Disclaimer: This article contains an affiliate link. That means I get a small commission for whatever you may order, while the price remains the same for you. If you find this article or website helpful, using the link helps me back. (Details)
Even before my 5-year bike trip started, I'd been using the MSR Hubba tent for four summers of touring. That means I've slept in this tent for hundreds of nights. So this review comes from plenty of experience.
Whether your activity is hiking, climbing, cycling or something else, carrying your gear is often the hardest part. So the lighter everything is, the better. The Hubba weighs a mere 1.2kg. This is in the ultralight category, and it doesn't seem to come with noticeable compromises in durability or protection. There’s also enough room inside to sit up comfortably, unlike with some ultralight tents.
The only issue with the size is that you probably won’t be able to fit most of your gear inside the tent. There is room in the vestibule between the door flaps for some bags, but they may be peeking out a little. This has never been an issue with me, as I often just leave some panniers on the bicycle. But if you’re worried about theft, or simply want more room in rainy days, you should consider the two-person Hubba Hubba.
EASE OF PITCHING
How quickly and easily you can put your tent up is hugely important. You really don't want to waste time tying knots and pushing poles through tiny loops where they get stuck, when you're tired and just want to get to sleep. Or if it's raining or about to rain and you're in a hurry to keep everything dry. Even if you have plenty of time, having to fight with the tent every morning and evening wears you down quickly. This is where the MSR Hubba really shines.
There's only one arc pole, and it's very quick to put together or take apart. The tension in the rope inside the poles pulls them together almost on their own.
Instead of the usual loops you push the arc through, you have quick-release clips, three on each side. You simply clip these onto the arc. The doors can be kept open with a simple latch system, no tying of knots necessary.
Also it's free-standing, so you can put it down on solid rock and it'll stay upright by itself. Just remember to weigh it down with rocks or some of your gear if there's going to be any wind.
There's more detailed how-to-pitch instructions below, but in short: The Hubba is extremely easy to setup. Whenever I see other people's tents I can't understand why they put up with all the annoying parts and the manufacturer's complete lack of attention to detail. MSR simply does it right. Everything just works.
How well your tent shields you from nature is perhaps the most important aspect of all. First of all, this is a three-season tent. It's not meant for winter use. With a good sleeping bag I'm perfectly comfortable at 0C (32F) and slightly below, but that's really more thanks to the sleeping bag, rather than the tent.
That's because the MSR Hubba is highly ventilated. It blocks wind well, but air can still move around to some extent. The huge benefit of this is that I've never woken up with the inside of the tent wet from condensation or my own breat fogging up the inside. This is crucial when I have a DSLR and other electronics with me, plus a down sleeping bag that I really don't want to get wet.
SUN - Ventilation also means the Hubba is cool in the summer. One of the most uncomfortable things about sleeping in a tent is waking up in the morning with sun shining on it and the temperature rising from "getting too uncomfortable for sleeping" to "get me out of here, for the love of god". Don’t get me wrong, it still warms up despite ventilation, but there are some nice tweaks you can do in hot weather - check out Tips and Tricks at the bottom.
RAIN - The MSR Hubba is perfectly waterproof - I've slept through many a downpour without any issues. If you do a poor job of setting it up you may get a few drops in through the corners - you have to tighten the straps in the four lower corners of the flysheet as the last step of pitching.
WIND - Again, never had a problem. Even though I have a tendency to look for scenic camping spots that aren't necessarily protected from wind. It's better to have the door facing downwind, so the backside wall absorbs and deflects most of the force, but I've had some strong winds from all directions and never had to get up in the middle of the night to fix the tent.
INSECTS - After years of use, nothing still gets through the wire mesh.
GROUND - I do have the footprint, but I don’t even use it very often. Mostly just when the ground is wet. The inside tub is still puncture-free after all this time, so in this case the low weight doesn't seem to come with a compromise in durability.
TIPS AND TRICKS
1. If you’re in an area with a lot of midges (aka noseeums, sand flies), it’s possible that they can get through the little gap between the zippers. You can put a wad of tissue between there, but the easiest solution is to simply pull in one of the outside zipper strings to the inside - it will seal the gap perfectly.
2. When you’re expecting a hot morning (or like to sleep in very late like me), the sun is a powerful enemy. The best solution is always to find shade among trees, but that’s not always possible. You can try to leave the rain fly out entirely, but then the sun can burn you through the inner mesh. Another option is to block the sun with the footprint or other tarp. Or you can half-dome the fly. Simply detach two corners and lift them over to the other side:
This will give you a little privacy and sun protection while adding a lot of ventilation. Bonus tip: if you do this the front and rear will be a bit loose, so you may want to re-stake them to prevent them from moving around and causing noise in the wind.
3. Ground is too rocky or soft for the stakes? If rocks are available, this setup can be quite stable. Use the bigger one closer to the tent and the smaller just to keep the stake from moving. Both still need to be fairly heavy.
4. It’s been raining for a week and you have five pairs of wet socks to dry? I’ve had a laundry line inside my tent since my first tour. The roof has four corners with little loops in all of them, so you can tie a rope through and hang your small items in the driest place around.
I think it would be difficult to find a better tent than this. It’s quick, easy, safe, durable and light. Perfect for my use, and I seriously doubt I’ll be switching to another tent any time soon. Although when I do have to replace the Hubba some day, I may consider the two-person Hubba Hubba just for the extra room.
The old version I have isn't available to buy anymore, but check out the updated MSR Hubba NX at Scandinavian Outdoor store.