My LightHeart Solo has arrived! (To find out why I switched tents in the first place, click here.) It’s all shiny and new and I want to hug it and squeeze it and never let it go. I opted for a custom design in butterscotch with a black floor and a single awning. I was so excited, I set it up in my bedroom. Non-freestanding tents are new to me, but with some help from a couple of chairs and a dumbbell, it set up nicely. There is definitely a learning curve like people say but I felt pretty good about how easy it was the first time. Haha and that’s with using misc items in my room as stake stand-ins, so it can only get easier from there. Took it to my brother’s house the next day to practice setting it up in the rain. It didn’t rain. I made a video of setting it up for the second time ever and it was disastrously full of butt cracks, fleeing from a bumblebee, and wandering around confused because I couldn’t find the carabiner to secure the fly down without the awning up. I left it there to get rained on and I’m happy to say they did a great job seam sealing it. We went back the next day to pick it up and took this quick video just to show what I’m talking about when I say you can set it up without exposing the interior tent to rain. Excluding crazy winds of course. There are videos of how to set this tent up but they all have the fly up so you can see what they’re doing. The point of my video is just to show that you can easily get inside with the fly down so everything stays covered… something there wasn’t enough room for me to do with my BA Fly Creek UL1. There’s a way to set up the Fly Creek with just the print, poles, and rainfly, get inside and then set up the tent under the protection of the rainfly. The problem was that it was horribly awkward. There just wasn’t enough room for me to do it without getting frustrated. The Solo let’s me do this without wanting to punch anything in its face. :)
So here are my initial impressions. Take them with a grain of salt.
Spoiler Alert: The cons are closet neutrals!
- Holy crap… it’s huge! It may make it harder to find a flat spot when space is limited. I don’t know how often that is an issue on the AT so maybe it’s not that big of a deal.
- Weighing in at 2 lbs 5.9 oz (tent/fly, ridge pole, and Tyvek footprint ONLY), it is 5 oz heavier than my Big Agnes Fly Creek UL1. This isn’t really a con when you think about how much space I gained for a measly 5 oz and the fact that it’s still incredibly light for the size. The weight only got put into the con side because it’s heavier than my previous tent. I am so in love with this tent at the moment that I am willing to shave the 5 oz somewhere else if I have to.
- If I ever need a new one, I wouldn’t go with a black floor. The more I look at it, the more I’m paranoid there are creepy crawlies on it and I can’t see them. Totally a mental thing but, I mean, you want to know when there are bitey things right? This is a legit fear, I think. Not really a con either because it’s not their fault I picked a color I didn’t like. The butterscotch colored upper tent, however, is delicious. I love it!
- I was so worried about setting up in the rain that I didn’t consider breaking down in the rain. Having the rainfly attached to the tent means I can’t really stash it separate from my tent when it’s wet and I don’t want to get anything else wet. I’ve decided as I’m writing this, though, that if I was going to wait for a lull in rain, I’d rather do it in the morning than when I’m tired at the end of the day and just want to go to sleep already. Right? Probably. Maybe.
- You can’t assemble your trekking poles with tip protectors into the ridge pole. They let me know in advance that I couldn’t and that was fine. I was a little worried about it being hard to get them off at the end of using them all day. I thought surely the pressure of pounding them onto the ground a zillion times a day would make them stick to the poles. So far, that doesn’t seem to be the case. I popped them off after our weekend at Pedernales Falls SP without breaking a sweat or making a funny face. I don’t know if that will always be the case but for now it seems fine.
- Holy crap… it’s huge! There is so much room. Seriously. I could easily change clothes without touching the tent walls or rainfly. Piece of cake. I was a little concerned about the diamond-shaped floor resulting in a loss of usable space in the corner areas but it’s so big it’s completely fine. My pack can go pretty much anywhere, even next to me. I can see how someone taller would want to go with the SoLong 6, though.
- I like the option of having the awning up or down. I didn’t get an awning pole for it, which would have only added an ounce, but would’ve hiked my price up by $30 and I was already paying extra for the customization. I might spring for the pole after I find out how often I realistically use this feature. For now, I’ll use sticks or tie out to a tree nearby. I struggled with whether or not to get the awning at all. It added cost and weight but I thought it was worth it. I justified it by considering the amount of time I’ll be spending in it. If I was signing a 6-month lease on an apartment, I’d splurge for the patio or balcony. If I need little things like an awning to keep my sanity and to make this tent a home, then that’s what I have to do. Plus, the awning helps with…
- Setting up in the rain! I can fit under the rainfly easily without exposing the interior tent too much. This should make it okay to set up in the rain. I wasn’t sure if this was one of those things that I just thought was a good idea but wouldn’t pan out. Even if it isn’t as awesome in practice, it still has to be significantly smoother than fiddling with clips, grommets, and getting the orientation of the fly correct… and let’s not get started on how dangerous I can be with tent poles. I tend to forget the other end is waving wildly through the air while I’m getting the other end in place. It’s not pretty, especially for innocent bystanders.
- Customization and customer service. I got exactly what I was looking for. It’s the Goldilocks of tents! You can add tent doors, rainfly doors, awnings, even ask for a half-door to access vestibule gear but without adding the zipper weight of a full door. Judy at LightHeart was not only patient and answered all my ridiculous questions, but did it without making me feel like I was bothering her or that my questions were in fact ridiculous. Thank you!