MSR® Tent FAQ

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What defines "waterproof" in a tent and what does the "mm" rating mean?

For an MSR tent, waterproof means that all external fabric has been coated with our exceptional polyurethane coatings and the seams have been factory-taped, making that area of the tent impermeable to water. "mm" refers to millimeters and is paired with a number to represent a standardized measurement of how waterproof a coating is. For instance, a 1500mm coating will withstand a 1500mm (5') column of water for more than one minute before a single drop might appear through the fabric. That's strong enough to prevent rain from leaking into a tent in a hurricane-force storm.

What do the letters D and T after the fabrics mean?

"D" stands for Denier. It's a numbering system for fibers, filaments and yarns, in which the lower numbers are lighter/finer and the higher numbers heavier/coarser. "T" stands for Thread Count – specifically the number of warp and fill threads in a square inch. The lower numbers represent a loosely woven fabric and the higher number a tightly woven fabric. These two numbers together help indicate the strength and feel of a piece of fabric.

What are some different configuration of the tarps and wings?

The 7-point design has a "flat" and a "pointed" end. For all configurations, the "pointed end" should always be used as the highest supported point. The opposite "flat edge," which consists of three points, can be stretched tightly and attached to a shelter, car rack, or even the pole-supported vestibule of a tent to form a protected area. Try placing the poles at different points, using no poles at all or adding more poles to create new living spaces. (Paddles and sticks work well in the cord storage pockets, too.) Experiment and be creative!

Why should I get a footprint?

We recommend that you use an MSR footprint (sold separately) underneath your tent. Customized to fit each specific model, it will not only keep your tent floor clean and dry, but it will also protect it from excessive abrasion, prolonging the life of the tent. In addition, some of our tents can be set up with just the footprint and fly, creating an incredibly light, minimalist alternative to a full tent.

How should I store my tent?

Never pack or store your tent if it is wet, damp or dirty. Although we use the best polyurethane waterproofing available, prolonged exposure to moisture causes hydrolysis which, in turn, causes the waterproof layer to break down, becoming soft, sticky and no longer waterproof. Storing a wet tent for as little as 24 hours in warm weather is also likely to start the process of mildew forming on the fabric. Mildew will cause your tent to stain, smell and will also lead to the premature breakdown of the waterproof coating. Mildew and moisture damage are not covered under the Limited Warranty.

For long-term storage, keep your tent in a dry and cool area, out of direct sunlight. Store it outside of its stuff sack, as you would a sleeping bag, in a breathable, over-sized cotton or mesh duffel for protection. On the cheap, an old pillowcase is ideal.

How long will a tent last?

A tent's lifespan is directly connected to the amount you use it. A tent's biggest enemy is UV radiation (just like your skin). A tent that lives in extreme conditions at high altitude, such as Everest Base Camp, may only last a few months, while a well taken care of tent, used occasionally under normal conditions, can last for many years.

What are packaged and minimum weights?

At MSR, we voluntarily follow ASTM International F 1934-98 standards around these two tent industry terms. In accordance with this standard, packaged weight includes the total weight of the packaged contents off the shelf. Minimum weight, by comparison, refers to the combined weight of the tent body, rainfly (if applicable) and tent poles, but not any of the other items that may appear in the package, such as tent stakes, guy cords, stuff sack, etc.

Many MSR backpacking tents can be pitched using only the rainfly, poles and footprint, and in our tent specs we call this non-industry standard setup option our Fast & Light weight.

To learn more about packaged weight vs. minimum, and the manufacturing processes that can affect them, check out our blog post on the topic.

How do I guy out my tent with the included tensioners?

Guying out your tent will provide more stability in windy or extreme conditions while also maximizing ventilation. To guy out your tent, run cord from the tent's guy point through the tensioner. Pass the cord around the stake and back through the tensioner, keeping the curved side of the tensioner toward the stake. Tie a knot at the end of the cord. To tighten cord, pull the tensioner up along the cord and release.

How do I prevent mildew?

One of the easiest ways to damage your tent is by not drying it as quickly as possible after it gets wet. Storing a wet tent for as little as 24 hours in warm weather is likely to start the process of mildew formation. Mildew can permanently damage the waterproof coatings by causing them to separate from the fabric, but mild to severe staining is more common. Mildew stains are permanent. They cannot be removed without potential harm to the fabric coatings and are not covered by warranty. Even when your tent appears to be dry after use, it is always best to assure it is completely dry before storing. Hang it outside or pile it loosely in your house for a few days, turning it inside and out to assure it has dried everywhere. Never machine dry your tent as the heat can melt the fabric.

What's the best way to clean my tent?

Cleaning your tent is not necessary unless it has an offensive odor or becomes heavily soiled. If heavily soiled, the pressure from a regular garden hose will remove most loose dirt. For more severe cleaning, set up your tent and hand wash it with warm water, a sponge and mild, non-detergent soap. Do not use dishwashing liquid, detergent, bleach, pre-soaking solutions, or spot removers. Rinse well. Dry your tent by pitching it or line-drying it. Never dry clean, machine- wash or machine-dry your tent. Any of these methods can remove all the waterproof coatings from the tent.

Do I need to seam seal my tent?

Superior fabrics and construction make MSR tents extremely waterproof. The rainfly and floor are factory seam taped, so seam sealing is not necessary. If any problems develop over time, seam seal the specific area only, on the inner, shiny side of the area. Follow the instructions on the seam sealant tube. Use a syringe for accuracy. Allow the seam sealant to dry, then apply a light dusting of baby or talc powder to prevent it from sticking to the rest of the tent when stuffed or folded.

What causes condensation and how do I reduce it in my tent?

Condensation is the build-up of moisture inside your tent due to differences between the inside and outside temperatures. There are three main sources:

  • Weather Conditions: High humidity, low temperatures, and rainy conditions create the most condensation.
  • People: We produce about 1 - 2 pints of moisture per night through breathing and skin evaporation.
  • Wet Environment: Wet ground or wet gear stored inside the tent.

While no tent design can eliminate condensation, the key to reducing it is ventilation. Cooler, drier air has to flow into your tent and warm, moist air must escape. We have designed a variety of ways to do this.

To start, the tent body and ceiling are made of breathable and mesh fabrics. This allows moisture to escape the interior of your tent. However, it must also be able to escape the waterproof fly, and every MSR rainfly has a peak vent that provides protection from the outside, while still allowing essential, free-flowing fresh air to move through your tent. You can also leave a door open in good weather, or take advantage of the double sliders on the doors to vent from the top where warm and moist air tends to accumulate. Make sure to leave at least two vents open if possible, allowing any breeze to provide cross-flow ventilation for maximum circulation. Guying out your rainfly will also increase ventilation in hot or humid conditions.

What causes condensation in a tent
What causes
condensation in a tent?

How do I repair tears?

You can do minor repairs in the field using one of several alternatives. We offer waterproof, self-adhesive patches (sold separately) for all of the fabrics and mesh on your tent. Seam sealants are also a good alternative for small holes, or use duct tape for minor, temporary field repairs. If you use duct tape, be sure to remove it as soon as you are through with your trip. The adhesive will eventually eat away at the fabric and you will end up needing a larger patch. We recommend carrying at least one of these as a precaution. If you have a large tear, our Product Service Center can also fix your tent after you return from your trip.

What happens if one of my poles breaks?

If a tent pole breaks, you can make a temporary splint with the pole repair sleeve. Slide the repair sleeve over the broken section and tape or wedge in place with a stick to hold it secure.

Understanding Prop 65

What is California Proposition 65?

Proposition 65 is the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act passed by voters in the State of California in 1986. The act was created to inform people about possible exposure to chemicals known by the State of California to cause cancer, birth defects and/or other reproductive harm.

What are the requirements of Proposition 65?

Proposition 65 requires that the Governor of California maintain and publish a list of harmful chemicals. The list is updated annually and includes chemicals that can be found in solvents, drugs, dyes, food additives, by-products of certain processes, pesticides, and tobacco products.

A chemical is listed if it has been classified as a reproductive toxicant or carcinogen by an "authoritative" organization on the subject. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Food and Drug Administration, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, the National Toxicology Program, and the International Agency for Research on Cancer are considered authoritative for carcinogens. For reproductive toxicants, the authorities are the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Food and Drug Administration, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, and International Agency for Research on Cancer. Chemicals will also be listed if they are required to be labeled or identified as a carcinogen or as a reproductive toxicant by an agency of the state or federal government.

Why has MSR placed a Proposition 65 label on its tents?

Any company with 10 or more employees operating or selling products within the State of California must comply with the requirements of Proposition 65. To comply, businesses are: (1) prohibited from knowingly discharging listed chemicals into sources of drinking water; and (2) required to provide a "clear and reasonable" warning before knowingly and intentionally exposing anyone to a listed chemical.

A Proposition 65 warning means that the business has evaluated the exposure and has concluded that it exceeds the "no significant risk level," or that the business is providing a warning based on the presence of a "listed" chemical without actually evaluating the exposure.

MSR is providing a warning based on our knowledge about the presence of one or more listed chemicals without attempting to evaluate the level of exposure. While using an MSR tent, the exposure to a "listed" chemical may be well within the "no significant risk" range, but out of caution, we have placed the Proposition 65 warning labels on our products.

Are consumers who are using an MSR tent with a Proposition 65 warning at risk?

The California government states: "The fact that a product bears a Proposition 65 warning does not mean by itself that the product is unsafe." The government also explained, "You could think of Proposition 65 more as a 'right to know' law than a pure product safety law."

A Proposition 65 warning means that the product contains one or more listed chemicals. By law, a warning is required unless the business proves that the exposure to the chemical poses "no significant risk." The "no significant risk" level for carcinogens is defined as the level which is calculated to result in not more than one excess case of cancer in 100,000 individuals exposed over a 70-year lifetime. Therefore, if you are exposed to the chemical in question at this level every day for 70 years, theoretically, it will increase your chances of getting cancer by no more than 1 case in 100,000 individuals so exposed.

The "no significant risk" level for reproductive toxicants is defined as the level of exposure which, even if multiplied by 1,000, will not produce birth defects or other reproductive harm. Therefore, the level of exposure is below the "no observable effect level," divided by 1,000. (The "no observable effect level" is the highest dose level which has not been associated with observable reproductive harm in humans or test animals.)

For further information about California's Proposition 65, please visit http://oehha.ca.gov/prop65/background/p65plain.html

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