We spent a long time researching and looking at tents. Each time we thought we’d found the one we wanted we saw another we liked even more. A three season tent was essential for spring and fall camping, some useable vestibule space that would double as a wind break for cooking was also high on our wish list. (Note, see the 2022 update at the end of this article). It had to be big, or even a three person tent so that we can keep our packs inside if the weather is really foul. And it needed to be as light as possible for backpacking.
After a long search the prime contender was The North Face Madraque, but we couldn’t find any reviews, nor could we find anyone locally that stocked it. We had a play in the The North Face Minibus at Ozark Adventures, and nearly bought one; but the ‘oh so cutsie’ design put us off in the end.
Popping into Dynamic Earth (something we were doing far too much of at the time) we had a look at the MSR Hubba Hubba which was far too narrow for our needs there wasn’t enough width in the tent for us both to comfortably lie side by side, Head to toe might have worked but it still seemed tight. Certainly there was no room for packs as well. But we did like the quality of the construction and the way it was put together, so we looked at the MSR Mutha Hubba, which was nice and roomy. It’s meant to be for three, but it fits two just right. Three even if the third was Lanie, who’s very small, would be tight in this tent. However, we were very impressed with how light and easy to set up it was, the build quality looked very good too. We went away and checked the reviews (almost 100% positive) before returning and buying the tent and footprint. We agonized for quite a while about buying locally or via Amazon. I like to support local businesses and finally decided that the ease of dealing with any problems would be worth the extra cash.
I did have reservations about the color. I wanted a tent with minimal visual impact on the environment. However, the color has grown on me, and fits in surprisingly well in a wide variety of environments.
What you get
This is what came with our tent.
- Inner tent – no-see-um bug mesh tent with a water proof ‘bath tub’ style floor. There are two zip closed two doors, one either end. Each door has two zippers. There are two massive gear pockets, one on each side and a white diffusing illumination panel in the roof. There are several small loops provided for hanging gear.
- Fly – with two vestibules and doors. Each door has two zippers, allowing you to open the door from the top down for ventilation. The loops for staking the fly out have a reflective material wound into them making spotting them at night a breeze.
- Three color coded tent poles – a main (yellow) set which is quite complex, holds up the main body of the tent and keeps the sides out. There are two other poles (gray) that hold up the tent over the two doors.
- Tent stakes – 12 stakes. This are super slim lightweight toughened aluminium needle stakes, they are exceptional, the very small profile seems to be able to wriggle between the rocks. In three years of trying I’ve only managed to bend one.
- Guy rope – two adjustable sliding adjusters. The guy ropes are intended for when it gets really windy. We’ve used them twice. They tie onto provided loops at the center of either side of the tent. There are more loops on the fly, so you could move the guy ropes to meet the prevailing wind if necessary.
- Pole repair – Tube to slide over and repair a broken pole.
- Storage sacks – there’s one general sack for everything. In addition there’s a bag for the for the stakes, guy ropes and repair tube, which we keep in another of the sacks provided for the poles. We’ve never used the general sack for the whole tent as we use compression sacks when we take the tent out, and when not in use the tent is kept loosely packed in a plastic storage box.
What you don’t get
You don’t get the footprint. Buy it. Ours cost around $50.00 it protects the bottom of the tent and with it you can set the tent up with the flysheet only.
Camping and backpacking with a Mutha Hubba Tent
We’ve spent nearly fifty nights in this tent in the past three years, we’ve backpacked around 130 miles, and its not showing any noticeable signs of wear. Though the footprint might benefit from being re-watersealed. Backpacking we split the tent and fly between us, so the actual weight per person is very reasonable.
We’ve found it very easy to set up. The footprint is an absolute essential, you could make your own with Tyvek. It provides protection to the base of the tent, and holds the tent poles in place. Without the footprint your can’t set the fly on its own Which means you can’t put up or take down the tent with the fly set – which is a great feature when it’s raining, as you can set up / pack away the tent without it (or you) getting wet.
Putting up the tent takes a little over five minutes. The aluminium tent poles are a joy to use, and we love the way they just push into grommets on the footpad, tent and flysheet. It’s a much simpler and more reliable arrangement than the ‘Jake’s Foot’ which is used on my one-man tent, and I find quite fiddly. Once you have the poles assembled and located in the grommets on the footprint, it’s just a matter of repeating the process with the tent, and then hooking the tent’s support clips to the poles. In good weather you can use the tent like this without the fly. Great for hot nights and star gazing. The picture below shows the tent set without the fly in Piney Creek Wilderness.
The fly is just thrown over the whole lot. There are two velcro tabs front and back which wrap around the two end poles. Once the grommets are hooked over the poles everything is very secure.
The tent is ‘standalone’ which means you don’t have to stake it out, though you can’t use the vestibules unless you stake it out. The best part of this is that you can just pick the tent up and move it. This is most useful for adjusting the tent’s placement for the optimum view and minimum bumps.
The super small and light tent pegs that came with our tent are really good. I am able to push them into stony Ozarks ground easily, only sometimes do they require tapping in with a tree branch or rock. Removing them is also easy I just loop my knife lanyard under the hooks and they pull straight out.
The only disappointing aspect of the tent has been the vestibules, which a backpack will completely fill. We’ve thought about adding a lightweight (Tyvek) floor to the vestibules to keep the dirt out of the tent, and also keep anything stored in them off of the wet ground, but thus far we’ve not bothered. The vestibule doors have two zippers so that you can zip one down from the top for ventilation, and the other up from the bottom to get in and out. Once or twice I have accidentally grabbed the top zipper when exiting the tent.
When the wind picks up the shape of the tent seems to shrug it off. There is hardly any noise, and no drafts inside. We’ve sat through 30-40mph winds which have brought down near by trees (disconcerting), with just a small flutter of the flysheet.
The tent has a white translucent panel in the centre of the roof, which we were dubious about, because it partially obscures the view of the stars when we camp without the flysheet set. However, in use the panel is very effective and lights up the inside of the tent.
There are two huge gear pockets on either side, easily big enough for all our loose bits and pieces.
We bought compression stuff sacks and they make putting the tent away and carrying it very easy. It takes just a couple of minutes to store it. We’ve got into the habit of storing the fly with the door end outermost in the stuff-sack. That way we don’t have to search for the end when we’re un-stuffing it.
At home we keep the tent loosely packed in a big plastic storage bin. If you are storing your tent for a long time it is recommended that you untension the poles by partially unfolding them. This relieves the tension in the shockcord reducing the risk of the cord breaking.
Getting ready to go out it doesn’t take long to put it in its compression sacks. For car camping we just throw the storage bin in the back of the van.
The fly color has been changed to green, d’oh I’ve come to like the yellow, though green will be much better for stealth camping. The tub floor has been raised significantly addressing comments about rain splash back getting in the tent. This has only been an issue for us when camped on a hard surface like a tent platform. Higher tub sides might cut down on drafts when out in colder weather. Of course for four season camping there is another version available that doesn’t have all that breathable mesh. In raising the tub floor it looks like the gear pockets are now shallower.
This tent has been well looked after, but after ten years, In 2020 we noticed that the flysheet had got tacky and sticky. We contacted MSR several times asking for help and advice. No response.
Any manufacturer that does not respond to customer service requests, and won’t stand by their products should get what they deserve. Based on our experience, we will not be buying any more MSR tents, and I’ll be thinking twice about their other products too (a whisperlite has been on my list for a long time).
Would we still recommend or buy this tent? No. We replaced the Mutha Hubba with a Zpacks Dyneema tent at 24oz. in 2021. — April 2022.