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Hands-on Gear Review

MSR FreeLite 2 UltraLight Review

MSR FreeLite 2 UltraLight
Price:   $440 List | $433.46 at Amazon
Compare prices at 5 resellers
Pros:  Lightweight, two doors
Cons:  Low doorway, small interior
Bottom line:  A great choice for all your backpacking trips for two.
Editors' Rating:     
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Manufacturer:   MSR

Our Verdict

MSR has created a lighter, smaller cousin to the Hubba series, the MSR FreeLite. We tested the two-person version and were pleased with this tent's space-to-weight ratio, its comfortable two doors, and how compact its materials are. It is a lightweight tent and with this designation comes the drawbacks of being less spacious and durable than a more traditional camping tent.

Check out our full Backpacking Tent Review to see how these tents compare to others. Consider an Ultralight Tent to save even more weight when backpacking.


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Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results

Review by:
Jessica Haist
Review Editor
OutdoorGearLab

Last Updated:
Thursday
November 24, 2016

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The MSR FreeLite 2 gives the Hubba Hubba NX a run for its money in the weight and packed size departments. We reached for this tent over the Hubba Hubba this summer for our long backpacking trips.

The MSR FreeLite is a great choice for all your backpacking trips for two  especially when you choose other lightweight items like a Neo Air mattress.
The MSR FreeLite is a great choice for all your backpacking trips for two, especially when you choose other lightweight items like a Neo Air mattress.

Performance Comparison



Comfort


This tent's configuration is very similar to the Big Agnes Fly Creek HV UL 2 with one huge, comfort-level-increasing difference: it has two doors. This gives is a huge advantage over the Fly Creek because it is much easier to have two people entering, exiting and storing their packs in the two separate, ample-sized vestibules. Other than that, it is one of the less comfortable two-door tents in this review.

The weight savings of the FreeLite is worth a bit of hunching over inside  compared to the heavy  roomier Hubba Hubba.
The weight savings of the FreeLite is worth a bit of hunching over inside, compared to the heavy, roomier Hubba Hubba.

The FreeLite 2 has a low peak height of 36", the lowest we tested, and this makes it more difficult for you to get in and out of the tent, as well as sit up — so tall people beware. We find that if you tension the doors too tightly this strains the middle pole so it bows, creating even less headroom. The interior also feels a bit smaller than its big cousin, the Hubba Hubba NX, even though they have the same floor dimensions (84x50).

Because one end of the tent does not have a hubbed pole design and only has one pole down the middle, those sides tend to sag, creating less space inside. We also noticed that when the tent body is clipped to the hubbed poles at the other end of the tent, the floor is pulled up, creating less floor space. The FreeLite has one medium-sized pocket at the head that we wish was sewn to the tent body instead of hanging down into the area of the tent. It is large enough to hold headlamps and other personal items.

The one pocket sags into the interior of the tent and the floor gets pulled up off the ground when the body of the tent is clipped to the hubbed poles.
The one pocket sags into the interior of the tent and the floor gets pulled up off the ground when the body of the tent is clipped to the hubbed poles.

Because there is no hub at one end  the FreeLite's sides tend to sag.
Because there is no hub at one end, the FreeLite's sides tend to sag.

Weather Resistance


We were nervous that the FreeLite would not perform well in high winds because of its non-free standing nature and single pole end that goes straight to the ground. But, because of the two doors being staked out on either side, we found that it fared relatively well in the wind, much better than the Big Agnes Fly Creek HV UL2 that flops over in the wind. The MSR Hubba Hubba NX is slightly stronger in winds than the FreeLite. We also like that its delicate material has reinforced guy points to add strength to it.

The MSR FreeLite high bathtub floor walls where it counts to keep out splashback in heavy rain.
The MSR FreeLite high bathtub floor walls where it counts to keep out splashback in heavy rain.

The MSR FreeLite has a small interior  but the two doors and vestibules make it much more livable.
The MSR FreeLite has a small interior, but the two doors and vestibules make it much more livable.

We did not experience much rain in the FreeLite, but imagine it would handle splash-back well because of its high bathtub floors around the sides and its double doors.

Weight and Packed Size


This category is where the FreeLite leaves the Hubba Hubba in the dust. The FreeLite weighs three pounds even, a whopping 11.4 ounces lighter than the Hubba Hubba NX. It also packs down quite small, almost as small as the Nemo Blaze 2p. Its materials are much lighter weight, albeit more delicate, than the Hubba Hubba and therefore it packs down into a much smaller package and is easier to stuff into the small crannies of your backpack. The FreeLite has a great space-to-weight ratio of .97, the highest scorer being the Tarptent Double Rainbow at 1.09.

The Hubba Hubba NX 2 and the MSR FreeLite Bodies shown side by side. The extra pole hub  more durable fabric and more nylon material make the Hubba heavier -- but roomier and more durable.
The Hubba Hubba NX 2 and the MSR FreeLite Bodies shown side by side. The extra pole hub, more durable fabric and more nylon material make the Hubba heavier -- but roomier and more durable.

The MSR Hubba Hubba and FreeLite side by side. You can see how the FreeLite has a lower profile.
The MSR Hubba Hubba and FreeLite side by side. You can see how the FreeLite has a lower profile.

We are pleased with MSR's attention to detail in the weight savings department. The zipper flaps have high quality Velcro, small zippers and cord zipper pulls (instead of heavier metal) and small pole clips and toggles — all small, well thought out details to reduce weight.

Setup


Because the FreeLite is not completely freestanding, it can be slightly tricky to set up, but find it easier to set up than the Fly Creek. We find the best way to set up this tent is to stake out the four corners first to a perfect square, then you don't have to worry about the single pole at the back being supported. As we mentioned in the comfort section, you have to be careful when tensioning the doors of this tent as it can make the middle pole bow and create less headroom.

Durability


MSR has made a slight sacrifice of durability to make this tent much lighter than the Hubba Hubba. It has a thin, 15 Denier weight fly and floor material, versus the Hubba's 20 D. The REI Half Dome 2+ has the heaviest 75 Denier fly material.

Best Application


We would bring the FreeLite 2 along on all our twp-person backpacking adventures.

Value


The FreeLite 2 retails for $440. That is $40 more than the Hubba Hubba and we would gladly pay that extra money to shave almost three quarters of a pound. However, we think the Double Rainbow is a much better deal for $289; it's a lighter tent. We might even spend $10 ($450) more for an even lighter more packable tent that won our Top Pick Award for Lightweight, the NEMO Blaze.

The MSR FreeLite has a low peak height of 36" and the ridgeline can be pulled even lower if you tension the door too tight  as seen here.
The MSR FreeLite has a low peak height of 36" and the ridgeline can be pulled even lower if you tension the door too tight, as seen here.

Conclusion


MSR's FreeLite series is rendering the Hubba series obsolete. We like the weight savings of this tent and its attention to detail. The difference in durability between the two models is negligible. The main difference is that the Hubba Hubba is slightly more comfortable with more headroom all around, and it is completely free standing. We think these small sacrifices are worth the weight savings.

Other Versions and Accessories


The FreeLite comes in 1, 2 and 3 person models.
Jessica Haist

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OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews


Most recent review: November 24, 2016
Summary of All Ratings

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:   
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 (4.0)
Average Customer Rating:     (0.0)
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4 star: 100%  (1)
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