Introducing the Front Range™ Tent – Best Tarp Shelter of 2020

We’re big proponents of lighter packs. The lighter your pack, the faster you move in the mountains. But big ski tours and alpine traverses demand a lot of gear (skis, avalanche tools, ropes, racks, stove, fuel, food, shelter, and so on). And it all adds up.

That’s why highly efficient gear is key—gear that’s light but strong; acts big but packs small; that’s versatile. We took that philosophy to the extreme with the Front Range Ultralight Tarp Shelter.

Designed for parties of four, the Front Range clocks in at a mere 740 grams (1 lb 10 oz). Yet it sacrifices none of MSR’s legendary durability, offering adventurers all-season protection in the alpine. Here we take a look at this featherweight shelter, which packs down so small, you’ll hardly notice it’s there.

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Front Range tarp shelter in snow

Hyper-efficient design for high-intensity adventures

As spring arrives and with it, longer days and sunnier weather in the alpine, the need for a burly winter tent diminishes for ski tourers and mountaineers. Were it not for the wind and chance of spring storms, many adventurers would choose to bivy straight on the snow.

These conditions are where this tarp reigns supreme. When split between four people, the Front Range weighs no more than a bivy while delivering the protection and spacious comfort of a tent. Its floorless design lets you construct the perfect living quarters beneath it—a table and sleep benches; or, sleep two and two on either side.

Less weight in your pack means reaching the perfect perch to witness the alpenglow is just easier after a hard day’s travel in the mountains.

tarp shelter and trekking poles

Sets up fast with ski/trekking poles

The Front Range further saves weight by using your ski or trekking poles for pitching. In this manner, you achieve greater efficiency from your poles as well.

The tent comes with the ski straps you’ll need for assembly. But if you wish to the leave the tent pitched during basecamp-supported missions, we offer an accessory pole (sold separately to save you that cost if you don’t need it). Our goal was to deliver everything you needed in an alpine shelter and nothing more—creating a piece of gear that could increase your chances of success.

Front Range setup with skiis

Superior, long-term durability

One may assume that we kept the Front Range’s weight so low by using paper-thin fabrics that require delicate care. In fact, the Front Range uses the same durable fabric as the rainfly on our Access Winter Ski Touring Tents, award-winning, 4-season tents built specifically to handle winter conditions.

To make this tarp even more robust, its fabric features our ultra-durable, long-lasting Xtreme Shield waterproof coating. A new cutting-edge formula in the industry, our Xtreme Shield coating resists the natural breakdown that causes fabric stickiness in traditional coatings, thus increasing the overall life of your tent.

Like all MSR tents, the Front Range’s strength shows throughout its design through targeted reinforcements in high stress points and the quality, rugged materials used for its detailing.

Front Range materials

Livability and versatility in the alpine

With every tent we design, we stay laser-focused on the needs of its users. We think about their environments, the other gear they’ll carry, their modes of travel, their camp options, and so on. Those considerations inform our decisions about the finer points of the tent’s design.

While the Front Range makes an excellent option for any fast and light adventurer, it’s built with features that truly accommodate ski tourers and mountaineers. For example, its stake loops are highly adjustable, allowing you to anchor them using skis.

Additionally, its zippered door rolls back completely on both sides, providing easy access with bulky gear on—not to mention sweeping views of the surrounding peaks cast in that alpenglow. Finally, its interior peak height of 162 cm (5’ 4”) allows you to gear up easily.

The Front Range is so light and compact, its suitable for just two people, which means during basecamp-supported adventures, it makes a featherweight dining hall or group shelter.

Front Range base camp

The team at MSR is pretty excited about this new piece of gear. In designing it, we sought to engineer the shelter that we wanted ourselves. We knew our fellow adventurers would also choose it for their biggest fast-and-light objectives—from Colorado’s Front Range (the inspiration for its name) to Washington’s North Cascades. Whether you relish these types of giant, demanding missions or consider them necessary sufferfests to satisfy the adventurous spirit, we’re confident this tent will make them a bit more Type 1 fun.

Front Range Tent in Snow

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