Tested in the Cairngorms

Extensively tested by Cairngorm Treks in the highlands of Scotland. I think we have a strong claim to have used this tent more than most. We received the tent shortly after its release and have used it on all our multi-day treks this season.

As a lightweight operator in some of the harshest UK mountain conditions, we were really excited when the MSR Access solo and two person tents came on the market. Let’s face it, even in mid summer camping above 900 metres in the Cairngorms can sometimes be a wintery experience, so having a lightweight four season tent which could used all year round seemed to fit our requirements.

The first thing we noticed when receiving our first order of tents was the compactness. The genuine full pack weights of 1.6 kg for the Access 1 and 1.86 kg for the Access 2 fit well into their own stuff sacks, and can be reduced in volume further with compression straps. We tend to split our tents so the poles and pegs are separate in their own storage sacks, enabling the tent to fit easily inside a rucksack whilst taking up minimal space.

Like all tents, pitching the Access 1 and 2 requires a little bit of practice. Both models can be put up easily in under 5 minutes, and packed away much more quickly. These are inner first, free-standing tents. This might put off some for use in a rainy climate, but once you get to know the pitching technique you can minimize the amount of moisture in contact with the inner. Whilst pitching with a large group and a number of tents, we have managed to put up the tents in torrential rain under a tarp before moving them to their final pitching place. A bonus of having an inner first freestanding tent is that on warmer days or in use in warmer climates the inner can be pitched alone without the need of a fly sheet, making a very lightweight comfortable shelter with bug protection.

They use the classic one piece MSR spider pole system but with a ground breaking additional cross pole giving the tent its unique strength and stability. With the Easton Syclone material, the poles have stood up to MSR’s claim of being pretty much unbreakable, and even in 60 mph gusts confidently allowed peace of mind that the energy absorbing flexing of the poles would ensure that the tents would survive without damage. The added stability of the cross pole also helps keep the shape of the tent, reducing snow loading and sagging, as well as optimizing the internal space. Some of the metal pole inserts on the first tents we received came unstuck, but once MSR had been alerted our pretty intensive use of them, the manufacturing process was upgraded and the new poles are now bombproof. Combine this with the excellent MSR Groundhog pegs, our personal favourite pegs for use throughout Britain, and you have a very secure shelter.

The outer material of the Access Tents, Durashield coated fabric, is superbly waterproof and fits snugly close to the ground, and combined with the high bathtub inner floor, keeps the weather at bay even in blizzards or horizontal rain, with multiple pegging points and up to 9 guy lines if needed. In full winter conditions packing snow around the edge of the tent stopped the intrusion of spindrift. There is only one tightening adjuster on the door peg which simplifies the pitching process and means that the whole process of working with the tent can be done with gloves on, an important consideration when the temperature drops below zero. We do hope though that MSR could develop the tent further by using the colour coded corners for easy location of the door, and tensioners on the corners of the inner for an easier and quicker pitch - all of which were great features with the MSR Hubba NX.

As well as the tent’s robustness in tough weather despite its low weight, the living space is a key positive, with clients well over 6 foot managing to fit comfortably and, importantly, have decent headroom when changing clothes. The vestibule space allows for storage of a full rucksack and boots, and still provides enough room to prepare food. The advantage of the Access 2 is that each person has theirown storage space and door, meaning there is no need to crawl over anyone when sharing the tent. The two-person tent is also still light enough to be used as single tent for those who really value their space and, especially in the winter, might have additional gear. The inner canopy of the tents is mainly 20D nylon Ripstop nylon cloth with a small triangles of ventilation 10D mesh. This makes the tents warmer but slight condensation can be a small downside for this added insulation. We found this a particular problem when using the tent in a recent blizzard. At -8 degrees the outer had a layer of ice and moisture couldn't escape effectively. Because of this, in the morning our sleeping bags were a little damp, so the addition of a lightweight bivi bag is a recommendation for this tent. Although we always carry bivi bags as part of our standard kit in winter for this exact reason as it can be an issue with many winter shelters.

The tents come in two colours, Orange for those wanting to be seen or Green for those preferring a less intrusive visual impact on the landscape


Our Verdict

The Access 1 and Access 2 are exceptional mountain tents, which are lightweight and boast innovative pole systems. They are not only 4 Season but All Season backpacking tents which can be carried all year round in the mountains and be used confidently in all but the very harshest of winter conditions. Why have multiple tents for different seasons when the Access 1 and 2 do virtually everything in one lightweight package. An almost perfect solution for outdoor life in Scotland!

Cairngorm Treks is a small family business based in the picturesque village of Tomintoul in the North East region of the Cairngorms National Park. They provide bespoke Mountain Guiding for Single Day Walks and Lightweight Multiday Trekking experiences, including wild camping, in the stunning Cairngorms wilderness and surrounding areas. Whether in the high mountains or lower valleys, their Multiday Treks are equipped with high quality, lightweight camping and trekking gear. They only work with small groups and, whatever your ability, pride themselves on designing your outdoor experience completely to your needs and with professional guidance and expertise. Adventure is waiting...