I am at a point in my AT planning where I pretty much have all my gear. There are two things I’m holding out on to make sure I get the latest and greatest versions but the decisions have been made. I’d like to put together a gear list soon for those who are into that sorta thing. I have had a lot of time to research my gear and I’ve stood behind all of my decisions so far. Although I’m sure little things here and there will get tweaked, I’m confident in my decisions …. except for maybe one.
Fly Creek, Schmly Schmreek
I was trying to avoid this sinking feeling that I was progressively liking my Big Agnes Fly Creek UL1 tent less and less each time I went out with it. It’s a good tent. It’s lightweight, mostly free-standing, easy to pitch, survived crazy winds at the beach, and has just enough room for me AND my pack inside. I will probably still hang on to it and use it for shorter trips and for lending to the guys since neither of them has their own lightweight 1-person tent. The problem is that every time I’ve used it, I try and imagine myself on a long distance hike with it and I just don’t see it. I really wanted to love this tent. It was my first solo tent. *sniffle*
It’s not you, it’s me.
I thought the door being on the end, instead of the side, wouldn’t bother me. I’m 5’3″ and it seemed like no big deal. Turns out, it’s actually kind of annoying. The tent is so skinny that while my pack fits inside comfortably, there are only two options of which end to put it at, and I am not in the business of choosing the lesser of two evils. The foot end means that any time I want something from my backpack, I have to lean forward into the smallest section of the tent. The ceiling tapers down lower at that end and it gives me a distinct Alice in Wonderland sense of growing larger although it’s just the tent getting smaller. I don’t care for it. The other option is to leave it at the head end but that means crawling over it when I’m going in or out. When picking out this tent, I knew the door being on the end wouldn’t be awkward for me because of my size but I didn’t take into account the possibility of having to maneuver over my backpack in the process. No thanks.
What bothers me even more than the door and pack placement is the height. I can sit up just fine so that’s not a problem. There is plenty of headroom but that’s it. There isn’t much room for anything else. This isn’t a big deal when it’s dry but when there’s a little bit of condensation on the rainfly, it turns the tent into a version of Operation with myself as the funny bone. One wrong move of accidentally touching the sides, results in a buzzer of cold water being sprayed all over me. Changing clothes in this thing is a contortionist skill I have yet to master.
The last thing that’s been bugging me is how the hell am I supposed to set this up in the rain? I know there’s not a lot you can do when it rains. You and your stuff kinda just get wet. It is what it is. I just can’t help but think that there has to be a better way. Everything I do before putting on the rainfly is an open invitation to get water in the tent… spreading out the tent and getting it orientated where I want it, staking out the ends, inserting the pole ends in the tent grommets, attaching the tent clips to the pole, throwing the rainfly over the tent without it being upside down or backwards. All of this without the rainfly. Without switching to a single wall tent or a tarp, I didn’t see any way around it … until now!
Lightheart Solo <3
Who recently ordered a Lightheart Solo tent for her birthday? This girl right here! I am excited. The Lightheart Solo is a trekking pole supported double walled tent full of awesome. Okay, I haven’t gotten it yet but I’m imagining. Instead of a traditional tent pole it is supported from the inside by a short ridge pole that connects your trekking poles into one large, arched pole. I’m not sure how I will adapt to this way of pitching a tent but the videos online seem simple enough. The thing that really caught my eye was the rainfly. It is a double walled tent but the rainfly is actually connected to the tent in one long strip across the top. My hope is that this combination of the attached rainfly and the inside pole support system will let less water in while it’s being set up… ya know… in theory. It seems like it would be relatively easy to spread the tent out with the rainfly on top. This should mostly keep out the rain. Then if I can
gracefully crawl inside the tent, while keeping the rainfly door closed and over the tent door, I can set up the support poles from inside, get out and finish staking everything down… ya know… in theory. The inside should never be exposed to rain for more than a few seconds at a time. I’m sure all bets are off in severe wind.
I had some questions about weight and other things so I emailed Judy Gross from Lightheart Gear and she has been great about answering all of my questions. Customer service really is one of the best reasons to buy from a smaller company. Customization comes in at a close second. You can opt for an awning or two, an extra tent or fly door, a half door to get at gear in the rear vestibule, and tons of color combinations. In my opinion, it is worth paying a little extra for the customization to get exactly what you want. My heart was pining for a butterscotch colored Solo with a front awning and black floor, and that’s exactly what she got. :)
Comparing Apples and Oranges
They’re really very different tents but for similar prices and weights, two things that sway many people’s decisions, it is worth it for me to do the comparison. I could be completely wrong about my hopes for a dryer set up while it’s raining but even if I am, I justified the purchase the following ways:
- I’ll stay at around the same pack weight. My Fly Creek is 31 oz. I don’t know exactly how much my Solo will be because different color fabrics weigh different amounts and I will still have to seam seal it (an option they do offer but I’m choosing to do myself). My best guess is 34.5 oz. I’m willing to accept the extra 3-4 oz in exchange for all the better features that come with it.
- I’ll gain a better side entry door. The Solo is diamond shaped, instead of rectangular, but I’m still calling it a side entry. Plus, the door is bigger.
- I’ll gain 8 sq.ft. of floor space, 23″ of width, 5″ of head height, and 47″ in length. With the diamond design on the Solo, I’m not sure how that translates into useable floor space but the dimensions seem like they will definitely allow me to change clothes more comfortably and I can stow my pack wherever I want, even next to me.
- I’ll lose vestibule space but because my pack fits in both tents, I don’t really see this as a drawback. I don’t need the vestibule for much other than my shoes. I’ll also gain the option of unclipping the front rainfly into a sweet little awning to hang out underneath.
- And last but not least, it’s my birthday present! It’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to.