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MSR Elixir 3 is quite popular mainly because of its livability.
Most backpackers including myself really like the ample headroom it offers - but it also is incredibly well ventilated, easy to set up and offers surprisingly well wind & rain protection for a 3-season tent although I do have some gripes which, in this post, I'll mention first in summary and then in more detail.
...in 2019, MSR revised Mutha Hubba NX to optimize its internal volume, and as a result, it now offers even more volume inside than MSR Elixir 3, but it's list price is $549.95 at the time of writing this article (3 Feb 2019) since you also pay for its ultralight qualities...
Check out the price of MSR Elixir 3 at REI.
Overall, it's a pretty good 3-season tent, but I wouldn't use it in severe weather. It does resist perfectly fine against spring-downpours even if you incorrectly set up on a stream path (more on this later) and it does dodge the wind well due to its shape (maybe even better than some other 4-season tents!); but it still just isn't durable, stable or waterproof enough for winter. This tent simply isn't designed for that kind of use.
If you're planning to camp specifically during winter, then I'd recommend you to check out this gear list published by TheWildGuides.
Don't use the information in this post for the previous versions - although there isn't much of a difference. To see what's new in this most recent (2018) version, go to the bottom of this page.
Also, yes it does use a unique pole design which provides more volume inside the tent, but it comes from the increased headroom - not the floor area. Floor area of MSR Elixir 3 is still large compared to other 3P tents, but it just really isn't great for 3 big sized people to sleep inside comfortably.
That's why, if you're 3 average-big sized guys, I'd also check out either MSR Elixir 4 or MSR Zoic 3. I'd also recommend checking out my article about ways to sleep comfortably in a tent.
So in this post I reviewed MSR Elixir 3 in terms of:
- Space (floor & head) [Good],
- Weather protection [Good for a 3-season tent],
- Ventilation [Very good]
- Ease of use [Very good],
- Features [Good],
- Weight and size [Average].
I don't like talking about durability because it's entirely up to how YOU treat it. All you need to know is that as long as you don't use it in severe weather, you'll be fine using ALL 3-season MSR tents.
In summary, I like it because it's easy to set up and incredibly well ventilated. Despite being a 3-season tent it resists surprisingly well against rain (as long as it isn't severe). Dome-shaped design allow ample headroom and better wind protection. Floor area, though, can be too small for 3 big sized people to sleep inside comfortably. If you aren't an ultralighter (and don't want to pay extra 100's of bucks to lightweight qualities!) and you don't camp in severe weather this is probably the tent for you.
- Unique pole geometry maximizes space and provides...
- Tent body mesh and solid fabric panels provide the...
- Tent can be set up with just the rainfly and...
- Freestanding system features color coded poles,...
- Supremely livable design includes large...
Also, this most recent 2018 version comes with the footprint - which you'll get anyway unless you already have another one. Plus, this one fills beneath the entire tent floor very well (more on this later).
Other than that, it's a full package includes the following:
- Frame assembly,
- Tent body,
- Guy lines,
Space (Floor & Head)
Floor space is 68 inches (1.72 m) x 84 inches (2.13 m), which sums up to 39.5 square feet (3.67 square meters).
If you're planning to fit 3 sleeping pads inside, you might better consider these dimensions - especially the length. There's nothing wrong if they overlap width-wise! Also, I reviewed best air mattresses for camping too, so it can be a good read if you're looking for buying one.
Regardless, if you think the space this tent allows is enough for you, but you think you might need more space during some activities other than backpacking, you can check out MSR Gear Shed which is compatible with MSR Elixir and Hubba Series only.
Judging from the stance of all the other 3P tents, headroom of MSR Elixie 3 is better than its floor space - because it uses a new pole design (more on this later under the setting-up heading).
As you see, it's shaped more like a dome and less like a skyscraper. In the end, high ceiling is spread to more space, and hence 3 people can sit inside more easily. Although 3 people wouldn't sleep inside very comfortably due to not-so-generous floor space, they can sit there perfectly fine.
Ceiling height at the center of this tent is 41 inches (1.04 meters). For an average sized male, it looks like this:
All these numbers add up to 63 cubic feet (1784 liters) of tent volume. In Zoic 3, this number is 102 cu. ft - which is almost TWICE.
But more volume isn't better in every condition. Which brings me to my next point...
Although Elixir Series are 3 season tents, they resist surprisingly well against rain and wind.
Floor fabric is made of 70D taffeta nylon 3000mm polyurethane (& DWR coating for extra waterproofing) which is superior than rain-fly's 68D ripstop polyester 1500mm Polyurethane (& DWR coating for extra waterproofing).
You can check my post about Arcteryx jackets. I mentioned them more there and same things are applicable to tents as well.
But, don't let the advertisements and commercial content deceive you. Waterproofing isn't black and white - some fabrics are more waterproof than others and vice versa.
But more importantly, there is no fabric out there with 100% waterproofing. With enough time and amount, water can and will penetrate through each and every type of fabric.
Overall, in terms of being waterproof, fabrics of Elixir 3 is superior than most other 3 season tents, but not the best one out there. Structure, though, is what makes a noticeable difference and is better than more 3-season tents in the market.
The fabric that attaches the floor fabric to body fabric at the floor borders is designed like a "bathtub" style - meaning that the floor fabric is attached higher to the body. So the floor fabric of this tent gets in contact with the terrain less than other tents, and is also more protected from water splashes.
Combined with the included large footprint beneath the entire tent floor, if you encounter an unexpected rain or put your tent on the path of a stream incorrectly, you'll most likely be fine (as long as it isn't anything severe). The stream won't be able to get inside the tent due to this "bathtub" design.
In summary, unless you'll be camping under heavy rain, you probably won't experience any problems.
4 guy lines are included with this most recent 2018 version, which you can use to tighten the tent and make it more stable against wind. But you can do this in every tent, so it isn't really a big plus.
The big plus is its structure:
Due to the dome-shaped design of Elixir 3, the body isn't going to be exposed perpendicularly to the wind. That's why the wind will be more prone to slip above the tent rather than striking into the body of skyscraper-shaped designs (like Mutha Hubba).
This way the DWR coating of the body fabric will also last longer.
Protecting from cold is less about the tent and more about you - but Elixir has less mesh on the body fabric as I explained above, so it's more on the warmth side of the fence than ventilation.
Also, I made a post about most effective ways to heat a tent, and it can be a good read if you'll be camping in cold - whether you buy this tent or any other.
When the rain-fly isn't in use and when any doors or vent channels aren't opened, ventilation of all tents is determined by the ratio of mesh fabric used in the body. Generally speaking, more mesh fabric means more ventilation but less privacy and warmth inside the tent.
However... Elixir 3 manages to offer incredible ventilation without compromising privacy or warmth. Let's see how.
Is ventilation really that important?
Ventilation is very important in tent design and if you don't consider it when buying one, you probably should. It's important not only because you'll have more breeze when it's too hot, but also because it'll reduce condensation.
You don't want condensation because it'll reduce the life of your tent. When it happens, you'll have to dry your tent more often to avoid mildew as well as to avoid getting the inside of your backpack and your other items wet.
Believe me when I say this can ruin your entire outdoors experience very easily...
That said... Condensation is a fact of physics and in some conditions, it WILL happen no matter what you do. You should be focused on reducing it as much as possible, and your tent should be designed in a way to direct it to most harmless regions of the tent.
However, when it's very humid outside (say, when it rains), more ventilation can cause more condensation.
To minimize condensation as much as possible you should:
- Vent more often,
- When setting up, orient your tent in a way to leverage the breeze more,
- Dry the tent more often,
- Leave damp items outside.
However, tent design also determines ventilation. Generally speaking, ventilation increases with more mesh and less solid fabric use (in addition to extra features such as fly vents and other air entrances to the body).
As I already mentioned, Elixir 3 does have fly vents and two large doors, which is good for ventilation. So let's look at the body structure, vents and mesh fabric.
This design directs the humid air (and hence condensation) to the lower edges of rain-fly. So it's normal to see these areas wet and it doesn't mean tent is leaking or something. Just remember drying it to avoid mildew.
Vents and mesh fabric
You get A LOT of ventilation channels with this tent. When you're not using the rain-fly, you have huge mesh fabric on the two walls without the doors:
These mesh structures offer enough ventilation. Another thing I like about them is that they allow you to see what you have in the tent pockets from outside. This way you don't forget anything there when packing it away.
When you have the rain-fly over, you also get two "fly vents" at the top (opened by pulling the fly down), which isn't available in most other tents and is great for reducing condensation when you have the rain-fly for extra privacy, weather protection or something else.
Also, regular tears (due to condensation or not) aren't covered under MSR warranty. If you want to increase the durability of your tent, don't want to pay extra for repairs by customer service and be able to DIY field repairs to increase your overall outdoors experience before it ends, you can also get mesh repair kit and fabric repair kit.
There's also a pole repair kit, but I'll mention it later.
Ease of setting up
To me, this is the biggest advantage of this tent - especially after the 2018 update when they added glow-in-the-dark internal zips.
Within MSR tents, Elixir has one of the easiest to set up method along with Hubba Series. I really like the color coding as it makes everything much easier especially for beginners.
Here's the quick 4 step guide:
Step 4.1 (aligning the rain-fly midpoint to ridge pole) is often overlooked, but is important if you don't want to repeat the next step. Also, attaching the Velcro inside the rain fly to the tent poles before progressing to step 4.2 will make everything easier.
There are 2 doors, 2 vestibules (when the rain-fly is attached) and 3 internal pockets.
Attic gear loft looks like this:
Weight and Size
At 7 lbs 1 oz (3.19 kg) and 20 (Length) x 8 (DIA) in (51 x 20 cm) packed size, although still quite light and compact, Elixir Series definitely aren't one of the lightest or most compact tents out there.
If you're going on a backpacking trip for more than nearly 10 days or if space is just too important for you, you might want to consider another tent such as Mutha Hubba.
Other than that, if you know how to pack a tent in your backpack, you should be perfectly fine with Elixir 3.
Marmot Limelight 3P vs MSR Elixir 3
Both are 3-season backpacking tents at around the same price ballpark and hence are compared to one another often.
The only advantage of Limelight 3P to Elixir 3 is that it's more roomy when you judge from the dimensions. But let's take a closer look.
Lengthwise, at 90 inches, it's 6 inches longer than Elixir 3 - which seems like a plus especially if you'll be storing a lot of gear inside - but Elixir comes with an attic gear loft and 2 large mesh pockets hanging from 2 walls. Limelight doesn't offer a gear loft at the top (sold separately) but 4 smaller pockets at each corner (plus 6 inches of extra floor length, as mentioned).
So I call this a draw, but would like to add that being organized on the trail always worth it. That's why I personally like Elixir a little more for that matter.
In terms of ceiling height, it's 48 inches, which is 7 inches higher than Elixir 3 - but remember, Elixir 3's pole design spreads high ceiling to more floor space and hence 3 people can sit inside more easily.
Limelight 3P is also around half a pound lighter, but that's less than 10% of tent weight, so shouldn't be important for most of you.
In terms of durability, weather/wind resistance, ease of setting up, packed size and ventilation; Elixir 3 is the winner.
If you'd like to read more, I reviewed Limelight and Tungsten 3P too. But, in short, I really don't see why would anyone go for Limelight 3P instead of MSR Elixir 3.
MSR Elixir 3 vs Mutha Hubba NX (2018 version)
Think of Mutha Hubba like a cheetah and Elixir 3 like a lion.
Back to being serious, Mutha Hubba NX and Elixir 3 have a lot in common:
- Both are 3 seasons,
- Both offer 2 doors & 2 vestibules and similar space inside,
- Both are freestanding,
- Both offer amazing ventilation.
The most important difference is that at 4.8 lbs and 21 x 7 in packed size, Mutha Hubba is a lot (2.3 lbs!) lighter and slightly more compact. The sacrifice comes with being this light is that it's less durable than Elixir 3.
Advantages of Elixir 3, besides extra durability, is that first, it's easier to set up. Second, the dome-shaped design dodges the wind better than Mutha Hubba and allows more headroom inside.
Both tents have a lot in common (I'd say, 60%). If you're going on a longer trip (more than a week) or if weight is more important than durability, ease of use & headroom to you; you'd probably better go after Mutha Hubba NX (2018 version). For all the other folks, I'd recommend MSR Elixir 3.
Review of Mutha Hubba 2019 coming soon!
What's new in the updated model?
Here you can see the updates to the previous Elixir 3:
I hope this review was helpful for you to understand whether MSR Elixir 3 is for your needs or not. Feel free to ask me any questions, provide feedback and I'll be happy to respond in the comment section below if it's within my knowledge.
Thanks a lot for reading. Happy trails.
Aa Bb says
Dear Outdoorcrunch, just got this tent this week & have a question. I’m only now reading dreadful reviews on the MSR website: https://www.msrgear.com/ie/tents/backpacking-tents/elixir-3-backpacking-tent/10332.html
Did my own research on websites like yours, with people who unpacked a new model and used it once (1 day – 1 week) and didn’t necessarily look to own one but rather compared different tents.
I wonder if you think the reviews in the link are representative for what’s actually happening? I’m having a hard time believing it, because it seems so immoral for a company to do this.
According to reviews on the MSR website these tents won’t last for longer than 38 months or 3 years. What’s the story of your tent since you last published this?