Gear I Hold Dear: My MSR Hubba Hubba Tent

You learn a lot about yourself over the course of 20 years. And one co-op member’s beloved tent has been there through it all.

When I was 22, anything was possible. I was just learning who I was. I liked work that made my body strong. I liked sharing intimate moments that let me believe we’d be friends forever. I liked having my own space. I liked sleeping outdoors.

I definitely liked my new MSR Hubba Hubba 2 tent.

Two doors, good headroom, light enough for me to haul solo, roomy enough to share with a friend, freestanding and a breeze to set up, clever options for using just the mesh or just the fly, an orange color that filtered sunlight into happiness. The more I used it, the more I knew I had chosen well.

MSR Hubba Hubba NX 2 Tent

The 2020 version of the author’s tent—the MSR Hubba Hubba NX 2—weighs a shade under 4 pounds and serves up 29 square feet of floor space, along with two vestibules.

In 2004—our first year together—I graduated from college and spent the summer and fall as an intern with the National Park Service in Yellowstone, where my Hubba Hubba served as a launchpad for weekend adventures. In 2005 and 2006, I joined the Utah Conservation Corps and lived in my tent for weeks at a time. I would toss down the single, hubbed pole and it would click, click, click into place. That’s how I wanted my life to feel.

Some nights, I snuggled in with a pile of books I kept in the corner. Other nights, I slept out under the stars, learning the constellations and my place in the world, knowing I could always crawl back inside if I got cold or wet. Because inside, I found space. Possibility. Refuge. The Hubba Hubba was like a cocoon, and inside it, a metamorphosis happened.

Toward the end of 2006, I started dating someone who also found reprieve outside. And when we set off on a two-month road trip across the West, it was his REI Co-op Quarter Dome that won its way into our packs. It was slightly lighter than my Hubba Hubba, if way less comfortable, I’d like to point out. We backpacked on the Olympic Peninsula, in North Cascades National Park, in Wyoming’s Wind River Range, in Escalante-Grand Staircase National Monument. We slept in his tent nearly every night.

In 2011, we moved to Colorado and got married. I landed a job in the outdoor industry and began trying a new tent nearly every trip we took, learning to set it up in the front yard or the living room right before we left. Some tents were truly terrible. Many were impressive in their lightness, their features, their all-weather designs. He loved the featherweight, cramped options. I still loved efficient space.

But whenever I went somewhere alone, not walking too far, I’d pull out that old sense of home.

Old MSR Hubba Hubba 2

The writer’s 2004 MSR Hubba Hubba 2 stands sentinel in Big Bend National Park, Texas.

Summer 2018: divorce. We are splitting the gear closet as we are splitting our lives. I leave him two newer backpacking tents. Of course, the Hubba Hubba comes with me. It is suddenly, for the first time in more than a decade, my prime backpacking tent again.

Luckily, her fly is in good shape; I replaced it in about 2010. Her zippers are delicate now, and there are a few small holes in the mesh. The snap in her poles is a little tired, and she’s not the lightest on the market anymore, not by far.

But she still holds that same magic for me. That same sense of home, of possibility. Good things happen here. I know this with all my heart.

On my first solo trip after the divorce, I wail into the forest, grieving what I’ve lost. Then I snuggle in to my new-old cocoon, waiting to see what next will be born.

For more odes about our favorite stuff, check our Gear I Hold Dear series.