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Friday, July 10, 2020

Review: MSR Freelite 3 person tent

I bought the MSR Freelite 3 person tent from REI during a sale for about half the MSRP. At 3 pounds 7 ounces it was on a per person basis even lighter than my tried and tested Stephenson Warmlite 2R.  The material felt so light that I bought the custom footprint (also on sale), which at 7 ounces is still very light on a per person basis. Boen wasn't quite ready to go backcountry camping until this year, however, so we didn't try it until recently, though I'd set it up once on the lawn just to make sure it came with all the pieces.

Set up in the field was tricky. Putting together the tent pole (singular, just one) was a snap, as all the shock-corded pieces came together crisply and satisfyingly. But the tent is asymetrical and after you lay it down you still have to remember to swing the T piece and put the tent up. The tent is not free-standing, so you cannot pitch it on say, granite: it requires a minimum of 6 stakes to set up properly --- preferably more as the rainfly has guylines that will need to be tensioned when rain or high winds are expected.

Our first trip was in surprisingly cold weather, and we woke up dry but there was condensation on the fly. Our camping companion's tent had the same problem though, so I'd just chalk that up to the conditions. On our second trip, the tent stayed dry all night and all morning. To be honest, if you're camping in California, it's quite possible to not encounter rain for the lifetime of the tent, and UV will probably destroy the rain fly after 10 years.

Taking down the tent is much easier than putting it up, the only problem being that the stakes that come with the tent, being red, are very difficult to see if you make the mistake of leaving them on the ground and just unhooking the loops from the stakes to take down the tent first. Solution? Pull the stakes first before dealing with the rest of the tent.

I wouldn't pay MSRP for this tent, but at 50% off? It's a steal and comes recommended.

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