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MSR Hubba NX

As promised, here’s the first of a few tent reviews that I’ve been stacking up so we can compare and contrast. Kinda like a group test but carried out over an extended period in the mountains.

First up is the MSR Hubba NX, a lightweight variant of the original Hubba, which was a fine tent in it’s own right. It’s a solo tent, so if there’s more than one of you take a look at the Hubba Hubba, or indeed the Mutha Hubba or Papa Hubba. Nice naming convention there, despite making people my age think about chewing gum.

The fly is 20D silconised PU, and the groundsheet is 30D, which makes sense with that being the bit you spend most of your time on. The poles are DAC, with a curious Y-shaped spread at either end and a floating crosspole. There’s a single porch which has a twin door arrangement, which MSR call a StayDry door. The idea is that the water runs down the gutters at the side of the door rather than the center, reducing your chance of getting soaked as you get in and out of the tent. It’s freestanding and is pitched inner first.

MSR Hubba NX

So, how does it all work out there on the hill? Well the compression sack is good for making it portable. It’ll fit down the side of your pack nicely. The poles and pegs come in wee bags which will get blown away or lost, so best just leave them at home. Pitching is straightforward enough and the freestanding bit helps if you need to adjust your pitch to avoid a rock or two. Inner-first pitching does always make me sigh when the weather is inclement.  I carry a packtowel and it’s no big drama, but it’s just a bit demoralising if you have to pitch in the rain.

Internal space is good for one, even for all of the 193cm of splendidness that is me.  The height is enough for me to sit up and drink my tea and it’s comfortable for a lengthy stay on an autumn or winter night. The porch is big enough for a rucksack and your boots and will still leave room to get in and out or to cook in.  The inner is partially solid to help manage draughts, which is welcome in spring, autumn and definitely winter, although sometimes a breeze is welcome in the summer. In that case, just leave the door open.

The guys that come with it are ok but I’ve had one burst on me and so have replaced them all with doubled dyneema lines.  The supplied mini-groundhog stakes on the other hand are excellent wee fellows to keep in your pack.  Stability is very good in high winds and it sheds rain and snow well. The inner can be cinched down a bit at the peg points for those really nasty nights.

 

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My sample weighs in at 1230g but I do carry my own stake and peg pack separately and I don’t bother with the fiddly wee bag for the poles. This is a reasonable weight for a dual skin tent. You can leave the inner at home and just take the outer with a footprint and significantly reduce the weight, assuming you like midgies that is.

Short version: The Hubba NX is a lightweight yet sturdy option for three season summit camping and backpacking. Recommended.

MSR Hubba NX

 

  • September 15, 2014 - 12:05 pm

    David - Nice write up and review here Michael. Like yourself, I absolutely love my MSR Hubba HP solo that I picked up last year which like the NX has ample room for one. I think both are pretty similarly spec’d though the built-in rain gutter on NX is nice addition.

  • September 17, 2014 - 10:01 am

    Stefan - Hi Michael,

    I find this interesting. I have exactly the same tent, except it’s from LL Bean (A US brand, you won’t find it in Europe). I have seen this before: I also own a Gossamer from Jack Wolfskin, and have since found that other companies (Snugpack, for example) sell the exact same tent under a different name (and maybe one or two details differ – for example, my inner from differs from your MSR – mine is completely mesh). Are there tent designers who sell their designs to different outdoor companies? Do you have any idea about that?

    I do agree with your verdict though, this is a brilliant tent (even if mine bears a different brand name :D)

    Regards,
    Stefan
    (WalkingDutchman)

  • September 18, 2014 - 12:31 pm

    MT - Ah LL Bean, I used to get their catalogue regularly. There are both designers and manufacturers who will sell to any brand. It’s a good game to spot the stuff that’s all made to the same spec with just a different brand badge. Particularly popular with stoves.

    The Hubba HP is next on the list for a review, once I can get past all the referendum coverage…

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Having had fun with the big and chunky Frictions, here’s a lighter option from the German geniuses, these are the Hanwag Approach II.

There are a few elements which show that it’s aptly named; this isn’t a simple trail shoe, it’s designed as a proper approach shoe and the features are all there to see out of the box. There’s asymmetric lacing and a big rand just like a rock shoe. The upper is a mix of leather and cordura to make it robust, with a Gore membrane.  Add to that a Vibram Cross sole unit and you’ve got all the makings of a shoe suited for scrambling and low grade climbing.

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It all sounds good in principle, but how does it get on when you hit the hills?

Well, a good scrambling shoe is a tough one to get right. If you make it comfy to walk in, it won’t be so good on the rock. If you make it stiffer to give support on small edges it won’t be comfy to walk in. Hanwag have gone for the middle ground here, so the ride is a little on the stiff side for the walk-ins but it pays off when you hit the rock.

The fit is good for me, and the lacing holds the shoe in snugly which gives precision on the rock. Scrambling performance is excellent, the Vibram Cross sole unit has a nice little smearing pad at the front which gives great grip on smooth rock. It’s not quite sticky rubber, but it’s great for easier climbs. I’ve happily soloed V.Diffs in these.

Hanwag Approach

On the hill tracks they are fine if a bit stiff, although I expect they’ll soften off a little over time. I wouldn’t choose this shoe for a multiday backpack, but it’s great for a day trip for some hard scrambling. The grip is excellent on rock and reasonable on wet grass, although the small lugs can get easily smoothed out in muddy conditions so be careful if you’re bog trotting.  Heat retention is a minor issue for me due to the sturdy upper and the Gore liner. I’d prefer a non-membrane version, but I say that about everything, I’m just not a fan of Gore liners.

I wouldn’t  recommend these for the average hill plodder, there are other shoes out there that are better suited for that kind of stuff, but if you’re looking for something to wear for a jaunt up Tower Ridge or a day out on the long Leachas, then the Approach will do just fine.

Like I said, approach shoes are tricky beast and Hanwag have done a fine job of that balancing act. If you like you days out to be rocky and hands-on, stick these on your try-on list.

 

Hanwag Approach

Yes, it’s been a month and I’ve still not posted the tent stuff I promised. I’ve been a bit busy. Having a day job kinda gets in the way of this stuff. I’ve also managed to fit in two weeks holiday, which was excellent but in no way involved mountains other than looking wistfully at the Cairngorms from Loch Morlich.

The pesky medial ligament is healing slowly, a bit too slowly according to the physio so I’m off to see an Ortho chap. We’ll see what he reckons. It’s improved enough for me to be hitting it on the bike in an effort to claw back some hill fitness. I’m really missing wandering the tops though.

In the meantime, there’s no excuse for me not to catch up with the ever present backlog…

 

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You’ve got that song in your head now haven’t you?

I’ve had a few questions on email about my review methodology recently so it’s time to set it out, if only so I can then reply to future emails with a link.

My review process is simple: Something arrives, I throw it straight in the go-to box. It then take it and use it on trips until I have a good idea what I think about it. Then I use it for a while longer so that I know if it’s useful in different seasons, then I might loan it to some other people to get their view. Eventually I will form a final opinion and I might even, if you’re lucky, write it up. Not everything makes it onto these pages. The average or uninteresting is left behind, life’s too short to spend time writing up stuff that’s just average.

You’ll see some sites out there that manage to post reviews a couple of days after the press releases go out. The most testing they’ve done is passing a sample round the office and taking a photo on the grassy bit behind the car park. You know who they are. That’s not my style, which makes me less popular with PRs and gear manufacturers because I take ages to turn stuff around but at least you get a review that’s based on the real world you live in, rather than an advertising company’s wonderland where everyone conquers stuff and every mountain is extreme.

The other big question I get is do I get to keep the kit? Sometimes yes, sometimes no. A lot of stuff has to go back.  Either way,  I make it clear at the outset that my review will be independent and honest. Letting me keep the kit does not ensure a positive outcome, so if the provider doesn’t like that then I won’t accept the gear. I have no affiliation with any company and no-one pays me to do this stuff.

I try to represent the real people out there who just want to pick the right stuff to spend their hard earned money on to get the best out of their outdoor experience.

There we are, my tent well and truly pitched.

Talking of tents, I’ve got a backlog of those that I need to write up. Stay tuned.

 

Edelrid Shark

This site is like the toilet in Mousetrap, you pop a marble in at the top and you have no idea when and where it’s going to come out.

It’s July and it’s 26 degrees outside, time to talk crampons.

The Edelrid shark is a crampon that’s designed to do it all. It’s convertible from full-auto to semi-auto, to strap-on. The idea is that it’s one crampon for all your footwear needs regardless if they are B1, B2 or B3. If you change boots, you just change the crampon configuration to match. Pretty clever. They’re made from steel, have built in anti-ball plates, a smart buckle system and weigh in at around 860g.

Edelrid Shark

Switching out the attachments is pretty easy, there’s a L-shaped key in the bar that you slot in, all you have to do is set the length, choose the right hole to suit your boot and slot it in. The soft straps mould well to your boots and the fit is snug. The auto clip has an adjustable tension bar at the back and to convert to full auto you just remove the front straps and plastics to leave the bail. It takes a few minutes practice to get proficient at swapping the configuration around without jabbing yourself in the hand. Those spikes are sharp.

Edelrid Shark
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Edelrid Shark
Edelrid Shark

As usual, we have to ask the big question: how does it all work out in the real world? Well, the Shark is a  good all-rounder. It’ll work well for walking and general mountaineering in icy conditions. The buckle system is good, it’s easy to release even when caked in ice, but it won’t slip when you’re wearing them. Once it gets steeper, there’s good support and the 3d shaping on the front points makes them pretty bitey. Support is good enough for low to mid grade ice climbing. If you’re looking to tackle more technical ground you’ll want a more specialised set of spikes but that’s the whole point,  these are do-it-all crampons. The number of people who climb to a high standard in winter is relatively low. Most people don’t need screw-in monopoints or suitability for drytooling.  For the vast majority of punters who just plod up munros and maybe dabble in a bit of low grade gully ice bashing, the Shark makes for a cost-effective flexible solution.

If like me you have a wide range of footwear in your winter wardrobe, then the Shark makes a fine answer to the age old problem of which boots with which crampons. I’ve used them exclusively over the last winter and got on really well with them on everything from stiffened boots to soft mids and the weight is low enough for it not to be a drag on those days when they live in your pack.

It’s a fine time of year to go and pick some up in the sales too.

Edelrid Shark

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