Since its launch in 2004 the Hubba Hubba has proved a popular three-season staple for MSR. Now for 2014 this lightweight two person tent has had a redesign (hence NX - Next Generation), slimming down by about 270g in the process to hit a new fighting weight of 1720g. Anyone in the market for a two-berth backpacking tent has a great many models to choose between. Some alternatives easily outdo it for lightness; others are better able to shrug off a storm; a few are cheaper. But as a fair compromise between these competing qualities the Hubba Hubba NX deserves some serious thought.
These days you'd expect a decent two-person three-season backpacking tent to nudge under 2kg; indeed some barely exceed 1kg. While the Hubba Hubba NX's all-in weight of 1720g won't be breaking any records it does place it quite comfortably in about the middle of the field. Shed a few hundred more grams and it's likely you'd have to make some compromises with space or durability.
If you're desperate to lighten up, the Hubba Hubba's standard packed weight can be pared back to a mere 970g by pitching just the fly without the inner - a nice idea for fine weather midge-free camping perhaps.
The standard 1720g is the all-in weight including inner, outer, pole(s), four guys, six pegs, an aluminium tube section for a snapped pole emergency, and of course the tent bag. Carried on your back it's not an onerous weight by any means. I've happily used the Hubba Hubba NX solo, so if you did split the load between two people it would be trivial.
Bagged up, it's an easily packable 48cm or so in length (MSR say 46). The tent bag is excellent too, and well made. Some tents have to be painstakingly rolled up to fit in their stuff sack, but with a wide full-length opening you can just shove this one in willy nilly. Two slim webbing straps then allow you to compress it all down into a neat load.
I'll start with a negative. The Hubba Hubba pitches inside-first. If you're putting it up in the rain this will obviousy result in a wet inner. It's not a deal breaker, and might matter less in the American market (despite MSR's Pacific Northwest heritage), but for all-weather use in the soggy British mountains this is an obvious design flaw.
On the plus side pitching it is quick and easy even, as I've found, if you're alone on a windy day. First peg out the four corners of the inner, with adjustable-length webbing loops (good if you're stabbing around with a peg looking for a rock-free hole). The frame is a sturdy arrangement of DAC Featherlite aluminium poles (most top-end tents seem to use them), shock corded into a single piece that dovetails at each end - the hubbed setup responsible for the daft Hubba Hubba name, presumably. A short cross-piece adds headroom. The pole ends pop into grommets at each corner of the tent, and the inner then hangs from the frame via a series of little plastic clips. In the first few uses these clips have seemed quite robust, but only time will tell. Throw the fly over the top, then fine tune the tension at the corners with more ladder-lock adjusters on slender webbing straps. Peg out the porches and Bob's your uncle. Five minutes, max.
The main body of the tent is a stable, free-standing structure that does not strictly need pegging to give it shape. The porches at each side do need to be pegged out however. Unlike the flimsy pins that some manufacturers use (to achieve a lower headline tent weight, one suspects) the Mini Groundhog pegs supplied here are superb - robust enough for rocky ground, effective even in soft ground, and for my money perfectly light enough. Their sharp tops are murder on the hands, so I stamp them in with a boot. Given its three-season remit the tent's four guy points are sufficient, but once you've staked out the tent with the six pegs supplied then there aren't any spare for guying (come on MSR, that looks stingy).
By the standards of a small backpacking tent, the headroom is generous. On paper the Hubba Hubba's 1m internal height is on a par with several competitors, but unlike some of the more slopey alternatives the Hubba Hubba's square-ish symmetrical shape means that more of the inside has decent headroom. I'm six feet tall, and can sit straight up and shuffle about comfortably. There's plenty of length lying down too, 213cm of it. I'm less impressed with the 127cm width, which is a bit intimate for two broad shouldered occupants. However similar tents all seem to be in roughly the same ballpark here. At least the Hubba Hubba's floor has a square footprint, not tapered as on many other tent designs, so space is uniform throughout.
In terms of living room another bonus of the Hubba Hubba NX is the door at each side. With a personal entrance each there's no awkward climbing over your pal in the night. Elbow room may be on the tight side inside, but there's loads of space for gear storage and cooking in the porches - especially considering the fact that you've one apiece. Back in the inner, there's just one small mesh pocket at each end - sufficient for all your loose knicknacks, but not excessive. For a compact tent the Hubba Hubba NX is very livable.
In blustery conditions the tent's stability is reassuring, no particular angle seeming to catch the wind unduly. I might not choose to pitch it up a hill in a winter hoolie, but with its four guys and generally robust construction the Hubba Hubba can certainly shrug off a fair bit of weather.
In my (albeit limited) experience of American-designed tents the bottom of the flysheet sits quite high, rather than close to the ground, and this MSR offering conforms to the stereotype. If your chief concern is to get a bit of airflow in the heat of a Californian summer then a high fly has obvious advantages. Those of us who are more worried about wind-blown rain, snow or midge swarms might be a little less convinced. It's not a big deal however. While we're talking ventilation, there's tons of it: the inner is about half mesh, and in addition to the door at each side the Hubba Hubba also boasts a large vent at either end. These can be closed securely, or held open with a little 'kick stand'. Another nice touch is that the vestibules can roll part-way up from the bottom, to increase airflow still further. All this venting is welcome in warm weather, and should help keep condensation to a bare minimum too. It would however feel pretty drafty in cold windy conditions. Think three seasons and you'll be fine.
More important, from a British perspective, is how the Hubba Hubba NX copes in the rain. When I first received it to test I was a little concerned by MSR's own figures for the waterproofness of the fabric: 1200mm hydrostatic head for the fly and 3000mm for the groundsheet don't look like big numbers compared to many tents of a similar spec.
Well the first thing to bear in mind here is that with no globally agreed industry testing standard, these on-paper comparisons don't necessarily hold much water.
I asked MSR to clarify. Here's what they told me:
'[In] every other market except Europe, the rating is around 1000-1500mm for rainflies and 3000mm for floors.'
'While our tent designers recognize that the perception is that a higher number equals being more waterproof, their extensive quality testing does not support that theory. A thicker coating may increase the mm rating, but at the expense of fabric tear strength. As fabrics become increasingly lighter to meet demand, tear strength becomes even more important to the durability of a tent. MSR's goal is to balance waterproofness, weight, and strength in every tent they make.'
'Our extensive in-the-field testing takes place in a very wet climate similar to Britain's (Seattle, Washington); we do not get wet in our tents, and stand behind their durability.'
Clearly what matters more than dry figures is how the thing performs on a soggy hillside, and here I've no complaints to make of either the floor or the fly. In the rain the Hubba Hubba's rigid steep-sided design comes into its own, preventing any water from pooling. Having used the tent in wet weather, and then sprayed it with a garden hose for good measure, I've yet to see either a drip from overhead or a seep from beneath. If the forecast was for rain I'd be as happy packing this as any other tent in the Bailey collection. Happier, in some cases. After all, with plenty of headtoom inside you can sit out a downpour in relative comfort here.
Among three season backpacking tents this is not the lightest, it's not the cheapest, and neither is it likely to prove the very toughest in a storm. But what the Hubba Hubba NX does offer is a good balance of these characteristics. More notable still is its excellent space-to-weight ratio, which has to be up there with the best in its class. This is a very livable tent, with a decent amount of room for two smelly hikers and all their kit. It is cleverly designed and well built too.
For a look at the design and testing process that went into the Hubba Hubba NX see the MSR website here