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Reviews > Shelters > Tents > Mountain Safety Research Skinny One > Test Report by Wayne Merry

MSR Skinny One Tent

Test Series by Wayne Merry


FIELD REPORT: 3 Jun 2009

LONG-TERM REPORT: 29 July 2009

About Wayne, the tester:

Age: 35
Gender: Male
Height: 1.8 m (5' 10")
Weight: 95 kg (210 lb)
Email address: wayne underscore merry at yahoo dot com dot au
City, State, Country: Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Backpacking Background: I started overnight backpacking six years ago. I hike in various terrains from moderate/hard track walks to some off track and rivers. I like the temperature to stay above freezing, and have not camped above the snow line during winter. I enjoy going on weekend and multi-day walks up to two weeks as well as day walks. I carry a moderate weight pack, enjoying a few creature comforts at camp. I would normally do at least 2 overnight or longer walks every three months, in addition to a number of full day length walks.
About the test environment:

I will be testing the MSR Skinny One tent in Victoria and Tasmania, which are both states in Australia. Elevations will vary from 0 m to 1750 m (5750 ft). The test will be conducted in the autumn (fall) and winter seasons with temperatures varying from 0 C (32 F) to 25 C (77 F). Humidity varies widely during this time of year. Conditions could vary from quite wet to very dry.

I will be testing the MSR Skinny One tent on all my overnight or longer walks that I have planned during the test period.
Product Details:
MSR Skinny One image courtesy of MSR

Photograph courtesy of MSR
  • Manufacturer: MSR
  • Web site:
  • Year of shipping: 2009
  • MSRP US$199.95 tent, US$29.95 footprint
Manufacturer's description: This new ultralight, single-wall solo tent weighs less than 3 lbs and provides over 44 cubic feet of shelter. Perfect for extended solo excursions where weight is a critical concern, the Skinny One is built with a straightforward, single-wall, hoop design, delivering all that room in an easy to set-up design. You also get the outstanding ventilation that's critical to single-wall performance with an overhead, end-to-end vent, big rear window, and roomy vestibule that provides weatherproof protection in most conditions without having to keep the door totally shut.

Specifications for product as tested:
  • Weight
    • Manufacturer specified:
      • Min weight: 1.44 kg (3 lb 3 oz)
      • Packaged weight: 1.61 kg (3 lb 9 oz)
    • As tested:
      • Poles: 250 g (8.8 oz) plus 11 g (0.4 oz) bag for a total of 261 g (9.2 oz).
      • A pole shunt was supplied and this weighed 11 g (0.4 oz).
      • Pegs: 10 g (0.35 oz) each. All 10 pegs plus bag: 108 g (3.8 oz).
      • Tent: 1.15 kg (2.5 lb)
      • Footprint: 125 g (4.4 oz)
      • Tent, 10 pegs, and tent/poles/peg bags/stuff sacks: 1.59 kg (3 lbs 8.1 oz)
      • Tent, 10 pegs, tent/poles/peg bags/stuff sacks and footprint 1.71 kg (3 lbs 12.3 oz)
      • Footprint stuff sack: 20 g (0.7 oz)
  • Dimensions
    • Manufacturer specified:
      • Floor area: 1.39 sq m (15.5 sq ft)
      • Vestibule area: 0.46 sq m (5.28 sq ft)
      • Interior height: 76 cm (30 in)
    • As tested:
      • Interior height: 80 cm (2 ft 7.5 in)
      • Length of interior: 205 cm (6 ft 8.7 in)
      • Width: 71 cm (2 ft 4 in) tapering to 48 cm (1 ft 6.9 in)
      • Floor area: 1.3 sq m (14 sq ft)
      • Vestibule dimensions: 85 cm by 70 cm (2 ft 9.5 in by 2 ft 3.5 in).

Initial Report: Item Receipt & First Impressions:

20 Mar 2009

Tent parts supplied MSR Skinny One in my backyard

I received the MSR Skinny One in excellent condition with all parts supplied. These parts included 2 guy ropes and guy tensioners, 10 pegs, two poles which are slightly curved, 3 stuff sacks for the tent, poles and pegs, a footprint and stuff sack, along with the tent itself. The footprint was supplied for this test, although on MSR's web site this is shown as optional and has a separate retail price. I generally use a homemade footprint made of polyurethane, however in this test I will be using the MSR footprint instead. A picture nearby shows the main tent stuff sack with all the tent gear inside. Beside this is the footprint stuff stack with footprint inside.

The nearby picture shows the tent erected in my backyard. The Skinny One is not a fully free standing tent, and my yard is paved in part - therefore what would normally be pegged at one end was held in place by some pot plants. This still provided a good feel for how big the tent and vestibule are, which is described below.

Tent entrance Zippers on entrance zip

The Skinny One is entered through a single door way located at one end of the tent. The doorway also forms the tent vestibule. There are three main sheets of tent fabric joined by zippers which are shown nearby. By selecting the appropriate stake loops to peg, the door can be either straight out from the main tent, or the door can be on the side as shown in the nearby picture. The drip line for the doors is located over the vestibule, so it should be ok to be able to open a door during rain. If the door is down wind, very little rain would enter the vestibule. If the end door is used, much of the vestibule would be exposed to rain. The zip lines on the doors have double zippers as shown in the picture. This allows the door to be closed, but a hole can be opened up at the top of the zip line.

There are two loops supplied (visible in the vent picture below) which can be used to secure the door open when the fabric is rolled up. This seems only to be effective when the end of the tent is used as the door, rather than side entry. Given the limitations of my backyard setup, I could not figure a way of securing the open side door, short of stuffing the material underneath one of the poles - seen in the picture above.

The vestibule is quite small, and would be a little squeezy once a pack and boots are inside. Using a side door requires a change of direction to enter the main tent which is a little tricky, but I think I will get the hang of it soon enough. There does appear to be enough room to use a stove in the vestibule, but confirmation of this will need to wait my field testing.

Looking in the vent Vent at tent head

The roof of the Skinny One features a large opening which accesses an area running over the main body of the tent. The Skinny One is a single skin tent, however the roof features a No-See-Um mesh ceiling which separates the roof fabric from the main tent room as shown in a nearby picture. The area between the mesh and the roof is ventilated through the large opening over the doorway. MSR suggest that this system will allow for good ventilation of the tent, even in rain. The opening is quite large, and it is possible for rain to enter if being blown the right way. To help prevent this, the opening can be partially closed through 3 Velcro straps shown in a nearby picture. These attach a yellow flap to the red pole sleeve material. It is not designed to fully close the opening, however it would appear that this should keep the rain out. These straps cannot be accessed from within the tent, so if the vent was fully open and rain was entering the tent, I would then need to at least put a hand out the door to make the adjustment. I will see how hard it is to do this during the field test.

Therm-A-Rest placed in the tent Opposite end of the Skinny One tent

The inside of the tent is roomy enough for me. There is only room for one person. I placed a full length Therm-A-Rest inside, which fitted nicely, with about 15 cm (6 in) of room to spare. This is shown in the above picture, along with the "feet" end of the tent. As I often have a pile of stuff lying around in a tent - it is always nice for a bit of room. The Therm-A-Rest just fits width wise at the foot of the tent. This end is narrower than the door end of the tent. At the door end, there is about 12.5 cm (5 in) of room either side of the Therm-A-Rest. I have seen some self inflating mattresses that are wider than a standard Therm-A-Rest. Most of these should fit if they are 3/4 length, however if they are full length, then they will need to be standard width. There is enough room to sit up in the tent, however I found there is not enough room to me to sit on my knees with my back upright. The ceiling of the tent keeps the same height from the inner door of the tent for about 3/4 of the length. Only at the "feet" end of the tent does the roof at the centre line slope down to the ground. While I found the tent roof lower than what I am used to, there is still a good amount of room in this tent.

Large vent at opposite end of the Skinny One tent

There is a large window / vent that can be opened using zips at the "feet" end of the tent. This is shown in the nearby picture. This opens up a large window which is protected using No-See-Um mesh. The water resistant material is on the inside of the mesh as this window is opened and closed from the inside of the tent. One issue with this design is that the mesh is exposed to the outside world and I would have thought it more fragile. This may be the price paid to have a window that can be opened from the inside. This window could not be opened in the rain as water would enter the main tent room directly.

MSR Skinny One footprint

Shown nearby is the footprint supplied by MSR for this test. It is designed to attach to both the poles and at the "feet" end of the tent. The footprint does not fully cover all of the ground sheet, but in my experience it does not need to, and it is better if it doesn't. The reason for this is that if any of the footprint is exposed to rain, water can end up between the ground sheet of the tent and the footprint, and this can result in water seeping through the ground sheet into the tent. The footprint looks easy enough to attach to the tent, but I reserve my judgement about this until I have put up and taken down the tent a few times in the field. It is too early to say how appropriate the material of the footprint is for the job it is to do - protect the tent from hard ground. I can say that my homemade polyurethane sheets get hammered at some places I have been, and end up with lots of holes. They do keep my ground sheets in good condition. I would expect that the MSR footprint will be exposed to similar conditions during this test.

The Skinny One uses two poles which are held in place by a mixture of pole sleeves and clips. The sleeves are quite short - they only really cover the roof area. I found it easy enough in my backyard test to thread the poles through and erect the tent - even when I had to use pot plants to secure one end. Clearly in the field, I will be staking the tent so this will be less of an issue. As a single skin tent, there is no need to worry about the inner tent getting wet before the fly goes on - as there is no fly. Putting this tent up in the rain should be as easy as putting it up in the dry. Taking it down should be just as easy.

As the Skinny One is not fully freestanding, staking out is essential. My experience with these "tunnel" style tents is that the pegs at both ends of the tent are critical for tent stability. The pegs supplied with the Skinny One look sufficient. They are actually the same pegs as I have on my MSR Hubba, and on a number of other recent model MSR tents. On the MSR Hubba, I have found these pegs to be ok, but not fantastic - they are not the strongest pegs around, and great care must be used to avoid breaking them in hard soils. The pegs are quite rigid, and will break rather than bend. The pegs are no good in snow or loose sand. They are good enough in most other surfaces.

Overall I think I like the MSR Skinny One. I think I will need to see how it goes on a colder night with condensation before I decide it really is a good tent. It looks big enough to use for one person. What I don't want to see condensation all over the walls when I wake up in the morning. I can get away with this with a two skinned tent where all the condensation is on the fly. Here there is no such luxury. Hopefully the venting system will get the job done. I do like the mesh ceiling system with the vent at the end of the tent. This could help to prevent much of the condensation forming, and even if there is a bit on the roof, there is the mesh ceiling to keep it off me.

My main likes and dislikes at this stage are:
  • LIKES:
    • Good length and width to the tent.
    • I really like the mesh ceiling.
    • Having a choice of outside door helps in windy wet conditions.
    • Vestibule is a little small.
    • The roof could do with being a little higher.

Thanks to BackpackGearTest and MSR for the opportunity to test the MSR Skinny One.

Field Test Report:

3 June 2009

Field Test Locations and Details:

  • Mt Jerusalem National Park, Tasmania, Australia. A 5 day, 4 night trip, mostly off track in alpine - sub alpine terrain. Conditions ranged from dry to periods of rain. Humidity was moderate to high. Temperatures ranged from 0 C (32 F) to 20 C (68 F). Most days were full pack carry, however 1 day was a side trip and the tent was not taken down that day.
  • The tent was used for a total of 4 nights.

A trip to Tasmania gave me the opportunity to test out the MSR Skinny One and put it through its paces in what can be testing conditions. As described in my Initial Review above, the Skinny One is a single skin tent, so condensation performance with this tent will be very important.

The four nights of the test saw three cool nights without wind and one cool night with wind. On the first night I used the Skinny One with my head at the entrance end of the tent. I also had the window at the other end of tent fully closed. I had the opening at the top of the tent fully open. There was little wind. A fair amount of condensation formed overnight. I could even see some of it forming in the 20 or so minutes before I went to bed. There was enough of it that it ran down the tent and pooled at the base, which meant that a fair amount of my stuff got wet. I had a towel which I was able to wipe things down with, but it was not the driest night I have ever had in a tent.

The MSR Skinny One in the field

The second night was also not windy. This night, I changed my sleeping orientation to sleep with feet towards the entrance. Because of the threat of rain, I kept the big window at the end (now head) of the tent mostly closed, but opened a small amount of it to allow better airflow. The main vent at the top of the tent was kept open. Condensation formed overnight with this setup, but not at the same volume. The walls of the tent were damp, and I got damp rubbing up against them a bit, but the water did not pool on the floor. I again used the towel to wipe down the walls.

Given the threat of rain each evening, I was not able to open the head window any further on any of the subsequent nights. There was little condensation on the night with wind, however there was more on the final night. Condensation is a problem in cold conditions with this tent, but I can't see how the performance could be improved short of breathable fabrics. Enough windows can be opened to keep the condensation under control, and a towel is always handy.

One of the days of the trip saw heavy rain. While I might have had some problems with condensation, the Skinny One is good at keeping the rain out. The upside of a single skin tent is no problems with rain splash getting in under the fly. Even in the vestibule there was little problem with this.

Sleeping with my feet towards the entrance of the tent also allowed better use of the main tent room for storing stuff. I feel much better with stuff at my feet then around my head. There was about 10 cm (4 in) of room either side of my Therm-A-Rest and about 15 cm (6 in) of room at the feet for storing stuff. It did not work as well when I was sleeping in the other direction on the first night.

One of my concerns was the small size of the vestibule. Using the Skinny One on a longer trip meant carrying a bigger pack, and this bigger pack was stored in the little vestibule. I had to use more organisation than what I would normally to get everything to fit inside. Once I did this, there was enough room to store the pack, boots, some loose items and have room to get in and out. I also cooked in the vestibule with a Shellite (white gas) fuel stove each morning with the pack and boots inside as well. There was enough room for all of this, but I used a wind guard around the stove to ensure that no loose strap or anything else unwanted approached the flame area, given the cramped space. A larger vestibule would make life a little easier.

A plus of single skin tents is the ease of putting them up in the rain. With double skin tents I have to normally adopt strange ways of erecting the tent underneath the fly to keep the main tent dry. With the Skinny One, I erected it as if it was dry. Same goes for taking it down in the rain. It did not take me much time to get used to putting up and taking down the tent. By the end of the 4 day trip I had become an old hand at it.

Use of the guy ropes is important with the Skinny One, but not just for stability. I first tried using the two supplied guys at the end of the tent, but later in the trip found it far better to attach these on the two sides of the tent. This gave much better stability in side winds and also created more room inside. The photo above shows a guy rope at the end of the tent. A side guy rope anchor point, which was then not being used, can be seen just below the MSR logo on the tent in the same photo.

I have used the supplied footprint on all 4 nights so far. Attaching the footprint takes a little bit of work as the tent is not freestanding. The main tent needs to be pegged at both ends before it can be erected, so it cannot be lifted up to put the footprint underneath. However, even given this, I did not find using the footprint difficult. The ground conditions used so far consisted of grasses and some small stones. The footprint has shown no signs of wear, but I have not used it on hard ground yet. Because of this, I do not yet know how resistant the footprint is to holes forming, and to tearing.

In my Initial Review, I thought that the roof was a little low, however in field usage, I did not find this a problem. I had sufficient room to move around, turn around and change clothes in the Skinny One without feeling constrained.

In summary, my main likes and dislikes at this stage are:

  • LIKES:
    • Good length and width to the tent.
    • Ease of putting up and taking down of the tent in all conditions..
    • Having a choice of outside door helps in windy wet conditions.
    • Vestibule is a little small.
    • On still cold humid nights it is hard keeping the condensation under control.

Thanks to BackpackGearTest and MSR for the opportunity to test the MSR Skinny One.

Long Term Report:

29 July 2009

Long Term Test Locations and Details:

  • Mt Cobbler, Victoria, Australia. This was a planned 2 day, 2 night trip. Conditions were very wet. I arrived late on the first night, and decided to sleep in a hut due to its availability and the shocking conditions. I used the Skinny One as a ground sheet in the hut. The next day, I cut short the trip due to the conditions and finished up late in the day.
  • The Grampians, Victoria, Australia. A 2 day, 1 night pack carry trip, on track in mostly forest - Conditions were dry apart from some overnight showers. Humidity was moderate to high. Temperatures ranged from 0 C (32 F) to 15 C (59 F). Winds reached 60 km/h (37 mph)
  • The tent was used (as a tent) for a total of 1 night.

During the Long Term test, I was able to use the Skinny One as intended on only one occasion. While I felt the Skinny One would keep me dry at Mt Cobbler because it had performed well in the rain in Tasmania, I still would have to put it up in heavy rain. The second walk allowed for the use of the tent - and besides there was no hut nearby to wimp out with! The Skinny One performed well on this night. It was cool, but there was a significant wind. I continued to use the guy ropes on the sides of the tent, and this gave good stability in the wind. It also increases the effective volume of the tent inside as it pulls the walls outward.

The threat of rain prevented me from being able to open the big window of the tent, but this can still be opened along the top. The tent skin drops down a little when this window is partially opened along the top, but drips will fall onto the material, not into the tent. Wind blown rain could enter the tent, but I think that the mesh is stopping it. I have found that a reasonable size opening can still be allowed for airflow. If the wind is at a reasonable speed, condensation levels are reduced. The night I used the tent during the Long Term Test, there was very little condensation. The top of the walls were just a touch damp. I did not even need to use a towel (unlike during the field test!). The most condensation occurred during cooking the evening meal inside the tent. The steam from the pot added to dampness on the walls, but this actually dried over the next few hours, even though I was in the tent during this time.

My shorter walk allowed me to use a smaller 65 L (4000 cu in) pack, and this made organising the small vestibule much easier than during the field test. The vestibule is not one of the Skinny One's finest features due to small size, but it is large enough to put my pack and shoes in, and still allow enough room to cook. I have found it much preferable to use the side doors on the vestibule rather than the straight through door. The straight through door makes it easier to get in and out of the tent, but it leaves the vestibule much more exposed to the weather.

In my initial review, I suggested that adjusting the large vent above the tent door would require getting partially out of the tent. This is not the case. There is a small zip that gives direct access to this vent from within the tent. This makes opening and adjusting the size of this vent quite straightforward.

Soiling of the tent

Over the field test and long term test periods, the of sides Skinny One have come in contact with ground. This has occurred while setting up and taking down the tent. I have found that the tent does tend to soil. The soiling shown in the picture above was after I brushed the dirt off. I have not tried washing the tent, but this is something that I would not really want to do. This level of soiling is not something that really concerns me. It has not impacted on the functionality of the tent. Aside from this, the tent is still in excellent condition. The ground sheet is also in excellent condition.

Overall, testing the MSR Skinny One tent has been an interesting experience. The tent is a little small, but it is not too small that it becomes inconvenient. My main issue with the tent is its weight. If the tent lost about a pound (450 g) it would be a great tent. Condensation is an issue with the tent, and does take some user management. The upside of the Skinny One is that it makes a good tent for wet conditions.

At the conclusion of this test, my main likes and dislikes are:

  • LIKES:
    • Good length and width to the tent.
    • Ease of putting up and taking down of the tent in all conditions..
    • Having a choice of outside door helps in windy wet conditions.
    • The tent weighs too much for the space it provides.
    • Vestibule is a little small.
    • On still cold humid nights it is hard keeping the condensation under control.

Thanks to BackpackGearTest and MSR for the opportunity to test the MSR Skinny One.

Read more reviews of MSR gear
Read more gear reviews by Wayne Merry

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