MSR Flylite 2-Person Trekking Pole Shelter
Stated “Packed” Weight: 1020 g / 2.25 lbs
- Standard trekking pole compatibility
- Reinforced corner and peak patches
- Ultralight fabric
- Large awning with side wings
- Large venting door
- Mesh side vents
Days Tested: 20
Test Locations: Colorado Trail & Rocky Mountain National Park, CO; various overnight trips in Utah
At the slender end of the spectrum for backpacking shelters are full-enclosure minimalist shelters like the MSR Flylite. These types of shelters integrate hiking poles and tensioning lines to provide their structure, and are essentially the bantamweight boxers of the backcountry-shelter world — they aren’t carrying any superfluous weight, but they aren’t packing much punch, either.
The Flylite is MSR’s lightest fully-enclosed shelter, and it offers a small step up in protection from more minimalist overheard tarp setups. To set up the Flylite, you stake out the corners of the floor, then tension three guy wires that stabilize two hiking poles (in the front of the tent) and a single, short, DAC aluminum pole (at the foot of the tent). There’s no rainfly to put on; the Flylite is a single-wall shelter, and consists of a 20-denier ripstop nylon floor, 10-denier ripstop nylon body fabric, and 10-denier micro mesh panels at both ends of the shelter. Both nylon fabrics have a polyurethane coating with a 1200 mm waterproof rating.
Functionally, then, the Flylite still has some of the same quirks that accompany single-wall tents — internal condensation can be an issue if you’re going to be out in temps that drop beneath the dew point. That said, the four mesh panels (one each at the head and foot, and two underneath the “wings” on either side) do emulate the standard double-wall backpacking tents that most backpackers are familiar with (the Marmot Limelight is a good example).
How Light is “Ultralight”?
The Flylite has a minimum weight of 710 g, and a packed weight of 1020 g. Packed weight refers to the total weight of everything included in the package off the shelf. Minimum weight refers to the combined weight of only the tent body, rainfly, and tent poles, but not any other items that might be included in the package such as stakes, guy wires, stuff sacks, etc. For the remainder of this review, we will refer to packed weights.
For reference, many lightweight, freestanding backpacking tents weigh almost twice as much as the Flylite. The Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2 weighs 1400 g, and REI’s Quarter Dome 2 weighs 1700 g. High-end freestanding tents achieve a weight that’s similar to the Flylite (the Nemo Hornet 2 and Blaze 2 each weigh 1048 g, and the Big Agnes Fly Creek HV2 Platinum hits 907 g) but are significantly more expensive ($369, $479, and $549, respectively).
While it’s important to understand exactly how much weight is saved relative to most freestanding tents, such comparisons come with a caveat. The reported weight of the Flylite doesn’t include the hiking poles required to assemble the tent. So you have to already be packing hiking poles in order to realize any of these weight savings. Back in my days hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, I adopted the practice of using hiking poles if carrying a heavy pack for more than a half day’s hike, and I now consider them indispensable for long backpacking trips. However, it needs to be understood that these sorts of minimalist shelters depend on you having hiking poles to work with. So if you don’t use hiking poles, then you should turn your attention to freestanding options.
NEXT: Interior Space, Ventilation, Etc.