Gear Review: MSR Freelite 2 Tent

MSR is a popular outdoor gear equipment manufacturer, known for their stoves and tents. The Freelite 2 is a dual access, lightweight, semi-freestanding tent. For ultralighters, it can be used in what MSR refers to as their Fast & Light set—just the rainfly, poles, and footprint. The tent has two doors, each of which has a large vestibule.

Basic Specs

MSRP: $489.95

Standard Weight* (includes stakes, guy cords, stuff sack):  2 pounds, 15 ounces
Capacity: Two-person
Entries: Two side-entry doors
Floor Area: 29 square feet
Vestibule Area: 17.5 square feet
Poles: Single-hub Easton® Syclone™
Interior Peak Height: 36 inches
Rainfly Fabric: 15D Nylon Ripstop 1200mm Xtreme Shield™ polyurethane & silicone
Floor Fabric: 15D Nylon Ripstop 1200mm Xtreme Shield™ polyurethane & DWR

*For more information about the different configurations and weights of the Freelite, see the breakdown at the end of this review.

image via MSR Gear

*For more information about the different configurations and weights of the Freelite, see the breakdown at the end of this review.

Circumstance of Review

I took this tent on multiple trips this summer in Ontario, including backcountry canoe trips in Algonquin and Restoule Provincial. It’s easy to set up, whether with a partner or solo. I didn’t get a chance to try the Fast & Light setup because this was one of the most buggy summers on record, but I hope to give it a try this fall. Stay tuned for an update here once I do. I can confidently say that this tent is very bug-proof.

Generally, the weather was good; there was only one night of mild rain. No water got into the tent that night, but the sleeping bags that were touching the walls of the tent were damp in the morning. In their 2019 line of tents, MSR introduced the Xtreme Shield System, which is intended to increase the longevity of your tent. It involves a different waterproof coating and the use of lap-felled seams. For more information about this process, check out this post on the MSR Blog. However, MSR does recommend seam sealing the XTreme Shield tents with a sealant such as Seam Grip if you expect to spend extended periods in heavy rain conditions.

Footprint

The footprint does not come with the tent and must be purchased separately. MSR seems to be phasing out the model-specific footprints (the FreeLite 2 Tent Footprint is currently on clearance) in favor of their universal footprints. The one that fits this tent is the MSR Universal Footprint (MSRP: $34.95). The floor of the Freelite is thin enough that I would recommend using the footprint or being very selective about where you pitch it.

Livable Space

Two people can share this tent very comfortably. There is lots of room in the tent to store gear, and if you don’t want to bring your wet or stinky gear into the tent itself, the two roomy vestibules have plenty of storage space available. There is one large mesh pouch inside the tent for storage. Dual doors are key for shared tents; rather than having to climb over your partner in the middle of the night to get out for a bathroom break, you have your own exit.

Although space is an important positive point for this tent, it does seem extremely long. Not a lot of people will fill up the entire 2.13 meters of the length of the tent. Using my petite Big Agnes Q-Core SLX mat, there was well over a foot of excess space at the bottom of the tent. For tall people, this is probably a positive. For short people, it’s a lot of excess material and weight that aren’t adding anything to the quality of their backcountry experience.

This tent has a lower peak than other MSR tents like the Hubba Hubba. I am pretty short (5’4”), so it was never a problem for me, but taller people may find it a little cramped. However, the length means that the taller among us will have lots of room to stretch out when horizontal.

Pros

Lots of room for two people to sleep comfortably.

The MSR Freelite is very spacious and comfortable for a backcountry tent. Despite not getting the seams sealed, I had no problem with water inflow in mild rain conditions due to the bathtub-style floors. I was very safe from bugs.

This tent is made of good quality materials. The tent body, fly, and footprint showed no signs of wear after being lugged around for a summer’s worth of camping, despite not using the manufacturer’s stuff sack. The zippers do not snag when pulled. The single carbon composite pole is amazingly light.

Cons

As mentioned previously, the tent is extremely long. Because it is a spacious two-person tent, it does not pack down particularly small. There is a lot of material with this tent, especially when you’re using the full setup, so it will take up a lot of space in your pack compared to say, a two-person single access tent or a shelter. Using the manufacturer stuff sack does help it to pack down smaller, but the stuff sack includes several straps and buckles. I try to limit excess packaging when packing my gear and the stuff sack was heavier than I wanted to bring along.

The only part of this setup that showed wear after my testing was the pegs. Because they are square (rather than some ultralight pegs, which tend to be flat or Phillips), they are harder to push into the ground, especially in the rocky Canadian Shield. Several of my pegs became bent. They are not hard to bend back into their proper shape, but after they’ve bent once they are more likely to do so again.

I found the guyline tricky to get right when putting up the tent. They tend to pull the fly down rather than outward, so the fly will touch on the mesh of the tent sometimes. In rainy conditions, this allows moisture into the tent. It takes a surprising amount of fiddling every time you set up the tent to get the lines right, unlike other tendt I’ve had where, after adjusting the guylines the first time, they are more or less perfect with every installation. Attaching the lines to nearby trees sometimes works better than using the pegs or rocks on the ground.

Overall Thoughts

The MSR Freelite is a great compromise for those who want a spacious and comfortable tent in the backcountry without having to suffer for that comfort by carrying a heavy shelter. It weighs less than half of most of MSRs other backpacking tents, with the exception of the ultralight Carbon Reflex 2 (check out our review of that tent here). However, weight reduction comes at a steep price. The Freelite is light in the pack, but not on the bank account.

Freelite 2 Hubba Hubba Zoic 2 Elixir 2 Carbon Reflex 2
Weight (Standard) (tent body, rainfly, guylines, stakes, poles, stuff sacks) 2 lbs 15 oz 4 lbs 2 oz 4 lbs 13 oz 6 lbs 2 lbs 3 oz
Minimum Weight (tent body, rainfly, and tent poles) 2 lbs 8 oz 3 lbs 8 oz 4 lbs 6 oz 5 lbs 1 lb 13 oz
Fast & Light Weight (rainfly, poles, and footprint) 2 lbs 2 oz 3 lbs 3 lbs 8 oz N/A 1 lb 9 oz
MRSP $489.95 $449.95 $349.95 $249.95 $549.95

MSR follows the ASTM International F 1934-98 standards for determining weight.

It’s quick and simple to set up, and because it is semi-freestanding, you can pick it up to shake out the dirt and detritus before packing it up in the morning.

It is much larger than any single person would need on a long-distance hike, but if you can afford it, it can provide a lot of space and comfort for a couple hiking together. I got this tent with the intention of taking my partner and dog with me, and we can all sleep comfortably in it. I like the double-door access, and the tent weighs little enough that I don’t really mind the excess length. It means I can store more gear inside the tent overnight, or have room to set up my dog’s sleeping mat.

Shop the MSR Freelite 2 Here

This product was donated for purposes of review.

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Comments 1

  • Steve Shrader : Sep 22nd

    My wife and I have been using the Freelite 3 for two years now. Backpacking Appalachian states, tent camping on the OBX and at our family’s property in the Allegheny Mtns. We love it!
    Except:
    Condensation is always an issue if you close the fly at night.
    The mesh areas near the door zippers is beginning to tear due to stretching as the zipper goes by. Not very durable.
    Definitely purchase a footprint as the bottom of the tent is VERY thin. (It did survive a 4-day trip without the footprint with no damage)

    Reply

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