User Review: MSR Missing Link
Design: Three-season single-wall "lean-to" with awning
Ease of Setup: Easy with proper site selection
Weight: 3 lbs
Price Paid: $180
This was my first foray into the lightweight-tent world. The Missing Link only weighs about three pounds and packs down to the size of a large loaf of bread (maybe two small loaves side-by-side). It's extremely easy to pitch as long as you have a suitable site for stakes (I've not tried tying it to trees and rocks, though that seems like a dicey proposition at best). With a little practice, you can pitch it in maybe three or four minutes, tops.
The only problem with pitching is that I can never get the front side under the awning to pitch taut; it sags no matter what I do, making unzipping the door flap a two-handed operation. A minor irritant.
Once pitched, though, this tent is very stable and quite spacious. I love the front awning. It doesn't protect quite as well as a full vestibule, but it's great for sitting out of the rain waiting out a storm. In fact, three buddies and me once had to wait out one in the San Juans at 12,000 feet, and all of us managed to cram under it in reasonable comfort. The front of my Missing Link also ended up being the "town square" for our trip, since the width of the tent, plus the protection of the awning, made a great place to get out of the wind.
Speaking of wind, I have found the Missing Link to be excellent in foul weather. It's made it through rain, sleet, snow, and howling (30+ mph) winds, and worked like a champ. There was some flapping in the wind, but once the extra side guylines are secured with the rest, I felt quite safe.
One downside to this design is that to get proper ventilation and avoid condensation, tent orientation and placement is critical. It is very important to use a stake or stick to raise up the rear flap to allow maximum airflow. There is a vent along the front wall under the awning, but typically I will also leave the door partially open. With careful placement and pitching, though, I find condensation to be minor considering the single-wall design. I've only had a couple of nights (both with heavy rain) where condensation became what I'd call uncomfortable. On the flip side, I have not experienced any leaking, and haven't bothered to seal any of the seams.
The other drawback of this tent's layout is that while it's very spacious in the front, and very wide (with big corners for your gear), the sloping wall means the back of the tent can feel tight unless you pull the rear guyline VERY taut. Most of the time I'm the only occupant, but with two people this could be a concern. Also, one door means that same person has to crawl over the other to answer nature's call.
Caveats aside, the Missing Link is a great tent with huge space for its weight. If you don't need a freestanding tent and frequently camp in reasonably dry climes, the Missing Link is worth a look. Not really an "ultralight" shelter, but much better than most conventional double-walls (the gap is closing fast, though). It's much different than most designs--you might want to check it out to see if you like it.