Tarp-like Tent offers Headroom, ample space Inside

The Fast Stash tent from MSR is just barely a tent. The company calls it a “minimalist shelter,” and it can be set up with trekking poles to save weight on a backpacking trip.

Its design roots come from tarp setups where sheets of nylon are hung on cordage strung between trees. For the Fast Stash, you stake it out tight at all corners (the shelter is not freestanding) and then prop it up with poles that fit in corners under the awning on the outside.

At a weight just less than 3 pounds without poles, the Fast Stash is light but not “ultralight” in our book. (The included poles and stakes put the tent at about 4 pounds.) But for that weight you get ample interior space — 82 cubic feet, or enough to fit two big guys plus their gear.

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MSR’s Minimal Fast Stash tent

During a weeklong trip in Alaska this summer, I lived out of the Fast Stash. Its single-wall construction was perfect on my stay, which included not a drop of rain. (Great for travel, not ideal for a gear test.)

Single-wall tents save on weight, but condensation is often an issue inside. We have read other reports on this tent that say the same for the Fast Stash — moisture will build up on the inside walls if the tent is sealed tight with people breathing inside, or during rainy or humid weather.

To remedy, MSR gave the tent ventilation on nearly all sides. Large mesh windows open up on either end. The door is huge and serves as another outlet.

A slight overhang above the door provides protection from water dripping inside. But in a gale this tent will not be as watertight as vestibule-equipped models.

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The Fast Stash, sides folded for foul weather

As noted, the Fast Stash’s design is not freestanding. It’s critical to have solid stake placements. Setup is not difficult once you’re used to it, but it does require more effort than with a freestanding model.

Its shape is odd and boxy. This design gives great room inside, but it also presents a non-aerodynamic wall to wind. Make sure to consider wind direction when putting this shelter up in an exposed place.

The tent’s unusual shape includes a dramatically sloping wall and makes headroom an issue for whoever sleeps on the inside. There’s a wall right above your head if you sit up. It’s best to store gear toward the back and sleep close to the door.

A single door helps keep weight down, but that also requires that the camper on the inside step over the one closest to the door to exit. Nighttime bathroom breaks can be tricky.


MSR tutorial video on Fast Stash

At its 2 pound, 14 ounce weight, the shelter is not super light. Add poles and stakes and the tent packs up at about 4 pounds, as noted. Serious ultralight backpackers will see these figures as too much.

So who is the Fast Stash made for? Basically, it’s a shelter for backpackers who want ample interior room. There’s almost 4 feet of headroom in its tallest place, letting you crouch comfortably to futz with gear or cook out the door.

At $300, the Fast Stash is high priced compared to a backpacking tarp setup, which it ostensibly was made to replace. But the price tag is about where it ought to be for a tent of this quality — MSR uses bomber materials and construction made to last.

While it may not be a weight weenie’s dream tent, the interior space of the Fast Stash is appealing. An ideal buyer might be a camper looking to save some weight but not at the expense of sparing too much in the comfort department.

During my testing so far, it’s been great to have the elbow room and extra space for my gear and even a dog inside. If you’re tired of cramped quarters but don’t want a big weight penalty for the room, the Fast Stash could be the shelter for you.

T.C. Worley is a contributing editor.

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