Planning your next cycle touring journey and looking for a new tent? With such an extensive and competitive market out there the choice can be overwhelming and confusing, I know (I changed my tent three times before embarking on my journey!). Nevertheless, with all the money they cost, it’s obvious you want to get it right and have a long-lasting and reliable portable home. Investing a lot of money in anything is a big step for us common people with normal means. And that is the reason why I say that the best and safest option is to always go for a product with pedigree, tried and tested by the hundreds, if not thousands.
I wish somebody had told me this before I invested US $700 in the newly marketed MSR HUBBA TOUR.
When this tent came out on the market one year ago, there was not a single review around that could guarantee me that this was going to be a good investment. However, it had so many good features (on paper) that I could not resist the temptation to buy it and make it my home away from home. Specifically designed for cycle tourers, with a nice gear shed where to store my belongings safely, freestanding, extremely light, easy and quick set up, marketed as three-seasons tent, it was a no-brainer. I mean, what else could I possibly ask more for?
However, time will always prove your choices to be right or wrong, and after not even one year on the road my Hubba Tour has been sent back to MSR to never return. The tent failed me for a number of reasons such as waterproof capability, poor design and ventilation, wrongly marketed freestanding feature, and a pathetic customer service. But let’s look at the issues in more details.
Marketed as a freestanding tent, the truth is that once you get to set it up you realise that to hold the gear shed in its place you need to use at least 2 pegs. No big deal of course. You can still use some sort of weight to keep them in place, but the tent tends to get a bit soggy overnight – even with pegs – and I wouldn’t want to imagine the results by simply using weights.
2. POOR DESIGN
The outer and inner tents are VERY close. So very close that the condensation accumulated over night (nobody can ever escape condensation) will make them stick, causing the water to drip inside. You can only imagine what happens when it rains, or when you are camping in minus temperatures and you’ll literally have ice inside your tent slowly melting on you with the morning sun.
3. POOR VENTILATION
Moving away from the Hubba Hubbas succesfull design, MSR has incoveniently decided to use an exoskeleton design that helps the interior stay dry during setup. As good as it sounds, however, this also means that outer and inner tents cannot be pitched separately. In hot weather, the tent has become more like a portable sauna than a place where to sleep. While it does have two small vents and an OK extreme weather protection, the tent’s overall ventilation capabilities are very limited.
During our 5 months in South East Asia, sleeping in it had become a torture until we had to give up on it completely and spend far more money than we budgeted to sleep in guesthouses and hotels.
The tents is said to be coated with and ultra-durable 1200mm Xtreme Shield with 20D ripstop nylon that should help keep the rain out and last up to 3 times longer than standard waterproof coatings. Well, that wasn’t the case when we had to pack up in the middle of a night storm, during which it started raining inside and everything was nothing but wet. After contacting the customer service, we were shocked to read their response, which said: “the Hubba Tour series has stepped away from taped seams, and returned to using a thread that expands when it comes in contact with water. This means that there may be leaking at first, but as the threads take on water they expand to seal off the seams“. In simpler terms, EXPECT TO GET WET.
5.CUSTOMER SERVICE AND SUPPORT
The best thing about buying your products from large and well established brands is that their customer service is often impeccable. When you are on the road and constantly moving location, having a prompt response and support is crucial. Even more so if you have bought a product that is specifically designed for a cycle tourer such as yourself, since you will expect an understanding of your current nomad situation.
This is something we didn’t receive from MSR. While they pride themselves in having “technical support you can trust”, our experience and that of fellow cycle tourers was a complete disappointment.
With a very lengthy correspondence, with days of waiting between emails, and money spent on international calls to get a simple follow up, this is just something you cannot afford to deal with if you need your tent to be replaced. In our case, we had to buy a new tent (an excessive amount of money out of our travel budget), whilst we had to ship our Hubba Tour at our own expenses in order for them to inspect it. After nearly 3 months since first contacting them we have just finally received a refund and are very relieved to be done with this odyssey.
Whilst we cherish technological innovation in the wide outdoor market and positively understand that there is always area for improvement for newly designed products, the experience with the support team and the amount of consideration received will ultimately make it or break it.
In our case, and given the amount of MSR products we have bought for our journey (tent, stove, cooking set, cutlery, etc) I simply felt not a “valuable customer” , and if we had to do it again we would look at other brands such as Agnes or Montbell.
As always, the best way to find your ideal tent is to look at trustworthy resources such CyclingAbout fantastic website, which will give you a good intro in how to pick your tent according to your need. For more up to date information, it’s a good idea to check out the latest bike touring tents review by Tom Allen.