The MSR FlyLite is a lightweight, 1 pound 12 ounce, single-wall trekking pole tent that sleeps two comfortably. With vertical side walls and mesh windows that provide excellent interior livability and cross-ventilation, the new FlyLite is perfect for base camp style camping and backpacking at established campsites in fair weather, but its boxy shape and large footprint are less suitable for heavy weather and wilderness camping in unprotected and space constrained areas.
Trekking Pole Tent
The FlyLite is a single walled, trekking pole tent that requires three poles to set up. The front corners on either side of the centrally located sleeping compartment are designed to be held up with trekking poles, while a shorter 2-piece aluminum pole is required to prop up a ventilated rear beak, although a stick or third collapsible trekking pole could be used instead.
The handles of your trekking poles slip into sleeves in the front and side awnings that fan out beyond the side walls of the interior compartment, while the pole tips slot into guy cords on the front corners. Once erected, it’s necessary to secure the peaks above each trekking pole with one or two guy lines to secure them to the ground, although there will still be a certain amount of “wobble” in them afterwards. The required guy lines extend well beyond the corners of the front awnings, requiring substantially more room to pitch the tent than its documented dimensions would indicate.
Unfortunately there are no instructions provided with the tent or online that specify the height that the poles should be set at, which I determined to be 115 cm through trail and error. The poles can’t be set any longer or shorter or the pitch won’t work, but most trekking poles can be set to that length so it should not be an issue for most users. MSR does not sell accessory poles to pitch the tent for people who don’t want to carry trekking poles, however.
The MSR FlyLite is one of those rare two person tents that can actually fit two people inside. The inner compartment is 82″ long (good for tall people) and 55″ wide at the door, tapering down to 42″in the back. This means that you’ll want to sleep with your head at the front door end of the shelter, if only because it’s easier for either occupant to get out at night without disturbing the other.
The front door is a solid piece of fabric, however, so don’t expect to have any views out of the front of the tent. While there is a mesh transom that runs along the top of the tent to provide airflow, its view is blocked by the front awning. A more comfortable, but heavier door design would have placed a mesh door behind a solid front door, so that occupants could have a view out of the front on warm nights.
In addition to the front transom, there are three mesh windows on the FlyLite, two triangular openings in the side walls, and a back window. None of these have a solid backer either, making for a cold and drafty tent in cooler weather.
Pitching the FlyLite
The first step in pitching the FlyLite is to spread it out on the ground and to stake out the four corners of the inner compartment. Adjust your trekking poles to be 115 cm in length, insert the handles into the handle sleeves in the front awning and the pole tips into the aluminum buckles on the front guy lines.
The next step is much easier to do with two people instead of one. Raise both poles, slotting the poles tips into metal holders positioned on the front guy lines. While holding the pole upright, guy it out with two guy lines and stake them down as tightly as they will go. The FlyLite comes with 9 mini-ground hog stakes and you’ll need all of them to pitch the tent.
Move to the back of the tent and assemble the two piece aluminum pole that holds the rear window up, insert it under the reinforced apex of the rear beak and stake it out. Unstake the rear corners of the inner compartment and restake them, pulling the floor of the tent as taught as possible. Unfortunately you can’t simply tension the rear corners because they don’t have adjustable guy lines, an annoying flaw in a tarp shelter like this.
Move to the sides of the tent and stake out the side awnings. The pitching instructions provided by MSR claim this is an optional pitching refinement, but I’ve found it necessary to prevent the sides from flapping in the breeze. The side tension also helps mitigate the tendency for the tent ceiling to bow downwards into the living space and form a depression where water can pool when it rains.
Given its boxy shape and open awnings, it’s best to position the foot of the FlyLite into the wind in order to reduce its profile and to place a rock on top of the rear stake for extra security. However, in a stiff breeze, the ceiling has a tendency to bow in noisily on occupants. Based on my experience, I’d advise you to avoid pitching the FlyLite in an unprotected tent site that doesn’t have a wind break, like forest, surrounding it.
At 1 pounds 12 ounces, including the rear pole and tent stakes, the FlyLite is incredibly lightweight and provides an excellent example of the weight savings that are possible with 10 denier (walls and awnings) and 20 denier (floor) PU coated fabrics. While I didn’t rip the tent or abrade the floor during testing, the front door does have a tendency to get caught in the front zipper and extra care should be exercised when opening and zipping the door closed.
Comparison to the Fast Stash
If you like the living space and awnings of the FlyLite, but are willing to trade a little weight for more comfort, you should check out the MSR Fast Stash, also a two-person, single-wall trekking pole tent, which has a larger interior (90″ x 66″), larger and more protective awnings, and is warmer, since the mesh backed windows have solid inner doors that can be zipped close. Weighing slightly more than a pound more than the FlyLite, the Fast Stash also includes optional tent poles so it be used by hikers who don’t carry trekking poles or wish to carry their poles when they leave base camp. (Click for the SectionHiker review of the MSR Fast Stash UL Shelter)
The MSR FlyLite Tent is a minimalist, tarp-style shelter that provides more comfort than a standalone tarp and bug bivy, but is less aerodynamic and weatherproof than a fully featured backpacking tent. Weighing just 1 pounds 12 ounces, it can be used by one person or two, and features vertical walls and ample mesh ventilation to address the comfort and internal condensation issues that often arise in single wall shelters. However, the FlyLite requires a flat surface to pitch and considerably more room to guy out than it’s footprint would suggest, making it more suitable for use in pre-established campsites that are well protected from strong winds.
Priced at $349.95, the MSR FlyLite is on the expensive end of the spectrum for two person ultralight shelters, at least those that are NOT made with cuben fiber. My advice would be to shop around and find a more general purpose tent that requires less space to pitch and has a more aerodynamic shape so you have more flexibility in campsite selection. When evaluating two person shelters, it’s best to remember that the weight is carried by two people, not one, giving you greater latitude to trade-off increased gear weight for better comfort and utility.
- Two person tent that actually fits two people
- Trekking pole compatible to save weight
- Vertical walls for increased livability
- Ample mesh panels to reduce internal condensation
- Poor pitching instructions
- Ceiling and awnings sag
- Requires large pitching footprint for supporting guy lines
- No way to close off screened windows
- Guy lines are not reflective
- Tent body w/stuff sack
- Rear pole (optional) w/stuff sack
- 9 MSR Ground hog stakes w/ stuff sack, 2 extra guy cords and tensioners
- Capacity: 2 people
- Weight: 1 pound 12 ounces (including rear tent pole and 9 stakes)
- Floor Area: 29 sq. ft / 2.7 sq. m
- Interior Peak Height: 44 in / 112 cm
- Rainfly Fabric: 10D ripstop nylon 1200mm polyurethane & silicone
- Mesh Type: 10D Micro Mesh
- Floor Fabric: 20D ripstop nylon 1200mm polyurethane & silicone
Disclosure: MSR provided Philip Werner (SectionHiker.com) with a MSR FlyLite Tent for this review. s.
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