Gear Photos

Gear Review: MSR E-wing 2011

A lightweight two-person tarp with multiple setup options.


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When I first tested this versatile, hexagon-shaped tarp over 2 years ago, I loved it for its light weight and clever end walls (tarp on right). I love the 2011 version even more: It’s twice the size (134 x 78″, tarp on left) and can be pitched two ways..

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In the lean-to pitch (my favorite; use trekking poles, trees, or sticks) there’s plenty of space to shelter 2 campers (with about 6 inches of wiggle room between bags) and ample length for tall guys (up to 6.5 feet). It can also be pitched as an A-frame.

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The best part: The triangular “wings” at each end. This shot shows them deployed perfectly over each end of the shelter, boosting weather tightness. During a light storm in North Carolina, I was was able to hunker back into the lean-to and stay dry.

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Want more head room? If there’s an overhead branch present, a third guyline can be used to pull the roof up from a loop in the center of the tarp. There are 6 webbing loops (one at each corner). Bring extra cord to attach it to trees.

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For a more weather-worthy pitch, use an A-frame configuration. At a campout on the Little River in NC, my gear and I stayed totally dry under a hammering storm.

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Classic tarp problem: No door means wet dogs barge right in. Still, it served me well on a 25-mile AT hike, allowing me to camp in between the permanent (and crowded) trail shelters.

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The tarp is made of a light but tough 30-denier ripstop nylon with a new and improved Durashield polyurethane coating.

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Reinforced stitching on the corners make it more durable and versatile than the old E-Wing, which was designed as an emergency shelter. I’ve used this version dozens of times over 5 months as a gear drying area, dining tarp, and as my primary shelter.

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Six of these cool, square, aluminum stakes come standard. They proved virtually bend-proof, but the dark red color makes them hard to find in the ground.

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Two 68-inch lengths of cord are also standard. The metal guyline tabs work, but I use a tautline hitch making tarp adjustment simple. Setup is easy when you figure it out, but take it for a test run in the yard first.

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The new E-wing (top) packs into a 10 by 3.5-inch stuffsack. Respectable, but definitely not Pepsi can- sized anymore (like the old version, that took forever to get back in its tiny bag, bottom).

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Bottom line: Of all the tarps I’ve tested, this is my favorite so far with its combination of set up styles, the wing features on the lean-to, and the weight-to-space ratio. Twice as big as the old version, and, in my book, twice as better.

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The Stats
Price: $150
Weight: 1lb. 3oz. (manufacturer spec, as packaged)
Packed size: 10 inches by 3.5 inches
cascadedesigns.com

Photos and text by Joe Flowers