Mountain Laurel Designs Solomid

Cuben Fiber Roundup - Part 4

This is the fourth part of our Cuben Fiber Roundup series. For this part we’ll focus on the Solomid shelter by Mountain Laurel Designs (‘MLD’ henceforth).

Overview

The Solomid is a floorless pyramid shelter that provides ample room for the solo hiker, MLD also offers a DuoMid with room for two. The illustration below should give you a pretty good idea of what the Solomid footprint looks like (as measured by us, dimensions in inches).

Unofficial Approximate Footprint Measurements
Unofficial Approximate Footprint Measurements

This shelter can be pitched with either a single pole at the center or two poles in an A-frame configuration, in either configuration the pole handles support the peak. For single pole setup you’ll need a trekking pole around 130-140cm long. For more room the two pole pitch is great, for which you’ll need an extra trekking pole that can adjust to 140cm. If you use shorter poles MLD can supply a pair of pole extenders, just ask. Six stakes will cover all of the main tie outs, there is an additional stabilizing tie out on the rear panel, for a total of 7. Seam sealing is not required since the seams are bonded with Cuben tape! The shelter can be optionally supplied with perimeter bug netting, which is like a skirt on the bottom of the tarp. This is a nice addition to keep the pesky things that bite at bay without going to a full bug net. For full bug protection or greater protection from the elements, an inner mesh tent with silnylon bathtub floor is sold separately (Cuben floor available as an option).

First Impressions

MLD standardizes on .74oz Cuben in the “stealth” olive drab color, and that is what ours’ is made from. It’s a very light shelter at only 10.75 ounces which includes the stuff sack and guy lines. The packed size is roughly 4.5 x 11 inches.

The Solomid in a stiff Pacific Ocean breeze
The Solomid in a stiff Pacific Ocean breeze

Ron Bell (owner of MLD) is synonymous with quality construction and has long been working with Cuben Fiber. As mentioned earlier, all of the critical seams are bonded with Cuben tape, only non-load bearing seams are stitched. In general there seem to be two schools of thought with Cuben; 1) Double or Triple stitch seams to minimize stress between stitching and the fabric, and 2) Tape/Bond/Glue rather than stitching to avoid perforating and weakening the fabric. I’m not aware of overwhelming evidence one way or another that either method is the best; the important thing is that the construction is executed properly, and here with the Solomid the construction is top notch. The peak vent contains a semi rigid plastic insert which can be pulled out allowing for the vent to be closed via a Velcro strip. A stuff sack (silnylon) is included as is a length of guy line cord, which needs to be cut. All of the tie out loops are supplied with line tensioners and set up instructions can be found online.

Tie-Out Reinforcement
Tie-Out Reinforcement

Peak Vent
Peak Vent

Setting up a pyramid is about as simple as it gets. For the benefit of those who haven’t done it here is a quick walk through… Let the guy lines most of the way through the line locks, stake out the 4 corners making sure they form a good rectangle, the baseline of the tent should not be tight, but also without a lot of slack, put the pole under and up (handle first) to pitch the shelter, pull out the front guy line and stake it, then the rear, move around the tent adjusting tension as needed, and lastly stake out any stabilizing lines that you might want to use. As with most things, there is more than one way to get it done, so by all means don’t take my way as the gospel. Below, a photo of Thayer, a friend of Hike It. Like It. learning as he goes with his very first Solomid pitch… and in the snow no less!

Thayer's First Pitch
Thayer's First Pitch

When using a single pole the interior space can be utilized best if the pole is extended all the way and ‘kicked’ towards the rear (or front) of the shelter a bit. By pitching with two poles the interior space can be maximized and thus is the way I prefer to do it. The corners of the shelter can be pitched down to the ground, I prefer to leave a few inches of space for ventilation. The MLD site recommends staking the corners to the ground, then pulling out the bottom mid-perimeter tie outs to increase ventilation. The peak vent allows for some air movement inside the shelter. All in all, the Solomid gives the impression of a stable, well made pyramid.

In the Field

I’ve been out in the Solomid only a couple of times now (hey, finding time to use all of these shelters isn’t as easy as it might seem!). On one occasion I experienced gusty storm conditions including heavy rain. No issues there with durability or leaks. A recent trip to Desolation Wilderness would be another good trial for the Solomid due to it’s floorless design, which is a big plus for snow camping. As per usual we selected a site that was not in an avalanche run out, nor in danger itself of turning into a sliding mass of white death. After flattening down the area with our snowshoes we setup our shelters. While I elected to pitch my competitive pyramid with two poles, Thayer went with a single pole pitch on the Solomid just to be a rebel.

After getting it pitched we dug down inside (using a light snow shovel) to create a dugout with a flat bottom. The excavated snow was piled up inside the shelter around the base enough to keep the breeze at bay while sleeping, but not enough to seal the ventilation gap. Making a small snow wall on the inside of the shelter is a better idea than on the outside in the event that more snow is coming down. In that case any snow outside the shelter will just cause the falling snow to accumulate along the sides of the shelter faster. With the sleeping area dug out we proceeded to add a deeper entry, which also allows cold air to escape, then added the groundsheet. This type of setup takes a little more effort than just pitching a tarp, but it provides additional protection from the elements and makes even more room inside the shelter. If this sounds a little familiar, it’s only because the last pyramid we posted about was set up the same way 🙂

Front View
Front View
Side View
Side View
A Different Perspective
A Different Perspective
Matching Shovel Not Included :)
Matching Shovel Not Included 🙂

Regarding that interior space…I’m 6 foot 3 and change and use a long (6′-6) sleeping bag. I’d say I’m right at the limit of being able to lie down without touching inside the Solomid. For the giants among men out there, being on a thin foam pad will help make more of the space, we were using down air mattresses that are nearly 3-inches thick (but oh so warm!). Since the floor of the shelter was dug out, this was not an issue at all, however on hard ground the extra pad thickness will raise the occupant into an area where the walls are a tad narrower. Again, this will only matter to the taller individuals. There is plenty of room to sit up inside, which is one of the great things about pyramids.

The Bottom Line

The MLD Solomid is a classic ultralight pyramid. The construction is top notch; fit and finish are both excellent. The bug netting option is a nice feature, the vent closure can probably be improved, but I have said the same thing of other pyramids that I’ve encountered. It pitches easily, utilizes catenary ridge lines, and is sufficiently reinforced. There is plenty of room for one plus gear, especially when pitched with two poles. Stability in windy conditions is good, even with only a single rear stabilizing tie out; the solo-size of the shelter makes for a better wind profile, I suppose. With the front of the pyramid opened up the views are great. If you’re thinking about getting one, so are a lot of others… beat the spring rush if possible! Hike It. Like It.

The MLD Solomid - Ninjas Like It Too!
The MLD Solomid - Ninjas Like It Too!
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

4 Comments

  1. Reliable Snowplowing
    August 18, 2014
    Reply

    First of all I would like to say superb blog! I had a
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    I was interested to find out how you center yourself and
    clear your mind prior to writing. I’ve had a difficult time clearing my thoughts in getting my ideas out there.

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    • October 14, 2014
      Reply

      Well, thanks for that. I’m relieved to hear there is some reliable snowplowing around… the unreliable kind is the worst.

      On to your question, generally I spend 10-15 minutes staring into my cat’s eyes, with it staring back into mine. It puts the thoughts into my head, then I just start writing. Hope that helps, and keep on keepin on with the reliable snowplowing!

  2. […] This shelter can be pitched with either a single pole at the center or two poles in an A-frame configuration, in either configuration the pole handles support the peak. For single pole setup you’ll need a trekking pole around 130-140cm long. MLD includes a ~6 inch pole extender as well. For a little more room, a two pole pitch can be pulled off, for which you’ll need an extra trekking pole or possibly a couple more poles (more on this later). Eight stakes will cover all of the perimeter tie outs; there is an additional stabilizing tie out in the center of each panel as well, for a total of 12 stakes. Seam sealing is not required since the seams are bonded with Cuben tape. The shelter can be optionally supplied with perimeter bug netting, which is like a skirt on the bottom of the tarp. This is a nice addition to keep the pesky things that bite at bay without going to a full bug net. For full bug protection or greater protection from the elements, an inner mesh tent with silnylon bathtub floor is sold separately (Cuben floor available as an option). This is, in most ways, a larger version of the Solomid. […]

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