MSR FreeLite 2 UltraLight Review
Cons: Low doorway, small interior
Our Analysis and Test Results
The MSR FreeLite 2 gave 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.
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 feature gives it 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 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 with the tent body 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.
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.
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 Ultralight. 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.
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.
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 if the single pole at the back is 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.
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.
We would bring the FreeLite 2 along on all our two-person backpacking adventures.
The FreeLite 2 retails for $490, which is 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. The NEMO Blaze is an even lighter more packable tent that won our Top Pick Award for Lightweight.
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