MSR FreeLite 2 Person Ultralight Backpacking Tent

In this review, I will examine the MSR FreeLite 2 Ultralight 2-person tent. So back in May, I was invited to the Late District by Outdoors Magic Magazine to be part of their testing team for the Outdoor 100, and one of the bits of gear I got to test was the MSR FreeLite tent.

About Mountain Safety Research (MSR)

MSR is a brand of outdoor equipment and clothing founded in 1969 by Larry Penberthy. The company is known for producing high-quality gear for backpacking, camping, and mountaineering, with a focus on innovation and safety. Products offered by MSR include tents, stoves, water filters, snowshoes, and other outdoor equipment.

MSR is committed to producing reliable, durable, and easy-to-use gear to help ensure that outdoor enthusiasts stay safe in the mountains. Cascade Designs, an outdoor company from Seattle, now own MSR.

Some of their most popular tent models include:

  1. MSR Hubba Hubba NX: This lightweight, the freestanding tent is great for backpacking and camping. It has a unique pole configuration that maximizes interior space and headroom, making it comfortable for two people.
  2. MSR Mutha Hubba NX: This lightweight tent is perfect for backpacking and camping. It has a unique pole configuration that maximizes interior space and headroom, making it comfortable for three people.
  3. MSR Elixir 3: This three-person tent is excellent for camping and backpacking. It has a unique pole configuration that maximizes interior space and headroom, making it comfortable for three people.
  4. MSR Access 2: This two-person tent is great for backpacking and camping. It has a unique pole configuration that maximizes interior space and headroom, making it comfortable for two people.

Features of MSR FreeLite Ultralight

So MSR FreeLite got a trail weight of 910 grams or two pounds, but the pack weight, including the bag and the tent pegs, is a shade over a kilo. In the supplied bag, it’s pretty long, but if you separate the poles, you can squash the tent down really small.

What will you get for the tent in the package? There are two poles, the inner tent, the fly sheet, and a small packet of 10 pegs. This tent actually pitches with the inner tent first. I usually prefer to do an outer fly pitch first cause it does rain a lot in the UK, and most of the tents I get pitch both outer and in simultaneously, which is even better.

So it’s as simple as pegging out the four corners first and then getting the poles. There is actually one big pole and two shorter arms which is like a three-arm construction. The two shorter arms fit into the little eyelets on the end of the tent, and there’s a little eyelet in the middle at the other end of the tent.

You need to work around the tent until you get to the top, where things change slightly. A small section of the pole fits into the little eyelets on end, over the top of the main pole. It is fiddly, so use the last two little clips at the top. So there you have your main tent living area. This is brilliant for when the weather is guaranteed no rain. You don’t need to put the fly on and get optimum ventilation, but complete protection from the bugs. That is where you pitch the inner first comes into its own cause you don’t need to have a fly sheet on top.

If the weather does turn for the worst, get the fly sheet out of the bag and get yourself covered up. I’ll have a look at some of the features of the MSR FreeLite. So it’s got a double zip on this tent, which means you can zip things up one-handed, whereas the donut-shape kind of zips, occasionally you need two hands to unzip them.

The tent got the little tiebacks for the doors, and it’s quite a deep bathtub floor that should keep the elements out once your flies are on top. It also got little reinforced lifters on each corner and a door on the opposite side. So if you are going with a partner or friend, you don’t have to climb over each other to get in and out of the tent.

On the inside, all the seams are taped so the tent will be fully waterproof. The headroom in the tent is insanely spacious. With all that space inside, you can actually get two 50-centimeter sleeping pads in there, so you can sleep two people. However, as always, a two-person tent is a one-person tent, and a three-person tent is a two-person tent, especially if you want a little bit of comfort.

MSR FreeLite features some tremendous little storage pockets in the tent, somewhere to put your phone. It’s also gadget-friendly, so you can put your cables through the hole provided. However, I’ll also put my charger up there, so I don’t need the little holes. There’s one on the opposite side too, and more pockets on the other. So you get plenty of storage space in the tent you can use.

Let’s move on to the poles specification, which are 8.7-millimeters Dac poles. The peak height of the tent is exactly one meter. There’s plenty of netting around the tent, so the ventilation is superb. The netting is made of 10-denier micro-mesh, and the bathtub is a 15-denier ripstop nylon with a Durashield coating.

Let’s imagine it’s just started raining, so it’s time to get the fly sheet on. So the fly can only go on one way. It’s also got the little eyelets on it, so it just clips onto the same pole. The inside of the fly’s got little eyelets, so you hook on the little cross pole. Some little velcro tabs hold the fly to the pole as extra stability.

So the tent comes with some guidelines, but only for some tie-out points. So I’ve had to put some guide on myself; although I don’t need to guide everything out for normal conditions when the wind comes, you want to guide the tent properly because there is a large panel, and I’m not sure how that would fare in really strong winds.

My Experience with MSR FreeLite 2

So first up, MSR FreeLite 2 is a good-looking tent with loads of room inside, and you have adequate space for storing your gear. A huge red panel catches your eye straight away. So the area behind the panel, it’s slightly at the inner part of the tent, so effectively, this part is single skin so that the elements would get through there.

However, from my experience, I had zero condensation on this part of the tent. I’ve not had any condensation on the fly, either. I usually put that down to being such a well-ventilated. Suppose you look at the vestibule; you have enough space for a medium-sized backpack.

The fly sheet is made of 15 denier rips-up nylon and again with Durashield, polyurethane, and silicon coated. All components and seams are tape-sealed, reinforcing everything around the guide-out points. MSR FreeLite 2 provides good airflow on this tent, making it a perfect three-season tent.

The zip is genius, and I have not found any other tent with that kind of zip. So most zips on this tent, and the zip goes up the center. So when you’re trying to unzip it, you have to reach right into the corner when you’re in the tent. Sometimes it isn’t easy. However, with this design, it’s easy. You reach from the side of your tent and can quickly zip and unzip.

If it’s raining, you can see the potential floor because rain can drip off the area at the zip and go into your tent. But they’ve got little channels beside the zip, so the water runs outside it. You’re going to get a little water anyway. If it had been raining all night, I’d tap the fly a little bit from the inside before unzipping.

While we’re on the subject of rain, be it an inner pitch tent first, I’ve made a modification, which I’ll explain to you in a moment. So as it comes packed, the only way it pitches the tent is to put it inner first. But for my little mod, you only need a two-millimeter Dyneema cord. You first pitch the inner, make a little loop on the center of the cord, then pop underneath the pole. Then pull the cord, so it’s in a straight line triangle from the pole, and then put another little loop on it. It’s under a very tiny amount of tension.

Get the other end of the cord and then put another little loop on the other end that fits under the pole. Run the cord along there and then finish off the triangle. You are using the same, same method of the loop. That’s how I originally got the dimensions for the cordage.

So the pole is in its structure; it’s just held on by the little bits of Dyneema cord. Then you can attach the outer fly but still connect the center pole through the eyelet.

My Verdict on MSR FreeLite 2

I like it because it is versatile, lightweight, and has loads of room inside. It’s definitely not a four-season shelter, though, and I’m skeptical about how it will perform in high winds. We’ll give it more testing soon and let you know about that. I’m not going to go on crazy wins, but something relatively moderate. It’ll probably handle if pitched correctly.

Some of the features I mentioned above include:

  • Minimalist design: The FreeLite 2 has a unique pole configuration that maximizes interior space and headroom while keeping the weight as low as possible.
  • Durable and waterproof: The tent body and fly are made of high-quality, 20-denier ripstop nylon, which is durable and waterproof, ensuring that you stay dry even in heavy rain.
  • Easy to set up: The FreeLite 2 is designed to be easy, even in adverse weather conditions, making it an excellent option for backcountry adventures.
  • Lightweight: The tent is extremely light, with a minimum weight of 1 lb 15 oz (900 g), making it an excellent option for backpacking and camping trips where weight is a concern.
  • Compact: The FreeLite 2 has a small packed size, making it easy to pack into your backpack and take with you on your next adventure.

Overall, the MSR FreeLite 2 is an excellent option for those looking for a lightweight, durable, and easy-to-set-up tent for backpacking and camping. It’s an outstanding balance of weight, space, and quality.

Thanks for reading, and I do appreciate it. I’ll see you in the following review article.