Tested: MSR Carbon Reflex 2

By Mike Ellott 12 May 2020
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For those who want to pack as light as possible on their next hiking or bikepacking trip, the MSR Carbon Reflex 2 is for you.

I’d like to think if you are reading this review you are conscious of what it takes to get out into the wild, making more of an effort to leave the car behind to make your escape either on foot or by bike. So of course, you know weight and space are constantly at a premium. If you are looking for a small tent for this purpose, I think you would be hard pushed to find a more compact, lightweight and durable tent than the two-person MSR Carbon Reflex 2, one of the lightest tents the renowned US outdoor brand produces.

Weighing around 1kg (packed down) the Carbon Reflex 2 is ideal for throwing in a backpack or bike frame-bag. That seriously low figure is thanks to the tent’s two Easton Carbon ION poles, as well as the lightweight (but robust) fabric used throughout.

The tent’s fly is light, with an impressive waterproof rating of 1200mm HH (Hydrostatic Head; this signifies the distance from the fabric that is needed before water will penetrate it).

Putting it up for the first time is when you really start to notice the attention to detail in its design. Straight out of the bag, a small but significant point of difference for me is how you secure this tent down. Previous tents I’ve reviewed had a universal tent peg; something that looks like a glorified coat hanger and which would inevitably bend and fall out of shape with use and time. What you’ll find with the Reflex is MSR’s Needle stake – a far more solid affair. Holding it, you know straight away this will be near impossible to bend or break, while being more than up to the job of different camping spots and ground surfaces.

More than “just a tent stake” the MSR Needle is solid and up to the job of securing the tent on any ground surface.

The main body of the tent is a combo of waterproof tub floor merged with an amazingly fine polyester micro-mesh upper. Once secured down, the final dome shape is achieved when a single carbon pole bends and runs down the centre of the tent. Attaching the six clips to the pole gives the tent body and height. There is a shorter pole above the tent’s two doors which gives the tent width and provides span for the vestibules.

At this point the tent looks amazing yet I question how it’s this secure and happily standing securely with what seems to be just one tent pole down its middle. Extra protection is added when you complete the tent by overlaying and securing down it’s ripstop nylon fly. Interestingly, to assist with the final low weight, the vestibules don’t have zippers.

The inner accounts for an area that is 2.13m long and is 1.27m wide and has a head height of approx 0.90m, which is just enough room for you to sit up. Once inside, a large drawcard is the mesh canopy, giving you an uninterrupted feeling of being outdoors. During my test run it always felt light and airy inside with constant ventilation resulting in no condensation or over-heating issues.

The tent’s inner area is spacious, allowing plenty of room if on a solo adventure, and still enough space for two people when called for.

I used the tent on my own and I would imagine if you were a pair you would comfortably utilise the living space. That said, the vestibules offer an impressive 382 litres of storage volume, more than enough for your pack(s) and other gear. 

For my first test run I had the perfect Australian summer night, secretly I was hoping for little rain just to test the 1200mm HH (Horizontal Head rating signifies the distance from the fly that is needed before water will penetrate; the higher the better).

Now, it’s difficult to ignore this tent’s price tag, but it’s combo of excellent design, robust build and that amazing weight (along with the brand’s reputation for top-notch, robust gear), is where all that cash is going. If you’re planning on many overnight (or longer) hikes and/or bikepacking adventures, where weight and reliable gear is always a prime focus, you’ll receive a worthwhile return on your significant investment. The Carbon Reflex 2 is a tent you don’t realise is there when carrying it about, and is a breeze to pitch, making it the ideal accommodation option for those remote adventures.

RRP: $1195 www.outdoorestore.com.au