The Twin Peaks on a spring ski tour with skis for stakes
The MSR Twin Peaks floorless tarp shelter is a great value for a fast and light, minimalist style excursion. The Twin Peaks weighs in at 1 pound 11 ounces (0.77 kilograms) packed weight and provides 45 square feet of usable floor area with room for two people. The durable 30 denier ripstop nylon fabric coated with silicone and polyurethane provides adequate rain protection without adding significant weight to your pack. Trekking poles provide a taut pitch with lightweight tent stakes securing the corners. A lot of thought has gone into the taped seams, reinforced stress points, stake loops, guylines, and user-friendly door toggles, making the Twin Peaks a great value at $169.95. The Twin Peaks shelter is more than adequate for a spring ski tour and can be pitched using skis in place of the stakes. Obtaining a taut pitch can be tricky in rocky or wooded terrain when it’s difficult to place the corners exactly where they need to be. Staking the corners in a perfect rectangle results in the best pitch.
• Tent type
|floorless single wall tarp-style shelter for two people|
• Fabric description
|30d ripstop nylon with silicone and polyurethane coatings|
• Weight Full Package
As supplied by manufacturer with stuff sacks, stakes, guylines, etc.
• Weight Minimum Package
Includes tent body and fly, minimum necessary stakes and guylines, no stuff sacks or extra hardware.
• Floor Area
|45 ft2 (4.1 m2)|
• Floor Area/Minimum weight ratio
|1.67 ft2/oz (3.44 m2/kg)|
• Vestibule area
Ease of setup
Interior of Twin Peaks showing trekking pole supports.
The Twin Peaks shelter is relatively easy to set up in a perfectly flat dirt, grass, or snow covered area. The reality in summer camping areas is that roots, rocks, and other obstacles make it much more difficult to get a perfect pitch. The tent pitches by simply staking out the four corners, opening the door and positioning trekking poles in place, and staking out the sides. The shelter is not freestanding and requires staked corners and trekking poles to keep it upright. Obstacles can easily throw off the rectangular base making for a less than taut pitch. The tent can be easily set up by one person in less than three minutes in flat, stake friendly terrain but requires more creativity and work in a difficult area.
Note: The needle style stakes that come with the Twin Peaks are relatively light for manufacturer supplied stakes and penetrate ground reasonably, but we prefer wire, skewer style stakes. The Twin Peaks stakes have a larger cross-section that makes the stakes harder to push in and to steer around rocks. The ends of the stakes are smaller and less comfortable to ‘palm’ than a skewer stake. We switched to titanium skewers at the earliest opportunity.
Usable Features / Options
The shelter has one 6-inch equilateral triangular vent to reduce condensation located at the top corner of the tent. The vent is made with bug netting and is covered with a waterproof ‘awning’ to keep water out during a rainstorm. The door is zippered on one side only to shave weight. The tarp is a fast and light shelter containing very few ‘frill’ features that would add excess weight. It has taped seams, reinforced stress points, stake loops, guy lines, and user-friendly door toggles. There are no inside pockets or shelves to store gear and no accommodations for bug protection. The Twin Peaks also comes with seven needle stakes weighing 9.9 grams each and a roomy stuff sack.
Weight / Sizing
The packaged weight of the Twin Peaks without trekking poles is only 1 pound 11 ounces. There is no vestibule, but the spacious 45 square foot floor area is roomy enough to provide sufficient space for two people and backpacking gear. It is very roomy and quite lightweight, considering the heavier, more durable fabrics used in its construction. It is important to note that other two-person, single wall, floorless tents made of lighter fabrics (such as the Integral Designs Silshelter) can weigh about a pound, although they may not prove as durable or storm-worthy as the Twin Peaks.
Flexibility of Pitching
The shelter can be pitched with trekking poles or with guylines from solid overhead structural supports. Such supports can be particularly difficult to find above tree-line. Pitching without trekking poles takes much more time and greatly increases the pitching difficulty. Snow provides friendly terrain on which to pitch the Twin Peaks, using trekking poles for support and four skis in place of stakes. It becomes much more difficult to pitch the shelter in rocky and/or root filled ground.
There is some flexibility in door openings, allowing you to roll up much of the side of the shelter and secure it with an additional pair of toggles. With both the door and the side open, you have much better access to your gear, and excellent views.
Room for two
The shelter has a significant amount of usable space. The steep walls create a roomy interior so that most of the 45 square feet of floor area can be utilized. There is ample room for backpacks and accessory storage inside the tent.
The stability of the Twin Peaks shelter is highly dependent upon the pitching terrain. The shelter is very stable and bomber when pitched in snow, dirt, or grass. The Twin Peaks deflected very little in high wind conditions with a taut pitch in snow. The taut pitch keeps the sidewalls solid and unaffected by wind gusts. The stability is compromised when the terrain makes it impossible to achieve a taut pitch. We tested the shelter in summer conditions in the San Juan Mountains in Colorado. We were unable to get a good pitch when tree roots prevented a perfectly staked-out floor area. One sidewall had a 4-inch sag creating a pocket for wind to catch. We did not have any wind during this outing, but pushing on the sidewall with our hands significantly deflected the area with the sag.
The Twin Peaks shelter performed very well in the San Juans when a light rainstorm doused our shelter in the early morning. The taped seams and waterproof silicone-polyurethane coated nylon fabric held back all the rain and kept us dry on the inside. As with any floorless shelter, the trick is keeping the area beneath the canopy dry in a downpour. Digging a small trench (still making sure to practice no-trace camping by filling it in later) is one way to channel the water away to prevent the inside from getting wet. The spacious design made it nice to hang out in while waiting out the storm.
Ventilation is accomplished in the Twin Peaks shelter from a relatively small vent hole in one upper corner of the tarp. There is also considerable venting from the floor, since this is a floorless tarp shelter. We did observe a slight amount of moisture build up inside the Twin Peaks after a night in the mid 40’s in the San Juans.
The Twin Peaks is a floorless shelter with no option for mosquito netting. It is very difficult to maintain an adequate seal between the sidewalls and the outside environment to prevent bugs from getting inside the shelter. Further, sealing the sides of the Twin Peaks to the ground adversely affects ventilation and condensation will occur in most conditions.
Durability Field Observations
The rugged MSR Twin Peaks will hold up to any abuse thrown at it without giving in. The floorless shelter is reinforced in all necessary areas including the guyout grommets, the peak pole placement areas, the seams, and the zipper area. The shelter held up well during our testing and abuse.
The Twin Peaks floorless shelter is a good value for a fast and light, no frills excursion. If you are looking for a simple bomber floorless shelter for four-season use, the Twin Peaks will provide years of service.
Tips and Tricks
The key to a taut pitch of the MSR Twin Peaks is to make sure the body of the tarp is pitched in a perfect, tight rectangle with the door closed before the poles are placed inside. A poor rectangular pitch results in droopy sidewalls.
Recommendations for Improvement
We would like to see one mesh pocket placed on the inside of the shelter to store items like a headlamp, sunglasses, wallet, keys, etc. This would not add any significant weight to the tarp but would help keeps key items within reach. A larger vent would aid ventilation at minimal weight gain. The Twin Peaks could also lose some weight through the use of lighter fabrics, although this would affect its durability. Further, it would extend the usable range of the Twin Peaks to offer an optional bug enclosure (like the Black Diamond Beta Bug for example), although this would add to the weight and complexity of the shelter.