MSR FreeLite 2
- Very light
- Space to weight
- Large vestibules
- Fragile lightweight fabrics
- Not very weatherproof
- Tight for two adults
When weight is key this is a great choice. For lightweight backpacking it has everything we look for: descent protection and venting, a few key features, storage, just enough interior room for two and, most importantly, it disappears in a pack. That also means its interior is snug, it’s not particularly robust and set up can be confusing. This is a true backpacking tent meant for those who take their pack weight seriously.
Ironically, the FreeLite 2 was both snug and roomy. The 29-square foot interior felt tight for two six foot guys, but three people could sit up and play cards waiting out a pouring rain without banging heads. The difference is the walls; a center pole pulls them out to vertical, creating all kinds of head room. The two vestibules are small, but there’s room for a pack and boots. The doors are easy to climb in and out of.
This is MSR’s lightest freestanding tent. At less than 1.2 lbs per person you don’t have to cut your toothbrush in half any more. Packed in its tiny stuff sack it looks more like a tarp than a tent.
Erecting the tent is fairly straightforward with a single, double-hubed main pole and a second cross pole. Color coding on the fly would help with figuring out which way to throw it on, but really a small issue.
The fly certainly provides plenty of coverage and the design shed water well. Even climbing in during a pouring rainstorm didn’t drip water into the interior. Despite mesh walls, we noticed a large build up of condensation on the inside, likely due to the full coverage fly and a lack of vents. So while the super light, 10 Denier fly seemed to shield a full night’s downpour the fly looked soaked and was very wet on the inside.
Designed as a lightweight shelter, don’t expect many conveniences. A couple well placed, but small pockets, big doors and vestibules that roll back are highlights.
How We Tested It
The tents in this test were used over five months—they were soaked in Pacific Northwest storms, baked in the Baja sun, shoved into sea kayak hatches, and schlepped to the Himalaya. The most important factor was weatherproofing. Everything else is secondary to how a tent performs in the wet and wind. The testers honed in on other factors that take tents from good to great: weight, packability, ease of set up, features, creature comforts, and lay out.
The products featured in this test have been loaned to the Gear Institute. For more on our policies regarding editorial objectivity and sample returns, see here.
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