As we get ready for the 2018 backpacking and my ridge-running season, I took advantage of the beautiful spring conditions on Easter Sunday to test some new gear I purchased over the winter. Of course it was snowing the next day and we ended up with half a foot of snow on the ground. April Fools a day late. (Easter was also April Fools day). As of this writing there were two more snowstorms followed by warm spring days since! Good old New England.
The first item is my new (used) Lightheart Gear solo tent. I bought it from a hiker on Whiteblaze.net. I am always researching gear, and especially great lightweight solo options for my ridge-running and volunteer weekends. Last year I bought a new REI Quarter-dome 1 for a great price on sale, and which at 39 ounces is a super-light option. And I love the tent. They have since tweaked the design again. I guess my one issue with it was that the weird pole design always left me a little confused at set up time. And when you’re tired after a long day and setting up camp, you don’t wanna be fidgeting with the poles too long. Especially if its in the rain or the dark, or both. I did get used to it but there were still some times when I was doing it in a situation like those and did it backwards the first time. Plus its rather embarrassing when you’re fussing so much with your own tent when surrounded by other campers! The unusual design of that tent pole setup allows for a wider interior in the tent so it’s worth it but I just wanted something a little more of a no-brainer. And more room if I could get it.
On my many nights on the trail I see just about every tent design and model out there, and often ask the hikers about their tents. I then go about reading or watching reviews online and asking questions on hiking groups and forums as well. The Lightheart Gear solo is one of many ultralight options from cottage manufacturers on the market. They also make a slightly longer one for taller hikers called the solong. I explored other options from Zpacks, Mountain Laurel Designs and more. When I saw the listing on whiteblaze I quickly did more research and found it to be not only a full 12 ounces lighter than my REI tent, but also more spacious and easier to setup. And it was at a great price so I jumped on it.
It uses trekking poles rather than included poles to pitch, but you can buy those if you don’t hike with trekking poles. This helps cut down on the weight. It’s also all one piece so you can set it up from the inside without the interior tent getting wet. While I know many 2- piece tents have a feature where you can first rig just the ground sheet and rainfly to avoid soaking your interior tent in the rain, I have to confess I’ve never tried that and it didn’t seem completely full-proof. I got this tent for about 45% off and it was in great shape. It has tons of room and is high enough to sit up in, as well as the ability to be quarter/half/three-quarter or fully vented. The manufacturer advised against spraying it with permethrin spray as did many on the online forums as this chemical doesn’t adhere to sil-nylon and voids the warranty. So I did not spray this tent like I do my others. Seam sealing is recommended for this tent, but the previous owner had the manufacturer do it at purchase. It costs a little extra ($35) but is worth it having a pro do it right the first time. The only negative feedback I’ve heard on this tent is that at 133″ long and 65″ wide, finding a camp spot can be tougher, as well as setting it up on a platform as it is also not fully free-standing. These things I will test in the field.
Regarding the trekking poles: As you know from my last hike, the handle broke off one of my poles on that hike so I had bought a new pair at REI the next day. So it was time to test them, and this tent together for the first time. Well I didn’t test them by hiking but I did expand them and compare all the features to other brand models at the store to make my decision. I know these REI poles last a long time and that the cork was the weak spot and so I replaced them with poles with hard plastic/rubber handles- the Passage model. They are not super light but that’s the reason I bought them as well as price. I found the super light super expensive poles to not support my weight as well.
The only ding with the tent purchase was that the stakes I got from the seller were a bit heavy, and when the tent requires ten stakes to fully pitch it, you want lighter ones. I didn’t expect him to send me his best, lightest stakes at this price. He didn’t even charge me shipping. He just wanted to pass it on to another hiker who would enjoy it and make some of his investment back.
So I ordered a set of four more super light titanium stakes from Zpacks, with their microfleece beanie (which I will review later) to make my set of ten. I find these hook-shaped stakes more effective than my MSR groundhogs for guylines. Or at least, they are my preference. I still use the mini groundhogs for staking out the 4 corners of the tent. The other hook stakes I had previously purchased from Amazon — they are Vargo. They are close enough in size and this setup overall should take the stake weight down a bunch. In the process of deciding how many more stakes I needed, I also spent a while in the garage gear closet to take inventory and make sure all my other tents have the right number of stakes in their bags. I don’t want to loan one out and we realize later I had taken the stakes from it!
I love the Lightheart tent and everyone who saw it set up on Easter and then got to hold it in their hands and feel how light it was packed up were as impressed as I was. Fielden Stream laid down in it for a minute and tested it too. I enjoyed reading “Balancing On Blue” from thru-hiker Fozzie while lying in it and trying out another new purchase. That’s in part 2: Kylmit Massdrop Pillow and JetBoil JetGauge. A dove even came to visit me in my yard and checked out my new tent! I will keep the QD-1 for a while and if the LHG solo pleases me as much on the trail as it did in my yard, I will return the karma and sell the QD-1 to another hiker. I have one other solo tent which I like because you can pitch the fly like an awning. So even though its less roomy on the inside and a little heavier, Its very convenient if you need to cook when its raining. So I will keep that one for now.
Lightheart Gear Solo Tent Specs
weight: 27oz (before seam sealing)
floor space: 30 sq ft.
head room: 43 in
width: 65in at center
length: 133 in
single/double wall: double