Fly Your Tent Down the Freeway

The original Mountain Safety Research Newsletter (1969-1982), written by MSR founder Larry Penberthy, is a fascinating read. The newsletters are filled with extensive and technical product testing and mountain safety information. However, Larry and his team were also known to have some fun.

One of our favorite features in this vast newsletter archive is the makeshift “wind tunnel” testing report in Issue 7 (April 1973) for the new MSR Mountain Tent. Important performance features of the tent are profiled under the headings “More Room,” “Condensation,” “Doors,” “Ease of Erection,” “Wind Stability,” “Cookholes,” “Materials” and “Weight.”

Tent Testing in newsletter April 1973
Caption above: Lacking a wind tunnel we built a platform on our truck and mounted the MSR tent on it. After obtaining a Wide Load permit from the State Highway Department, we tested the tent at 60 miles per hour. It held up fine. The Seattle Times was so intrigued that they sent a photographer to ride the chase truck and take pictures, printed 20 April. This test facility is available to our members at operating cost.

Within the “Wind Stability” description, the reader is given this glimpse into MSR’s rigorous and fun DIY testing methods. Larry was never satisfied until he personally put gear through the ultimate paces.

The original color photos from this wind tunnel testing have lived in the MSR archives for the past several decades, and have been blown up and hung on the wall in the upstairs lobby of one of our Seattle buildings.

1973 MSR tent testing on top of van

The 1973 newsletter also features a testimonial from “Antarctica and expedition veteran” Bill Lokey, who rode in the tent at 50mph and said, “It is the quietest tent I have ever been in at a similar airspeed. Tested endways, sideways and 45°, all OK. We know wind can get stronger, but this test is fairly severe.”

And there you have the roots of the intensive MSR tent design, research and testing program.

Want to see more of Larry’s innovative research, testing and development of outdoor gear? Check out the Mountain Safety Research Newsletter Archives

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Updated. Originally Published May 12, 2014.