Based on our trip on the Bohusleden in Sweden 2014 I’d like to review the MSR Hubba Hubba NX with a ‘field test’.
My decision to buy this tent came shortly before the trip itself. If you like to know what led to my decision to buy the MSR Hubba Hubba NX you can read about it here Optimizing the Weight.
MSR Hubba Hubba NX ready to use and open apside
Now we are back from nearly two weeks ‘in the wilderness’ of Sweden and most of the time we used the tent. Sometimes even though we had the possibility to use one of the cabins/shelters along the way. We had days with good weather and some with bad weather, one day even heavy rain and a little hail storm. So basically good weather conditions for a review with one rougher day. Nothing as tough and stormy than the night near the peak of the Negoiu (sorry article only in German yet) but wet and windy enough that I’d like give you a short review of how the tent performed.
Weight and packing size
The main reason for me to buy the Hubba Hubba. And just like I imagined it did great here. It is so light and easy to pack, I was very delighted only to have to carry this on my back, compared to my Wechsel Intrepid 2 ZG in Romania. Of course there are even lighter and smaller tents or even tarps, but to my mind this also brings more problems especially in heavier weather. At some point a discussion about the weight is more a philosophical one than a true comparison to me.
We also met people who only carried a tarp and well, they had problems where we had none. And there was this one guy from Austria only carrying a bivouac sack only for safety reasons. His plan was to reach a shelter every night. Which is possible on the Bohusleden, but the shelters can already be occupied, not sealed or even destroyed (some burned down e.g.). So a tent will always be the heavier, but also the safer way and shouldn’t be compared to other things but another tent I think.
Tent set up
On this part I have to say that I never had a better or let’s say easier tent to be set up. The system with basically only one ‘pole structure’ is really genius for me. I think there are other tents on the market using similar techniques, but none of the candidates I was considering to buy had such a system and now I can say that i just love this feature.
The biggest worry I had was, that you normally first have to set up the inner tent and then the ‘outer wall’ aka flysheet. Nothing to worry about in nice weather or very light rain, but if there is more water pouring down from the sky you have to be really quick while setting up the tent. Which is possible if there is no wind but you wont keep the inner tent completely dry. We had only one time to wipe the ground a little bit after setting up the tent because of some water and thus small water ponds. In really heavy rain you will get some problems I think. Because you need to get all your stuff into the tent very fast which will not be possible due to the water being already in the tent. But I have to admit that I might be a bit more careful about my gear than other people. Some just don’t care that much if their tent ground gets wet and a bit muddy which also leads to dirty mattress or sleeping bag and so on. I always try to keep these things as clean as possible. Which means that no muddy boot is supposed to get inside the tent and no water should be under my mattress. Maybe I’m a bit to picky and the problem I see with the Hubba Hubba or better said the concept of inner- before outer tent is not so big at all.
I was already suspecting that this could be done but I didn’t try it.
The Hubba Hubba NX can in fact be set up with the outer tent first! See the tutorial video from MSR on that:
This adds up to the tent being even better.
I admit that I was a bit concerned about the space the Hubba Hubba had to offer. And even after a first test set up in the garden I was still not fully convinced that it would be big enough for two people with trekking gear for two weeks. But well yes it is! You have to be well-organized, which comes naturally after the first two or three nights, and don’t expect to much luxury. But to my mind the space is just right for two people who are not larger than 1.90 m and know that trekking is also a bit about leaving stuff behind and caring for just the things that really matter.
Why not larger persons?
Well if you want to sit upright you have no problems to do so near the middle of the tent. But with my 1.78 m I had to ‘duck down’ a bit while sitting in the front or the back. And if you want to take some of your gear with you into the tent, e.g. some clothes, you’ll press them with your feet or head against the inner tent wall and also very easily against the flysheet. I’m ‘small’ enough to avoid problems, but larger people might not have such an easy time.
And you have to ‘like’ your partner in the tent because there really isn’t much space in between two mattresses, maybe 15 centimeters. I don’t consider this being a problem but some people, especially the ones that roll around very much in their sleep, might not like that.
My biggest concern though was not the space of the inner tent, it was the space in the vestibules for large trekking backpacks. I have to say that the space is just about right for a 70 or 80 l backpack and muddy boots. But you really have to take care of your backpack not to get wet. It will have contact with the outer tent and thus might get wet, so always use a raincover. If the backpack isn’t fully waterproof or wrapped in something (we used garbage bags), it will get soaked through during the night, even if there is only little rain.Our camp for day 7
With our newly acquired organizational skills, we even had space enough to cook in the vestibules. Again you have to be a bit more careful, but it is possible. Please keep in mind that we used a small gas stove and only a small 1 l kettle. If you are planning to cook a luxurious meal for two people with a large multi-fuel burner, well it could get a bit narrow with all the other gear.
As said before we had some rougher conditions on the Bohusleden but no big (thunder-)storms or even snow. For the conditions we had to face the Hubba Hubba NX was nearly perfect, except for what I mentioned before according to setting up the tent in heavy rain. As long as you manage to keep the inside walls from touching the flysheet’s wall, the tent stays dry inside. Even it’s raining all night through. The wind we had was just moderate – I don’t know the true scale but I would guess nothing more than a 7 and this only for a short time, mostly it was 5 and below I would guess – in these conditions I can’t complain. I read that some people are worrying about the performance of the tent in storms or that they even had problems. Neither can I confirm nor deny this, I can just say that we always felt safe. And I think one should always keep in mind that the Hubba Hubba is a 3-seasons tent specialized for lightweight trekking.
The only thing I was very often thinking about was an additional footprint. We sometimes had to camp in the woods on harder ground where it was impossible not to set up the tent on some small stones poking through the earth or some roots coming out. The footprint weighs about 200 g and costs 35 to 40 €. If you want more space you can even get a special ‘gear shed’. This will extend one of the vestibules for a lot of room. But of course you’ll have to carry ~800 g more, have a larger pack size and need more space for the tent. So this might be a nice option, but to my mind you lose to much of the advantages, although the Hubba Hubba NX plus gear shed will be a very luxurious and lightweight tent with a weight of only ~2.5 kilo.MSR Hubba Hubba NX in the woods
One time we had to camp in a spot that was still pretty wet. Although we didn’t really have problems there either I’d take a footprint with me next time. Just because I’d like to have a bit more safety. And the sheet is not that heavy so that yo can still stay below 2 kilo and you even get more versatility in setting up the tent. Yes it is even possible to use only the flysheet only with the footprint as some kind of ‘tarp dome’.
If you are used to tents you know that there is another important thing to have in mind: the ventilation. With the Hubba Hubba NX this is a bit tricky to answer. Because on the one hand it is great due to the inner tent having a lot of mesh. But on the other hand the outer tent was always pretty wet from the inside, which means that the steam which bodies are naturally producing is not that well transported to the outside. So not only do you have to care about rain but also about moisture. And you have to be a bit careful while dismantling the tent.
In defense of the Hubba Hubba NX it has to be said that many tents struggle with this problem and few are really good at it. I think my Wechsel Intrepid 2 ZG was slightly better but heaving to carry nearly twice the weight is not even worth considering, well at least not for me.
One positive little thing are the two small loops at the roof of the inner tent. We used them constantly as clothesline and hung up the carry bags of our sleeping bags and isolation mats. So we had some additional storage for little things. Did I mention you need to be organized in such a tent?
To my mind MSR has done a great job with this tent. It is not perfect but I think that even a Hilleberg, being very often considered to be the best tents in the world I guess, for nearly twice the price is not perfect. For our trip and I hopefully several future trips, which are still affordable because the tent is of course not cheap but also not so expensive, of this kind this tent was the right choice.
Compared to my good old Wechsel Intrepid I have to say: If weight is not a problem and you always will have enough space for a larger tunnel tent like the Intrepid that’s fine and I really do love the Wechsel. But for several trekking trips I have in my mind the MSR is simply the better choice with the slight disadvantages are easily outweighed by the low weight, the ease of use and the versatility. Looking back I’d really could have made a good use of the Hubba Hubba in Romania, although I don’t know If it would have been as comfortable in the big storm at the Negoui.
That being said I could do nothing but recommend the Hubba Hubba NX to everybody who is in need of a two person 3-season tent and wanting to go larger distances by foot. You should at least give this tent a try and take it into your shortlist of candidates to buy. And by the way, you can also get a smaller version (Hubba) and bigger versions (Papa Hubba and Mutha Hubba) of this tent.
A great option for two or even three people might be the FlyCreek Big Agnes UL 2 or the 3 people version. The two people version is even much lighter than the Hubba Hubba NX with only ~1 kilo, has roughly the same space to offer on the inside but another concept for the vestibule. And even the version for three people is still lighter than the Hubba Hubba. But I would prefer the MSR tent because the inner tent has a rectangular space and ‘higher walls’ making it a bit more comfortable on the inside, at least while comparing the tents for two people. And I like the two vestibules, because you are ‘living’ in very narrow conditions in these tents and this construction makes life a lot easier I would say. But of course life also gets a lot easier if you have to carry less. So maybe the Hubba Hubba might be the better choice for areas with a higher possibility of getting into bad weather where you might have to stay inside the tent for a longer time.
Another option might be the Vaude Hogan UL 2P. A bit heavier than the MSR, a bit longer on the inside but much less space in the single vestibule. You’ll come up to this tent very often while searching for a lightweight tent for two people and I think this is for a reason. But again I would prefer the MSR for the same reasons mentioned above.
And then there are the tents with a Lavvu construction which have a lot of space to offer. But the ones I found where more often more expensive, very hard to get in germany or had some other things I didn’t like. Candidates might be the GoLite Shangria La tents or the WickiUp 3.
If you have any other suggestions please let me know.