The MSR Flylite 2 is a unique design that features a sizeable 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 recess 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 critical job of any tent, this critical failure, unfortunately, dooms this tent to not even being worth your consideration.
MSR Flylite 2 Review
Cons: Tarp collects water instead of shedding it, causing it to cave in and leak
Our Analysis and Test Results
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. The only way to shed this water was to deploy our backpack, propped up on top of us as we slept, as a central 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.
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 down until it is resting on top of the hapless sleepers inside. There is no doubt that this tent is not capable of holding up to any amount of precipitation, enough said.
If it weren'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 spacious 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.
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 can 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.
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.
Ease of Setup
It's a good thing that setup instructions come sewn into the stuff sack because this tent is not 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.
Since this tent will not protect you from the rain, light snow, hail, or any precipitation without collapsing in on itself and causing you to get wet and spend the whole night awake, there is no outdoor application, except clear weather, that we think it ideally suits.
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.
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.
— Andy Wellman