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Sep 17, 2018
Can you compare this to the MSR Carbon Reflex 1 and the Vargo No-Fly 2P Tent?
Sep 17, 2018
Dan Durston
Sep 17, 2018
Happy to oblige....
X-Mid vs MSR Carbon Reflex 1 So these are two reasonably comparable tents, in the sense that they are both non-freestanding, one person, double wall tents. Both designs require four stakes. On first glance, the MSR CR1 looks like quite the tent. At 23.2oz (660g), it's nicely lighter than the X-Mid (27.9oz or 790g). How does it accomplish such a low weight? Especially while using traditional tent poles - seems a bit too good to be true.
The answer is that to go lighter than the X-Mid while also using tent poles, the CR1 makes a long list of compromises. Most notably though, it's an incredibly small tent. I could run through the specs, but I think this properly scaled drawing makes the point:
So the CR1 has a fly that doesn't come all the way to the ground, so the fly is no larger than the inner except on the vestibule side. Then you've got radically less vestibule space (7 sq feet vs 29 sq feet). Perhaps more importantly though, the height of the CR1 is extremely low. The X-Mid has dual 43" high inner peaks (fly peaks are 46"), while the CR1 inner reaches a max of 34". That's 9" lower which is really short - average height folks would be hitting the top pretty easily. For comparison, the Big Agnes Fly Creek UL1 is widely reviewed as quite a small tent, and yet the MSR CR1 is 4" shorter still (34" vs 38", with the X-Mid at 43").
As one last attempt to be explicit about the size difference, the volume inside the X-Mid fly is over 60 cubic feet, while the volume inside the CR1 fly is less than 30 cubic feet, so the CR1 has less than half the protected volume. This is the main reason why it's lighter. The X-Mid would be lighter than the CR1 if it was shrunk to that size.
It's not just the size though. The CR1 saves weight by having just one vestibule (vs two), no vents (vs two) and one door (vs two) and even for that one fly door, it abandons the zipper for clips which are widely reviewed as problematic by owners on MSRs website. The reviews say the clips fly open in stormy weather. Here's a few examples:
Conversely, the X-Mid has beefy and water resistant #5 zippers that will last a lifetime. Other downsides to the CR1 are that it uses nylon which sags in the rain, it's less waterproof (1200 mm vs 2000 mm), it's a tiny tent with no vents so condensation will be high, the fabrics are quite a bit less tough (e.g. 7D nylon fly versus 20D poly), and it packs into a much longer shape that won't store horizontally in a pack.
So basically the CR1 makes a long list of compromises, some of which are alright (e.g. one door) but others of which substantially reduce the functionality of the tent. It's a good tent for conditions where you don't really need a tent, but the reviews are consistent in saying that it'll let you down in rainy or windy conditions. Imagine using this in rainy conditions where (1) the inner tent gets wet as you set it up in the rain, then (2) you crawl inside and can hardly sit up and hardly have enough space to stash your wet gear in the vestibule, then (3) the rain and wind keep blowing in the door as widely reported, then (4) the fly fabric sags and you have to get out to re-tension the fly and (5) you're in a tiny tent with no vents so it's humid to the max and (6) because the fly doesn't extend to the ground it's effectively a single wall around the bottom so you can get condensation around the sides of the bathtub floor (I've owned a CR2 and had this happen).
So the X-Mid is about 5oz or 20% heavier and in exchange you get a dramatically more spacious and functional tent. The X-Mid has double the space (volume), a full coverage fly, no sag fabric, higher HH fabric, tougher fabric, dual doors, dual vents, dual vestibules, vastly more headroom, tough zippers instead of fiddly door clips, it pitches fly first so the inner won't get wet when setting up in the rain and probably a few more things. It's weight well spent because you're getting a far more functional, liveable, weather resistant, spacious and durable shelter.
The other consideration is the price. The CR1 and X-Mid are made at the same factory but the CR1 is double the price mostly because it has a large retail markup. So the X-Mid is far better value.
Vargo No-Fly 2P Tent These tents are pretty different, as the Vargo is a freestanding, two person, single wall tent, while the X-Mid is a non-freestanding, 1 person, double wall tent. But we'll compare anyways....
The NF2P tent is a single wall design, meaning that you aren't protected from contacting condensation by an inner tent, nor can you use just the fly alone to go lighter when conditions permit, but it does save weight all else being equal. On Vargo's website they claim it "doesn't sacrifice durability, protection, or livability in order to save weight" which obviously isn't true because sacrificing protection to save weight is exactly what a single wall design is.
The NF2P is also a 2P tent, so obviously it's going to quite a bit larger. More specifically, the Vargo is 48" wide vs 28". The length and height are comparable. With this size comes a weight penalty, as the Vargo is 42oz (vs 28oz for the X-Mid). The 2P X-Mid will eventually have very similar volume as the NF2P (well a bit more headroom and length) and it'll weigh about 35oz. So an X-Mid scaled up to the size of the NF2P would still be quite a bit lighter while still being a double wall.
Some other big differences are that the NF2P is a freestanding tent, whereas the X-Mid relies on 4 stakes. That means the Vargo will work better on rare occasions when you can't get stakes in.
I'm struggling a bit to compare these because they're so different, but if I think about the a theoretical 2P X-Mid vs. the NF2P, the X-Mid would have a bit more space (longer, taller), double wall protection and a lower weight (35oz vs 42oz) so it's a more spacious, functional and lighter shelter, but the Vargo can be easier to pitch on rare occasions when you can't get stakes in. Pole sets are heavy, so you have to give up a lot to get a freestanding tent. That's why most folks interested in a light tent go with a non-freestanding one, but some folks are happy to use a very small tent instead like the MSR CR1 or BA FL UL1.
I'm no expert on the NF2P - having just looked at it for the first time now. But on first glance, I don't see the appeal because the Vargo is quite expensive at $499 and if you want a freestanding tent you can get something like MSR Freelite2 that is a double wall, lighter and cheaper. The X-Mid 2P will be lighter still plus larger and more functional (e.g. no sag fabric, vents, tougher zips) because it doesn't expend weight on a pole set. Traditional pole sets are heavy, so designs that eliminate those can offer weight savings, more space, more functionality or all of the above. However a lot of trekking pole supported shelters are tedious to pitch, which is a real downside too, and that's why I've designed the X-Mid to be extremely simple to pitch.
Sep 17, 2018
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