Over this summer I tested the LightHeart Gear Solo Tent during 600 miles of bikepacking use. I spent about 20 nights in the Solo, the bulk of them coming from a bikepacking tour of the Colorado Trail. It was monsoon season for the CT and so I was anticipating a lot of hail and rain. Weather expectations were met and then exceeded. The solo proved to be a safe haven in some nasty weather and held its own in heavy rain and high alpine winds.
On the CT, I carried the tent body in the bottom of my 30L backpack and used it as a cushion for my camera equipment. The tent’s support poles were tucked into my full framebag and the tent’s stakes were held in a custom downtube bag. On local trails, when I wasn’t carrying a backpack, I carried the tent body in my saddlebag.
By carrying the tent body in a non-waterproof bag I could pack the tent when wet and allow it to drip-dry during the mornings. This meant a heavier pack at the start of the day, but by noon virtually all of the previous night’s rain and dew had dripped out of the pack’s seams.
A big advantage of the support poles is how small they packed down. Other 1-man tents I’ve used in the past often had heavier and bulky poles that were always a challenge to fit into a full-suspension framebag.
While I wasn’t racing the CT, I still wanted a lightweight option to help ease the passage of 500 plus mountain miles. The Solo proved to be a great balance of weight, durability, and weather protection. The Solo is constructed with 1.1 oz sil-nylon and noseeum mesh, with reinforced fabric at high stress areas. My setup came close to 40 ounces and that included stakes and poles. For hikers, the Solo is designed for use with trekking poles but for bikepackers LightHeart Gear offers dedicated aluminum or carbon support poles. I carried aluminum poles and stakes. Alternatively, if carbon poles and titanium stakes are used the total weight should be well under 40 ounces.
For a ground cloth I started the CT with a painter’s drop cloth (polycro) but threw it out in Silverton, the first town I came to. I found that when I packed up the tent in the early mornings, the ground cloth was holding a lot of water, adding weight to my backpack. Since I was mostly camping on soft grass I wasn’t concerned about putting a hole in the bottom of the Solo’s sil-nylon floor. A thorough check after the trip, and some stormy nights post-CT, confirmed that the tent floor held up great with no holes.
The inside of the Solo stayed completely dry and the tent’s body remained well anchored despite heavy rain and high winds during my CT tour. My version had seam sealing completed and I definitely recommend adding this option at the time of purchase.
As with any lightweight sil-nylon shelter, misting from heavy and direct rain is always a concern. To help prevent misting I was careful to setup under as much tree cover as possible and staked the fly tight and snug before settling in for the night.
One of the more unique design features of the Solo is the patented ridge connector that bridges together the two support poles (or hiking poles). This creates a stable canopy with ample headroom. This headroom is also positioned in the middle of the tent, making it most useful when sitting upright. At 6’ feet tall and found that I had plenty of space.
The length of the tent is recommended for bikepackers 5’10” and under. Anyone taller will compete for space with the top and bottom corners when laying down. However, I was able to fit my 6 foot frame comfortably by throwing gear deep in the corners to help push the tent walls up and out. Alternatively, LightHeart Gear also makes the SoLong 6 for those looking for a footprint with more usable length.
Another unique feature is that the fly is sewn into the seams of the tent body. This is convenient for a quick setup in the daytime (especially when it’s already raining) but properly positioning the connected fabric at night was more challenging. Just like a headlamp, a helmet light is most useful for a night setup, as it frees up both hands and illuminates directly what’s in front of you. However, I didn’t always have my helmet light mounted and often used my handlebar lights, which gave flat light filled with shadows. This flat light slowed the tent’s night setup down but part of this was because I only used the Solo twice before my CT trip. As expected, my night setup time became faster as the trip went on.
For stakes, I found that a minimum of 8 works best and does a great job of creating a usable vestibule for your helmet, shoes, and water. The stakes also create good air flow between the body and fly, even when the fly is fully zipped during a storm. The CT certainly has its “unstakable” rocky sections but I found plenty of prime soil. I also lost a stake on day two of the CT but was able to use a stick as replacement. Since the fly tension is disturbed well among the side stake locations a small stick was sufficient to hold it’s share of the force.
The LightHeart Gear Solo offers a lightweight tent solution that offers great weather protection. With a design that includes small, collapsible support poles it carries especially well for bikepacking use. It’s made in the USA with solid construction, a durable design, and lightweight materials. Complete details and photos can be found at LightHeart Gear Solo Tent.
- 40.5 oz with aluminum poles and 8 aluminum stakes
- Tent with seam sealing: $295
- Aluminum poles: $45
- Carbon poles: $80
About the Author: Greg Hardy is the owner of rockgeist.com, a bikepacking company that specializes in custom bikepacking gear built to your specific needs, exact bike, and individual bikepacking style.