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MSR Missing Link Tent REVIEW

Review of the MSR Missing Link Tent - a single wall, two person shelter that can be pitched with a pair of trekking poles.

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by Alan Dixon | 2004-09-25 03:00:00-06

Overview

MSR Missing Link Tent

MSR's Missing Link is the tent you want if you need to wait out a long period of rain or heavy bug pressure. By lightweight standards it is palatial. The Missing Link has 20 to 30 percent more area than most two-person ultralight tents and a lot more headroom. There is plenty of room for two tall people and their gear. It is one of the few ultralight tents where both people can comfortably sit up at the same time. In addition, the awning and huge front door provide ventilation and views not found in other ultralight tents - perfect for claustrophobics. If the rain is not blowing in from the front, you can even cook or stow gear under the awning.

While it is large and comfortable for two people, the Missing Link with the required trekking poles is essentially a 4-pound (1.8 kilogram) tent. If you can get by with less room, there are many lighter two person shelters and tents on the market - some weighing as little as 1.5 to 2 pounds including poles. Even on an area per weight basis, at 0.78 ft2/oz the Missing Link is not near the top of its class. The Missing Link has a lot of surface area, and thus is not as stable in high winds as smaller tents with more angled and wind-shedding sides. While it is fine for sheltered areas and below tree line, the Missing Link would not be our first choice for camping on an exposed ridge or plateau at 11,000 feet. It took a good deal of tension to get a taut ridgeline on the tent and we were never able to properly tension the front wall. Finally, some ultralight trekking poles may not extend to the 54 inches required to pitch the Missing Link, especially if the ground is soft and their tips sink in.

Specifications

• Tent type

Single wall tent with floor, requires user supplied trekking poles for support.

• Fabric

Component Description
Body 30d ripstop nylon, PU/silicone coated.
Floor 70d PU coated fabric. At press time, no finished fabric weights were available from manufacturer.

• Weight Full Package

As supplied by manufacturer with stuff sacks, stakes, guylines, etc. (note: tent body, guyline, 8 stakes, 2 stuff sacks)

Backpacking Light scale Manufacturer claim
3 lb 3.1 oz (1.45 kg) 3 lb 0 oz (1.36 kg)

• Weight Minimum Package

Includes tent body and fly, minimum necessary stakes and guylines, no stuff sacks or extra hardware.

Manufacturer supplied Backpacking Light
8 stakes, 22 ft (6.7 m) guyline. Same as Manufacturer Minimum but with 0.25 oz (7 g) titanium stakes and 0.004 oz/ft (0.37 g/m) Aircore 1 Spectra guylines. 8 stakes, 22 ft (6.7 m) guyline, 3 cord adjusters.
3 lb 1.3 oz (1.40 kg) 2 lb 15.7 oz (1.35 kg)

• Floor Area

Manufacturer claim
ft2 (m2)
Length
in (cm)
Width
in (cm)
37 (3.4) 70 - 133 (178 - 378) 48 - 51+ (122- 130+)

• Floor Area/Backpacking Light Minimum Weight ratio

0.78 ft2/oz (2.6 m2/kg)

• Awning Weight

N/A integral part of tent and included in tent weight

• Awning coverage

Note: dimensions are approximate.

Area
ft2 (m2)
Length
in (cm)
Width/overhang
in (cm)
14 (1.4) 108 (274) front edge 22 (56) above door, 38 (96) at edges

• Optional Accessories

None

• MSRP

$229.95

Features

Ease of setup

The Missing Link requires eight stakes for proper setup. There are the usual four tent corners to stake to the ground, two ridgeline/vestibule awning lines, and a high and a low pullout for the rear of the tent. Properly tensioning the tent and getting the trekking poles at the right height takes a bit of time. All this puts the Missing Link around the middle of the pack in ease of setup for single walled shelters. If you are not fussy about a taut pitch, the tent sets up a bit easier and faster.

In comparison to many single walled shelters, we found that the Missing Link required more tension to get a taut pitch. This was especially true for the ridgeline. Even with the poles at the correct height, it took a lot of tension to get the catenary cut tent ridge close to taut. Anything less than maximum tension led to a saggy ridgeline. We are a bit confused about this, because catenary ridges are supposed to require less tension. It may be that the cord that tensions both the ridgeline and the awning fails to pull the tent ridge at the correct angle. The rear pullout disturbs the catenary curve and probably also contributes to tensioning difficulty (see Stability section for photo and more discussion on this point). If you are expecting strong winds, make sure that your ridgelines are well anchored to strong stakes (possibly longer than the MSR supplied stakes, perhaps with a rock on top). We had a ridgeline pull out on us when we placed it in soft soil.

The front wall of the tent (the panel with the door in it) was always a bit wrinkled and saggy. We were unable to get the front taut at any time, no matter what we tensioned. It flapped in the wind. Possibly adding a stakeout point to the bottom center of the tent would help.

The Missing Link requires two owner-supplied trekking poles for setup (add 14 ounces to the total tent weight if you don't normally carry poles). The instructions say to set them at 54 inches but we found that a little longer worked better, especially to compensate for pole tips sinking into soft ground. Unless you measure and pre-mark your trekking poles, it takes experimentation to get them to the right length each time. The pole length required for the Missing Link is long for ultralight trekking poles. Two ultralight standbys, the Leki Ultralight Ti's and Life-Link's Guide Ultralight poles, did not make this length at the recommended section stops (collets). We were able to get the Leki poles to work by extending them an inch or two beyond their recommended range. Even so, an extra inch of extension would improve the pitch. The Life-Link poles, with their maximum extension of 48 inches, fell 6 inches short of the required length. Longer poles will likely weigh more than these ultralight poles.

We consider it essential to stake out both the upper and lower tie outs on the rear of the tent. The upper tie out is crucial to tent stability and to increase internal room in the rear of the tent. If you do not stake out this point, the rear wall sags into the tent. This problem is exacerbated by any wind load from the rear of the tent - which is where you normally want the wind to be coming from. In strong winds, given the large rear panel of the tent, you may want to use all three additional tie out points on the rear of the tent. Finally, we found the lower rear edge of the tent too close to the ground for good ventilation. We used a stick or rock to raise the rear edge's tie out and create a larger ventilation gap between the ground and the rear edge of the tent.

We tried to set up the Missing Link without trekking poles but found it impractical. Finding sticks just the right length didn't work and finding two vertical tie outs just above the pole pocket tie outs is virtually impossible in the field. The only non-trekking pole option is to make custom aluminum poles just the right length (even then, their lack of adjustability will hinder pitching on uneven terrain).

The stakes supplied with the Missing Link are better than many we have seen, but we still prefer to use wire skewer titanium stakes which are lighter and easier to insert in rocky soil. We switched to titanium skewers at the earliest opportunity.

Usable Features / Options

MSR Missing Link Tent - Front Door
The Missing Link lacks some niceties found on many lightweight tents like a way to roll up and stow the front door, internal storage pockets, or any internal attachment points for gear-hanging lines.

MSR Missing Link Tent Components Weights
Tent body: 30d silicone/PU nylon walls, 70d PU nylon floor 1 lb 29.5 oz 1.29 kg
Guylines: two on the front awning, one at the rear, all with adjusters 1.1 oz 31 g
Eight aluminum stakes: 0.34 oz (9.7 g) each 2.7 oz 78 g
Body Stuff Sack: silnylon with drawcord & cordlock 1.3 oz 36 g
Stake Stuff Sack: silnylon with drawcord & cordlock 0.5 oz 13 g
As Shipped Total 3 lb 3.1 oz 1.45 kg
Trekking poles required for setup: two    

The major positive features of the Missing Link are its roominess, good ventilation, large door and protective awning. Otherwise, the tent is devoid of niceties found on many lightweight tents, such as a way to roll up and stow the front door, internal storage pockets, or any internal attachment points for gear-hanging lines. There is no option to purchase a footprint or full vestibule.

We were pleased with the tent's ventilation. The Missing Link handles ventilation with a front/rear, high/low chimney effect system. Warm air in the tent rises up to the ceiling where it exits a top mesh vent above the door that is protected by the awning. This draws in cool air from the rear of the tent, via a low mesh panel protected by a flap. Pitching the rear of the tent into the wind creates an even greater ventilating force. Obviously, if you can leave the whole front door open it provides a tremendous amount of ventilation.

The Missing Link's awning is nice for moderate rain or snow coming from the rear or overhead. You can leave the front door open, cook and get great views. You don't get that claustrophobic feeling as with many lightweight tents. Contrary to MSR's claims, we don't think the awning is a true vestibule. It provides rain protection only as long as the rain is coming from the rear or possibly the sides of the tent. If rain comes in at any angle from the front of the tent, it provides little protection for anything but the top of the door. Don't count on getting the same kind of protection that you would from a true vestibule in any kind of gusting winds.

The three tie out cords that came with the tent appear to be Triptease or something similar. They came with aluminum cord adjusters. Total weight for cord and adjusters is 1.1 ounces. Given the tent's large surface area and additional tie out points, it would have been nice if MSR included a few more of these nice tie out cords to stabilize the tent in strong winds. We found the body and stake stuff sacks a bit heavy and over designed. We left both stuff sacks at home.

Weight / Sizing

MSR Missing Link Tent - Interior Height
By lightweight standards the Missing Link is huge, with plenty of room (and a view) for two tall people and their gear. The Missing Link would be our first choice to wait out a long period of rain or heavy mosquito pressure.

The MSR Missing Link is luxuriously comfortable for two people, but with the required trekking poles, it is essentially a 4-pound tent. There are many lighter, and less roomy, two person shelters and tents on the market - some weighing as little as 1.5 to 2 pounds, including poles. Even on an area-per-weight basis, at 0.58 ft2/oz the Missing Link is not near the top of its class.

Much of the Missing Link's weight comes from its large size and from fabric that is somewhat heavier (albeit more durable) than what's used in many lightweight tents. If you require plenty of room for two plus gear and want a durable tent, then the Missing Link may be a good choice. In non-windy conditions the awning does provide some of the benefits of a vestibule, which makes the weight more reasonable. The huge front door protected by the awning provides good light and great views.

Flexibility of Pitching

The Missing Link is a one-pitch tent. There are some additional tie out points to stabilize the tent. Given the size of the Missing Link and its large surface area, it makes sense to use these tie out points to stabilize and secure the tent in anything but light winds. Putting something under the lower rear edge of the tent to raise it and thus improve ventilation is another option. It is important to get the trekking poles at the right height. Poles with large range of adjustment are especially useful on uneven terrain. As pole tips sink into soft ground you may need to get out during the night and re-tension the tent.

Finally, the Missing Link is a big tent and needs considerable space to pitch. This can be limitation in rocky alpine areas or brushy areas with little flat space for the its large footprint.

Usable Space

The Missing Link is the tent you want to be in to wait out a long period of rain or heavy bug pressure. By lightweight standards the Missing Link is palatial. It has 20 to 30 percent more area than most two-person ultralight tents, and a lot more headroom. There is plenty of room for two tall people and their gear. It is one of a few ultralight tents where both people can comfortably sit up at the same time. Additionally, the awning and large front door provide ventilation and views not found in most ultralight tents.

The nearly vertical side and front walls maximize usable space in the tent. Aside from that, nothing is rectangular or even linear in the Missing Link. Everything is curves and angles. The sloping back wall reduces room in the rear of the tent. Using the rear wall's center tie out helps to mitigate this. You can sit up anywhere in the front of the tent. The low point, center, is 40 inches high, and the front sides approach 50 inches. The corners of the tent provide useful places to stow gear without cluttering the main living area. The large volume also means that it is easier to stay away from tent walls if condensation forms.

One small gripe: With a side door, the rear sleeper has to climb over the other occupant to take a nighttime stroll.

Usable Vestibule/Porch

The Missing Link's awning is nice for moderate rain or snow coming in from the rear or overhead. You can leave the front door open, cook, stow gear, and get great views. You don't get that claustrophobic feeling as with many lightweight tents. When rain blows in from the front of the tent the awning/porch area cannot be used for cooking or storing gear that needs to stay dry. Don't count on getting true vestibule protection for cooking or for stowed gear. On the bright side, even in these conditions the awning provided protection for a substantial portion of the front door and we had better views and ventilation than in any lightweight tent that comes to mind. Note: With rain and wind coming from the rear of the tent we would rate the Missing Link's awning/porch higher.

Performance

Stability

MSR Missing Link Tent - Pitching in the Wind
Proper stability in wind: Make sure you stake out at least the center rear tie out. This keeps the rear wall from deflecting into the tent and increases room in the rear. In very strong winds you might want to stake out all three rear tie out points, left edge, center and right edge. If at all possible try not to have the large and relatively unsupported front panel of the tent pointed into the wind. The front panel is not taut and presents a large non-wind shedding surface. When facing the wind it will deflect and flap. (Note: Using a third trekking pole to raise the mid-center back tie out may aid with proper tensioning.)

The Missing Link is fine for sheltered areas and below treeline. It would not be our first choice for camping on an exposed ridge or plateau at 11,000 feet. The Missing Link has a lot of surface area and its stability in strong winds depends on a taut pitch and correctly guessing the wind direction. If you pitch the tent with the rear into the wind and use all three rear tie outs we think it will do fine with strong winds, provided you get the tie out stakes solidly anchored. We had a stake pull out of loose soil on the single rear tie out in 20 to 30 mph winds. Note: Staking the rear pullout low (to the ground) compromises the catenary curve of the ridgeline and may contribute to the difficulty in getting the ridgeline taut. Although it appears from the instructions that MSR intends the rear pullout to be staked low, using a third trekking pole, stick, or nearby tree to pull it high may help tension the Missing Link properly.

MSR claims to have tested the tent in a wind tunnel to 50 mph. They admit that this is done with the smallest cross section into the wind - we'd guess a tent side. From our field-testing we estimate that the Missing Link would be taxed with a strong wind coming in from the front. The front panel is large, and because it is vertical, does not shed wind well. It is not taut. Even in moderate winds the front panel deflected and flapped.

Storm Protection

The Missing Link is a fabulous tent to wait out a sustained rain. The tent's large interior space makes it almost pleasant. With rain from the rear, the awning lets you leave the entire front door open for great ventilation and good views. Even with rain coming from the front the awning provides good protection for the front door, allowing you to leave a substantial portion of it open. We had no problems with leaks or with the tent shedding rain. Our only gripe is that the awning is not a true vestibule and does not provide space to cook or store gear if rain comes from the front of the tent.

Ventilation/Condensation Resistance

The Missing Link is one of the best-ventilated single-walled shelters we've tested - a confirmation of its front/rear, high/low chimney effect ventilation. Unless rain is coming from the front, with the awning's protection you can leave most or all of the front door open for lean-to style ventilation and views. In cool and very humid conditions the Missing Link outperformed a double walled tent of similar weight. The Missing Link had minimal condensation; most of it was near the top of the door and on the awning. The double walled tent had significant condensation on all walls. A side benefit of the Missing Link's large internal space is that it is easy to stay away from condensation on the walls. Given the Missing Link's venting of warm humid air to just above the tent door, it is not surprising that we experienced the most condensation on the awning as the air exited the tent and cooled. We learned to be careful not to brush the awning when exiting the tent.

Insect Protection

No question, this is the tent you want when bugs are bad. We used the Missing Link in intense mosquito pressure in northern Michigan and in Wisconsin in light rain. The Missing Link was a refuge to regain sanity from the relentless onslaught of blood suckers. The tent's spacious interior, large front door, and good ventilation made waiting out the mosquitoes almost pleasant. In almost any other 4 pound shelter we can think of we'd have substantially less room and poorer ventilation.

Durability Field Observations

The Missing Link's 70 denier floor fabric with a substantial PU coating is more durable than the 30 denier silnylon floor fabric used on many lightweight tents. MSR has confidence in the floor and doesn't even offer a footprint/ground cloth for the tent. We used the Missing Link without a ground cloth and had no discernable wear. The tent's wall fabric and construction did well in the field and we think the Missing Link, if handled with care, is up to years of use.

Value

At $230 the Missing Link's cost is middle of the road for ultralight shelters. Its strengths are its spacious interior, good ventilation, and ability to weather rain and heavy bug pressure. There are ultralight tents and shelters that provide adequate protection from rain and bugs that weigh much less and cost less too. Add some value points if you are in the claustrophobic range and put a high importance interior room.

Final Thoughts

Tips and Tricks

To speed setup, mark your trekking poles at the correct height for the tent. You can also gauge the height by figuring out where on your body the poles reach when set at the correct position.

Make sure that you pitch the rear of the tent into the wind and use the rear stakeout points. The rear tent panel can generate a lot of force, so get the stakes firmly anchored. If there is strong wind, consider putting a rock on top of the stakes.

You might sew a few simple straps to the front of the tent to stow the rolled up front door.

Recommendations for Improvement

It took a lot of tension to get the ridgeline taut. We suspect one reason is because the same cord tensions both the tent ridge and the awning. We suggest using a cord attachment that directly tensions the tent ridge at the proper angle. While this may require a few more tie outs for the Missing Link, the tent will tension better and it will be more stable in strong winds. Another reason may be the rear pullout, which when staked to the ground, compromises the catenary curve of the ridgeline. At a minimum, we suggest a note in the instructions to pull this tie out high if possible. The front panel of the tent is a bit saggy. We'd like some way to tension it better - possibly a stakeout at the front lower edge of the tent. The Missing Link needs straps to stow the front door, some interior storage pockets, and some loops to hang a gear cord or tent attic. While the tent's fabrics are certainly durable, the Missing Link is heavier than many single walled shelters. MSR might consider using lighter fabrics in at least part of its construction. Finally, the 54-inch pole height required to pitch the tent is beyond the extension of some ultralight trekking poles or trekking poles used by women and shorter folks, especially if pole tips sink into the ground. Reducing the requirement to 51 or 52 inches would make the tent compatible with a lot more trekking poles.


Citation

"MSR Missing Link Tent REVIEW," by Alan Dixon. BackpackingLight.com (ISSN 1537-0364).
http://backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/msr_missing_link_tent_review.html, 2004-09-25 03:00:00-06.

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