MSR Access 1 Solo Four Season Tent Review 2019/07/23
MSR has made its name by providing some outstanding equipment for the
discerning mountain professional and general outdoors person. Their
products, whilst being niche quickly become the best product one can
purchase in that category. Here we look at the MSR Access 1 which is
sold as a solo four season backcountry shelter for the colder months.
Introduction to the MSR Access 1
The MSR Access 1 offers the user a sturdy lightweight shelter which has
been tweaked to work best in the colder months. Taking advantage of a
design made to minimise heat loss whilst protecting from stronger winds
as well as snow load. With the MSR Access 1 the winter hiker can be
comfortable and warm in the backcountry.
I opted for the footprint add on for my Access 1 so pitching starts for
me with that first. However you can pack the footprint and groundsheet
together at home so when you arrive at your camp spot you can simply
take both out together. There is no way to attach the two together but
if they are rolled up well enough they do not become tangled. Once the
groundsheet with footprint below is pegged out you can assemble the
The poles are made of two separate
lengths but one is very large and contains the vast majority of the
sections. This at first can be a little unwieldy to assemble but after a
couple of pitches it becomes much easier. The larger bigger pole section
tips are first put into eyelets at each corner of the Access 1
groundsheet. If you are using a footprint the poles go through both sets
Then you can raise the fabric up and using the clips attach the inner to
the now curved poles. Once this is done you use the remaining pole
section to tension out the ceiling fabric.
Finishing Touches to Pitching
The Access 1 pitches inner first and as with all inner first pitched
tents the last step is to throw the fly sheet over everything. I opted
for the green fly for wild camping here in the UK however there are
other brightly coloured options available. The flysheet is then clipped
in to all four corners using a buckle and then secured by pegs at the
vestibule and all guy lines. I added three additional guy lines to my
Access 1 and this was to further stabilise the tent but also to stop the
fly hitting the inner fabric so much when the wind blows. With the extra
tension supplied to the fly by the additional guy lines the whole tent
becomes super strong in wind furthermore the inner is left undisturbed.
The result is a massive decrease in any condensation negatively
affecting your experience by seeping into the inner. Reading other
reviews online and many people have mentioned condensation however for
me adding the guy lines has made me very happy with the experience of
the Access 1. Basically the more additional guy lines you add the better
I have pitched the Access 1 in strong winds and used my rucksack to
weigh the fabric down whilst pitching to stop it blowing away in a
moment. If you are careful and methodical then pitching the tent in
challenging conditions is perfectly doable. On the other hand once the
Access 1 is fully pitched and the guy lines are under tension the tent
is remarkable sturdy in strong wind. MSR does indicate that the Access 1
is designed for semi sheltered pitches and in this type of situation it
will cope just fine.
The way MSR adds structural integrity
is by the split pole sections. Which at each end of the tent radiate out
pole sections from a central triple joining section. This goes someway
to add overall strength to the tent and it does work, however this tent
is not a semi geodesic. Keeping this in mind is vital to the appropriate
use of this tent. Going above the snow line with the chance to face
storm conditions? Then get a fully geodesic or mountain specific tent.
MSR has chosen the term four-season for
the Access 1. I interpret this for use in semi sheltered pitches with
snow cover in freezing or close to freezing conditions. Due to the
weight and small pack size it makes for a great four season hike
through, snowshoe expedition and ski touring tent. MSR has stated “Ideal
for the protected winter conditions found near tree-line”.
Let us start with the poles. The Access 1 uses Easton Syclone poles
which are a composite including a ballistic fibre. The poles in this new
material claim to be high strength like carbon fibre but with 3-4 times
the elongation and strain to failure properties. All whilst keeping
Aluminium like stiffness. As evidence of this Easton demonstrates using
many tests that they conduct on the composite material. As well as
testing tent structure when under very heavy winds, 85mph in the Easton
tests. The poles that use this new composite seem to exhibit great
amounts of flexibility and bounce back well from high wind.
Winter Pole Design
MSR has decided to dedicate one pole to entirely resisting snow load.
This pole pushes upwards and outwards on the top of the fly to stop snow
from making the tent bend downwards.
The Access 1 uses very lightweight fabrics all round, so I would
recommend the purchase of the additional footprint. The included bath
tub groundsheet is 30D ripstop Nylon with a 3000mm coating. The fly is
20D ripstop Nylon with a 1200mm coating. The inner fabric is 20D ripstop
Nylon with a DWR added to prevent water drops soaking through too fast.
As the Access 1 is a winter tent do not expect lots of mesh on the inner
as this leaks warmth. Instead it is mainly non mesh to help trap heat
inside. Overall the fabrics and materials are of good quality. There are
however some other essential components that need to be discussed. Like
the plastic tabs that attach the inner to the pole structure and the
buckles that attach the fly to the inner. They seem a little on the
lightweight side and I do concern myself with them snapping. I do
understand that the overall weight is a selling point so there is a
limit on component weight. I have not personally experience any issues
with these components.
I separate the poles away from the inner and fly material for easy
packing. The resulting inner and fly stored in its bright orange stuff
sack takes up little space. The stuff bag is a very useful colour for
attracting attention in an emergency but also has a layer dividing each
compartment. This helps a little in keeping a potentially wet fly sheet
away from a dry inner.
The poles are stored in a lightweight
stuff bag and I did notice that some middle sections of pole have rather
sharp edges where the shock cord passes through. They were sharp enough
to cut into the supplied pole bag and as a result I had to make another
out of heavier fabric. To be fair I have noticed sharp pole sections on
Hilleberg tents too but this is something you might want to fix before
they cut through the fly or inner accidentally.
Out and About
Pitching is ok but as with all inner first tents you hope that it isn't
raining whilst you build your camp. The Access 1 goes up pretty quickly
but no matter how quick you are there is a time where you are exposed to
the weather. This is the total time before the fly sheet covering the
inner. This is kind of fiddly to do especially in challenging
conditions. In these moments take your time and weight the inner down
with your rucksack and make sure your initial pegs holding the inner to
the ground are bomb proof. Once everything is pitched and guyed out it
becomes very stable and liveable when out on a trip. You can make use of
a quick dry towel to dry the inner if water has indeed soaked through
whilst you were pitching.
Little touches like reflective patches
aid in finding your tent in the mist and in darkness. Allows for a
slightly dubious colour choice of a green fly sheet as you can easily
find the tent at night. It does come in safety orange for more serious
Internal Space and Vestibule
The internal storage is great with two pockets either end. Moreover the
ability to rig up additional storage in the form of a paracord line.
Which attaches to the three sewn in loops located on the inner ceiling.
For the taller hiker the headroom is adequate but to keep the wind
profile of the tent as low as possible there is a limit to how high the
tent can be. The Access 1 does a good job of striking a balance. The
vestibule is a good size and can take a 65 litre pack with footwear as
well as a cooking system. Even with all these items out they are still
sheltered from the elements when the door is open.
On the inside I found enough space for
my regular size Thermarest NeoAir. However my feet did get a little damp
from slightly brushing the inner and forcing that against the outer
(which is where condensation normally sits). So ideally I would like
some extra legroom and if you are really tall then consider something
Conclusion for the MSR Access 1
Weighing in at around 1.6kg the Access 1 offers a lot of protection and
liveability for this reasonable weight. The poles are a bit bulky but
these can easily be stored separately from the tent itself. I pack mine
down the side of my rucksack on the inside. The resulting tent is then
easy to squish down into a very manageable size. The Access 1 is roomy
and long enough for the taller hiker. Internal storage with the option
of adding a drying line to the ceiling of the tent make it great for
longer trips. Pitching is not ideal for mixed conditions but for dry
cold winter trips this tent is ideal. It also copes well in the UK with
wet damp conditions once pitched. The coatings MSR use on the fly really
keep the water out. From above and below I was kept totally dry. Of
course any tent needs a re treatment once in a while. There are products
you can purchase to spray a new coating on after you have been using the
tent for a while.