MSR Elixir 3 Review

When looking for a tent designed for spacious livability that can stand up to the rigors of Mother Nature, the MSR Elixir 3 definitely needs to be on the radar. Its unique pole designed for extra headroom, paired with its high level of durability, makes this tent a livable option to last years.

Quick Summary

  • Where to buy: Amazon
  • Best for: 3-person backpacking in Spring, Summer, and Fall
  • Pros: A spacious design that is enough to comfortably fit three people, highly durable design that allows it to be weather resistant and well-ventilated at the same time
  • Cons: Heavier than other 3-person backpacking tents, only three-season and doesn’t perform very well in the snow
  • Alternatives: Marmot Limelight 3P, Mutha Hubba NX, REI Half Dome 3

Detailed Review

Size and Design

The innovative pole design on the MSR Elixir 3 delivers a huge amount of headspace that works to make this tent a comfortable size for three to sleep in, or for two and their gear inside. On top of the huge amount of headspace, the floor itself is just under 40 square feet. The dimensions of 68 inches by 84 inches allows for the taller ones of us to fit comfortably. A tent that fits taller people, and three of them, is a rare find.

The issue is the 68 inches in width. Three full grown adults side by side tent to take up a bit more than 68 inches without really cozying up next to each other. If that’s your crew, then this is perfect, but some like their shoulder and elbow room to freely move around in their sleep.

While the floor space of the tent isn’t at the top of its class, it does boast a rather large amount of room. It is second in square footage of MSR’s three-person tents, and definitely top of its class in headroom.

The pole system is a freestanding design that utilizes a top cross bar that expands the highest point of the tent from side to side. It’s this feature that makes this tent so livable. If you are stuck in the rain and don’t leave the tent for the entire morning, afternoon, or day, sitting up comfortably is easy to do. At its center, the tent is 41 inches high. Because of its dome shape, the height gradually decreases and those that aren’t sleeping center can sit up.

Weather Protection

While this is just a three-season tent, it performs incredibly well when put up against the elements. For starters, the flooring is 70D taffeta nylon 3000mm polyurethane with a DWR coating, and the rainfly is made of 68D ripstop polyester 1500mm polyurethane with the DWR coating. These material names and numbers don’t mean much on the surface. To simplify, the rainfly is thinner because it has gravity and the shedding of water to help out, and the floor needs to be thicker both for protection from the ground and standing water.

The tent has specific features that also help out in the rain. The floor connects a bit higher around the edges in a bathtub design. This means that the thicker, more waterproof fabric has a lip around the bottom of the tent so any heavier flow of water or puddles will have more difficulty getting up over the tub’s edge. This does however mean that if water is brought in, there is no space for drainage, just like a bathtub.

The structure of the tent body itself also helps to keep rain shedding efficiently and away from the tent. The rain fly creates two vestibules of 30 inches, meaning water gets taken pretty far from the sides of the tent. With all these design features, the MSR Elixir 3 is great for rain. Chances are good that you will stay dry as long as you know how to effectively set up your tent away from areas prone to puddling and flash flooding.

On top of shedding water effectively and creating more headspace, the dome structure also creates a solid defense against stronger winds. The dome means there are less flat surfaces, and less spaces to turn your tent into a sail and get carried off by the wind. Rather, wind hits the tent and will curve around and off it.

Ventilation is often looked past when thinking of the weather resistance of a tent. Ventilation both helps you stay cool in hot summer days, and stay warm and dry in the cold of late fall or early winter. The MSR Elixir 3 has a surprisingly effective ventilation system at the same time as having a lower mesh to fabric ratio in the tent body. This means that your breath will vent out effectively, not build up, freeze, and turn your tent into an icebox.

The MSR Elixir 3 is pretty high up the list of weatherproof tents. I have been in this tent on snow and in the heavy rainfall of Southeast Alaska, three adults sleeping side by side, and have woken up dry and warm.

Ease of Use

Most freestanding tent designs are simple to use. They are the classic tent that most boys and girls learn in the Scouts program or their parents teach them to set up. The Elixir 3 doesn’t really differ much here. The poles, the corners of the rainfly, and the tent body are color-coded for easy setup even without a partner.

The one thing that maybe adds to the ease of use is the glow-in-the-dark zipper pulls. This is advertised to help livability, but in all reality, if you are getting out of the tent in the dark, you probably will be bringing a headlamp regardless.

Price and Value

The MSR Elixir 3 is a high-quality three-person tent that comes at a reasonable price tag. The mid to lower-end cost delivers high-quality materials and a build that keeps you warm and dry without sacrificing space. For the price of a fancier hotel room for one, the Elixir 3 will bring years of enjoyment to a small family or couple that just wants a little more space.

What I like

I’m 6’3” and have lived in tents two short for me for extended periods of time, forced to sleep diagonally. The first time I slept in an Elixir 3, I was shocked to find that I could lay flat without both my head and toes pushing out on the tent body. I comfortably stayed in this tent for four nights with two other adults, but our gear also stayed outside.

On top of its size, I love the way this tent can stand up to harsher weather. A lot of people say that this tent is not for winter, and I agree that it isn’t designed for it, but if you are caught in a heavier snowstorm, it will perform better than most other three-season tents in the snow. I slept on top of 6+ feet of snow in the Elixir 3 and stayed both warm and dry.

What I dislike

At 7.03 pounds, the MSR Elixir 3 is pretty heavy compared to many other three-person backpacking tents. It can easily be split up amongst three packs, but when carrying it alone it adds a hefty weight to your gear system. The trade-off, of course, is the durable and weatherproof fabric. It just adds a lot of weight and sometimes that isn’t really worth it.

There are also a lot of other tents out there that give the option to have a larger amount of floor area. I tend to sleep on my side or curled up, but for those that prefer to starfish, a larger square footage will make for happier tentmates.

The Alternatives

If the cons outweigh the pros for you, there are some other options in high-quality three-person tents both from MSR and other brands.

  • Marmot Limelight 3P: This alternative gives you an additional 7 inches in height at the tallest point, as well as an extra 6 inches in length. What to keep in mind is that the cross bar of the Elixir 3 helps to spread that height out across the entire width of the tent while the Limelight has a less gradual slope down.
  • MSR Mutha Hubba NX: If weight is what really gets you down about the Elixir 3, the Mutha Hubba is worth checking out. The Mutha Hubba weighs in at only 4.8 pounds, nearly 2.3 pounds lighter. For the hikers that count every ounce, 2.3 pounds is huge. The sacrifice that is made for lighter weight is the reduced amount of durability. The Elixir 3 is much more durable than the Mutha Hubba, which makes it a strong contender and can make you want to carry that extra weight.
  • REI Half Dome 3 Plus: The REI Half Dome 3 Plus may have the biggest edge on the Elixir 3. It takes the cake in price, weight, and is utilizing the same crossbar method that increases overall height of the tent. The Half Dome 3 Plus weighs 6 pounds 6 ounces, its highest point is 46 inches, almost a full pound lighter and 5 inches higher than the Elixir 3. The drawback here is that while it comes in around $20 cheaper, the footprint is sold separately for about twice that. The Elixir 3 comes with the footprint included.


What are the packed away dimensions?

Full packed away, the tent measures out to be 20 inches in length by 8 inches in diameter.

What year model is this?

The most recent model available is the 2018. The 2017 comes with a white canopy.

What accessories are included?

In addition to the tent it comes with everything that is needed for the setup, there is a footprint, guy lines, and stakes that come along with it. There are also corner pockets and an overhead pocket inside of the tent which allows for a large amount of storage inside.

Final Verdict

The MSR Elixir 3 is a fantastic three-person, three-season tent. It is incredibly durable and has a high build quality, as MSR is a well-renowned company that knows what they’re doing. If you are looking for a roomy tent for 2 larger adults, or three medium-sized humans, maybe two adults and a dog, or just one person that takes up the whole bed, this is a great option. It’s not prime for three larger adults and would be worth bumping up to a 4 person tent.

This tent performs well even in the fourth season and can stand up to torrential downpours in some of the most demanding environments. To get this and space, you need to commit to hauling around a lofty 7-pound tent and for some, this isn’t worth it. For me, I would recommend this tent to most seasoned backpackers not going out for much longer than a week and are with a friend that can split the weight.

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