MSR ELIXIR 2 REVIEW: BEST BACKPACKING TENTS
The MSR Elixir 2 is MSRs effort at a cheaper entry level tent that has a lot going for it. It’s a palatial one person or cozy two person tent with plenty of storage room in the form of two covered vestibules, with the added option to roll back the rainfly and enjoy the stars from the comfort of your sleeping bag.
Its design allows it to stand up well to both rain, and wind, although, we would recommend purchasing some additional guys if you are expecting torrential weather. It is tough to call it a true backpacking tent as it is considerably heavier and bulkier than some of its competitors in this category, weighing in at just under 6 lbs.
All in all, the MSR Elixir 2 is a great tent for the relatively small cost, however, due to it’s heavier weight we would recommend it more for car camping or short backpacking adventures (particularly if you can share the load over two or more packs). For the serious backpacker, you may wish to consider a lighter alternative.
What We Like
What We Don't
Comfort & Livability
Weight & Packed Size
Ease of Set-Up
|Best Use||Backpacking/Car Camping|
|Min Weight||4 lbs 10 oz|
|Packed Weight||5 lbs 13 oz|
|Vestibule Area||8.75 sq ft + 8.75 sq ft (2 vestibules)|
|Seam Sealed||Taped Seams|
|Pole Type||7000 series aluminum|
|Packed Size||20" x 7"|
|Number of Poles||2|
|Other||Stuff Sack and Footprint Included|
|Material||Canopy: 20D Nylon Micromesh, 20D x 330T Ripstop High Tenacity Nylon|
Floor: 70D x 190T Taffeta Nylon 3,000mm Durashield Polyurethane Coated
Fly: 68D X 210T Ripstop Polyester 1,500mm Polyurethane
|Floor Dimension||84" x 50"|
|Floor Area||29 sq ft|
|Clips or Sleeves||Clips|
With a sleeping area that is 7 feet and 2 inches (2.13m) long and a width of 4 feet 2 inches (1.27m), it is pretty roomy for two people. Unless you and your usual camping buddy are built like football lineman. The floorspace is only just shorter than the width of a double mattress resulting in an overall space of 29 sq feet; that provides sufficient room to fit two sleeping pads down next to each other. If one of you is a restless sleeper is another matter.
If the MSR Elixir 2 doesn't fit your particular needs then check out our other reviews on:
...or alternatively check our full length reviews on:
Thanks to the tents dome design and the crisscrossing of the two poles that hold up the inner tent, this setup gives a fairly reasonable amount of headroom, even towards the edges of the tent. Certainly, at a maximum height of 40 inches (1.02m), there is plenty of room for the majority to be able to sit upright. Thus, removing most of the awkward caterpillar dressing/undressing dance necessary in tents with less overhead clearance.
The inner is comprised of white nylon fabric on the side panels combined with a significant amount of nylon micromesh that helps ventilate the inner tent. The internal venting is linked to two adjustable kickstand vents in the rainfly located at either end of the tent. Ventilation is pretty top notch - although at low temperatures condensation sometimes collects on the inside of the rainfly, although not in enough quantities that it’ll cause dripping.
The white nylon fabric of the inner allows a significant amount of light to penetrate and helps brighten the inside, creating a lovely hospitable atmosphere even on the gloomiest of days outside.
The two vestibules are pretty spacious, and can safely accommodate your pack and muddy boots under the safety of the rainfly with space left over. Indeed, with one vestibule used for storage, the second vestibule can be used for rainy day cooking if needed.
This three season tent holds up pretty well in the majority of weather conditions. With a groundsheet and fly rated at a hydrostatic head of 3000 mm and 1500 mm respectively, you’ll be dry in all but the most severe of downpours. Indeed, we have yet to hear anything bad about how this tent holds up in the rain.
A cute little feature is the rain gutters that have been added to the fly doors. The overall design of the fly doors is meant to prevent those annoying drips falling onto you from the fly as you enter or exit the tent and certainly seems to do it well.
This is a pretty sturdy tent for the price range it is in and appears to cope with high wind admirably. The double-crossing pole configuration seems to strengthen the overall construction and has seen it survive 25 mph winds intact. Also, there is a good overall combination of the nylon and mesh walls, which provide an excellent balance between protection from the most chilling winds, and the need for ventilation.
The ability to roll back the rainfly, allows one to lie back and watch the stars through the mesh inner on warm and dry nights.
Is this the most durable tent in the world? No. However, considering the price range and the job it’s designed for, it is a pretty darn sturdy tent. With all but the most extreme of conditions, this tent holds up well and is durable enough that with a bit of care should last you a long time.
That being said, some owners do report that the poles have been known to snap or bend in high winds. This seems to be particularly prevalent if you purchase the newer models which come with plastic tipped poles, as opposed to metal tips as seen in the video below.
The MSR Elixir 2 is certainly at the heavier end of the backpacking category, weighing in fully packed at 5 lbs 13 oz (2.64 kg); which is roughly equivalent to carrying around 4 standard 12 oz bottles of beer. That being said, if you regularly pair up on your trips then distributing the carry weight between you will make it less likely that you’ll need to schedule an appointment with a chiropractor on your return.
Alternatively, you can pack (and set up) the tent in “Fast and Light” mode which shaves off another 2lbs, bringing the overall weight down to a more manageable 3 lbs 9 oz (1.61 kg). However, this does leave a significant gap of a few inches between the ground and the rainfly, so if you expect any wind (or bugs), then I would go with the full setup.
To ensure ease of access and a proper weight distribution, check out our guide on "How to Correctly Pack a Backpack".
Alternatively, learn about Ultralight Backpacking, and how you can start shaving weight off your next trip.
Of course there are other lighter options out there such as Big Agnes Copper Spur UL2 and MSR Hubba Hubba NX, but as with most things in the world of lightweight backpacking, less weight = heftier price tag.
Packed down into the provided stuff bag, the tent is around 20 x 7 in (51 x 17 cm), making it fairly bulky for a backpack. One thing we noticed is that the stuff bag is a bit roomy when filled. The culprit for this “oversizing” is the length of the poles which take up most of the length of the bag. Carrying the poles separately, and buying another smaller stuff bag for the rest of the tent is one workaround that would help to reduce the overall bulk.
Pitching the tent is pretty straight forward, and with a few attempts, the majority of folks will be able to single handed pull it together in around 5 minutes or less. The tent uses a pole/clip system that is all color coordinated, making it virtually foolproof.
The footprint and inner tent are pegged to the ground before the large double pole is slotted into the four corners of the inner tent/footprint. The inner tent is then attached by using clips to affix it to the poles. A second pole is set across the top and connected to the inner which makes the whole structure taught and pretty sturdy. This setup works pretty well and can be left as is, in warmer/dryer climes.
Once the inner is set up, then throw the rain-fly over and again using clips, attach it to the four corner points. You will then need to use a couple of guy ropes and pegs to pull the vestibules out, so they are taught.
This setup obviously, involves putting up the inner tent first before putting the flysheet on top afterward, which is of course not ideal in heavy rain conditions. Potentially leaving you with a very soggy inner tent and various other possessions.
When setting up in particularly windy conditions, you may want to purchase and bring extra guy ropes and pegs to supplement those that are supplied with the MSR Elixir 2.
In addition, you can also setup the tent in “Fast and Light” mode, which sets the tent up with only the footprint and rainfly (omitting the inner tent). This will cut some weight from your pack and some time from your setup, however, be sure that the weather conditions are favorable to this.
The principal limitation that comes to mind is quite simply the tent's weight and bulk. Weighing in at nearly 6 lbs (~3 kgs), it is a significant weight to carry on long backpacking trips especially when there are significantly lighter tents on the market such as the Elixir’s baby brother, MSR FreeLite 2 UltraLite or the Nemo Blaze 2P UL. If you are looking for a light tent for longer trips, then you may be better looking elsewhere.
The inner tent first setup may not lend itself well to anywhere that involves a bit of rainfall when you plan to make (or break) camp. It is possible to protect the inner tent as you set it up, but this is, well, to put it simply, awkward.
This tent is an awesome tent for either car camping or short backpacking trips. Essentially, anytime that you don’t have to carry your kit too long or far. If you can spread the weight between two packs (or more), then this tent becomes more amenable to longer hikes.
As MSR themselves proudly state that it is “the most liveable 2 person backpacking tent in its class” and it’s difficult to fault them on the liveablility part. The Elixir 2 is roomy and comfortable and well suited to couples, and possibly even couples with dogs.
The MSR Elixir 2 is one of the cheaper expedition backpacking tents on the market, and does a pretty reasonable job for it's price tag.
MSR is one of a number of brand names that fall under the auspices of Cascade Designs, which is one of the most respected in the hiking and mountaineering world. The company's customer service is held in high regard, with replacement parts sent out quickly to any customers that report defective products. We have even heard of MSR requesting the defective part to be sent in at their own cost so they can test the reason for failure.
The Elixir 3 or 4 come with many of the same features as the Elixir 2 such as the general structural design, the overall roomy interior, and the mesh/nylon inner tent for privacy/ventilation. As a result, they also suffer from similar issues, again the main one being the weight - the Elixir 4 packing a whopping 9 lbs 3 oz.
Subscribe to our Newsletter!
Receive regular updates on our latest backpacking, hiking and camping guides.
Related Gear Reviews
Best Tent Gear Guides
Individual Product Reviews
It is probably a little unfair to compare the MSR Elixir 2 vs Big Agnes Copper Spur UL2. It's the equivalent of comparing a Porsche 911 with a Ferrari.
The Copper Spur is a two person tent with similar floor and storage space as the Elixir 2, but it weighs over 2.5 lbs less. The weight reduction does equal a fairly large increase in price but every pound shaved from your pack is worth it on long hikes.
The REI Halfdome Plus is an alternative "budget" option, which can be found at around a similar or even cheaper price than the Elixir 2.
The REI Halfdome Plus weighs in pretty much the same as the Elixir 2 and packs down to about the same size. However, it does boast a bit more comfort with an additional 9 square feet of floor space, making it one of the most roomy 2 person back packing tents on the market.
In an age when everyone seems to be locked to their small blue screens, I am vehemently passionate about getting more people outside to enjoy the wonder of nature. I hope my posts are informative for both the grizzled veteran and the complete novice alike.