LightHeart Gear Solo

Cuben Fiber Roundup - Part 5

This is the fifth part of our Cuben Fiber Roundup series. In this part we’ll take a look at the LightHeart Gear Solo shelter.

The Cuben Solo in Forest Green
The Cuben Solo in Forest Green

Overview

The LightHeart Gear Solo is an ultralight tent providing full protection for the solo hiker along with room for gear. This shelter has a diamond shaped footprint. The illustration below should give you a pretty good idea of what the footprint looks like (as measured by us, dimensions in inches). The dashed lines are an imaginary rectangular area inside the tent.

Unofficial Approximate Footprint Dimensions
Unofficial Approximate Footprint Dimensions

This Solo is pitched with two poles in an A-frame configuration which utilizes a spreader bar at the top. Single pole setup is not an option. Trekking poles will need to be about 130cm long. For those who hike without trekking poles, LightHeart Gear can supply you with lightweight aluminum poles to pitch the tent. It’s possible to make a minimal pitch with only 4 stakes, however 8 will result in getting the fly more taut, and 12 will cover all tie outs including the additional stabilizing tie outs. There is no seam sealing necessary with any of the Cuben tents from LightHeart Gear. Critical areas are reinforced with bonded Cuben patches and seam sealed with matching Cuben tape. The tent features a bathtub floor (also Cuben, several weights available) and complete bug net which forms about as true double wall (as differentiated from a ‘hybrid double wall’) as one can ask for without having two separate pieces (tent and fly).

First Impressions

LightHeart Gear standardizes on .51oz Cuben in forest green, however ours was a custom order and is made from .74oz white Cuben. For a full double wall tent it’s quite light at only 21 ounces which includes the stuff sack and guy lines. The packed size is roughly 4 x 15 inches.

The construction is top notch. Judy Gross is quite experienced with the needle and thread, and she personally sews these Cuben Fiber tents. The seams are double stitched and reinforced with Cuben tape. There are no vents on this tent, however it is not pitched tight to the ground and thus allows for ventilation around the perimeter. All of the guy lines are cut and pre-attached and the ridgeline pull-outs come with line tensioners (as I understand all tie outs now include line tensioners). Lastly, a stuff sack is included to round out the package.

Front View
Front View
Fly Rolled Up
Fly Rolled Up
End View
End View
Another Perspective
Another Perspective

A nice instructional page is included to help with set up, however I initially struggled a little. After further experimentation and field experience here is what works for me… Stake one end of tent down, pull other end tight, then slack up about 12 inches and stake down. Fasten spreader bar to top of tent. Adjust poles to 120cm. Get inside tent, bring poles in (handles first) and carefully insert the tips into the spreader bar. Ensure pole handles are in the correct locations at the bottom of the tent, the floor is pulled out properly, and that everything is looking symmetrical (especially up top by the spreader bar). Now adjust poles (longer) up to 130cm or so, you’ll feel resistance, this is good. Back outside the tent, if necessary adjust stakes at ends to get good tension on the ridgeline, then stake out front and rear fly guy lines, then the 4 fly-perimeter guys lines. Personally I don’t stake down the two points where the trekking pole handles reside, but it’s probably a good idea to use at least one of them if you’re on a slope. If done properly you should have a nice, taut diamond shape. The key to getting it right is symmetry.

With it all pitched, even a tall person (such as me, 6′-3) should fit pretty well, although my head and feet are right there at the ends. I like that I can sit up inside with plenty of room all around me, and the full netting is a nice comfort; in fact, I would need to test how well this double wall would work in some damp conditions!

In the Field

My most recent trip with the LightHeart Solo was to the Lost Coast (here in California) where, essentially, you have wet weather or heavy condensation (or both) no matter how you plan your trip. We used to live up there when I was a kid, to quote my Dad, “When it’s not raining, it’s dripping”. Anyway, a friend and I set out, and that’s exactly the weather we got. We went inland into the King range and were met with gray-out conditions in the mist clouds, with lots of wind, and everything soaking wet. Our camp was in a drainage which gave us some reprieve from the wind, however exacerbated the dampness issue. I nervously pitched the Solo and unfurled my down quilt inside. That night was also going to be about 10 degrees cooler than I had anticipated… “I really need to stay dry tonight!” I thought as I settled in.

In times like this I especially don’t mind that I need to be inside the tent to set it up. I got a little break from the constant ginormous drops of water blowing down from the trees, and so did my gear which was in there with me. Because of the diamond shape, it’s no problem keeping a pack and other gear inside the tent while sleeping. The vestibule space outside is a little smaller, but good for shoes and what not.

A comfy home on the damp Lost Coast
A comfy home on the damp Lost Coast

Well, that night went better than expected. I stayed dry and warm, and mostly slept pretty good! I haven’t slept in a double wall for a while, that’s usually reserved for taking our kids car camping. This was probably the saving grace that kept my feet dry and warm; despite heavy condensation inside the fly, the mesh protected me from the occasional brush against it. I also did not get misted with condensation being knocked off the fly by those big water droplets falling like bombs from the tree limbs. The double wall might have gave me a tiny extra bit of warmth too.

I had the same positive experience sleeping next to the beach a couple nights later. This time it was quite breezy and the dew was heavy in the morning. Less condensation inside the fly than before and still no worries. The shape of the tent sheds wind well too. I pitched with my feet into the wind and didn’t have any flap to speak of.

All in all, things have gone well with the Solo out on the trail. If I had to gripe about something it would probably be that I have to be more meticulous in getting my pitch right. For most people who are somewhat normal (unlike myself) and own one or two tents (not a truckload of em) I’m sure familiarity will come with experience. I’m always pitching something new, so I don’t have the ‘muscle memory’ in that respect. Also, if you like to get beerlarious occasionally (or whiskey-larious, or whatever alcohol-larious) out on the trail… you will probably want to pitch your tent first, as putting a pole tip through that cuben would be a costly mistake O_o. The same can be said of any tent that requires trekking poles for pitching of course.

The Bottom Line

The LightHeart Solo is a solo hiker’s luxury tent. The fit and finish are excellent, and Judy is continually finding ways to improve small details of the construction. Full bug netting and double wall are the kind of features usually found on heavy mainstream tents; to find it in a lightweight backpacker-designed tent is wonderful. The tent sheds wind nicely and there are plenty of tie-outs for stability in windy conditions. With the fly rolled up, the views are great and the tent is very airy. In addition, there are several options for the fly, awning, wedge, and doors – so the tent can be tailored to one’s wishes. There’s even a lighter material option if the mere ~21 ounces is too heavy! If you’re in the market for a solo shelter, don’t overlook this one. Hike It. Like It.

Jacob D Written by:

Jacob is the head honcho, wearer of many hats, and modern day berserker here at Hike It. Like It. When he's not out hiking or running the trails you'll find him operating in full capacity as a Super Dad and chipping away at a degree in Kinesiology. This guy likes to stay busy. Follow on Strava

3 Comments

  1. Murray
    August 8, 2014
    Reply

    Hi, just wondering if anyone might know where I could find a cuben fiber lightheart gear tent. Judy no longer makes them. In 2013 I thru hiked the AT with the LightHeart Gear SoLong 6 and loved it. Would like to get a cuben fiber model now. Thanks for any help you may be able to provide.

    • August 10, 2014
      Reply

      Hi Murray. As you know, Judy is no longer offering Cuben Fiber shelters. You *might* get lucky and sweet talk her into it, but I would expect that to cost you since it’s now not just an option, but an entirely custom commission. Alternatively, you might find one on the used market.

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