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Philmont-approved: MSR Thunder Ridge tent now available for purchase

If you or your Scouts have pitched a tent at Philmont Scout Ranch in the past three years, it’s likely you slept under the stars in a brand-new MSR Thunder Ridge tent. PhilmontThunderRidge2

With the help of outdoor-industry leader MSR, the high-adventure base created its very own backpacking shelter designed specifically for heavy use and high-altitude conditions.

And it’s this durability that makes Thunder Ridge appealing for active troops and crews across the country, which is why Philmont now offers the tent ($449.99) for purchase through Tooth of Time Traders, the official Philmont Scout Ranch store.

Before you balk at the price, think about this: Wouldn’t it be nice to know whether a critical piece of your unit’s camping gear has the Scouting world’s seal of approval?

The Thunder Ridge tent went through five years of development and testing, resulting in structural and design changes to improve the original prototype. “The average consumer tent that may go out for 8 to 15 nights a year is not used nearly as much as the Philmont Thunder Ridge tent that has to go out on the trail for up to 50 to 60 nights a summer for five years,” says Bryan Hayek, Philmont marketing manager.

Compared to the cumbersome shelters that housed Philmont visitors since the 1970s, the most notable change is the tent’s weight. Thunder Ridge — named after a Philmont camp notorious for its extreme weather — is built for two campers, suitable for three-season use and weighs in at 6 pounds, 3 ounces when packed.

During years of testing, MSR listened to feedback from Philmont staffers tasked with improving the tent’s quality and design. Recommendations included swapping out plastic hubs on the tent poles (these frequently broke when under stress) and adding more length to the tent for tall campers. Plus, the chosen tent fabric is significantly more durable than a consumer-grade tent, Hayek says.

So the next time your unit is looking to invest in new backpacking tents, consider this one “tried and tested,” achieving to the standards of one of the BSA’s busiest high-adventure bases.


Featured image (at top) by Michael Roytek/BSA File.

33 Comments on Philmont-approved: MSR Thunder Ridge tent now available for purchase

  1. How about the tents used at the 2013 Jamboree? Those were great tents, but are they available for purchase? The only way I heard to get one was to get one of the ones used at the Jamboree. They were BSA branded, but I’ve never been able to find them for sale new.

  2. $500? Holy cow.

  3. Need pictures of the tent without fly. Are they using mesh or rip stop nylon throughout. Bucket floor or seam at floor?

    • if you can figure out a way for me to send you pics I’ve got a whole set I took through the whole set-up process. This years version of the tent has more screening than the earlier version. The whole door, most of the back, and a panel about 12 inches by 6 feet or more on each side is mesh. Our tents were up during a high wind on our climb Baldy day and we got a lot of fine dust in through the mesh. The rainfly comes almost to the ground on all 4 sides and the vestibule is side zipped, not center zipped like most are, so you cannot see out without opening the door and the vestibule.

      • Upload them to Flickr and post a link to the set.

      • ScoutingManiac // July 3, 2014 at 11:26 pm // Reply

        contact me off list at westybsa@gmail.com and I could probably be of some assistance.

  4. Is this a commercial? Bryan, I’m disappointed.

  5. I love MSR products and have owned many of them for years. Everything I’ve used and owned is high quality, so I have not doubt that the new Thunder Ridge falls in line with the MSR legacy of quality.

    I have to be one of the early balkers of that $450 price tag; that it would even be considered as a troop purchase seems out of line and out of reach for many units, even ones like mine with a healthy annual fundraising campaign.

    When Troop 22 in Tampa went to Philmont in 2012, some of the boys used our troop tents. We found the Kelty Grand Mesa 2 on sale a few years ago for just under $100–a veritable steal. Those tents have held up well in storms and have survived some careless use.

    At the time we proposed the purchase of 10 of these tents to our troop committee, it took some convincing that spending about a thousand dollars was a worthy investment. I couldn’t even imagine asking for $4,500.

    Individuals who are regular high adventurers will understand the investment in a piece of equipment like the Thunder Ridge, but even I have a little trouble with the price tag. I’m currently using an REI Half Dome tent ($99 at sale time), but still have my 1992 Kelty Quattro 2 mountaineering tent (about $150 then). Gear investments translate in to long-term use and hold their second-hand value. I just saw that someone had recently sold a Quattro 2 on eBay for $152.

    I actually have one tip of the cap to MSR for working so closely with the Boy Scouts of America to create gear specifically for us. Love to see that support of the world’s best youth program!

    • I loved my Kelty Quattro! That tent provided me with many years of service and was always dry as a bone. The floor seams recently failed, and I bought a Kelty Acacia. It is smaller than I would like, but so far has held up well.

  6. Kevin McIntyre // July 2, 2014 at 9:02 am // Reply

    Yes 500 is out of the reach of most every Scout unit, especially if you are thinking of buying multiple units. However, on a recent trip to Monument Valley, Az we had a very severe wind storm with gust to 70 mph. Every tent in the campground was demolished except for one, our MSR Mutha Hubba with add on shelter ledge:)

  7. Jeffrey Herr // July 2, 2014 at 9:02 am // Reply

    Our Troop hasn’t had need for backpacking tents, but our Troop-assigned go-to tent is the Eureka Timberline Outfitter A-frame tent. Extra-sturdy where it counts, water resistant even in punishing downpours, durable enough for Boy Scouts for years.
    Available only through Camp-mor, and with spotty availability, I’m worried about the continued availability of this perfect Scout tent.

  8. I don’t mind the price, however National Supply and it’s suppliers have got to get it through their noggin that heavy equipment is not the way to go. Now I guess at Philmont if you’re packing gear onto a mule/donkey that 6 pounds and 3 ounces is a good deal. But for your average troop a 2 person tent that heavy is a deal breaker if they like to do high adventure trips.

  9. I spent the night in one of these two weeks ago with my younger son as part of the Philmont Training Center family program.

    The tent is pretty ordinary, but likeable. it is pretty obvious that sturdier fabrics were used. The poles seemed to be about the same weight / sturdiness as other backpacking tents. Thicker floor fabric. A mesh panel on the side. Nothing exceptional about the rain fly.

    Philmont’s needs ARE different than the average recreational user. Much more like the kind of non stop use and abuse needed by the military.

    Compare to the outfitter and military models produced by Eureka or other tent manufacturers.

    I wouldn’t pay $500 for one. But, then I’m not running a camp where the tent gets 70 to 90 days non stop use by kids year n and year out.

  10. The way to work out the 6 pound weight is to split up the tent between mates. One carries poles and stakes, one carries the tent–or however you want to evenly distribute the weight between them.

    My buddy, another ASM in my troop, shared an older MSR Mutha Hubba tent with me that weighed in at just over 5 pounds with footprint. We split the tent up and did just fine, so weight isn’t that much of an issue for me working this way.

  11. Michael O. // July 2, 2014 at 9:15 am // Reply

    I agree with JCC. 6 pounds is an extremely heavy “backpacking” tent. I am 68 years old and an avid Appalachian Trail hiker. Total carry weight is critical. My two man tent weighs 2.2 pounds. I council our scouts to be wary of excess weight. Invariably someone brings a Timberline (which is a great tent) but it weighs over 7 pounds so we need to adjust things all the time! I would think that Philmont would look for a lighter tent.

    • I’m intrigued, what make/model of your 2.2 lb. two-man tent?

      • Michael O. // July 2, 2014 at 10:18 am // Reply

        Mike, It’s a Sierra Designs Clip Flashlite. It’s about 12 years old and I use it about 6 to 8 times a year. It’s no longer made, but SD makes another that weighs 3.5 pounds

  12. My crew used these on our trek in 2012 and it was the end of the season. We finished our trek on the last day of the year. The tents are awesome. Expensive yes, but they looked brand new after being used all season buy countless scouts who I am sure took the best care they could with them :-).
    I would recommend them for any serious hikers. They will probably outlive you.

  13. This seems OK for Philmont, though 6 pounds is way too heavy for a backpacking tent. My 2-person pyramid is 1.5 pounds.

    Troops do not need a tent designed for 300 nights of use, so they really can use regular tents.

    Consider tents from ALPS Mountaineering (https://www.alpsmountaineering.com/). These are well designed and well made. Their Scout Direct program offers these tents at a large discount to Scout units (http://www.scoutdirect.com/). The current price list has two backpacking 2-person tents under $120. Those tents weight about 4.5 pounds.

    For car camping, consider their “outfitter” tents, which are heavier duty versions of some of their tents.

  14. Where’s the data? 5 years of research but no numbers/data to support it? And does MSR pays BSA to carry and advertise their products? Scout is Trustworthy, a full disclosure of any deals is much appreciated . This helps us to better understand if this posting is an advertising/product promotion.

    I could say the same thing with the quality of other products such as Alps Mountaineering, the only difference is they give up to 45% discounts to any scouts.

  15. Wow. This tent is a great example of heavy gear choice for individuals. There are many choices out there that weigh half as much (or less) that can sleep two people. We have a couple of crews going to Philmont this year – and are bringing most of their own gear instead of using Philmont’s heavy stuff. Tarps that weigh about a pound. Amsteel blue rope for bear bags. Tents are individual preference – with the silnylon tarp tents being the lightest. I suspect that Philmont choses gear that will last over extended wear – but it is heavy. And this tent: very heavy.

  16. Instead of a commercial for this MSR tent, how about providing specifics on what to look for in tents for Philmont. That would be of benefit to the audience of this blog. What specifically makes this tent different.

    Camping equipment sold by BSA (Scout Stuff, Tooth of Time Traders, etc.) is way overpriced. Units can bet better equipment for a better price from other vendors.

    $500? Seriously?

  17. I swear by my 50-cent pup backpacking tent that withstood 100mph winter winds. Actually, my body crawling into it is harder on it than any weather. Sadly, I’ll have to replace it soon.

  18. I forgot to add my support for the BSA having *quality* gear in its inventory. I began my Scouting “career” back in 1970, when everything was made in the U.S.A. So much of the junk basic gear that’s been offered over the last 20 years or more is manufactured elsewhere and is of questionable quality.

  19. I have never been to Philmont. Missed out when a Scout, too old and rickety when Scoutson went (twice). They took their own Troop tents, an REI (I forget the model). What I want to relate is the trips the Troop of my yoooth made. The older Scouts went three times, to my memory. All three times, they took HOME MADE tarps. And we made the same tarps and used them at home on AT treks, etc. Ten foot by 12 foot 8 mil black plastic, edged and reinforced with a heavy gaffer tape a dad had from the government (?), grommets set every 3 or 4 foot around the edge and one offset in the middle. With care, they lasted two years, then served as ground cloths. No ‘squiter screens, but some took insect covers for their heads.
    Cheap but sturdy. All purpose. Adaptable,
    Waddya think?

  20. $500 is a lot of popcorn!

  21. Tom Linton // July 2, 2014 at 12:51 pm // Reply

    What the sales page does not tell us includes: any information on stakes (included? type?), poles? poles, or tent fly or body material.

    Any informed person who would consider top dollar for a tent wants to know what they are getting for their money. The MSR Nook, for example, is claerly described as to the material used for its poles and the tent body and fly. GIven the UV load at Philmont,it is likely polyester, but why are we made to guess?

    We teach our Scouts to make informed decisions. Why ask us to take things solely on faith. (I bought a BSA Kapok-filled sleeping bag once,. “Just the thing.” [not!])

    “This tent was built to withstand continuous use for 72 days straight by Philmont campers.”
    But what about the rest of us who do not plan on 72 straight days use?

    I have no problem with the weight, recalling canvas tents.

    (Sleeping “under the stars” is evocative but, strictly speaking, barred at Philmont.)

  22. Seth Walter // July 2, 2014 at 1:20 pm // Reply

    Bryan writes: “Wouldn’t it be nice to know whether a critical piece of your unit’s camping gear has the Scouting world’s seal of approval?” I recall in the 70s and 80s when the best quality gear had the Scout Seal stamped right on it. You didn’t need to research or shop around, it was right there in front of you. I inherited some older scout stuff from my uncles who were Explorers in the 50s and still use some of the “Scout-approved” items. What ever happened to the BSA’s seal of quality? Are there any manufacturers out there who are authorized to provide gear that will last?

  23. We used this tent last summer when we were at Philmont. It really is a great tent. Easy to put up, didn’t leak, good wind strength. We also split up the different parts between buddies, so the weight wasn’t an issue. I would love to have one!!! However, the reality of this is the cost is too much for the average person or troop. Most units don’t backpack into the mountains every weekend, so it is hard to justify cost vs usage. If your going to Philmont, they already have the tents, use theirs. Otherwise, use something more economical for your group until their prices come down!!!

  24. For a five hundred dollar tent, I might expect flexible photovoltaic cell fabric (charge your laptop/ipad, etc.) , rain gutters to collect rainwater and built in filtration/storage, LED lightcords in the tent apex, , auto inflate sleep pads attached to floor, , auto sump-pump if it leaks, radiant heat coils in floor for winter camping…..,
    Maybe it will get like the Automobile industry, and one will LEASE the tent, maintenance included…

  25. Aaron Hart // July 3, 2014 at 9:15 am // Reply

    I see it as a novelty item at best. The weight of this tent alone is not worth the purchase. For that price you can buy a top of the line backpacking tent that weighs in well under 4lbs. I have a tarptent that weighs in at just over 2 and performs wonderfully. It was a fraction of the cost. As someone has already said, the scoutdirect program is outstanding for the high usage troop purchases and their quality is excellent. Inevitably there will be those that would like the “Philmont Tent” and will buy it. Other than that I see no reason to waste the money. Four hundred can be justified for a tent, just not this one.

  26. ScoutingManiac // July 3, 2014 at 11:23 pm // Reply

    I could never imagine spending that much money on a Troop tent. Troop tents unfortunately because of lack of respect for gear only last 2 maybe 3 years. I am willing to spend extra money on my personal gear but that price tag is way out of reach of what I would be willing to spend.

  27. Our troop uses the Eureka Timberline 2 which we purchase from Campmor. They offer Scout troops a discount. The tents are very sturdy, stand up to various types of wind and weather and are moderately priced. Around $150 each.

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