Hands-on Gear Review

MSR Flylite 2 Review

MSR FreeLite 2
Price:  $350 List | $208.73 at REI
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Pros:  Spacious inside for two, fully enclosed design means privacy and bug protection
Cons:  Tarp collects water instead of shedding it, causing it to cave in and leak
Bottom line:  A promising new tent that needs to go back to the design room.
Editors' Rating:   
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Trail Weight: Fly/tarp, tent/optional bug net, poles.:  1 lb 9 oz
Shelter/ FastFly Weight (tarp and minimum guy lines or fly and poles):  1 lb 9 oz
Weight of Components:  Total: 1lb. 12.1oz ; tent: 1lb. 6.7oz.; stakes: 3.2oz.; pole: 1.5oz.; stuff sack: 0.8oz.
Manufacturer:   MSR

Our Verdict

The MSR Flylite 2 is a unique design that features a large wing-like tarp overhead with a fully enclosed single wall tent suspended beneath it. The sides of the door are supported by adjustable trekking poles, while a short carbon fiber pole props up the back. While it is plenty spacious and comfortable inside for two people, it has a fatal design flaw that makes it unsuitable for protection from any precipitation. The overhead tarp in between the three support points forms a triangle that instead of shedding water, actually collects it. This creates a giant pool in the middle of the tarp, causing it to cave in from above and leak water onto those inside. Since protection from rain is probably the most important job of any tent, this critical failure, unfortunately, dooms this tent to not even being worth your consideration.


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Our Analysis and Test Results

Review by:
Andy Wellman

Last Updated:
Tuesday
August 1, 2017

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As the lightest shelter in the MSR lineup and featuring a very different design that employs both adjustable trekking poles up front next to the door, the newly released Flylite 2 certainly had us curious. Unfortunately for us, the first night that we used it in the Himalayas of Nepal it rained all night before switching over to slushy snow just before dawn. We realized almost immediately that the triangular shape of the roof was collecting water into a giant puddle directly on top of us, and the only way to shed this water was to deploy our backpack, propped up on top of us as we slept, as an interior 4th pole to keep the fabric from sagging and the water shedding off to the sides.

Well before morning, having woken up numerous times with the entire soaking wet tent collapsed on top of us and with everything we owned soaked, we abandoned ship and spent the rest of the night sleeping under the eave of a nearby building. While we feel stupid for not having identified this problem in advance, we have since studied it quite a bit and are fully confident when we say the design flaw is fatal, and no amount of tweaking is going to cause this tarp to drain water properly without pooling on top. As such, it is effectively useless if there is any precipitation at all, and we strongly recommend against buying it.

Performance Comparison


The Flylite 2 set up in the Khumbu of Nepal. Two adjustable trekking poles are needed on either side of the door  and a short pole  included  provides the height in the back. Notice the large area needed for setup.
The Flylite 2 set up in the Khumbu of Nepal. Two adjustable trekking poles are needed on either side of the door, and a short pole, included, provides the height in the back. Notice the large area needed for setup.

Weather Resistance


We have already described above the central problem with this tent — the fact that its triangular shaped roof does not shed water and instead allows it to pool on top. Soon the ripstop nylon becomes waterlogged and water begins to drip through, that is if the weight of the water itself has not caused the roof to sag all the way down until it is resting on top of the hapless sleepers inside. There is no doubt that this tent is simply not capable of holding up to any amount of precipitation, enough said.

The depression in the middle of this tent clearly shows where the water collects. We know that it isn't designed for snow  but this was a problem all night in the rain before it began snowing as well. This is a fatal flaw  and this tent is NOT suited for any sort of moisture. We had to abandon ship before the night was over and slept under a nearby metal roof.
The depression in the middle of this tent clearly shows where the water collects. We know that it isn't designed for snow, but this was a problem all night in the rain before it began snowing as well. This is a fatal flaw, and this tent is NOT suited for any sort of moisture. We had to abandon ship before the night was over and slept under a nearby metal roof.

The first night we used this tent in the Ralwoling valley of Nepal  we encountered an all night rain storm that turned to slush by morning. You can see the critical flaw of this tent  the fact that it has a broad roof triangular shaped roof that collects  rather than sheds  water. For this reason we would not recommend it to anyone that expects any sort of weather  which is what a tent is for.
The first night we used this tent in the Ralwoling valley of Nepal, we encountered an all night rain storm that turned to slush by morning. You can see the critical flaw of this tent, the fact that it has a broad roof triangular shaped roof that collects, rather than sheds, water. For this reason we would not recommend it to anyone that expects any sort of weather, which is what a tent is for.

Livability


If it wasn't for the flaw described above, we would say that we liked this tent quite a bit. In particular, we found it to be quite spacious inside, far more so than the Terra Nova Solar Photon 2 or the Nemo Hornet 2P. It has a relatively high roof for sitting up inside, and its wide interior is plenty big for two people and their wide sleeping pads. We also liked that it was fully enclosed, offering protection against the bugs, wind, and privacy. That said, the awning style exterior overhangs are not big enough for storing gear under and expecting it to stay dry, and we had a lot of problems with built up condensation on those nights when we were forced to use it and it didn't rain.

While it is not very tall inside  the FLylite 2 is plenty wide enough and long enough for two adults to sleep comfortably. It does not have a vestibule  but does have a small from awning covering the door.
While it is not very tall inside, the FLylite 2 is plenty wide enough and long enough for two adults to sleep comfortably. It does not have a vestibule, but does have a small from awning covering the door.

Weight


This tent weighs 1lb. 12.1oz. which is pretty light considering it comes with all the necessary stakes, as well as a short pole for propping up the back. It does require the addition of two adjustable trekking poles, although it can supposedly be suspended from above if you are able to find such a suitable campsite and happen to be carrying the necessary lengths of cordage. Minus the weight of the stakes, it was the fourth heaviest tent, a shade heavier than the Hyperlite Mountain Gear UltaMid 2, but a bit lighter than the Big Agnes Fly Creek HV2 Platinum.

Everything that comes with the MSR Flylite 2. Tent on the right  stuff sack with sewn in instructions  dedicated stakes  and single short pole for the back of the tent. You must add two adjustable trekking poles to this setup.
Everything that comes with the MSR Flylite 2. Tent on the right, stuff sack with sewn in instructions, dedicated stakes, and single short pole for the back of the tent. You must add two adjustable trekking poles to this setup.

The Flylite 2 stuffs down into a tiny stuff sack  meaning it is easy to carry in a small pack.
The Flylite 2 stuffs down into a tiny stuff sack, meaning it is easy to carry in a small pack.

Adaptability


Although it can be hung from above should you find an adequate tree branch, thus relieving one from the need for adjustable poles, we find this to be a bit of a stretch in terms of practicality. The fact is this tent must be set up the same way every time, and needs to be guyed out on all sides a long way from the body of the tent. The effect is that the necessary amount of space for this tent is huge. It is also advisable to use this tent in a sheltered area, and you would be better sleeping under a tree or a rock if it is going to rain. Obviously it is less adaptable than the Six Moons Designs Haven Tarp, or any other shelter in this review.

The Flylite 2 set up for a night of solo camping in a remote valley in the Khumbu Himalaya of Nepal. You can see that the guy lines need to stretch out far from this tent  meaning you need a fairly wide flat area for setup.
The Flylite 2 set up for a night of solo camping in a remote valley in the Khumbu Himalaya of Nepal. You can see that the guy lines need to stretch out far from this tent, meaning you need a fairly wide flat area for setup.

Ease of Setup


It's a good thing that setup instructions come sewn into the stuff sack because this tent is not really like any other we have ever seen. Once you have practiced a time or two it becomes pretty easy, although having to prop up three poles and stake out nine different points and adjust them all for sufficient tautness takes a bit of time. It is roughly the same amount of challenge to set up alone as our Editors' Choice winning Zpacks Duplex or the Hyperlight Mountain Gear Square Flat Tarp.

After staking out all four corners  inserting the two front poles for support  and guying them out for tension  the last step for setup is to insert the single short pole in the back of the tent. It is relatively easy to set up with one person.
After staking out all four corners, inserting the two front poles for support, and guying them out for tension, the last step for setup is to insert the single short pole in the back of the tent. It is relatively easy to set up with one person.

Best Applications


Since this tent will not protect you from the rain, light snow, hail, or any sort of precipitation without collapsing in on itself and causing you to get wet and spend the whole night awake, there is no outdoor application, except perfectly clear weather, that we think it is suited to.

Expecting there to be a guesthouse that unfortunately fell down in an earthquake  we spent our first night out in Nepal in the MSR Flylite 2 set up in the yard. Unfortunately  it started raining immediately after this photo was taken  and due to the failure of this tent  we ended up soaked.
Expecting there to be a guesthouse that unfortunately fell down in an earthquake, we spent our first night out in Nepal in the MSR Flylite 2 set up in the yard. Unfortunately, it started raining immediately after this photo was taken, and due to the failure of this tent, we ended up soaked.

Value


The Flylite 2 retails for $350. If it worked as well as it is supposed to, then we would say the materials and protection were probably worth the money. However, since it doesn't work, we would say that it costs about $350 more than it is worth.

Conclusion


As a fatally flawed tarp that will collect water on top and collapse in on itself if it rains, thereby soaking and upsetting the people counting on it for shelter in the backcountry, the MSR Flylite 2 is obviously the lowest scorer in our ultralight shelter review, and should not have been released as is, in all honesty.

An empty view of the Flylite 2. While the awnings on all sides do a good job of protecting the sides of the tent from wind blown water or splashback  they don't offer much room for protecting gear  like packs or shoes.
An empty view of the Flylite 2. While the awnings on all sides do a good job of protecting the sides of the tent from wind blown water or splashback, they don't offer much room for protecting gear, like packs or shoes.
Andy Wellman

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