Sunday, 2 May 2010

Gelert Solo

This little tent has been reviewed one or two other places but I wanted to add my thoughts on it as I’ve picked up on one or two things others didn’t. Also I’m 6’2” so most people would say that I’m too large for the Solo, but am I? Well read on.

First off I wouldn’t call this a tent in the traditional sense; it’s definitely a bivvy tent. The lack of headroom, storage space and overall size definitely keep it out the tent category for me. However, that doesn’t mean I hate the Solo. Actually I think it’s a cracking little gem for the price. I paid £20 incl shipping from Amazon. So a real bargain!

This review is based on the tent being up in the garden for 6 days and 5 nights. There was quite a lot of rain over the last three of those days. I slept in the Solo for the final night it was up. That night there was a shower and the low was around 3 to 5C. I’m going to be using it for 3 day/2 night trip in late May so I’ll add a bit more after then.

What’s in the bag

Well you get an inner, outer, fibeglass poles, steel pegs, and a repair kit. The specs state the tent is 1.5 kgs, well not mine. The weight of the whole kit with all bags included was 1.720kgs. Individually with no bags they were: inner 553 grams, outer 440 grams, 16 pegs 330 grams, poles 298 grams, repair kit 35 grams. So my inner, outer, pegs, and poles come to 1.621 kgs. I weighed it post pitching so maybe I picked up some dirt or a lot of bugs.

The Inner and Sleeping

The inner is pitched first and the poles are inserted through a sleeve on the top and then clipped on the sides. It’s widely known that the poles are subject to breaking and I think it’s a twofold design problem. The poles are rather thin fibreglass but also the measurements are probably slightly on the tight side for the pole length. When pitching the foot end I felt I had to really push on the pole to get it to bend enough to fit in the footing strap. If the sleeve was slightly higher/wider it possible would make it easier without sagging the inner. If I keep the tent I most likely will buy an aluminium pole set.

The inner is a combination of no see um mesh and black mesh. I think this was a good idea or else it would have felt very enclosed with the outer on if it would have been all no see um mesh. There is a pocket on the side but no loop at the top for a light. The two pictures should give you an idea of the space with the roll mat out. It’s 180cms long.

Well at 6’2” I would say that I am definitely on the large size for the Solo. The top and bottom of the inner both angle down and this could leave you feeling very cramped if you were any taller. When lying on my side (how I sleep the most) or on my stomach there’s no problem. It’s when I’m on my back that my feet press against the inner. As you can see in the photo the inner comes down and then slopes sharply away. It means that when my feet are sticking up they press some against the upper part of the inner. At the top the sloping inner just misses my head unless I push right up.

When sleeping in it I didn’t feel especially cramped. It’s basically like sleeping in an airy bivvy bag I guess. You can sit up slightly but no chance of getting upright. The most annoying aspect of the tightness is when you need something near the bottom end. That’s one of the times when you really notice the small size.

The inner is where you most noticed it was an inexpensive tent in terms of quality. There are some threads that haven’t been trimmed and some of the stitching needed a little more care. As the picture left shows the seam is starting to move due to being to stressed. Moving the peg points didn’t seem to remove the pressure so I’ll have another look next time it’s up. I suspect it is pressure from the poles.

The Outer, Storage and Cooking

The Solo is inner pitching first and then the outer is placed over and pegged and guyed down. It attaches to the poles simply by tying on the straps shown in the picture above. There are vent holes at both ends that are covered by flaps with guy lines attached. Someone said they had water blow in through them but I had no problems.

The outer is rated at 1500mm and I had no water come through whilst it was up and there was some good, sustained rain during that time. I seam sealed it the day it went up so I’m not sure about the seam sealing as sold. When I woke up after the night in it there was some condensation. It was the standard haze that I would expect on any tent. The sort that if you run your finger across it will turn into a bead. There is good separation between the inner and outer so it shouldn’t be a problem.

I did get some water leak in through the groundsheet, also 1500mm. It was only a small spot and the ground was rather sodden under the tent. I've had a further look at it and the water entered through the seam in the groundsheet. It would appear that they removed a line of stitching as it was in the wrong place. I've seam sealed it and will tape it as well but again it shows the lack of quality control.

The door rolls up and makes getting in and out easy. Well as easy as can be. You have to sort of lie back and slide or roll in. There’s not much gear space and the rucksack in the picture is a 35L. The best place for it would be on the non door side as shown.

It’s roughly 15 inches from the inner to the bottom of the zip of the door on the outer. The boots hopefully give some idea of space.

You would have to be a brave, or insane, person to cook with the door closed. So my solution was a spare tent pole and guy line to prop the door up. A walking pole would serve the same purpose. Some rain still blew in whilst cooking through the gap. If out camping properly I would use a rain cape over the gap to give some more shelter. As you would have guessed any cooking is done lying down.

Overall Thoughts

The longer camping trip will make my mind up whether I keep the tent or not. From my one night in it I’m sure I wouldn’t want to use it on an extended trip, especially if it rained a lot. I like to sit up in the morning and stretch. You just can’t do that in the Solo.

It’s a great tent for the price but you get what you don’t pay for. Some quality control is lacking and space is limited. In short if you can cope with small spaces and you don’t have much cash then buy it. Just be prepared to either make some upgrades and changes eventually or start saving for the replacement. Which might be a Hike-Lite, if you can still find one.