Review: MSR Freelite 2 hiking tent

Pros
Light weight at 1.25kg
Easy to pitch
Handles bad weather

Cons
Only semi freestanding
Zips can catch in fly

Price at time of article
$530

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Overview
The MSR Freelite 2 is a purpose made, lightweight, two person, hiking tent. Designed to be used during overnight stomps through the wilds or multi day adventures. It follows the common design of a breathable inner fly and a waterproof outer fly. It really is lightweight, coming in around 1.25kg thanks to some very light poles and pegs. Compared to other two person hiking tents on the market, it doesn’t feel as though there has been too much compromise on space to achieve the low weight. Use this as a one person tent and it’s almost palatial.

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MSR are well known for making outdoor products that work, so let’s get stuck into the Freelite 2 and see if it lives up to the reputation.

Features and pitching
It’s important to note up front this is a ‘semi’ freestanding tent. As opposed to a true free standing tent, which could be pitched without any pegging and be fully functional, the MSR Freelite 2 does need some pegging out. A three armed pole stretches from front to back. The main spine splitting in two at one end to form a ‘Y’ allowing the inner fly to be satisfactorily tight without pegging at one end. The opposite end however, is only attached to the pole in the middle, meaning the two edges of the inner fly need to be pegged out. We’ve never had a problem with this, but if you were camping on loose soil or sand it might be an issue getting tight corners at one end.

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To maintain the sides of the tent, a cross bar in the centre at the top keeps the sides in place. The pole-ends feature little rubber feet which fit nice and snug into metal clips on the outside of the inner fly. It would be possible to pitch and use the tent without the rain fly in good weather, although you’d compromise some privacy. Once the pole is in place above the inner, the inner simply clips on at a number of points to be suspended beneath the pole.

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The rain fly is then thrown over the top, ensuring the MSR logos are on the outside and the right way round. Small clips in the middle attach to the cross bar, along with the inner and more metal clips allow the corners to slip over the ends of the poles. A few tent pegs will then tighten up the loose end and peg out the sides to create the vestibules. Once set up the inner and outer have a good amount of distance between them, maintaining waterproofing and breathability.

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Overall it’s a quick and easy tent to pitch. It’s easy enough for one person to complete in under 10 minutes. We were also impressed with how tight it’s possible to get the inner and outer. Something that’s important if you’re going to encounter wind and rain as we have numerous times now.

In the wild
Out on the trail the MSR Freelite 2 performs really well. We often divide up the various parts between two of us to spread out the weight, but carrying it solo wouldn’t be a problem either. The inner and outer fly compress down really small and are easy to unpack and repack.

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When out on overnight hikes, we use self inflating sleeping mats and sleeping bags, which easily fit in the living space side by side. Bulky backpacks are usually left in the vestibules to save space. While the vestibule doesn’t have it’s own flooring, the rain fly will protect the bags and shoes from any rainfall. The living space also allows for a generous amount of head room, without worrying too much about pushing the inner fly against the outer fly when it might be wet. Unlike many weight conscious two person tents, the floor plan is almost rectangular with near vertical walls, rather than tapered, which helps to provide more space and less of a cramped feeling.
One of the best features by far is having a door either side. No crawling over one another in the middle of the night when nature calls. There’s also a generous amount of mesh in the inner fly which helps to keep air moving and allows moisture to escape. Roll up one of the vestibule doors and you’ll have a nice breeze to keep things fresh.

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We’ve been camping in some wild weather and the MSR Freelite 2 hasn’t let us down yet. Torrential rain, high winds, summer heat. Providing it’s pegged out right it generates very little noise even in high winds. If you think ahead you can even pitch with the more aerodynamic end facing into the wind for more noise reduction. The only issue we’ve had in the wild was a particular night on Mount Solitary; after climbing out in the dark for a wee, it was quite hard to find the tent afterwards due to the muted green rain fly! Some more reflective strips wouldn’t go amiss (or just paying attention to where you’re walking).

Durability
Being a lightweight tent, the materials used are… well… lightweight. You can buy a separate footprint made from a more robust material to protect the base of the inner from stones and sticks that you might not have seen when pitching. Although we haven’t had any issues, despite often camping on rough ground, we bought the footprint for peace of mind. A little extra weight sure, but preferable to a tent with a hole in it.

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We also have friends who have the same tent and they’ve caught the inner mesh in the door zip, putting a small tear in it. It hasn’t compromised the weather proofing, but something to take care with. The zips are best used with two hands to ensure the material stays tight and doesn’t snag.

Overall
We’ve been really impressed with our MSR Freelite 2. It’s easy to pack away in a backpack, either inside or strapped to the outside. It’s quick and easy to set up. We’ve even done it in a raging storm without any issues or water intrusion. It packs down just as quickly. Only being ‘semi’ freestanding is a consideration but not something that‘s caused us any issues so far. Having a ‘Y’ shaped pole at either end would solve the problem, so it’s strange MSR haven’t done this, although it would add a few grams of extra weight.

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While it’s expensive compared to some of the competition we’ve found it to be well a made, sturdy and ultimately, reliable two person hiking tent.

Tech specs
Season: 3
Sleeping Capacity: 2 Person
External Dimensions: 220L x 279W cm
Sleeping Area: 213L x 127W cm
Packed Dimensions: 46L x 15W x 15H cm
Max. Head Height: 96 cm
Material: 15D Nylon Ripstop Durashield™ Polyurethane & Silicone
Inner Material: 10D Polyester Micro-mesh
Floor Material: 15D Ripstop Nylon Durashield™ Polyurethane & DWR
Frame Material: 7000 Series Aluminium
Waterproof: 1200mm Floor | 1200mm Fly
Weight: 1.25 Kg
Minimum Weight: 1.08 kg

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