Sometimes, the best kit upgrades stem from a story and the switch to the MSR Mutha Hubba NX 3-Person Backpacking tent resulted from just that. Having camped throughout the southern and central portions of the Americas, while motorcycling from Argentina towards Alaska, our previous tent reached its tipping point and lay down to die an honourable death. Perhaps hardly a surprise having rattled around in a hard pannier; pitching it in a multitude of conditions; in all manner of weathers; and on just about every type of terra firma through 16 Latin American countries. The once expedition-level tent finally expired after having put it through its paces and some.
The desire to test a lighter, freestanding three-season shelter—built for the weight-sensitive where size matters—became a must-have necessity. Trying the tent out at Joshua Tree National Park where the ground was gravelly in drizzly weather, sandy under footprint in blustery winds at Monument Valley, and lush green in Colden, a rural hamlet at the start of England’s winter snap, the Mutha Hubba NX proved no less than practical. Moreover, coped admirably in keeping us warm and dry in all three havens of the northern hemisphere.
About the product
Overhauled in 2014, MSR revamped lightweight liveability that thoughtfully provides for three happy campers, or in our case, two people laden with a full set of motorcycle luggage. Judging by the width of our sleeping mats, I’d even argue the tent would be snug yet doable in accommodating four people. The Mutha Hubba NX underwent further refinements in a makeover for spring / summer 2016. Salient improvements include a new floor plan that offers each occupant easy access to doors and gear, and a new frame geometry to improve ventilation and interior headroom.
Weighing in at just four pounds and nine ounces, the 2016 tent is a trifle two ounces heavier than its predecessor, consequently boasting a 50 per cent greater liveable volume. It enjoys 39 square foot of glorious non-tapered floor space, yet still manages to pack down to five pounds—making minimalist meets roomy one of its biggest selling points. When the stuff sack envelops the contents, it is tube-shaped compact taking no more length than 21 inches against a diameter of 7 inches amid your precious cargo. When weight is at a premium and the luxury of space does not have to be compromised—this is the obvious solution.
How has MSR worked its magic so that the weight is markedly lighter, compared to its pre-2014 Mutha Hubba predecessor at nearly two pounds more? Well, the tent’s body comprises 15-denier nylon micromesh and 20-denier ripstop nylon, the latter canopy fabric of which can also be found in the rainfly, coupled with a DuraShield polyurethane & silicone coating (1,200mm). Like the rainfly, the floor enjoys DuraShield qualities too (3,000mm), only benefits from 30-denier ripstop nylon and durable water repellent on top. Namely, MSR has gone to extraordinary lengths to give the Midas touch to a fabric that feels tenacious in terms of tear strength, yet somehow remains featherweight.
The Mutha Hubba NX has numerous pitching options, giving rise to one of the tent’s most redeeming features—flexibility. Any set up for which is simple to erect, whether you assemble the tent fully with the rainfly; engage one of the fast and lightweight options with no fly (reducing weight to 2 pounds 15 ounces); or the other fast and lightweight set up by connecting the fly to MSR’s corresponding footprint.
Complete with a “hubbed” pole system, the DAC FeatherLite NSL aluminum poles are attached to a set of secure hubs, as one component, keeping assembly time to within five minutes. Including draping the rainfly over the tent and connecting it to the frame, staking it down with the pegs and guy ropes. The clips are colour-coded and the guy-outs are reflective, which makes it no trouble to construct when daylight is scarce or in the beam of a headlamp at night.
Living with the tent
A life on the road means that my partner and I both optimise a set of 38-litre panniers and a large roll bag with which to accommodate our belongings on an unsupported journey. Taking the more adventurous routes where we can, keeping the load as light as possible, makes for a much happier suspension on the bikes long term. It promotes easier handling of our tickets to ride on top. Cue the immediate benefit of the Mutha Hubba NX at one and a half pounds lighter than our previous tent. Pearl, my two-wheel pack-mule is groaning less already.
Superbly, the vertical walls give the tenants a spacious interior, a huge positive in comparison to the low profile aspect of our departed tent. There is plenty of head, elbow, leg and kneeling down room to manoeuvre throughout the tent. Personal space is anything but compromised when there’s a person either side of you, or two sets of motorcycle gear consuming the equivalent length of two adults. Squeezed in like a sardine while lying down to get dressed is a thing of the past, thanks to the steep walls at 44 inches of the Mutha Hubba NX.
There is ample room in which to store bulky bags and cumbersome items inside the tent, not just the valuables. Four high corner mesh pockets are easy-to-reach, usefully housing all the small, easy-to-misplace and fragile items. Interior ceiling hooks facilitate the option to conveniently hang carabiners, enabling artificial light above head height for example. Alternatively, a MSR gear loft could be installed, allowing even further storage.
I relish having two doors that lead to decent sized side-entry vestibules. Neatly stowing any luggage considered redundant for the night—in one of the 14 square foot vestibules—while the other is used as the entrance and exit point, best utilises those spaces. Due to the restrictions of our previous canvas crib, accessing both vestibules from inside the tent is a convenient joy. Particularly in bad weather when you invariably forget to bring something crucial inside.
The fact that the Mutha Hubba NX can be freestanding means we have started enjoying camping on rock hard ground. Better still, relinquishing the rainfly to turn our sleeping quarters into a million star hotel when it’s warm and dry, is what we call bliss after a sweet day in the saddle.
Inclement weather dictates that the tent will perform at its best when the rainfly is engaged. When all the guy-out points were utilized on an exposed hillock in England, the structure remained stable in gusty conditions without punishing the frame or fabric. Another redeeming feature of the Mutha Hubba NX is the adjustable stakeout loops in each corner. Prioritising to tighten up the corners leave the tent’s rainfly and floor weatherproof as much as taught. Two kickstand vents, the mesh walls and two vestibules admit an agreeable level of ventilation, keeping condensation at bay, if not an unnoticeable minimum.
When it comes to battening down the hatches there are two large StayDry doors with built-in rain gutters. This assuredly adds to the tent’s adaptability in wet weather, preventing unwanted water from coming in. While bleak skies gave us a night of relentless rain at Joshua Tree National Park and Colden, the fly performed flawlessly while we, and our contents situated in both vestibules, remained oblivious and bone dry.
The devil is always in the detail when it comes to distinguishing a good tent from a great one. For me, I adore the intelligently designed stuff sack. It bears a wide-mouth draw cord design and comes with compression straps. It opens long ways like a low messenger bag, as opposed to a small opening from the top, akin to a dry bag. All of which makes light work of packing the tent away when undertaken by one person; it’s fast as opposed to squeeze-it-in-and-shuffle-it-down frustrating. And pays dividends especially when the tent is packed wet. Likewise, unpacking the tent is a doddle.
The D-shaped doors are fully sized yet fashioned in such a way that hang a few inches from the ground; as such, they deter muck and a myriad of other natural offenders from the ground, being flung inside. The zippers are thoughtfully repositioned from its forerunner, which coupled with the size of the doors, make passage in and out a seamless endeavour. The aluminum cord adjusters that attach the poles to the tent also leave a lasting impression, certainly one that will satisfy usage for the long haul.
I appreciate a sky’s worth of light permitted to burst through the pale coloured rainfly, a noticeable advantage over our last tent in bottle green. Likewise, I am very fond of the big mesh panels that perpetually afford an airy atmosphere. When the side door is rolled up, the large oval mesh opening grants the evening’s fresh air and stargazing opportunities to boot.
It is a challenge to have any real or serious misgivings about the Mutha Hubba NX. Although the eight MiniGroundhog pegs are strong and sufficient in facilitating a robust structure, the tent offers to stake pegs in twelve places, should you wish to enhance stability in extreme conditions. Similarly, there is a series of loopholes on the rainfly with which to attach additional guy ropes. Being a stickler for keeping our luggage free from wet sand and dirt for instance, there is the option to invest in the mud mats, an accessory that would line your gear in the vestibule’s open floor areas. The footprint is a priceless addition to my mind, as it gives rise to the longevity of the tent’s underside on sharp ground, even if like the mud mats, it would increase the overall weight.
First impressions of the Mutha Hubba NX could be deemed as a tad delicate by the untrained eye. After testing the tent upon damp gravelly ground in Joshua Tree National Park, at night in sand at Monument Valley National Park as well as under cold conditions in rural England, it didn’t take long for the steadfast canvas to become a personal favourite of mine. Any fleeting qualm I may have harboured over the tent was soon replaced with confidence in an exceptionally well-made, fully featured, durable one.
Simply, it’s a very capable shelter erring mindfully on the lightweight, bright and airy. It is free-to-maneuver spacious for its weight and one that sets the standard in flexible pitch options. An easy recommend for many applications of extended season backcountry camping—early spring through the summer to late fall—this comfortable tent will be our ‘Dome Sweet Dome’ for a substantial amount of time to come.
MSR Mutha Hubba NX3 in USD.
- Versatile, fast and light pitching modes.
- Bright and airy interior
- Excellent ventilation.
- Two doors give easy access to the inside.
May need more pegs and, or guy lines in extreme conditions (available in MSR’s accessories).