Deep-Dive Review: MSR Freelite 3 Tent
A portable three-person tent for deep backcountry adventures
The Freelite 3 ($480) is not the most livable three-person tent in our testing class, but it might be the best all-around for long backpacks thanks to its lightweight construction, satisfactory storage, and elite ventilation.
Designers shaved off nine ounces in this iteration, meaning the update weighs less than 2.5 pounds— an extraordinary accomplishment considering its 38.5 square feet of floor space will house three people and their gear. “Nobody argued over who had to carry the tent,” one tester said after a multi-day outing in Waimea Canyon, Hawaii. “It packs down to slightly larger than a jumbo paper-towel roll.” Inside, sleeping conditions will be shoulder to shoulder, although the space-to-weight ratio is what our testers loved about the Freelite. “It’s not the biggest three-person tent on the market, but few can be carried as far,” another tester said after a ten-mile backpack in the Colorado National Monument.
The update did reduce overall vestibule space slightly; however, its two vestibules still offer 14 total square feet (seven per side), which is adequate for three people plus packs and boots. Mesh pockets are available for small personal items, and a peak height of 43 inches lets you sit up without hitting your head.
The Freelite’s three-quarter mesh body scored high marks in ventilation, even in humid climates. “Hurricane Ida had just passed through the week before, so there was a surplus of groundwater, and it rained consistently the last night on the trail,” yet another tester reported from Georgia’s Cohutta Wilderness. “Yet the tent provided a dry refuge from above and below. No rain got in, the tent bottom was bone dry, and there was no condensation buildup despite having to close the fly door.”
Setup is easy with the on- hubbed aluminum pole and included guy-out lines, which held taut in 20-mile-per-hour winds. The tent is semi-freestanding, meaning it will need to be staked out properly to achieve its full pitch (be sure to bring the appropriate stakes for the terrain). The fly is made of 15-denier ripstop nylon, which is effective in its weather proofing but needs careful handling to avoid tearing or puncturing.
The Freelite is one of the most portable three-person tents out there, but it is also a nice upgrade for solo hikers, couples, or pet owners looking for more space, as it is lighter and larger than many two-person tents on the market.