 lb 15 oz, or 47 oz (1332 g). The minimum I would carry backpacking would be the tent, stuff sack, poles, stakes, and cord. Based on my measurements this adds up to 54.1 oz (1534 g).

The tent appears to be well designed and constructed with no hanging threads or bad seams. There has been a lot of attention paid to small details. In my opinion this is a feature rich tent that is minimalist only in available space.

I am looking forward to setting it up in different weather conditions, such as strong wind or rain.






READING THE INSTRUCTIONS

The instructions are a combination of three pictures and text on a sheet sewn inside the stuff sack. These basic instructions are enough to set the tent up. I think there is a lot left to the ingenuity or imagination of the user. The following instructions were copied from the hang tag.

The text with the three pictures:
1 PREPARE FOR SETUP
1 Spread tent out, stake out four corners

2 SETUP TENT
1 Thread 2 poles through sleeves

3 STAKE OUT FRONT VESTIBULE
1 Insert pole tips into grommets in stake loops
2 Pull out front vestibule until taut and stake down

TRYING IT OUT

I set the MSR Skinny One up on our covered deck, using ropes tied to roof support posts instead of stakes. We still have too much snow outside to set up a new tent. The instructions are handy but they do leave out some details. It is necessary to use the pole clips after sliding the poles in the sleeves and inserting the ends in the grommets. It also helps to tie out the side guy out loops.
Skinny One first pitch
Skinny One first pitch

My first impression after getting the tent set up was that it is heavy for the floor space. I had crawled in, lay down and set up with just enough room to do both. Then I got out the mattress I will use for the first outings. Here is a picture with my 72 X 20 in (183 X 51 cm) Big Agnes insulated Air Core placed inside the tent. There is very little extra space.
no extra room
no extra room

I got in on the mattress, lay down, sat up, then turned around (inside the tent) and lay with my head at the small end. When I sit up on the mattress my head brushes against the mesh canopy. It will take some experimenting to see how I prefer to sleep in the Skinny One.

There are a lot of small details, some look very useful and some I think (at this time) should have been left out. While I was inside I took a picture of the open door.
door open
door open

Some details are visible in this picture. The mesh door, with a D shaped zipper, is held open and rolled with a ring and toggle fastener. The mesh canopy is visible at the top. In the upper left of the picture the blue line is a zipper across the center of the canopy. I have no good idea what use this zipper might be for; perhaps access to wipe off condensation, perhaps access to put small light items out of the way.

Looking at the front door from the outside there are more details visible.
Skinny One front
Skinny One front

There are several possible ways the vestibule can be used. In the above picture the center is tied out and up so I can sit underneath. If the tent were set up outside I would use hiking poles or nearby trees to hold it up. This is the one way I will set it up when I eat breakfast or dinner and it is raining. At the top of the tent the pole sleeve can be seen and at the sides the pole clips are visible. The white rope hanging down in front is tied to a loop just under the pole sleeve. After the picture was taken I tied it back to a post about 20 ft (6 m) away to make the tent taut.

More details can be seen in the following picture of the top front of the tent. The center of the vestibule is rolled up and fastened in place with rings and toggles.
top front
top front
The three bright blue rectangles are hook and loop closures holding the space above the mesh canopy closed from the outside. There is another similar closure under the center one to hold it open for more ventilation. The loop going up from above the center is tied (by the rope shown in the previous picture) high up on a post. There is a similar loop at the back of the tent that I tied to another post.
Everything in these pictures that are blue looks grey to me when I look at the tent. I get the same result with both digital cameras.

SUMMARY

The MSR Skinny One appears to be a well made solo tent. A lot of thought seems to have been put into the design features. Some of those features appear to me to be neat and useful while some just seem to be added weight with no purpose.

I am looking forward to actually using the tent out in the forest. I will start actual field testing and experimenting as soon as the snow is mostly gone. This might be next week or next month.

This summary was written May 14, 2009


FIELD REPORT

FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

My first two hikes during this period with the Skinny One tent were in the Manistee National Forest in northwest Lower Michigan. This is a gently rolling area covered with oak, maple and pine forests with an average elevation of about 800 to 900 feet (240 to 274 m). The weather was normal for the time of year with daytime highs in the low 70s F (21 C) and around freezing at night with frequent rain.

Hike March 17 & 18, 2009
The whole purpose of this hike was a first trial of the MSR Skinny One tent. My walk from the Jeep to my destination was partly on a new section of the North Country Trail and partly bushwhacking. In addition to a few spare clothes and food and water for 2 meals, I took the MSR Skinny One tent with the footprint. I also carried a 10X11 foot (3X3.3 m) tarp since I expected rain and I didn't have enough experience with the tent yet to be certain of staying dry in a heavy rain. When trying new gear I always want a backup the first few times.

The temperature got up to 70 F (21 C) while I was walking in. Most of the route was covered with over a foot (0.3 m) of snow. It was hard walking with the snow just crusty enough to be difficult. I found a place on bare ground to camp close to Eddington Creek and east of the NCT. The Skinny One was easy to set up the first time. I spread the footprint, staked out the four corners of the tent, put in the poles and it was up. Then I staked out the side guy lines and tied the top center of the vestibule up to trees. I put up the tarp close to the front of the tent so I would have a dry place since I was expecting rain.

By 5:30 PM the temperature had fallen to 58 F (14 C). The wind was making it feel even colder. This was an area where I could wander along the creek and stay out of deep snow. I took the headlamp and walked along the creek looking for animal signs. I generally prefer my tents and other gear to blend into the forest but the bright color of the Skinny One made it much easier to find when I got back to camp.

I sat in the shelter of a big tree and read a book until it was getting too dark and cold. I got in the tent and left the center of the vestibule tied up and open and the vestibule sides staked out. I tried opening the big window but the wind was strong and cold. I woke about 6 AM to a temperature of 33 F (0.5 C) in the tent. I noted another nice feature of the tent. The light and bright color let in the early morning light so I didn't have much need of the headlamp to do my packing. Most of the inside of the tent was wet like heavy dew. I wiped it all down with a towel. I took down the tent and tarp and packed up everything except food and extra clothes. After eating breakfast I finished packing and hiked out. When I got home I hung the tent up to dry. It was very wet inside.

Hike April 24 & 25, 2009
This was an overnight loop hike which included the Manistee River Trail and a section of the North Country Trail. My objective was to try out several pieces of new gear and get my body ready for a longer hike. I stopped to camp at 3:30 after hiking a distance of 10.8 miles (17.4 km). I decided against the obvious easy places because a strong wind had come up and there were too many dead trees and branches that might fall on me. I found a small ledge above Arquilla Creek protected by a steep rise to higher ground on the upwind side and dropping off sharply to the creek about 20 feet (6 m) below. The MSR Skinny One tent just fit the small space available. I blew up the new Neoair Therm-a-Rest and spread out my quilt. There is very little room in this tent. I put the nearly empty pack at the end opposite the door for a pillow. Clothes and other stuff I want close were piled along the sides of my bed. I tied the top center of the vestibule up to trees. This time I left the big window half open. In the morning there was still condensation inside the tent but not as much as the first night.

Hike May 8 through 24, 2009
This hike was in northern Minnesota and included part of the Superior Hiking Trail, all the Border Route Trail and all the Kekekabec Trail. The elevations ranged from about 900 feet (274 m) up to 1800 feet (549 m). The low areas were often wet, muddy and or rocky while the higher sections of trail were generally less wet and sometimes even had sections of relatively level trail. Between the low and higher sections of trail there were usually steep climbs or descents. The forest is mostly spruce with aspen (poplar) throughout the area. We had many blow downs to work our way through, over or around. The weather was a little below freezing nights with daytime temperatures from 40 F (4 C) up to 68 F (20 C) the last few days. We had several rainy nights and days. One night the rain changed to freezing rain and then to snow. We had snow with high winds all the next day.

The woman who planned our hike had split it into five day segments with a supply cache near the end of each five days. I used the Skinny One the first five nights then switched to a lighter weight tent with more interior room when we got to the first supply cache.

There were at least three nights after I switched tents that I wanted the Skinny One back so I could set up on a large rock or very tight area. I did not miss the minimal floor space and lack of head room.

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

The MSR Skinny One tent is really good for setting up in small and difficult places. I set the tent on a small "shelf" on the second hike so I would be protected from falling trees.
above the creek
above Arquilla Creek

I had just room to walk along one side and a short space in front of the tent.
Skinny One on narrow shelf
on a narrow shelf

During the last hike we had very little level space to set up, even in the designated campsites.
Hazel campsite
all our tents at Hazel Campsite

I was able to set up the tent on large moss covered rocks on three nights. One rock I setup on left no extra room at the front or either side.
sitting in the vestibule
sitting in the vestibule

In the above picture I could sit in the vestibule with my feet on the rock below.
creative
creative "staking" with ropes

I had to do some creative "staking" with ropes.
on a rock in the rain
on a rock in the rain

Here is the complete setup on a moss covered rock, all done in the rain. Even with gear piled against the walls of the tent no water came through from the rain.
I am certain that all moisture inside the tent each morning came from my sweat and breathing.


SUMMARY

I have now been out seven nights with the MSR Skinny One tent. It is easy to pitch especially in small tight places. The tent is water proof but not breathable or well ventilated. There is no extra room inside the tent. When I sit up on my air mattress my head is against the top of the tent. Every time I've used the tent, so far, there has been heavy condensation. There are still a few ideas I will try in the next two months, hoping to find ways to alleviate this problem.

Likes:
* Easy to pitch in small spaces
* Definitely water proof
* Easy to see in the woods
* Very light inside.
Dislikes:
* Condensation - it has been wet inside every morning
* Small interior volume for the weight
* Lack of head room


LONG-TERM REPORT

LONG-TERM TEST LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

I've been on three outings with the MSR Skinny One tent in the last two months. I have learned a few more things about how to get along with this tent.

June 13 through June 15, 2009 was a two night trip to South Manitou Island, an island in Lake Michigan, which is part of the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. During the first night we had a light rain for about an hour. All three days were bright, sunny and warm. Each morning the temperature was 50 F (10 C) and the high each day was 65 F (18 C). Our group camped in an open forest area about 1000 feet (305 m) from the shore.

The second, June 30 and July 1, 2009, was an overnight hike in the Manistee National Forest in northwest Lower Michigan. The purpose of this hike was to get some exercise and more specifically to test some gear in rainy weather. The weather prognosticators predicted nearly constant rain for the next four days. The rain quit for the last 2 miles (3.2 km) of my hike in and started again soon after I got the tent set up. It was 50 F (10 C) when I started hiking in and the temperature didn't change the rest of the day. I camped in a small stand of red pines in a low flat area known as Lietch Bayou. The rain started again during the night. It was 44 F (7 C) when I fixed breakfast in the morning. It rained hard and steady while I hiked back to the car.

July 15 & 16, 2009 I did an overnight hike in the Pere Marquette State Forest, east of Traverse City, Michigan. The 9.5 mile (15.3 km) hike to where I camped was a little hilly with mostly sunny skies and pleasant temperature holding at 6o F (16 C). A light rain started during the night. The day I hiked back alternated between hard rain, light rain and periods of just dark threatening clouds. It was 48 F (9 C) when I started hiking and got clear up to 50 F (10 C) when I got to the parking lot.

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

I pitched a tarp over the end of the tent opposite the door when I camped on South Manitou Island.
tarp over window
tarp over window

I wanted to be able to leave the big window open for ventilation. I also left the vestibule open on one side. This worked very well. I had NO condensation inside the tent either morning. This was the first time I had slept in the Skinny One without having wet tent walls and ceiling in the morning.

The second hike I pitched my 10 ft by 11 ft (3 m by 3.3 m) tarp as high as I could reach. Then I set the tent up completely under the tarp. Again I left both the big window and the vestibule open. Even with the high humidity of an all night rain there was no condensation inside the tent when I woke in the morning.

On the third trip, I added the tarp almost at the last minute. I checked the weather report on my computer before I left and it showed rain starting about 5 AM and continuing for two more days. When I got to camp I put the tarp up then pitched the Skinny One tent with the vestibule about 6 feet (1.8 m) from the tarp.
tent and tarp
tent and tarp


I slept with my head at the window end with the window completely open. At 4 AM I woke because my face was getting wet. It was starting to rain. I closed the window and turned around so my head was close to the screen door and the open vestibule and went back to sleep.
I woke about 6 AM to hear steady rain on the tent. The tent was slightly damp near the screen door but no real condensation. I had managed to sleep most of the night with my head under the open window. I slept for less than two hours with the window shut and my face near the screen door.

SUMMARY

I've used the tent in enough cold and rainy nights to know that it is waterproof. I do not believe there is enough provision for ventilation to sleep through an all night rain without condensation inside the tent. If I can keep the big window open and sleep with my head at the window end there is no condensation. I can cover the window end of the tent with a tarp and keep the big window open. Then, even in an all night rain, I have no condensation inside the tent.

My overall opinion is that, while the Skinny One is a decent enough tent, it is too small in both floor area and head room to justify the weight. The three sided vestibule can be put up in several different ways. I've used it with the top center section staked down and left or right side open. I've also used it with both sides staked down and the top tied up and open.
vestibule center up
vestibule center up

This is my preferred method if there is no rain or if the rain is mostly straight down. If the rain comes from one side I will keep the opposite side open. I have only closed the vestibule completely when it has been cold and windy and raining.

I will not be using the tent again since I will be giving it to a son to use when he goes fishing.

Good points:
* Water proof,
* Useful vestibule
* Can be pitched in small places

Not so good points:
* Too much condensation
* Too heavy for the inside volume
* Too small for the weight

This concludes my Long Term Report on the MSR Skinny One tent.
I would like to thank Mountain Safety Research and BackpackGearTest.org for the opportunity to test the Skinny One. This has been an interesting test. I think this is a nice tent, just not for my use as a backpacker trying to carry less weight.

This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1.5 Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.

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