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MSR FreeLite 1

rated 4.0 of 5 stars
photo: MSR FreeLite 1 three-season tent


Price Current Retail: $399.95
Historic Range: $235.99-$399.95
Reviewers Paid: $89.00-$329.00


2 reviews
5-star:   0
4-star:   1
3-star:   1
2-star:   0
1-star:   0

Excellent lightweight one-person tent for backpacking. While not spacious, it gets the job done, dries quickly, and weighs very little.


  • Lightweight (32 oz)
  • Nice vestibule area
  • Dries quickly
  • Good ventilation
  • Side entry door
  • Side entry tent storage bag (described below)


  • Hard to get the foot end of the tent taut
  • Hard to get rainfly taut/not enough tie downs
  • Only 1 door
  • Cannot choose which side of door to tie back
  • Semi-freestanding
  • Very narrow

This tent is easy to pitch if it isn't too windy. There is one pole set which connects to the main tent body. Overall, it can be pitched as quick as any other one-person tent. As far as stability, I wouldn't want to use this in a windy situation. There aren't enough tie downs for the tent fly and it is nearly impossible to get it truly taut so it ends up flapping in the wind. I haven't used it in a driving rainstorm, but in regular rain there was no splashback into the tent.  

The ventilation of the tent is good even though it only has one door and you can't choose which side of the tent fly door you tie back. I am a 5'6" female and I find that the tent has plenty of headroom but is extremely narrow (30") and is really only wide enough for me and my Therm-a-Rest NeoAir. Not a tent for large people. 

The vestibule storage space is adequate and can hold two pairs of shoes, plus a few other loose odds and ends. If I wanted to, I could fit my backpack under there. There is also a mesh pocket at the head of the tent for any small items you want to store and not roll over onto. I would recommend using a footprint with this tent since the fabric does feel rather delicate.  

The best part of this tent is the storage bag. Instead of having to shove a rolled up tent/poles/stakes into a tiny opening, they made their storage bag have a side entry which is closed by drawstring and two clips (see below). This makes tent access and storage SO EASY! Why aren't all companies doing this?!?!


I have been using this tent for about six months straight now and it has held up very well, no rips or tears. I have used it in regular rain and stayed perfectly dry.  


This is my first MSR tent, and it definitely has pros and cons. I have used it on six trips so far and will continue using it for now.

Source: bought it new
Price Paid: $329


Thanks for the helpful review, Megan!

3 years ago

This is a very light tent that packs small. It's not for people who like to have a roomy tent, but there is room to keep your pack and other things either inside or in the vestibule.


  • Lightweight
  • More compact than other one-person tents
  • Can sit up in it


  • Not much room for side sleepers to stretch out
  • Poles have plastic tips

I bought this tent at an REI garage sale. I have been working to decrease my pack weight for a while and liked the look and setup of this tent. It is under 3 pounds and packs very small. I recently purchased a smaller backpack (45 l) since I don't usually go backpacking in the winter months anymore. So, although I love my two-person tent,  I wanted to really cut down on bulk and weight. I have used only a tarp, but wanted something to use during bug season.

The Freelite is easy to set up. It is advertised as free-standing, but I wouldn't really put it in that category because it needs to be guyed out a bit or the sides of the tent will cave in on you somewhat. There is one pole, which makes it really easy to put together. It also breaks down a little smaller than some other tents I have had, so it will fit in your pack better. The pole has one point of contact with the grommets at the bottom of the tent at one end and two points at the other. This is one place where I think MSR could improve on the design. The tent would set up more stable if there were two points at each end.

Anyway, once you attach the clips to the pole, and then guy it out in a couple places, it feels very stable and sturdy. I think the key to the 30 inches of width is the cross pole at the top, which keeps the tent from feeling too claustrophobic. The directions for the tent are printed right on the stuff sack, but I found it so easy I did not need them after the first time.

I am a side sleeper and found the tent to be "OK" for this sleeping position. I just had to keep my arm bent against the sidewall of the tent. A little uncomfortable for me, but I have managed to sleep well through a couple of trips so far. The tent measures about 86 inches long, 30 inches wide, and 36 inches high.  

The one feature that I really liked was the side opening door. There is only one door, but it is rather big and easy to get in and out of, without having to crawl over all your stuff, which is what you have to do with tents that have the door at one end. The zippers work easily and did not snag at any time.

I did not get a footprint with the tent. Not sure if they even make a footprint for this tent. I used a piece of Tyvek for a footprint. I would recommend using a footprint as the tent material is not quite as heavy as some other tents. I guess that is what makes it a little lighter. 

One thing that I noticed was that the tips of the pole, where they went into the grommets on the tent, were made of plastic. Not sure why, as the poles seem to be made of good quality aluminum. Will the tips break at some point? I will be very careful with them to be sure.  


I have used this on three backpacking trips.

Source: bought it used
Price Paid: $89


Nice review, Hikkerman! Thanks for taking the time to share it. If you have some pictures of your Freelite, those would be great to see in your review.

3 years ago

By the way, MSR does make a footprint for this tent: and also a Fast & Light Body option:

3 years ago

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