A Lightweight Backpacking Tent Actually Built for Two

 Courtesy MSR

What It Is: A two-person, freestanding tent perfect for when you need to keep it light, and space is at a premium. Though everything from zippers to guy lines is pared down, the FreeLite is made from the highest quality materials, and will hold up to long-term use and tough weather. The FreeLite 2 includes 29 square feet of floor, 30 cubic feet of interior space, and two 14.5-cubic-foot vestibules. The tent and fly have taped seams and reinforced stress points. It’s also available in one- and three-person versions.

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Why We Like It: For slightly more weight than a bivy sack, the FreeLite gives you more space, and it’s not a claustrophobic plastic bag, but a fully featured tent. The body has loads of mesh — best for three-season use, decent headroom when you’re sitting up, and one end of the floor has box-like construction. It gave us extra headroom while lying down when we used this for a week-long cycling camping trip. There is plenty of space for one person and gear inside the main body of the tent. If there are two of you, use the spacious dual vestibules for storage. The tent has two large doors that made it easy to enter and leave. And we appreciated the internal storage pockets — we stored our headlamps there so we could find them in the middle of the night.

The tent saves weight with tiny guy lines, minimalist stakes, trim webbing corners for staking the tent, and lightweight fabrics in the tent and fly. But it’s just as water-resistant as its heavier MSR cousins. In our pack, the tent was about the same size as two 32-oz Nalgene bottles tip to tail — but it’s easy to compress it further. We packed poles separate from the body and fly. Setting up, we loved that the poles were laced together into a single skeleton. It saved time on setup, and meant we had fewer pieces to keep track of overall. Add a ground cloth to protect delicate fabrics if you’ll be using this tent on a rocky surface. With the ground cloth, it’s just over three pounds.

Nitpick: Practice setting this tent up at home — don’t try to do it for the first time on the trail when you are dirty and hungry, or worse, in the middle of a storm. It’s not completely foolproof like many tents. But if you take the time to look at the stitch lines on the fly, you’ll see how they line up with the poles and how the poles, fly, and body match up and fit together. As with most ultralight two-person tents, make sure you’re good friends with your tent mates because you’ll be in close quarters.

[$440; cascadedesigns.com]