Weird, I thought I posted this last night, oh well.
Here is a last OR before I take off for my road trip. Hopefully the site will be up for it. I can email the HTML to the editor once it is picked up.
MSR Nook Tent
By Raymond Estrella
July 17, 2012
NAME: Raymond Estrella
LOCATION: North Western Minnesota, USA
HEIGHT: 6' 3" (1.91 m)
WEIGHT: 225 lb (102.00 kg)
I've been backpacking for over 30 years, all over California, Minnesota, and many western states. I hike year-round in all weather, and average 500+ miles (800+ km) per year. I make a point of using lightweight gear, and smaller volume packs. Doubting I can ever be truly ultralight, I try to be as light as I can yet still be comfortable. I start early and hike hard so as to enjoy the afternoons exploring/chilling. I usually take a freestanding tent and enjoy hot evening meals. If not hiking solo I am usually with my brother-in-law Dave or my twin children.
Manufacturer: Mountain Safety Research, Inc. (MSR)
Web site: www.cascadedesigns.com
Product: Nook tent
Year manufactured: 2012
MSRP: $399.95 US
Packaged weight (complete) listed: 3 lb 8 oz (1.59 kg)
Actual weight: 3 lb 5 oz (1.5 kg)
Interior height listed: 38 in (112 cm)
Length listed: 88 in (223 cm)
Width listed (foot/head): 42/50 in (107/127 cm)
Floor space listed (tent & vestibule): 28 + 6 ft2 (2.6 + 0.56 m2)
Protected space to weight ratio: 10.3 ft2/lb (2.1 m2//kg)
Packed size listed: 20 x 6 in (51 x 15 cm) Verified accurate
Picture at right courtesy Cascade Designs
Quick & Dirty, Nitty Gritty
The Nook is a great little tent in my opinion. The design makes for the most protected front entry I have seen in this style of tent. It is fast and easy to set up and take down. I like how small it packs down to when I carry the poles separate. While the length is just adequate when I am positions with my head where It is meant to go (by the door) when forced to switch ends I find myself wishing for a little more length to keep my head off the back wall. And CS, please change the stuff sack locks. Read on for the details.
The MSR Nook Tent (hereafter called the Nook or tent) is a light-weight three-season tent that the manufacture says offers "plenty of livable room in a tent that doesn't take up much space to begin with". Designed to fit in small camp sites while still offering space for two the Nook is the company's second lightest 2-person shelter and only gives up 2 oz (57 g) to their lightest 2P tent. Here is a picture of the separate components that make up the Nook.
From the bottom the Nook's bathtub floor, which comes up 9 in (23 cm), is made of dark grey 40D x 238T ripstop nylon 6 that is coated with 3000mm Durashield polyurethane (one side) and DWR (the other side) to keep water at bay. Above the tub the Nooks front and side walls are made of white 20D ripstop nylon for the first half, and 20D nylon no-see-um mesh for the top half. More of the solid nylon is used for the back wall and the top of the tent. The body comes in at a weight of 19.3 oz (548 g).
The DAC poles consist of a long spine pole and a front hoop pole, plus a small spreader pole that sits to the rear on the spine. The poles are made up of 15 sections that are all connected (except for the spreader pole) and weigh 12.3 oz (348 g). They can be stored or carried in the included 0.7 oz (20 g) dark grey nylon sack.
The Nook sets up by laying the body out and staking the four corners. Then the long spine pole is placed in the grommet found at the bottom center of the foot end. The other end of the spine pole fits into a grommet at the top of the door. Next the front hoop pole gets placed into grommets on each side. Now the body is attached to the poles starting at the foot and working up to the front of the tent. The body has grommets on top that fit the spreader pole, which gives a lot of interior space to the Nook.
The Nook has a large squashed-teardrop style door that takes up most of the front of the tent. A loop and toggle allow it to be gathered to the side. Inside there is a gear pocket on each side of the door. The Nook can just fit two standard width (20 in/51 cm) rectangular sleeping pads. Pads with a "mummy" shape will fit with a bit more room to spare.
The Moss Green rain fly, which weighs 16.7 oz (472 g), is made of 20D ripstop nylon that has a 1000mm Durashield polyurethane coating on one side and silicone coating on the other.
The fly of the Nook attaches to the body with grommets at the spreader pole (seen below) and the front of the spine pole. It uses hook-and-loop tabs to attach it to the front hoop pole up high. Grommets at the bottom of the fly slide onto the ends of the poles at ground level, and two quick-connect fasteners are used at the back corners (seen below). A small vestibule is formed by pulling the fly straight out from the body and staking down. The tent is accessed by way of a straight zipper which stops short of the end of the spine pole. This leaves a protected covering for the door. With the vestibule closed the fly has been designed to channel water away from the doors and is one of the slickest designs I have seen for a front entry of this style. (I have had a lot of them.)
Guy-out points on the fly both high and low may be used to give added support and/or increased ventilation. To further air flow for good ventilation there are two high vents on the fly. These vents use a small strut to hold them open, or the struts can be dropped to close the tent up tight when conditions warrant.
While the Nook is not freestanding in its normal set-up it can be made so with the use of a trekking pole. The trekking pole's tip and handle are placed in the stake loops at the corners of the foot end of the tent. The adaptor is attached to the center of the trekking pole and the grommet is hooked to the end of the spine pole. Then the trekking pole is lengthened until it pulls the tent tight (seen in the lowest picture in the collage above).
The tent came with 5 red anodized Mini-Groundhog stakes that weigh 0.32 oz (9.2 g) each. The stakes are packed in a 0.28 oz (8 g) sack, along with a pole repair sleeve and the trekking pole adapter. It should be noted that extra stakes are needed if guylines are to be used.
All of it fits into a nylon stuff sack that weighs 1.5 oz (42 g). The stuff sack has set-up instructions printed on an attached Tyvek sheet. Here is a shot of the Nook packed and ready to go.
It should be noted that all the storage sacks have a sliding wrap-lock closure. These differ from a spring-loaded cord-lock as once slid down to close the bag the string is wrapped around the tiny body of the lock and slid into a notch that traps the string holding it securely closed.
The Nook can just fit two standard width (20 in/51 cm) sleeping pads. I like to use a wider Large size pad which is fine as I use the Nook as a roomy solo tent.
I first used the Nook on the Red River of the North where I stayed on a high river bank just down from the Canoeist Primitive Campground outside of Hendrum, Minnesota. The terrain is dry clay which made for excellent staking, and temps were nice, between 70 and 53 F (21 to 12 C) although dark skies and the threat of rain made me keep the fly on. The picture above was taken on this trip.
Next was a cold backpacking trip hiking on Halverson Trail and Steamboat Pass (an ATV/snowmobile trail) and spent the night at Halverson Lake, a first for me although I have hiked there in winter. The day threatened rain but never acted on it. The temps plummeted during the night going down to 34 F (1 C) and I had massive condensation from the combination of the soaked ground I was on (it had rained hard the previous two days) and the proximity to the lake. Below is a shot from that trip.
Chippewa National Forest was the location for the next two overnighters with hiking on the North Country Trail, Woodtick Trail, and the Goose Lake Hunter Trail System. These trips were warm and humid with rain on the first and flooded trails and wet camp sites the entire time.
Last was three days in Lake Bronson State Park and Old Mill State Park. I stayed at a backpacking site on the South Branch of the Two Rivers the first night and at the campground at Old Mill as they do not have any backpacker sites. While it threatened rain it turned out to be a dry trip. Temps were between 56 and 88 F (13 to 31 C).
While I have owned (and reviewed) many MSR tents they have been either winter (4 or 3+-season) tents, or 3-person tents I use with my children. The Nook is the first 2P light-weight, compact model for me. In fact its compactness is probably my favorite aspect of it as I have come to really appreciate being able to take as small a pack as possible, low volume being just as important as low weight to me.
I have owned and reviewed a lot of tents with single front entries like the Nook has. One problem that they all have is that the slanted front wall and door is exposed to falling rain or snow unless a separate (and heavy) vestibule pole is used to extend the fly away from the entry. MSR has come up with a great design with the extension of the center (spine) pole. It allows the front face and door to be almost vertical resulting in less exposed inner body to get hit by rain. As I have seen a lot of rain while using the Nook this has been a welcome feature.
Another design feature that MSR has used on the Nook is one I have been singing the praises of for years and that is the center crossing pole. For not much of an additional weight hit this pole gives a lot more interior space to the Nook. By widening the top it also presents less of a flat face on the side making it shed wind better, plus when the fly is attached to the crossing pole with the grommets provided it makes the entire structure stronger.
Like my MSR Hoop (see review) the Nook uses half-height solid nylon walls. I love this too as I am completely over all-mesh tents as I am sick of having dirt and grit (or spindrift in winter) all over my tent and sleeping gear from crud blowing through the mesh walls. The bottom 50% being solid material blocks about 95% of blowing debris in my experience. Yet it still ventilates very well.
Set up is a breeze and I have gotten pretty fast at it, which is good as I was trying to beat a storm much of the time. I have learned to just stake the foot end then put the poles up and attach the body. Then I pull it tight and place the stakes at the head end. I put the fly on and stake it out with the lower side and back guy-lines set for extra ventilation. Then if it is not raining I pull just the front vestibule stake and peel the fly back so that it is ready for fast deployment. The weather never allowed me to just forgo the fly completely as even the nights that it did not rain there was the threat. Here is a shot quickly setting up at windy Blue Gill Lake. Yes, I did beat the storm.
While the Nook is a two-person tent I have used it only solo. But as my many tents reviews show I usually use a 2P tent by myself as I am pretty tall (and getting bigger every day it seems;-). I use a Large size pad, the smallest of which is the one in these pictures, a NeoAir XLite at 25 x 77 in (63 x 196 cm). Because the pad is 2.5 in (6.3 cm) thick this takes a bit of the usable length from the Nook. When I have the pad configured with my feet at the back of the Nook I hit my toes on the sloping back wall when on my back. But I am a side-sleeper so that really is not an issue for me. Once in a while the terrain dictates that I must sleep with my head to the back of the tent. It is definitely better to have it to the front but it does work. Here is a picture of the pad in both directions.
The durability has been fine, there are no runs or snags in the mesh. The waterproofing is excellent. I do not have a footprint for the Nook but have been using a 36 in (91 cm) wide piece of Tyvek building wrap under it to keep the bottom clean as I have been on previously saturated ground most of the time. It also protects the bottom from collecting poison ivy oils from the plants being crushed under my weight and movement there has been a lot of it this year.
Since I have plenty of room in the Nook I usually just bring my pack inside with me. But if needed there is plenty of room to keep it in the vestibule without hindering access to the inside. I don't really know if two packs would fit though. Here is a shot of my Osprey Exos 46 in the vestibule at a camp on the South Branch of the Two Rivers, 10 miles (16 km) from Canada, eh?
Now I can't do a good review without finding something that needs improving, right? Well there is one thing that I would love to see MSR change and that is the stuff sack closures. The new sliding wrap-locks are more secure it is true, but this level of security is not needed for a tent, pole, or stake sack that has no major pressure on them. But they are a pain to use as they need two hands and take a lot of time (comparatively). I would love to see these go back to the spring-loaded cord locks of the past.
But otherwise I have no complaints and a lot of praise for this sweet little backpacking tent. Good job MSR.