After years of sterling service my trusty Phoenix Phlighter backpacking tent has finally given up the ghost. Patched and re-patched (there are patches over the patches!), the time had come to accept that retiral was long overdue. So, with the Phoenix put out to pasture and unlikely to rise from its ashes, I scouted about for a replacement. I wanted something inexpensive to tide me over the summer and opted to give the Hi Gear Soloista a go. At just £19.99 from Go Outdoors it made but a small dent in my gear budget.
As the name suggests, the Soloista accommodates one and is designed for backpackers and cyclists. It weighs just 1.6kg and packs down into a nice compact bundle (40 x 15 x 15 cm) that is easily stowed in a rucksack or panniers.
For our first outing we heading into the Angus Glens, a two-night stravaig into the remote upper reaches of Glen Mark on the cards. After a day of walking, pottering and wild swimming, I found a decent pitch by the river at the top of the valley’s spectacular set of waterfalls and pools and set up my temporary home.
The Soloista has pitching instructions sown into its storage sack. However, I fancied going blind on this one, just to see how easy or otherwise it was. And it proved to be a doddle. The Soloista pitches inner first. There are two bridge-shaped elasticated fibreglass poles, the longer of which supports the front end of the tent. Both slip easily through nylon sleeves and then are secured into ringlets at the groundsheet corners. Four additional clips on each bring the inner up. The groundsheet is polyurethane while the polyester inner is largely mesh, reducing the weight, allowing air to circulate and reducing condensation.
The polyester flysheet ties on to the poles before being pegged out. There are additional guylines, two at the front and two at the back. Overall, pitching took less than five minutes. A job well done.
Access to the tent is by a generous zipped door running the length of one side of the tent and there are toggles to tie the flap up, enabling you to lie in your sleeping bag and admire the view outside. Despite the mesh construction, the inner felt slightly claustrophobic, particularly with the door closed. However, the same could be said for most single-person tents or bivibags. Space is at a premium once you have a mat and sleeping bag rolled out. There is room enough to store clothes and small items of gear down the side but I ended up stowing my rucksack and boots in my survival sack out with the tent. Also, there is no porch for cooking.
Once bedded down, I enjoyed a good night’s sleep. The tent was both long enough (2.4m) and wide enough (0.8m) for me, although there is not a great deal of room for manoeuvre once inside. The headroom (0.64m) is low and not sufficient to sit up in, making dressing and undressing a bit of a challenge.
The Soloista hunkers down well in the landscape. It is streamlined and stable and, over the course of the two days, stood up to some gusty wind and an overnight drenching without leaking water or coming apart at the seams. Sensibly pitched, it withstood the elements well and the green and black colouring blended well into the surrounding terrain.
In conclusion, the Soloista is lightweight, excellent value for money and very easy to pitch.