The MSR Freelite 2 Backpacking Tent is a lightweight, two-person, double walled tent that weighs 2 pounds 11 ounces (minus stuff sacks and tent stakes on the SectionHiker scale) While that is 4 ounces more than the MSR’s published specs for this tent, the FreeLite 2 is still a viable sub-three pound tent, that puts more a bit more emphasis on interior space and livability than other lightweight double-walled tents in its class. Easy to set up, the FreeLite 2 is a nice option if you want a lightweight backpacking tent that can serve double duty as a spacious one person tent when you hike alone, or a two person tent when you backpack with a partner.
The MSR FreeLite 2 Tent is a semi-freestanding tent with an inner tent that hangs from a 3 armed, hubbed pole made with lightweight 7000 series aluminum, with a horizontal cross piece to keep the side walls vertical and provide more interior room. The pole arms slot into metal clips along the base of the tent. MSR has cleverly engineered the rain fly so that it can be attached to the poles holding up the inner tent or share the same stake out points. But like all semi-freestanding tents, the rain fly vestibules need to be staked out separately.
MSR markets the FreeLite 2 as a freestanding tent, but it’s not freestanding because you still need to stake out the inner tent and the outer rain fly to pitch it. MSR should revise this language because it’s very misleading and implies value where it is not present.
For example, there’s no way you can pick the FreeLite 2 up and move it from one place to another without un-staking it and re-staking it to the ground, which is the usual definition of a freestanding tent. If MSR had used “Y” poles at both ends of the FreeLite 2, like the heavier MSR Hubba Hubba NX, the inner tent wouldn’t have to be staked out. But the FreeLite 2’s inner tent is unusable without tent stakes, so make sure you pack them.
Pitching the Tent
Pitching the FreeLite 2 is very straightforward. There’s just one multi-section aluminum pole pole, so expand that first. Next spread out the inner (red) tent and find the “front” that matches the Y end of the pole. Slip the ends of the poles into slots on the corner hardware, before attaching the pole to the rear of the inner fly and the cross pole on the roof.
Stake out the four corners and attach the top of the inner tent to the pole using the gray clips provided. Finally, attach the rain fly over the top of the inner tent, securing the corners, before staking out the vestibule doors.
When staking out the fly, I like the way that MSR has engineered the rain fly and tent stakes for the FreeLite 2 using MSR Needle Stakes (included). These are 9.6 gram aluminum stakes (0.34 oz), which a hooked head, so they can be shared by the inner tent guy and a metal fitting from the rain fly that fits perfectly over the stake head. I like these stakes so much I’ve started using them with my most of my other tents and tarps..
Ventilation in the tent is good, with an abundant quantity of mesh in the inner tent and good separation between the rain fly and inner tent to promote air flow. If you use the tent with two adults, I’d still recommend that you keep at least one vestibule open in fair weather to help vent any moisture buildup.
The most important feature in any two person tent is having two doors so you can get out of the tent at night without waking up your partner. MSR does that one better by providing large door openings, enabled by a high inner tent height, that make it easier to get in and out of the tent.
The interior dimensions of the FreeLite 2 inner tent (measured by SectionHiker) are:
- 84″ long
- 48″ at the head and foot ends of the tent
- 36″ interior peak height below the center hub
- 35″ of headroom above the doors and where your head will be placed when lying back in the tent
It should be noted that the combination of vertical side walls and a rectangular floor, where the widths of the head end of the tent and the foot end are the same, provides excellent livability. Many two person tents have a tapered floor where the head end is wider than the foot end to reduce tent weight, but not the FreeLite 2.
In addition to space, there are numerous hang points in the ceiling and large shared pocket at the head end, but unfortunately no personal gear storage pockets are provided.
With a 15D ripstop nylon rain fly and floor and 10D micromesh netting, the FreeLite 2 trades off some durability for weight, something to consider if you are a bit rough on your gear or consistently camp on abrasive ground.
You also need to be a bit careful with the zippers on the FreeLite’s rain fly, which has a tendency to catch on the thin fly fabric if you open or close the zippers without using two hands. Velcro patches along the zippers’ path provide a fast and easy way to seal the doors shut without using the zips, a nice feature if you want to keep the vestibule doors closed, but not fully zipped to increase ventilation or avoid waking your partner up after you take a midnight stroll.
The FreeLite 2 comes with three silnylon stuff sacks, although you can discard them if you want to shave down a few ounces on weight. I like stuffing the inner tent and rain fly in a stuff sack because they pack up very small, which is a real consideration.
The MSR FreeLite 2 Tent is lightweight enough that you can use it as a spacious one person tent, although it is actually large enough compared to other “two-person tents” for two adults to use. Having two doors and two vestibules is a must-have and real convenience that makes the FreeLite 2 quite livable if you have company. The rectangular floor, vertical side walls, and interior heights also make the Freelite 2 one of the more luxurious sub-three pound lightweight, double-walled tents available today.
But if gear weight is one of your chief priorities, the FreeLite 2 is definitely on the heavy end of the spectrum, weighing 2 pounds 11 ounces, and 4 ounces more than the minimum weight (minus stuff sacks and stakes) claimed by the manufacturer. While it’s a nicely appointed tent, it’s also pretty expensive, with an MSRP of $439.95.
I think the FreeLite 2 would be a lot more appealing if MSR had pushed the envelope more and designed a tent that was closer to 2 pounds in weight. While the FreeLite 2 is comfortable, it’s not really that exceptional and I’d encourage to take a hard look at the other lightweight double-walled tents that are available today before you decide to buy it.
- Vertical side walls provide excellent livability
- Two doors and vestibules so your partner can easily enter and exit tent
- Rain flaps over vestibule zippers and excellent hardware, including line loc tensions on vestibule doors
- Good separation between inner tent and rain fly
- Stealthy rain fly helps mute red inner tent color
- Not truly freestanding, despite claims to the contrary
- Actual product weight is heavier than documented by product specs
- Tent can be difficult to find in the dark. More reflective tabs on fly would be nice.
- Very expensive ($439.95)
Disclosure: MSR provided Philip Werner with a Freelite 2 tent for this review.
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