MSR Freelite 2 Tent Review (2022)

MSR Freelite 2 Tent Review

The MSR Freelite 2 is a lightweight double-wall tent weighing 32 oz with a rectangular floor plan that is wide enough to use with two 25″ wide sleeping pads. Newly updated in 2022, it is 9 oz lighter weight than the previous model making it suitable for couples or solo backpackers who want extra space to spread out. The tent features durable aluminum poles, a well-ventilated micromesh inner tent complete with gear lofts and media pockets, dual doors, and spacious vestibules.

Specs at a Glance

  • Minimum Trail Weight: 32 oz (910g)
  • Actual Weighed Trail Weight: 31.3 oz (881.7g)
  • Type: Semi-Freestanding
  • Minimum number of stakes to pitch: 4
  • Double-wall: Yes
  • Doors: 2
  • Vestibules: 2
  • Poles: 2
  • Inner Tent Dimensions: 82″ x 50″x 39″ (measured)
  • Materials: 15D ripstop nylon 1200mm Durashield, 10D Micromesh
  • Footprint: MSR Universal 2 Footprint (sold separately)

The newly updated Freelite 2 is a semi-freestanding tent that is 9 oz lighter weight than the previous version, making it much more competitive with the Big Agnes Tiger Wall 2 (33 oz) and the Nemo Hornet 2 (31 oz). We particularly love the Freelite’s improved inner tent which is more spacious, better ventilated, and more livable than the previous version.

The inner tent has even more mesh than previously for enhanced ventilation and nighttime star gazing.
The inner tent has even more mesh than previously for enhanced ventilation and nighttime star gazing.

Like the MSR Hubba Hubba 2 which was also updated for 2022, the Freelite 2 boasts a truly rectangular floor plan that is wide enough for two people to use wide 25″ sleeping pads. That’s pretty unique in the lightweight tent category and one of the outstanding attributes of these updated MSR tents. That feature, together with dual doors and vestibules make this an excellent tent for couples to share.

The solid fabric is higher at the head end of the tent (top)
The solid fabric is higher at the head end of the tent (top) to prevent cold drafts from chilling you at night.

The Freelite 2 is semi-freestanding which means the inner tent is suspended under poles and two of the four corners must be partially staked out. This keeps it easy to set up while reducing the number of pole segments and added weight that would be required if it were truly freestanding like the Hubba Hubba 2. A minimum of 4 tent stakes are required to pitch the Freelite 2: two on the corners and two to stake out the side vestibules. Additional stakes and extra guylines are also included to secure the tent in windy or more exposed conditions.

The Freelite 2 comes with two tent poles: one is a 3-way hub and the other a cross-pole that is laid on top, horizontally, to increase headroom and create near-vertical sidewalls. It’d be nice if the second pole was attached to the first with a hub, but it was left off in the name of weight savings and packability. That’s an understandable compromise given the lightweight emphasis of this tent.

The short horizontal cross-pole increase interior headroom and creates near-vertical side walls.
The short horizontal cross-pole increases interior headroom and creates near-vertical sidewalls.

The interior of the tent has two built-in gear loft pockets and media pockets in the corners with media/power cord slots. The tent is sided, meaning that you need to pay attention to where the head and foot-ends of the tent are oriented so you set up the tent in the right direction.  Just remember that the “high” side of the inner tent, that’s only half-mesh is the head end. This is to prevent cold wind from chilling you at night.

The Freelite 2 comes with MSR Needle States which have specially designed heads to stake out the tent’s cord-based guyout points without slipping.
The Freelite 2 comes with MSR Needle States which have specially designed heads to stake out the tent’s cord-based guyout points without slipping.

The ends of the poles slot into aluminum grommets which can be staked out using MSR Needle stakes. MSR only bundles their needle stakes (8g each) with their tents, but it’s a big value-add because they’re lightweight, nearly indestructible and they have great holding power when use to guy out the Freelite’s corded guy-out loops.

Large side vestibule provide extra room for gear storage
Large side vestibules provide extra room for gear storage.

The inner tent has new lighter-weight zippers that are easier to find and operate in the dark. These open onto two large side vestibules that provide plenty of gear storage without blocking door access. The vestibule zippers are also bi-directional, so you can vent the top of the tent with kick-stand vents where internal water vapor collects. They’re oriented to run along the sides of the tent and not down the middle of the vestibule, making it easier to get in and out of the tent without having to crawl over your gear or brushing against a wet door.

The vestibules provide plenty of gear storage without blocking inner tent access.
The vestibules provide plenty of gear storage without blocking inner tent access.

The Freelite 2 has 15D ripstop nylon 1200mm Durashield polyurethane & DWR floor (same as the previous model), so we recommend using a footprint if you pitch the tent on abrasive campsites or ground. MSR doesn’t sell tent-specific footprints anymore to reduce waste, but they do offer a compatible MSR Universal 2 footprint that fits the Freelite 2.

Comparable Two-Person Lightweight Tents

Make / ModelStructuralTrail Weight
Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2Freestanding2 lbs 11 oz / 1219g
MSR Hubba Hubba 2Freestanding2 lbs 14 oz / 1304g
Zpacks DuplexTrekking Pole1 lbs 3 oz / 539g
Big Agnes Tiger Wall UL2Semi-Freestanding2 lbs 3 oz / 992g
REI Flash 2Trekking Pole1 lbs 15 oz / 879g
MSR Freelite 2Semi-Freestanding2 lbs / 907g
Tarptent Double RainbowSemi-Freestanding2 lbs 10 oz / 1191g
Dan Durston X-Mid 2Trekking Pole2 lbs 4 oz / 1025g
Slingfin Portal 2Freestanding2 lbs 14 oz / 1305g
NEMO DragonFly 2Freestanding2 lbs 9 oz / 1162

Recommendation

The MSR Freelite 2 is a semi-freestanding two-person camping and backpacking tent with a roomy interior that is exceptionally easy to set up. Featuring a truly rectangular floor that can fit two 25″ wide sleeping mats, near-vertical sidewalls, and dual doors, the attention to detail on this tent makes it extremely livable for two people out to enjoy a backpacking or camping trip. Weighing just 32 oz, the Freelite 2 is an outstanding tent for lightweight backpacking for couples or individuals and one that we ourselves look forward to using this spring, summer, and fall.

We also recommend checking out the 2022 MSR Freelite 1 (26 oz) and MSR Freelite 3 (38 oz) tents if weight savings is a priority. Older models of all of these tents have white rain flies, while the 2022 models have camel-colored ones.

MSR donated a tent for this review. 

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22 comments

  1. Nice tent. Looks a lot like a Tarptent Double Rainbow minus the option to pitch completely freestanding using trekking poles.

    • I have the previous version of the Double Rainbow and I’m not sure why you think they are the similar. This is much closer to the REI Quarter Done SL2 as far as I can see, with less weight maybe sec to the higher fly cut at the head.

    • I have the Tarptent Double Rainbow Lithium model and I agree with you that they are similar. I love my Double Rainbow though as it’s lighter and even more spacious in length. The only reason I’m tempted to buy this though is it’s double walled and at 50 inches across big enough for trips with my daughter. We’d fit in the Double Rainbow but afraid she’s rub up against the single walled sides and collect a lot of condensation. I agree the horizontal trekking pole set up for freestanding mode is a game changer..

    • While I think the semi free standing tripod MSR Freelite 2 is more different than similar to the tension pitched single hoop Tarptent Double Rainbow, the DR’s nifty trick of becoming freestanding with an unusual use of trekking poles could easily be applied to this MSR and the very similar BA Tiger Wall UL2, Nemo Hornet Elite 2 and REI QD SL2 with the simple addition of a couple of bungie loops so thanks for pointing that out. I may well use that trick next time I need to set up my Tiger Wall UL2 on a rock shelf.

  2. I’m happy to see MSR make a competitive lightweight backpacking tent. It is well thought out. Few LW tents can fit two 25″ wide rectangle pads. If MSR can get them into retailers it will be competitive with BA if not pull ahead – its the pad fit. Lots of great products are hard to come by. May the Freelite be abundant! At least so I can get one! Thanks Phil for making a sacrifice to test this great tent……

  3. Don’t know why Six Moons Lunar Solo doesn’t make your list.

  4. Love the width – you’d think other MFG’s could do the math and realize 2 wide pads come in at 50″.

    Hate the length – 82″ I’d consider marginal for anyone over 6’2″. Add in that the rainfly on the head end stops a good distance before the ground and it’s largely a single-wall tent at the head end. My guess is that this really helps for ventilation but time will tell how well it stands up in storm.

  5. Now there are at least 4 brand variants of the side door tripod tent including the BA Tiger Wall, Nemo Hornet Elite and REI QD SL, a direct comparison article seem like an idea. I’m particularly interested in how they perform in the wind and the best way to set them up for that. Obviously an UL bendy tripod is not a heavy weather design but stuff happens…

  6. I’m curious about the fly touching the inner at the bottom (single pole side). My experience has been the tripod design means the fly rests on the inner of double walled tents. This of course creates a condensation issue. The bathtub floor on this looks high enough and sloped enough to maybe avoid this issue?? Can anyone confirm? I’m actually looking at the 3p version as these 2p ultralights are just too small for 2 people to use comfortably.

  7. Not having a tent-specific footprint means the tent cannot be set up fly-first, which is very handy when it is raining and trying to set the tent up.

  8. Bill in Roswell GA

    REI has the Freelite 1 in stock for the moment (3.30.2022). Really want to like this tent, but it has an issue. The brow pole does not extend the fly out far enough to protect the inner mesh from direct rain to the bottom part of the mesh door when the fly door is unzipped for entry much like the Nemo Hornet. A real disappointment to find that. Rains way too much in the southeast US to put up with such design choices allowing the interior direct exposure to driving rain. Oh well. BA Tiger Wall solved that issue, but has a tapered floor.

      • Bill in Roswell GA

        I asked Justin, the Canadian Youtuber. He and you are the only test of the Freelite I’ve scene that I trust. He got caught in a late winter storm, typical rain to ice to snow weather. New Englanders know all about that! Ironically, Justin didn’t mention, but it sure looked that way, so I asked. Just like I ask you at times Phil. We’re all gaining and sharing knowledge and we’re alk the richer for it

  9. just an fyi, our freelite 2 came in pretty over weight. all in it was 38.3oz and trail weight is 36oz even. not exactly sure what’s going on with that and i don’t know what else would be removed to get rid of 4oz, even the stakes don’t account for the discrepancy. not a deal breaker for us, but something to be aware of.

    if i remember right, they had some issues with the older model coming in over spec too.

  10. My wife is presently on a bike trip, having left June 27, 2022 from Vancouver Canada with her dad to travel across the North American continent. She is presently on day 15 in Montana. She has already had issues with her Freelite 2 tent: one of the poles snapped (which has been fixed temporarily; a small hole has developed in the fly: and the mesh has had some issues with “wrinkling”. At this point I have not seen any of the photos so can’t elaborate more. She chose the Freelite 2 as she wants to carry as little weight as possible on her bike. Perhaps it would have been more prudent total a more durable tent on a bike touring trip. Certainly on an alpine hiking trip, minimizing the weight in your backpack might lend itself to the Freelite but I question its durability for a sixty day bike ride.

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