The good thing about Summer is that you can do a full day at work and still have enough daylight left for a walk and camp. After (fruitlessly) studying rail and bus timetables, I jumped in the car and headed for Llandegla where there’s just enough wilderness for an undisturbed wild camp.
After an hour and a half of bimbling, and passing some lovely flat patches of lush green grass, I found a flat patch of ground near the top of Moel Garegog and put the tent up. The heather had been cut back (presumably for grouse rearing/shooting), so there were a few sharp twigs but nothing to cause me too much concern.
This was only the second time I’d pitched the Hi Gear Soloista but I didn’t bother with the instructions; it’s a simple tent to put up. The air was still but I pegged out the guys anyway as they lift the covers over the two roof-vents and I had a feeling I’d welcome some ventilation on the warmest night of Summer so far.
The tent was up and I was starting to unpack the rest of my gear when the midges spotted me. Swarms of the blighters. I rolled down my sleeves and put my midge net over my Tilley Hat. In one of my full-height tents I would have now dived inside and unpacked in comfort, but I knew the Soloista would not have enough headroom for me to easily prepare my bed for the night so I stayed outside and passed things, one by one, through the door – trying to keep as many midges as possible on the outside. I can confirm that it is possible to blow up a Neoair mattress through a head-net!
Once my dinner was safely simmering, I got into the tent and zipped up the inner. After removing all of my midge protection it was actually quite cool and airy in the tent. I’d rolled and tied back the flysheet door and I had enough space in the inner tent to move around and put all of my kit where I’d be able to find it in the night. I’d started with my rucksack inside the tent but, as it has a rigid back/internal frame, it was taking up too much room and had to spend the night outside.
I ate my dinner propped up on my elbow. Not an ideal way to dine but, compared with the Vaude Bivi 1, there is enough extra height to be able to vary your position. This was certainly a lot more comfortable than my midge-infested first night in the Vaude.
I used a synthetic fill sleeping bag but would be happy to use a high-lofting down bag as there is enough height along the length of the whole tent, and enough separation between the inner and outer tents, to ensure that the sleeping bag would not come into contact with any condensation forming on the inside of the flysheet. I’m 5’4″ tall and had plenty of room to spread out and to keep most of my gear inside the tent with me. My rucksack just about squeezed into the space between the inner tent and the door.
I slept with the outer door closed and was not surprised to find a lot of condensation in the morning. This was a very still night with not even a gentle breeze to keep the midges and condensation at bay. The zips are all one-way only so it would not be possible to keep the outer door unzipped a little at the top for ventilation overnight.
In my Initial Impressions post I said that the pegs were heavy. I would now say that each peg is not particularly heavy but that 20 of them together did seem heavy at first. I reckon you could save 4 pegs by not pegging out the ends of the poles.
Whilst packing up in the morning, I found that one of the sharp heather twigs had pierced the groundsheet (but not, thankfully, my Neoair). The groundsheet is woven and I think the hole will be self-healing. I can’t really blame the tent, as it was me who chose to pitch on rough ground.
It is not possible to test a tent’s suitability for all conditions during one short overnight camp but I’m still impressed with the Soloista based on what I’ve seen so far. For genuine “wild” camping in exposed locations far from civilisation I would probably still take one of my higher quality backpacking tents; but for overnight “stealth” camps in semi-wild farmland then I may use this tent, especially in winter if I wanted to use one of my thicker sleeping bags and thought that the Vaude Bivi 1 may be a little cramped.
So, in summary…… Would I buy one of these tents? Yes, if I was looking for something that was reasonably priced and for occasional use then I would definitely get one of these. Would I use mine again? Yes, for exactly the type of camping I did last night – a short walk in farmland followed by a “stealthy” overnight camp.