Designing MSR Tents—What We Stand For

Your tent plays a critical role in your adventures. From raging alpine storms to raging mosquitoes, it provides the necessary shelter you need from the elements. As adventurers, we take this responsibility seriously when designing MSR tents.

We build gear for demanding adventurers, staying fiercely committed to quality materials, construction and precision engineering.

That’s why professional expeditions and recreational backpackers alike trust MSR tents. Every shelter we design reflects our obsession with the details. Here’s a look at what we stand for in our design philosophies and why we’re committed to engineering high-performance, durable gear.

MSR Tent in Snow at Sun Rise
Photo by Per-Eivend Syvertsen

An Obsession with the Details

The writer Antoine de Saint Exupéry once said, “Perfection is finally attained not when there is no longer anything to add, but when there is no longer anything to take away.”

MSR believes the best products are the result of constant refinement. Quality gear gives you everything you need and nothing you don’t. Moreover, simple gear is easier to use and easier to maintain. Clean and uncluttered, our tents reflect our design principles of Simple, Functional, Reliable.

Every component has purpose.

High-quality components, in turn, create a high-quality tent. That’s why we’re hyper-focused on everything from the pole geometry to the grommets, the materials to the seam construction.

Our tents feature:

  • Handpicked durable materials that balance the optimal weight and strength for each application
  • Waterproof coatings that last for the life of the tent
  • Reinforced stress points—the weaknesses designed out
  • Ergonomic designs, including easy-to-reach pockets and smartly placed doors
  • Precision-engineered detailing, like snag-free zippers and reflective guy lines

We know that each of these components shapes your experience in the backcountry, and together they provide the confidence you need to pursue adventure.

MSR Tent Guylines
Photo by Bard Basberg

MSR Tents Engineered by Adventurers

The MSR team is, was, and always will be made up of inventors and unruly dreamers. This includes Terry Breaux, a lifelong adventurer who drew on his decades of product expertise to design quality shelters for backcountry travelers while he was with MSR.

One of the few true tent designers in the world, Terry used old-school tactics like hands-on patterning, sketching on paper and sewing prototypes, when computers wouldn’t do. They’re skills he learned at his first job with legendary pioneer Moss Tents. Today, MSR tents still embody many Moss philosophies, including “well-proportioned, simple shapes with precise engineering and detailing.”

Terry’s core passion is bikepacking. He’s cycled around the world, and every summer attempts to persuade friends to join his latest two-wheeled sufferfest, often successfully. Recently, he restored a 1957 Washington-built boat with plans to motor up the Inside Passage.

Terry’s decades in the industry pushed MSR to develop innovative designs with the quality and durability to match. Terry retired in 2021 to pursue other passions, but still consults with the MSR design team.

Terry demonstrating fabric strength tent testing

Fewer MSR Tent Models, Intentionally Designed

MSR’s entire tent line expresses our belief that less is more. We offer a targeted selection of user-focused designs, ensuring that every tent is truly intentional. We don’t crowd our line with excessive models boasting subtle differences. Instead, we focus on creating the absolute best tent to meet an adventurer’s goals, whether they’re a bikepacker or a backcountry skier.

Tailoring our designs for each type of user means talking constantly with athletes, guides and everyday adventurers. We listen to their pain points and devise features to eliminate them.

We know the easier it is to find your perfect tent, the more you’ll focus on the adventure, confident that your shelter will feel like home once you’re out there.

1973 MSR tent testing on top of car

Cutting-edge Technologies

Since 1969, MSR has defied the status quo. We believe challenging convention leads to better, safer, more reliable gear. And superior gear unlocks greater adventures. This passion drives us to research and develop cutting-edge technologies that advance the industry.

Our history is flush with revolutionary technologies that changed how people travel through the mountains, and our tents carry on that legacy.

For example, the Easton® Syclone™ poles we place in certain models are virtually unbreakable. Made of aerospace-grade composite materials, they flex under force—such as strong winds and snow loads—and bounce back to shape, maintaining the reliability of your shelter. No other tent pole is so resilient. And no other tent company has worked so closely with Easton to bring these technologies to backpackers.

Blasting Easton Syclone Poles with 85 mph winds show their ability to flex and bounce back.

MSR Tents Tested to the Nth Degree

From bolting tents atop trucks and driving them down the freeway in the 1970s to our in-lab stress tests, obsessive testing defines MSR. In fact, testing gear launched MSR as a company. As we began designing our own gear, we preserved that testing pillar as a core tenet.

When it comes to tents, we use a protocol that begins with evaluating the individual components. Then, we employ various methods—including merciless field tests—to challenge the entire assembled tent. This rigorous analysis assures us that MSR tents will perform as we intended and when you need them most.

Learn all about our tent testing.

getting ready in durable 4 season tent
Photo by James Barkman

Built to be Sustainable: Buy It Once

Finally, the more durable your gear, the more sustainable it is. One of best things adventurers can do is buy gear that lasts. Long-lasting gear reduces the need to replace it, saving precious resources and reducing waste in landfills. Since day one, we’ve engineered our tents for long-term durability.

From our fabrics to our pole hubs, we choose rugged, high-quality materials that stand up to the rigors of backcountry use while balancing ultralight performance. Optimizing that balance takes sophisticated engineering, but we believe it’s imperative to support adventurers with trustworthy gear that lasts season after season. In doing so, we reduce unnecessary waste, and keep you backpacking, bikepacking, mountaineering or thru-hiking with confidence that your gear is truly built for the long haul.

Get to know our line of high-performance tents and find your perfect one using our brand-new, easy-to-read tent guide.

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Updated. Originally Published June 30, 2020.

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