Gear Review: Lightheart Solo Tent

I finally had a chance to try out my new tent, the Lightheart Gear Solo tent on an overnight trek along the Art Loeb Trail, and then again on our trip to New Hampshire.  (More on that epic oddysey, soon!)

I bought this tent for three reasons. 

  1. The weight...listed as 27 ounces on the website (1 lb, 11 oz)
  2. It came highly recommended by some of my new Trail Dames buddies.
  3. It’s produced by a local (to me) company.

Oh, yeah, the fact that it’s purple didn’t hurt, either.

I’m going to give it an 6/10 for now, because even though there’s a lot to like about this tent, there are a few things that might have been deal-breakers if I’d thought it through just a little more.

Here are the yays.  Followed by the Sad Furs. 

YAY!

1.      It is lightweight, with caveats.  

(I wish manufacturers would be more honest about this on their websites.)

After you add in the seam sealing, stakes (which--boo!--you have to buy separately) and the ground cover, the weight comes in at 38 ounces (2 lb, 6 oz).

So, just average for a lightweight tent.  Not spectacular.  Just average.

2.      It sets up with trekking poles. 

Instead of carrying tent poles on your back, you’re making them do double duty by also being your trekking poles. 

Double duty = Extra Credit.

3.  It’s roomy, with 30 square feet of floor space. 

Big enough for me, my pack and my poodle.  (The poodle weighs 75 pounds, but packs down really small when he curls up.)

Seriously, 30 square feet is a shit-load for a one-person tent.

4.  Headroom! 

At 43 inches in the center, even a tall person (not my problem) could sit up easily inside.  At least in the middle.

5.  It packs down really, really small.

 Lightheart Solo, top.   MSR Hubba Hubba bottom.

Lightheart Solo, top.   MSR Hubba Hubba bottom.

6.  It’s made in the US and the company is local (to me).

7.  It’s economical. 

Price listed is $260, but after all the add-ons (seam sealing, stakes, tyvek footprint), I paid $335.  Not bad for ultralight gear.

8.  It’s purple! 

I know!  Before you roll your eyes because I care about things like color, hear me out.  Color does matter.  At least for a tent.  Read on to find out why...

 

SAD FUR:

1.  It’s purple. 

Yep, I realize I just said I love the color, and I do.  I love purple.  Just maybe not for a tent. 

Here’s why.  On our overnighter this week, we took two separate tents.  When my husband set up our MSR Hubba Hubba, I remembered what I loved about that tent.  

It’s yellow!

And I'm not usually a big fan of yellow.

But yellow is good.  Because if it’s raining and you’re stuck inside a small tent reading and playing cards, a light colored tent will allow more light to enter the tent. 

That will do wonders for keeping your spirits lifted.  

And seeing your thumbs as you twiddle them.

Backpacking and thru-hiking is challenging enough and sometimes we’re already digging deep to keep going and stay motivated.  Whatever we can do to increase our enjoyment and odds of success, we should do that. 

And it could be a simple as choosing a tent that can brighten a dreary day.

2.  Tiny vestibule. 

Not the biggest of deals because there’s so much floor space and the small (3.75 ft2) vestibule is perfect for my boots.  But maybe I don’t want my stinky backpack in my tent with me.  A bigger vestibule would be nice.

(In all fairness, Lightheart Gear does make a tent with an awning.  Find it here.  It's only offered in camo.  Camo anything is a deal-breaker for me.)

3.  Set up is a little tricky. 

You have to get inside the tent to set it up and getting the corners lined up and the floor wrinkle-free takes practice.

I felt like I wanted my instruction manual with me because I wanted it perfect.  It wasn't.  And I slept fine.

 This pic is from the website and it's perfect.  Mine still sags a little and crinkles in the middle.  

This pic is from the website and it's perfect.  Mine still sags a little and crinkles in the middle.  

4.  Tent platforms are not friendly to trekking pole tents.

I was okay with all the downsides until we went to New Hampshire.  In the White Mountains, the official tent sites are (mostly) platforms hovering over rugged, unlevel ground.  

This is why most AT hikers prefer a free-standing tent.

The MSR Hubba Hubba sprang into action at a moment's notice, no futzing required.

The Lightheart Solo required all kinds of contortions to get it providing a roof over my head. Contortions mostly meant zig-zagging our bear bag cord all over the platform from the tent tie-out lines to trees to hooks to rocks.  Just to get the thing to stand up.  Then it was all saggy and limp like a stuffed animal left out in the rain.  Sad fur!

Thank goodness it didn't rain that night because I don't think it would have kept me dry.

 Platforms + non-freestanding tent = pain in butt.

Platforms + non-freestanding tent = pain in butt.

5.  The downside of shopping local….less generous repair and return policies.  

We’d camped multiple (30 nights?) times in our Hubba Hubba when the fly failed.  MSR sent us a brand new tent, no questions asked, free of charge (after we’d shipped back the funky fly.)

I get the feeling that Lightheart Gear will work with me, but that questions will be asked and the first question will be, “What’s your credit card number?”.

It makes it tempting to just go to REI (with a scale) and look at (and weigh) the Big Agnes Fly Creek UL. 

Because the bigger companies have better return policies.  Like, unless a bear chews on your tent, they'll replace it.

NOTE:  As a former owner of a small art gallery/frame shop, I'll still go out of my way to support a small business, especially one owned by a woman.  Small businesses really do need all the support they can get.  And supporting small businesses lets everyday folk live their lives on their terms.  

Getting down off my soapbox now...

Two more things about the Lightheart Gear Solo...

  1. You’ll need 10 stakes for ideal set up.
  2. If you get the Tyvek ground cloth, it is not as noisy as it sounds when you're unfurling it.  It will not keep you up at night.

That’s what I know for now about my Lightheart Gear Solo tent.

Here's the breakdown:

 Oops, I revised my rating after encountering the platforms in the Whites.  Giving it a 6/10.

Oops, I revised my rating after encountering the platforms in the Whites.  Giving it a 6/10.

 

I give it 6/10 and sing its praises for it's roominess and weight.

But I doubt this will be my thru-hiking tent because I want something that will set up easily and quickly, no contortions required.

I'm even considering a hammock, so stay tuned for more discovery in that direction.

 

What’s the most important thing to you when choosing a tent for your backpacking or thru-hiking excursions?   Leave a comment below and tell me what you think. 

Let’s keep the conversation going!

 

Until next time….Hike Happy, Turtle Bear!