We were looking for a good, light, robust tent for a couple week-long backpacking trips this Summer and the Freelite series of tents (the Freelite 2 Ultralight Backpacking Tent, in particular) seemed like a good option. If you are a fan of the site, you know that we have reviewed many MSR tents over the years.
To place the Freelite in the range of MSR offerings, maybe check out our review of the the MSR Carbon Reflex 3 Tent in the lightweight category and the MSR Nook 2-person tent, because it's the same size (ish) as the Freelite 2, and, just for grins, check out our review of the MSR Hubba Bubba NX 3, because it's a great tent.
The Freelite has remained pretty much the same as when introduced, and shot in this video, 5 years ago. Noteable upgrades are the Easton Syclone poles and the Xtreme Shield weather proofing.
Though we've had the Freelite 2 out on bakcpacking trips, this series of photos were taken on a paddleboard adventure. Another time when lightweight and dependability are welcome.
Light colour fly so the tent doesn't bake when it's hot out. The Xtreme Shield treatment in on the fly and floor of the tent—the two areas exposed to the most weather.
This year, MSR seam sealed the seams on the fly, as you can see here in this photo. They also include a little bottle of fast cure seam sealant with the tent. Nice touch. This may have been the result of many people complaining about the weatherproofness of the first iteration of Xtreme Shield-treated tents. Looks like the extra seam seal solves the problem.
Simple toggle tie-back on the vestibule doors.
The floor is a bathtub style, meaning it rises along the side and you step into it. Good for keeping the wet out.
Pull-through tensioners at the doors and two of the four tent floor guy points.
Fabric pull-through tensioners for the fly. These are super handy and work with grommet fasteners (in red) to let you get your fly nice and taught.
The interior is pretty bare bones—what you'd expect from an ultralight tent. See here the one interior pocket. The tent works best for occupants to orient themselves head-to-head; space is more conducive to this orientation than people being in opposite directions.
Here's the junction that makes it all come together. So far, so really good. The single pole design makes for an easy, and speedy, set up.
Here are two shots from either end of the tent to give you an idea of the interior space. These are 3- and 4-season sleeping bags, respectively, but you still get the idea. This 2-person tent is pretty cheek-to-jowl.
Monkey in the middle. At left, the MSR Hubba Bubba NX 3, Freelite 2 in the middle, wine for perspective only. Which one would you rather have in you backpack for five days? Of note: both tent bags contain a footprint as well.
Rainfly: 15D ripstop nylon 1200mm Xtreme Shield™ polyurethane & silicone
Floor: 15D ripstop nylon 1200mm Xtreme Shield™ polyurethane & DWR
Mesh: 10D polyester micro-mesh
I usually go for 3-person tents to have a little extra space when there arere 2 of us. This time around, I'm being a bit of a weight and size weenie for a couple longer backpacking trips, so I went with the Freelite 2. At 1.33kg it's considerably lighter than the 1.95kg Mutha Hubba NX3.
With the lightness comes smaller interior space. I am 6' 2" and I can't sit up straight in the Freelite 2. Because of this, I wouldn't want to wait out a storm for three days in this tent. If you share the weight with your hiking partner you only carry a little more than a pound. In other words, the Freelite is more about the hike than it is about the comfort and space. This kind of trade-off is typical of light-weight gear like this.
Because the Freelite 2 uses a 15 denier fabric, it's probably not going to last forever. This also is to keep the weight down. I'd recommend getting a footprint to protect the tent bottom from sticks, stones and all things pointy. Other reviews of earlier MSR tents with the Xtreme Shield treatment complained of poor waterproofing. I think MSR sealing of the seams is in reaction to this. We've had the Freelite 2 out on rainy nights and were bone dry.
The set-up is very fast and simple—great news after a long day on the trail. I love the all-mesh interior for star gazing and the materials seem durable for a lightweight tent. I recommend the Freelite 2 if weight is your main factor. The Freelite 2 has, and will continue to be, my tent of choice for long backpacking trips where every OZ counts. Even if I can't sit up straight in it.
Price: $559.95 CAN, $489.95 US
Minimum Weight: 1.14 kg/2lbs 8oz
Packed Weight: 1.33kg / 2lbs 15oz
Floor Area: 2.69sq m / 29sq ft
Vestibule Area: 1.62sq m / 17.5sq ft
Tent Volume: 850 liters /30cu. ft
Interior Peak Height: 91cm / 36in
Packed Size: 46 x 15cm / 18x 6in
Number of Doors: 2
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