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MSR Missing Link

rated 3.0 of 5 stars

The Missing Link has been discontinued. If you're looking for something new, check out the best three-season tents for 2023.

photo: MSR Missing Link three-season tent

I just traded it in @ MSR for a Fast Stash and a fist full of stickers! Over 5 years my Missing Link devolved from my go-to summer tent to my Punk's backpacking palace / loaner to friends. Finally succumbing to internal stickiness combined with embedded sand, I embrace the memories of my backpacking evolution that the Missing Link helped to see me through.


  • 3lb weight
  • MSR's customer service/ warranty
  • Massive size


  • Ungainly footprint/ guy out,
  • Condensation in the spring/ fall
  • Eventual fabric failure

I bought this tent years ago off of REI-outlet for $125 or so. My purchase was a reaction to having just tasted, as a family of four, a 3km section of the Juan de Fuca trail (Parkinson Main to Payzant Creek) on Vancouver Island totally unprepared, lugging along a 4-man Coleman tent... We had an amazing time, but I swore never to do it that way again... The Missing Link and an old Jones pup tent for the kids would be the beginning of my embrace of the "New Way".

I never had too much trouble setting up the ML solo, though getting it nicely taught always took some fiddling. Before I had trekking poles, I harvested a thrift shop tent for its poles and cut them to length (54" if memory serves) to use. 

I echo the comments of previous reviewers about the stickiness and off gassing that developed after a few years. We were getting prepped for our big trip this year (5 days, 4 nights at Cape Scott, an around 60 km round trip to the NW tip of Vancouver Island) and my kids were understandably reticent about going inside of the ML... I set it up to air out and added some fresh lavender flowers before packing it. There was no complaint about the smell on the trip, and the kids slept in every day (Lavender is amazing...) Unfortunately, the sand discipline of my kids left something to be desired, and when we got home sand was fully embedded in the material.

Having read a review on the MEC (Mountain Equipment Co-op) site about the MSR Fast Stash and how the reviewer had received it as a replacement for the ML, I emailed MSR in mid August. The respondent readily admitted the problem and offered the Fast Stash as a replacement if I would ship the ML to Seattle... It turned out that we were heading that way to visit my Grandmother, so I took the ML to Cascade Designs, was handed the FS and, when I asked, a dozen MSR stickers... The tech I talked to there said that they had had only a few MLs returned, but many of the early Hubba series with the same problem, which has been rectified.

The week before heading down to Seattle, my son and I headed out on a quick one nighter back to Payzant Creek (approaching from the north this time, 14km round trip, from Botanical Beach) to send off the ML in style. I oriented the door into the NW breeze, left the top of the door open over night and felt for condensation in the morning. It was bone dry.

Though I had a heavy heart trading the ML in, I set up the Fast Stash yesterday, and I am more than pleased with the upgrade, although I am feeling overly protective of it... I immediately ordered the footprint for $34 from MEC, compared to $40 from REI or MSR... And my kids are going to have to wait to step inside it unescorted for quite a few years...

Source: bought it new
Price Paid: $125

Bought off eBay. Seller lied about condition so I decided to fix it. Missing Link is hard to find. Great design, only 3lbs...

The Missing Link is DONE! Wow..It came out great.


  • Very sturdy and light


  • Need more tie outs
  • Color

I bought the ML off of eBay with waterproofing in bad shape. Two bottles of rubbing alcohol, one cup of Dawn, and about 5 gallons of warm water. Do this in your tub or large bin. Let the tent soak for about three hours then rinse completely.

Not all urethane will come off. That's OK. Dry overnight. Seam seal and then apply a poly coat from AquaSeal. Its a lot of work and it takes time. I took pics and recorded this procedure. So far so good.

This was a very interesting project. It took a lot of time and effort but it was worth. I first tried 2 gallons of vinegar and warm water to strip the poly off. It started to ball up the poly coating but did not remove it. I was able to lightly rub some of it off with a Scotch Brite pad.

McNett has a video saying how to use rubbing alcohol, Dawn and warm water. I used 70% alcohol-2 jugs, one cup of Dawn and very warm water in a 15 gallon tub. Soaked this for 3 hrs. Rinse the tent numerous times. The polyurethane appeared to actually dissolve. It took a lot of it off but not all. Dried the Missing Link overnight.

I worked off of a folding table. Seam sealed first then applied the new poly in sections. It actually turned out great. Drying took up time and space. It took me 4-5 days total.

Source: bought it used
Price Paid: $57

I would have given this tent 4 stars a short time ago for the size-to-weight ratio along with easy of pitch.

The minor problems I saw were the slight condensation and the 13 feet needed on the back side to set it up. Then I pulled it out of my controlled storage room a week ago and found pure stickiness on all the inner surfaces, so then I checked out my Hubba Hubba and found the same stickiness on the inside of that silnylon rainfly. So it looks as if MSR has a problem.

I did buy my tents at REI so they went back. I only hope that the Carbon Reflex I bought this spring doesn't develop the same problem.

My message needs to get to the folks at MSR: we expect better from you!!!

Price Paid: $189

I used the tent twice and liked the design. It is very light and easy to setup.

Problem after setting on a shelf for a year it melted. It delaminated, became very sticky and lost waterproofing. I guess its material was just too light to be usefull. If it can't sit in my climate controlled house without melting it just isn't a useful tool for me.

Design: three seasons
Sleeps: 2
Ease of Setup: easy
Weight: 3 lb.
Price Paid: $180

I bought this tent when I lived in Alaska (2002 to 2009). I used it all over Alaska and found it to be relatively waterproof...sealing worked well but I backed it up anyway.

It was lite but I only use it for myself. The one time I had a guest it was a tedium to make it to the bathroom if you were on the side away from the door.
You have to climb over the person closest to the door.

That night we were in BC near Barkerville (5000 feet) and the temp dropped to about freezing. Condensation in the morning was profound...If there is no wind then condensation occurs due to lack of venting.

2 months later I was in the Little Missouri Grassland in the ND badlands and the tent performed like a champ (105 degrees). In a high wind field where it is dry you get good results.

It has never rained when I was out with this one but I have only used single wall tents for the last 30 years,(I have 2 other A frame tents).

This is an excellent tent for the prairie due to the high wind field. Now that I have relocated to ND I have an improved value of this was not so good in the elevated regions of AK nor BC. As I plan to hike the prairie and the Southwest this will work for me.

I think if I go to the mountains or rainy clime I might try something else. Great weight ratio...even with poles.

I expect to make this my primary tent for the time being!

Design: Baker with modification
Sleeps: 1
Ease of Setup: simple
Weight: 3 pounds
Price Paid: @185

I was impressed with this tent for the first year and a couple of uses as a backup against full huts. Light, dry, roomy. But then the walls melted and MSR don't respond.

We took it out for a three week walk through central Australia and all the interior surfaces were sticky, like a post-it note. Look closely at the material with a bright light, like a full moon, and you could see thousands of pinholes where, I assume, the waterproofing has detached from the nylon. The tent looks as waterproof as indian cotton but at least it didn't rain on us in the centre. Another plus was carrymats not sliding around!

If anyone has any suggestions for fixing it, we'd appreciate some comments, but I won't be buying another MSR tent for a while.

Design: rain free season
Sleeps: 2
Ease of Setup: simple with trek poles
Weight: 1.?kg

I love it. The weight/space ratio sold me on it. The only problem I had was when I camped in an area where there had been a fire, it was impossible to find branches or trees to pitch it properly, so it was a little droopy one night. But the size and weight savings allow me to hike alone and camp with my large dog and gear inside the tent. No condensation problems. Worked well in cold weather, near freezing temps and I was warm in the tent.

Sleeps: 2
Ease of Setup: Very easy
Weight: < 3 lbs.

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.

Design: Three-season single-wall "lean-to" with awning
Sleeps: 2
Ease of Setup: Easy with proper site selection
Weight: 3 lbs
Price Paid: $180

In the two years that I have had it--I was blown away. Not literally beause the Missing Link gives such protection to the wind. I used this to hike a 6-day 68-mile hike to Maccu-Piccu and it held up well to the rain, was easy to set up, and was roomy enough for two people and their gear. At $219 I was a bit taken aback because I am normally money conscious. But for this value I would suggest buying it for every serious hiker you know.

Design: backpacking shelter for everything
Sleeps: 2
Ease of Setup: took about 2 minutes of set up
Weight: 3 lbs
Price Paid: $219

Like most tents, it excels in some areas but has some weaknesses.

PRO: lite weight! plenty of room, water tight.

CON: condensation unless well ventilated (fully open screen, or a breeze). Siliconized nylon has a funky smell that relegates my storage to the garage. My treking poles don't extend long enough to fully utilize the tent's height.

Design: unique
Sleeps: 2
Ease of Setup: easy once you learn how, unique footprint takes some work to cut a good ground cloth

Bought this last summer as an experiment. Was captivated by the design and the thought of toting 3 pounds for a tent with this much head and leg room (I am 6' 5" and can sit straight up). I was concerned about having to take trekking poles on every trip so I had held off on buying this tent. One day in a gear shop they had a tent pole from a Mountain Hardwear Skyview 2 that had the last pole section bent. It was in the clearance bin for $1 and the lightbulb came on. I bought it, cut the elastic out (not needed as the pole is vertical) and now I use 2 full and one shortened pole for each end, adding only 2.5 oz to the weight instead of 1 lb 6 oz for trekking poles I rarely use.

Strengths are 1: incredible space to weight ratio. It is long enough for me at 6' 5" to sleep with gear in one corner at my feet and still put my arms above my head. Unheard of in backpacking tents. Since there is not a fully enclosed vestibule you can be assured that 2 people, all gear and my 75 lb. lab have all fit inside comfortably. Remember 3lbs for all of this space! Amazing as well is the packed size, my wife has bigger purses.

2. The awning/door combination. It's like having a front porch. I can't name another tent you can sit in and look out at a thunderstorm while staying dry. This awning avoids the common pitfall of water entering the tent upon entry/exit. If you are lucky enough to have a view at your site you and your hiking partner can sit side by side in the door and enjoy an unobstructed view. In the Tetons we watched a sunset in Alaska Basin peering out from under the rain clouds that was amazing. Entry is extremely easy even in stormy weather.

3. Ventilation: Not a strength you expect from a single wall tent but the huge mesh panel in the door is covered by the awning and can remain at least 1/2 open in any weather. Add the peak vent under the awning/front porch and the low vent on the back side to make this an excellent airy tent. In calm, humid conditions I do get some condensation under the peak but it is less than I have had on my double walls in similar conditions.

4. Price: At 220 suggested retail it is a screaming bargain.

5. Wet weather pitch: This tent avoids the common pitfall of getting your tent's insides all wet during set up in foul weather

My few "opportunities"

With two people the lower vent gets blocked by the person in the back of the tent, little effect though due to the screen door zipper panel being covered by the awning. This person also has little headroom.

With the door fully open, since it is "hinged" at the bottom it can get trampled into the dirt if not careful, a point to take note of in the wettest conditions. Open it "in" and all is well. And as all "side door" configurations, you must climb over your hiking partner if their bladder capacity exceeds yours and you are in the "back" side.

Also the guy lines for the awning can be a trip hazard on midnight nature calls. MSR uses reflective flecks in the lines for this though. Very thoughtful.

Lastly the stakes. In very soft soil I use other stakes. The MSR provided stakes are the lightest imaginable but not efficient in soft soils.

The few very minor complaints are quickly forgotten when you carry and live in this tent. It has very quickly become the tent I take everywhere, even replacing my Sierra designs lightyear for solo hikes. For the same weight as a solo tent it is a palace. Set it up in the store to be sure you will like the design. I know you will like the space and weight.

Design: tarp meets tent? not freestanding
Sleeps: 2
Ease of Setup: practice once at home and its a breeze
Weight: 3 lbs 0 oz
Price Paid: $205

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