MSR Elixir 2 Review – Two-Person Adventure Tent

MSR Elixir 2 review forest

Experienced outdoorsman Conor McElroy delves into the MSR Elixir 2 for Camping Secrets, and gives his honest verdict on this well regarded backpacking tent….

Why we like the MSR Elixir 2: Waterproof; Breathable; Mesh pocket; Simple!

Mountain Safety Research (MSR) was originally started in the 1960s as a “one man crusade” by mountaineer Larry Penberthy who set out to expose false claims from existing gear manufacturers. After field testing a wide range of climbing gear from the time, he found that a large percentage of products were failing at far lower loads than stated in the specs. 

Worried for people’s safety, the Seattle engineer and passionate mountaineer set out to change the industry for the better. Larry started writing an ‘MSR newsletter’ to document his outdoors life while vigorously field-testing products. His methods were deemed controversial at the time, but the safety issues he raised set a new precedent for the gear of today.

Larry’s newsletter eventually evolved into the company MSR as we know it today – a leading gear manufacturer that’s famed for its cutting-edge engineering and innovative product designs. 

All MSR’s products are built with longevity, versatility, and durability in mind and the MSR Elixir 2 is no exception. I own the MSR WhisperLite hybrid fuel stove and their titanium cook set. I use them almost every weekend while out hiking here in Sweden and the stove has never let me down, even in -20°C! 

MSR Elixir 2 review whiteSo, what about the Elixir 2?

Although I don’t own the Elixir 2 myself, one of my closest friends does and we catch up for a social hike every few weeks. I love meeting up with him, but man does he rabbit on about his tent – he’s obsessed!

And he has good reason to be. The MSR Elixir 2 is a fantastic choice of tent as long as you are not obsessed with obtaining the lowest packed weight possible. Some lightness has been sacrificed by MSR in their choice of materials and this is not necessarily a bad thing because strength, rigidity and waterproofing are improved as a result. For most rucksack hikers therefore, it is an excellent choice of tent. If you want the lightest possible one or two person backpacking tent, then you may wish to look elsewhere.

Let’s take a closer look at what the MSR Elixir 2 offers…

Introduction to the MSR Elixir 2

The MSR Elixir 2 is a backpacking tent that unlike most other tents on the market, is actually true to its size. Most “2-person” tents in reality will only fit 1 person and all their gear. The Elixir is an exception, two people can comfortably sleep inside with room for essential gear and extra wiggle room. Two vestibules give both campers a weatherproof space to store their backpacks, boots, and cookware

MSR Elixir 2 review packed upWith this “true-to-size” aspect in mind, I wouldn’t immediately go and buy the Elixir 2 if you are a solo backpacker or thru-hiker. It may be too big and heavy for your needs.

However, if you are a hiking couple or backpacking duo, this tent is ideal. Keep in mind that there are other size options in this model (from 1 to 4 person capacity) if the Elixir 2 doesn’t fill your space requirements.

If you are a traveling pair that are backpacking, the MSR Elixir 2 can be a great option. You can also use this tent for hiking alone if you desire more space for you and your dog for instance, or are only going away for a couple of nights say.

For most people, the 2.7kg packed weight of the Elixir 2 and the 2.15kg of the smaller Elixir 1 is low enough for typical hiking needs. When you consider the space and performance you’re getting it is actually an impressive achievement, but for me (an ambitious thru-hiker) it is slightly too heavy. The pack-size is also a little large for what I prefer (see below), although I typically don’t even use a tent when thru-hiking – I usually camp rough in a lightweight bivvy bag!

If you are not absolutely obsessed with keeping your backpack under 5 kg like I am, then the weight of the Elixir 2 shouldn’t be an issue. Even for the average lightweight backpacker loading up a sub-10kg pack, a 2.5kg tent is not much of a burden.

MSR Elixir 2: The Specs

The Elixir 2 tent itself weighs only 2.24 kg, but this then rises to 2.7kg when all the tent pegs and other accessories are included in the total. If you’re heading out for an overnight camp, then this shouldn’t be too much of a burden, but if you are thru-hiking long-distance trails, this may be just a bit too much to carry. 

The price of this tent is reasonable. If you are looking for a high-quality backpacking tent on a budget and can deal with the extra weight, the MSR Elixir 2 is a fantastic option. 

MSR Elixir 2 review mesh pockets 1The tent capacity is 2-person and unlike other 2-person tents on the market, it is true-to-size. With plenty of room for two people inside as well as two entrances, two spacious vestibules, and gear lofts for smaller items. You certainly won’t be short of places to stow your gear. 

The floor dimensions on the Elixir 2 measure 213 x 127 cm (2.69 sq. m) not including the 2.22 sq. m vestibules. Common with backpacking and mountaineering tents, the Elixir is low to the ground but with a 1.2 m peak height, there is room to sit up. Packed down, the Elixir 2 measures 51 x 17 cm which is not bad considering the volume you get when it’s pitched. 

MSR Elixir 2 review unpacked 2The inner tent fabric is 40D ripstop nylon with 20D nylon micromesh panels. The outer rainfly is made from 68D ripstop polyester with a 1500mm polyurethane coating. The tent floor is made from 70 taffeta nylon with a 3000mm polyurethane coating which is sufficient but be aware of sharp objects on the ground before pitching if you aren’t using an additional footprint. 

The combination of ripstop nylon and polyester helps keep weight and budget down while ensuring performance and functionality are not sacrificed. Although MSR tents have low hydrostatic heads (HH) ratings, this isn’t to say they don’t perform as well in the rain as higher-rated tents. The combination of a high-quality durable water repellent (DWR) finish and a high thread count in the flysheet, make their tents highly waterproof, contrary to what the rating may suggest.

As for wind resistance, the Elixir 2 is low to the ground, aerodynamic, and stable in high winds. This tent uses 7000 series aluminium poles that are strong and lightweight. The poles in conjunction with a semi-geodesic design, 12 stake-out points, and additional guy-points for tough conditions creates a stable shelter that can withstand high wind speeds and moderate snowfall. 

There is a 3-season rating on this tent but in climates such as the UK, it can definitely be used all-year-round.

MSR Elixir 2: Performance in the Field

MSR Elixir 2 review pole attachmentThe Elixir is a true-to-size 2-person tent that is built for backpacking. It’s designed to withstand all but the harshest of weather and will cope with year-round use in most UK climates.  Perfect for camping couples or hiking duos that enjoy getting out into the depths of nature, this reasonably-priced tent will not disappoint.

How Does it Fair for Hiking?

With a packed weight of 5.5 lb and a packed size of 51 x 17 cm, the MSR Elixir 2 is fairly light and compact for a tent of its stature. It will take up a considerable amount of room in your backpack, but it is possible to strap the tent horizontally on the outside of your hiking bag.

MSR Elixir 2 review inner

The MSR Elixir is relatively easy to pitch even in challenging conditions. With the separate groundsheet and rainfly, you will struggle to erect the tent on your own during windy conditions, however, if you’re in pairs, you shouldn’t have an issue. With one person holding the fabric close to the floor and the other inserting poles and staking, the tent can be pitched without too much hassle in high-winds.

This backpacking tent is durable and will cope with the wear and tear that hiking brings. However, to improve longevity we suggest purchasing a universal footprint alongside the Elixir 2 to reduce the chance of puncture to the groundsheet. Of course, this will increase your pack weight, but if you choose the right size footprint, you’ll be able to utilize the floor space in the vestibules better. 

What’s it Really Like in Foul Weather?

So, how does the MSR Elixir 2 fair in foul weather? I asked my good friend Peter what his experience was like. He has owned this tent for over a year now and apart from cold winter days (-15°C and below) with heavy snowfall, it comes out with him every other weekend. 

snow MSROne trip that stuck with Peter was a night in October last year (2020). He was out in the depths of the Sarek National Park in Northern Sweden tackling a 5-day section of the Sarek-Padjelanta Loop. The weather was eerily calm for this time of year with blue skies and temperatures above 0°C, except for one night. 

Weather reports for the week we’re reasonable with lows of -5°C at night but no heavy rainfall or snow forecast. In true Swedish fashion, the weather reports were wrong and one night on a Thursday at around 8 p.m. Peter was hit by a snowstorm that lasted until 2 a.m. the next morning. He was pitched up in the valley and got battered with heavy wind and snow. There is very little in the way of tree cover that far north and the valley channelled strong gusts directly into the side of the Elixir. 

The temperature was just below freezing, so the snow at the time was wet. This type of snow, called “kramsnö” in Swedish (translating to “hug snow” in English), accumulates quickly on most surfaces and is extremely heavy due to the high water content. This saw Peters MSR quickly accumulating snow all night. 

He said he didn’t get much in the way of sleep as he was out every hour or so, clearing the snow off the rainfly to avoid a potential collapse from additional weight. However, he was incredibly impressed at how the Elixir performed. He had no ingress of water and although the side walls were flapping around all night, the tent stayed true to its pitch and kept him safe, warm, and dry throughout the storm. 

That’s a pretty impressive field test. If you live in the UK, you’re unlikely to experience a situation similar to what Peter went through, but it’s comforting knowing that it can handle such extreme conditions. 

Is the Elixir 2 Comfortable?

Obviously, without a good sleeping bag and roll mat you won’t be comfortable in any tent, but design features will affect your comfort experience. 

The MSR Elixir 2 has plenty of room for two people and unlike other “2-person” tents there is also ample room for your camping gear. You can sit up comfortably in this tent and the vestibules can be opened, so you can enjoy the view without getting wet in a shower. 

Another factor that affects comfortability is the breathability of the tent. A tent that isn’t breathable will quickly develop a condensation layer on the inside that will soak you and your gear. A non-breathable tent is stuffy in the summer and wet in the winter. 

You’ll be happy to know that the Elixir 2 is highly breathable. An inner tent with generous mesh panels and a fully waterproof vented rainfly ensures that the tent stays well ventilated, reducing humidity and eliminating condensation.

MSR Elixir 2 - Conclusions

In summary, I’m a big admirer of the MSR Elixir 2, but am not the ideal target market to own one because it is slightly too bulky for a single guy hiking long distances and trying to keep his backpack at under 5kg. 

However, it is clear that the quality of the materials is extremely high and the waterproofness and breathability exceptionally good. My verdict is that if you’re a couple looking to do long distance adventure backpacking then it is great, or if you’re a solo camper going for a couple of nights and don’t mind carrying 2.7kg in weight then go for it – the space and flexibility on show is luxury! However, lighter weight options do exist for the fanatics like me!

9.5Expert Score

The MSR Elixir 2 is an authentic 2 person adventure tent which is perfect for a backpacking couple, or a solo hiker who doesn't mind carrying around 2.7kg in his/her pack. The quality on offer for the price is unarguable and I highly recommend it for wild camping enthusiasts - just make sure you can handle the weight and packsize.

Conor McElroyAbout Conor McElroy

Connor is a passionate outdoorsman from the UK who enjoys a range of nature-based hobbies. He has extensively travelled Europe in search of untouched wild spaces and has now settled down in Sweden. When he’s not writing about what he loves, you’ll find him somewhere in the Swedish wilderness hiking, fishing, skiing, or camping

MSR Elixir 2 review use

Thanks to Eddie Lawhead on Unsplash for supplying some of the scenic shots of the MSR Elixir 2.

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