Tent review – Hi Gear Soloista Backpacking Tent – Initial Impressions

This tent was given to me, free of charge, by Go Outdoors.  All opinions are my own.

I love tents so I was quite excited when Go Outdoors asked me to review the Hi Gear Soloista.  My main backpacking tents are a Hilleberg Akto and a Terra Nova Laser Competition – tents which cost over £300 – so I did have some pre-conceived ideas about the £30 Soloista.  However, for its price I’ve been impressed with what I’ve seen so far.

Out of the bag

The tent as supplied weighed 1686g, as compared with the stated weight of 1.63kg.  So about the same weight as my Akto and not too much to carry when backpacking.  The tent comes in a simple carry bag which is big enough to allow a bit of leeway when repacking.

This is an inexpensive tent and the low price is achieved by using lower quality components than a tent costing ten times the price. The poles look particularly cheap.  They have elastic running through them but they don’t snap together sharply like more expensive poles.  They are not made of one continuous material but have a dark resin/plastic middle section with some sort of alloy end-piece/joint.  I have similar poles in my Lidl beach shelter and have never had any problems but would question their resilience in foul weather.

There are 20 pegs, which is the most I have ever had for one tent.  The pegs (without peg bag) weigh 364g; this is as heavy as it sounds but there’s probably little weight-saving to be made by replacing them unless you happen to have 20 Ti pegs spare.

A few years ago, Argos were selling a cracking little one-man tent called the Pro Action Tigerpaw for £30.  The tent gained a cult following amongst bargain-seeking backpackers and I still use (one of) mine for campsite camping.  The Soloista is very similar to the Tigerpaw.  It has two hoops, one long and one shorter, from which the inner tent is hung.  However, the Soloista has one significant improvement; the longer pole is part threaded through a sleeve, rather than just being connected to the inner via plastic clips, and this means that the inner stays tauter and the clips don’t end up being overstretched and distorted.  However, it does mean that you wouldn’t be able to unclip the inner from inside if you needed to.

With an internal height of 64cm, I knew that I would not be able to sit up in the tent.  The Vaude Bivi 1 has a internal height of 50cm and I can just about prop myself up on my elbow.  However, the extra 14 cm height and the greater width of the Soloista should give more wriggle room than in the Vaude.

The pitching instructions are sown into the carrying bag, so can’t easily be lost.  They didn’t make perfect sense when read on their own but were clear enough when I actually pitched the tent.

First pitch

It took about 20 minutes to pitch the tent for the first time, although I was taking my time and stopping to take photos.  I reckon I’ll easily be able to pitch it in 10 minutes next time.

The tent is very squat, reminding me of a huge grey toad.  This should help with stability in strong winds, and the distribution of pegging points around the flysheet should also keep the tent well anchored when the wind gets up.

Some of the stitching is untidy but the tent is pretty well made.  The inner tent is nearly all mesh and there is one large pocket.  There is plenty of room for dry gear at the head end and to the sides, but I cannot sit up.  The inner and outer doors both have toggles and loops to tie them back, although these are all a little loose.  There is not enough space to stow a large rucksack between the inner tent and the flysheet, although there is space for boots and possibly other wet gear.

One strange thing is the amount of space between the inner and outer tents on the non-door side.  This space cannot be accessed from the inside, although the flysheet could be unpegged and gear pushed into the space from the outside.  On the plus side, this large separation between the inner and outer should help with ventilation and rainproofing.

As expected for a tent of this price, the guylines are awful.  They have the cheapest type of slider which easily snag on the low quality guyline which will almost certainly swell up when wet.  Also, the guys are black and not easy to see in daylight.  They may have reflective flecks in them; I’ll check when it’s dark.

Initial impressions

This is a good tent for its price and would be suitable for overnight camps but not for longer trips where spending long periods in the tent would be necessary.  Compared with the Vaude Bivi 1, I would imagine that this tent would be more comfortable for either a long, winter overnight camp or for an overnighter in the rain – although the Vaude Bivi 1 is lighter and much quicker to pitch.  The extra height at the foot end means that I can get dressed/undressed and move around, eg to reach for kit stored at the foot end.  The cheaper components may cause me some concern in really wild weather, but the squat design should reduce the risk of catastrophic failure in high winds.

Overall I think it’s a nice little tent which is good enough as it is but could be easily improved with better guylines and lighter pegs – although the total weight of 1686 g means that even the heavy pegs aren’t too much of a weight penalty.

I’ll post again when I’ve used the tent.

The Hi Gear Soloista is available from Go Outdoors for £29.99 with Discount Card (£50 full price).

A few snaps

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23 Responses to Tent review – Hi Gear Soloista Backpacking Tent – Initial Impressions

  1. hillplodder says:

    Ah, so you got the Soloista to review – I wanted that one. Incidentally, Go Outdoors currently have a tent sale on and in a couple of weeks time the Soloista will be only £19.99. At that price, I’ll probably get one seeing as you beat me to the free one, and if all that’s really wrong with it is guys and pegs, then I’ll be well happy as they’re easily rectified. So looking forward to hearing how you actually get on sleeping in it, and if as you suggest it works best as a single night shelter, that’s exactly what I have in mind for it.

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    • Judith says:

      I had a feeling the price may go down in the Sale. At £20 it’s a real bargain and worth a gamble for anyone who is not quite sure whether it’s what they need. I think I will find the low roof a bit limiting but it should be a lot more comfortable than my Vaude “coffin”.

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  2. John J says:

    These tents certainly seem to be more than suitable for budget backpacking. It goes to show that it really isn’t essential to spend oodles of dosh to be able to get out there. Making a few inexpensive changes (pegs, guy-lines and guy-line sliders) would obviously make all the difference. An hour with a sewing machine and an extra zip or two would transform it.
    I feel a trip coming on….the maps are out!
    JJ

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    • Judith says:

      I’m hoping to have a quick overnight trip very soon. I suppose it would be quite easy to make a zipped hole in the inner tent so that the space between the inner and outer was accessible – but I’m not sure I’d have the courage to cut into a brand new tent!

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  3. Pingback: Tent review – Hi Gear Soloista – First night out | Around the hills

  4. hillplodder says:

    Well, just picked one up for £19.99 today and it’s sitting in the garden. I’m hugely impressed already, bearing in mind the price. Going to spend the night in it in the garden, even though it’s a school night. Although I did tell me wife it’s because it’s so much cooler out there.

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  5. gm7something says:

    Picked up one and intend to put it up at some point this weekend.
    I’m a big lump so hopefully I’ll fit inside it.
    Thanks for the review.

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  6. I bought one when they were on sale at £25, initially I was quite impressed until I actually took it away to Mallorca with me for a few nights wild camping. On the first night the main pole failed, the bent metal tubing that forms the corner couldn’t take the pressure and folded up which left me doing a quick lash up job using cord and a nearby tree to provide support! The ventilation also left a bit to be desired, if the wind switches to blow from the head end of the tent it allows rain to bounce off the flysheet into the vent that’s directly above your face. As far as I’m bothered the lack of sheltered space for gear stowage is what really precludes this from being a decent tent for the UK climate.

    Fortunately the weather was warm enough not to require the tent for the rest of the trip, when I got back it was a day after the 28 day return period, the staff were sympathetic but could only give store credit which I was ok with as I want to upgrade to a Vango Blade 200.

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    • Judith says:

      Thanks for the information, Simon. It’s interesting to hear how the tent works (or not) on a real trip. Good luck with the Blade 200; I’d not heard of it but it looks OK on the Vango website.

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      • Climber Simon says:

        You can’t argue with that price but something has to be sacrificed to get it the low, at under 2kg it wasn’t the weight it was the material quality. The pegs are crap but hey were easily replaced, the pole joints not so simply.

        I could handle the limited headroom no the lack of gear stowage at that price but reliability is a must when you’re out in the back end of nowhere, alas this tent doesn’t have it. It’s worth a punt at that price but it let me down badly so I’d say don’t get your hopes of a massive bargain up!

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      • The Blade 200 has turned out to be a top notch tent which I’d highly recommend, lighter than the Soloista, more spacious, sleeps 2 at a push and you can sit up in it!

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  7. SJ says:

    Got one of these at the weekend finding it impossible to put up! No matter what I do I can’t figure out where the rods go inside the damn thing. Wish I’d stuck to caravanning. Any help appreciated!

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  8. There should be a fabric tube at the widest part of the tent for the bigger pole which is visible in the 4th pic on the review, the smaller one goes right at the end of the foot (longer narrow end). My advice would be to take the poles, stick them back in the bag and pitch it in the bin!

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    • SJ says:

      which is exactly what i’ve done. It’d cost me more in petrol and hassle to go and exchange it etc than to just dump it. That’s my little foray into camping knocked on the head. Never mind, I still have a sleeping bag! haha.

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      • Climber Simon says:

        Don’t let one bad product put you off camping, you’ll be missing out on a great experience if you do. I replaced mine with a Vango Blade 200 and it’s absolutely light years ahead of the soloista despite being the same weight, it’s more expensive but still below £100 and well worth the investment, you won’t regret it.

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  9. Judith says:

    Thanks for the comments. It looks like the quality control may not be very good and it’s a shame that you’ve shelled out money on a tent that’s not fit for purpose. I’ll leave these comments up so that there’s a balanced view of whether this tent is worth buying.

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  10. SJ says:

    I won’t let it completely put me off and Judith please don’t feel bad or anything, I am a total novice and went for something that actually seemed too good to be true – don’t we all know how such things usually turn out?!? 🙂

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