Simplicity Redesigned: Reintroducing the MSR Carbon Reflex™ Tent

MSR Carbon Reflex™ tents have always had a core following among high-performance, ultralight backpackers. Now completely redesigned for 2016, the Carbon Reflex series leverages the latest technology to deliver an incredibly light, packable and simple to-use design—one that’s equally at home on specialized outdoor adventures like packrafting and bikepacking as it is on classic backpacking trips.

The MSR Carbon Reflex 1 tent

The Legacy

The Carbon Reflex™ series has a long history with a dedicated fan base. The series was first introduced in 2009, at a time when weight-conscious customers were looking for a lighter version of the tent they already loved—the original Hubba Hubba™ tent. Back then, the Carbon Reflex 2 tent offered the space and livability of the Hubba Hubba (1.77 kg/ 3 lb 14 oz), but in a design that weighed about a full pound less.

While that may not sound ultralight by today’s standards, “that’s as far as we could push it with the technology available at the time,” says Terry Breaux, MSR Shelter Project Manager.Seven years later, technology had changed, opening up the possibility for the Carbon Reflex series to become not only lighter and eminently more packable, but also more useful to the new outdoor adventures people have started pursuing.

Simplicity Redesigned

Fast-forward to today and the Carbon Reflex™ 1 tent clocks in at a mere .66/ 1lb 7 oz., while the 2-person model is now just .84 kg/1 lb 13 oz. So what does a tent that’s less than two pounds look like? It has only two poles, and no hubs. There are no zippers on the vestibules—nothing to blow out or fail when you’re 20 miles and two days into the backcountry. 

MSR Carbon Reflex 2-person tent

Fabrics end in simple cords instead of the adjustable stake loops that one finds on the Hubba™ NX tent. The rainfly attaches with simple clips and Velcro tabs. There’s a single zipper slider for the tent door instead of two—which means the zipper is also always in the same location when you want to find it. And, of course, the tent is non-freestanding, which means you’ll need to stake it down (MSR Shelter recommends staking down all tents).

Built for Big Trips

And who is the ideal user for this carefully redesigned, high-performance tent series? According to Terry, a Carbon Reflex™ tent is for customers with a big trip in mind, whether it’s packrafting in Alaska or hiking the Continental Divide. Typically, such customers have decided on their trip before they purchase the specific gear they need to support it. Carbon Reflex tents are designed to provide the double-walled protection these customers want, at the weight and volume they need to help make their trip successful. 

New Tech for New Types of Adventures

“Customers need more unique gear these days for their new activities, like packrafting,” Terry says. “The specific demands of the trip mean you can’t have traditional gear—not a traditional raft, and not a traditional tent. You’ve got to have something that’s the right size and weight for the trip.”

Originating in Alaska years ago and growing in popularity ever since, packrafting is an adventure pursuit in which backpackers carry small inflatable boats over long distances in order to run rivers. The required gear includes a lightweight boat (6-7 lbs) that’s durable enough for whitewater, along with other specialized equipment (personal flotation device, paddle, dry suit) that adds pounds to one’s pack. Packrafters need a tent that’s as lightweight and compact as the redesigned Carbon Reflex™ simply because their trip demands it.

“This customer wants the weight of a tarp, but they’re not tarp customers,” says Terry. “They want the protection of a double-walled tent that weighs as little as a tarp. What they need is the right kind of tent.”

Another example of the kind of emerging outdoor adventure that the ultralight and highly packable Carbon Reflex™ tents are particularly suited for is bikepacking. Bikepackers require the most compact gear, because a rider needs to be able to keep a laden mountain bike maneuverable on singletrack trail. Bulky bags or packs attached to the bike or body can be awkward at best, and unsafe at worst.

The MSR Shelter team redesigned the Carbon Reflex tents to save packing volume by using lighter fabrics only recently developed: a 7-denier rainfly and 10-denier mesh on the tent body. Because of the new, lighter fabrics, the carbon poles could also get lighter: the 2016 tents are outfitted with new Easton*® Ion™ poles, which feature a smaller diameter. These ultralight tech upgrades combine with the rest of the tents’ unique features to make the Carbon Reflex series light and packable, and beautifully simple.

*Trademark owned by Easton® Technical Products