MSR Thru-Hiker 70 Wing – Simple and Effective
Out in western Colorado where I test most of my gear, rain is scarce but intense when it comes, so carrying a full tent is usually overkill but it is still nice to have a lightweight shelter handy.
MSR Thru-Hiker 70 Wing Review
Enter the Mountain Safety Research Thru-Hiker 70 Wing, the quintessential minimalist backpacking shelter. Ideal for sleeping 1-3 people, the 70 Wing cuts down on frills to fit into the lightest and smallest package while maintaining function and reliability, perfect for long-distance missions, ultra-light packing, and (in my case) as a solid back-up shelter for those finicky desert showers. For my testing, I took the MSR Thru-Hiker 70 Wing out on several backpacking trips around the canyons of western Colorado, and couple overnight kayaking trips on the Gunnison and Animas rivers.
For me, the appeal of the Thru-Hiker 70-Wing begins with its packability. The 70 Wing packs down smaller than a standard 1 Liter Nalgene bottle, measuring 9” by 4.5” packed, and weighs in at 12 ounces. The wing’s minimal size made it so easy to toss in the pack on those “I don’t think the forecast had rain…” type of trips, requiring very little backpack space or weight in exchange for the peace of mind. Of course, the forecast doesn’t always pan out so well.
Setting up the Thru-hiker 70 wing is relatively simple but also allows for some creativity. On the simple side, the wing has a built-in cord at each corner as well as at the roof’s center lines allowing for a simple tree-to-tree A-frame set-up. If trees are not an option, the wing’s center cord-eyelets are compatible with the tip of a hiking pole, so you can pitch the wing with a single hiking pole or one at each end.
Tapping into my creativity, I used my kayaking paddle on one trip in lieu of a hiking pole. For added ease and versatility, the cord at the four corners has a built-in cinch reducing the need for fancy knots, and extra tie-down/stake loops along the edges. All attachment points have extra reinforcing fabric/stitching for added durability.
Set up, the 70-Wing sleeps comfortably sleeps 1-3 people, with a floor space of 9.5’ by 8’. I was usually sleeping solo or with one other under the 70-Wing and I thought there was a nice amount of space for people and gear, but I could see adding a third person if you’re looking to pack extra light or really counting on it not raining.
I also preferred to set the wing up in a half-pyramid shape with just one raised end and the other 3 sides as close to the ground as possible for the best rain-wind protection, which I think suited 1-2 people better, otherwise, with a third, I think it would be more comfortable with the wing raised on both ends and off the ground some. Personal choice here. Also, if you’re having a hard time visualizing it in the moment, MSR has included a small set-up instruction panel sewn into the stuff sack.
As for protection, the Thru-hiker 70-Wing provides much more than the average tarp. To start, the Wing’s fabric is a 20D ripstop nylon with MSR’s Xtreme Shield™ polyurethane & silicone coating good for 1200 mm of water pressure before leaking. What this translates to is a very supple and durable fabric with some heavy-duty waterproofing.
In action, one of the first things I noticed was the amount of heat the wing holds when set up tight to the ground, adding a considerable amount of warmth. Furthermore, I was pleased with the level of wind protection in the low set up, though it is a little more important to consider aiming the open end downwind for best results. Of course, out of all the nights I spent out I was only rained on once and briefly after many other idle threats, however, the material did wonderfully, beading up and moving easily off the edges with no interior moisture.
If insects or other night-time surprises are an issue for you, the Thru-Hiker 70 Wing is designed to pair well with MSR’s Thru-Hiker Mesh houses, which come in one, two, and three-person sizes. Similarly, if the 70-wing just doesn’t quite seem like enough space, MSR makes the Thru-Hiker 100 Wing which is about a foot longer and wider than the 70 and friendlier for that third person.
Although I usually prefer to sleep out under the stars and leave the tent weight at home if I can, my inner boy scout says I ought to be prepared and so I found the 70-Wing fit that niche quite well for my purposes. The Thru-Hiker 70 Wing is light and small, easy to toss in the pack, and designed with simplicity and function in mind. Whether you’re trying to cut down pack weight, to keep it simple, or to just have a more functional emergency shelter, the Thru-Hiker 70 Wing will be ready.
A transplant of the Midwest, Austen immigrated to the promised land of western Colorado in 2012 in search of good climbing, deep snow, quality rivers, and a college degree when his goofing off allowed. He learned pretty quick the difference quality gear can make on the outcome of a day (or days) in the mountains and began looking for the best gear to abuse.
In the summer Austen is an avid whitewater kayaker, bouncing his boat down the steep, rocky waterways of Colorado, trad climber in search of the route less traveled, and works as a federal river ranger along the Gunnison River. During the winter Austen spends his time telemarking around the backcountry of western Colorado and working as a ski patroller up on the continental divide.
Austen says, “A hundred days of skiing and paddling each per year and you’ll figure out what is wrong or right with your equipment, especially when your lively-hood depends on it.” Austen also has his American Avalanche Association Professional Level 1 avalanche certification, EMT-B, and ACA swift-water rescue cert, as well as a member of the Search and Rescue team in Gunnison County for 6 years.