I follow a lot of different groups on facebook, and one comment I am always surprised to read is when someone of say 180cm or less is saying a tent that I personally use and think works just fine is “Too small”. An example of this is a comment I recently received on my article “My favorite solo tents” about the Hilleberg Enan. I was a bit surprised when the comment was basically “I’m 170cm and i think the Enan is too small”. So this led me to start thinking about the concept of tent comfort.
How can someone like myself at 190cm think the Enan is just fine and actually rather comfortable, while somebody at 170cm think it’s too small. I have a lot of theories on this, but I have kind of landed on one in particular: Tall people in general have to learn to like smaller tents. A tall person knows and in some cases actually likes their body squeezing against the inner tent. I know for example on the Enan I really like that I can mush my pillow into one side and kind of squeeze my head in there between the inner and pillow. I like it because it holds my pillow in place allowing me to fold the pillow a few times, to create height for my head for when I sleep. This means that I don’t get back pain while I sleep on my side as my head is elevated.
I also know that having your bag mush on an inner tent is no issue at all, it doesn’t cause you to get wet from condensation, or your bag to get wet, or from some kind of chain reaction that will result in death. The bigger issue is if you are mushing against the outer tent – that should be avoided. In the Enan my head, squeezed against the inner tent, does of course touch the inner tent, but not the outer. No part of my body is even close to the outer. Which means I don’t have any issues with condensation showers. However in some single walled tents, like most zpacks tents, my feet or head, or both are mushed against the outer, leading always to a very uncomfortable and wet night.
Shorter people on the other hand never have to deal with issues of touching inner and outer tents. So the idea that a strand of hair is touching the inner tent will lead to one feeling that a tent is “too small”. We can make arguments that a tent is not as big as another tent, or that you feel a tent is small. But just because one can’t set up a lawn chair and do jumping jacks in a tent doesn’t mean a tent is “too small”. It just means you prefer a larger tent.
I think this is an important factor to take into consideration when buying a tent. At no time should you be terrified if some part of your body is touching the inner (there are exceptions to this – such as with the Nordisk tents where the inner is literally touching the outer). More important factors to take into consideration are: is my body touching the outer, is the tent big enough for what I want, is the tent too big where I can’t find anywhere to pitch, is the tent easy or hard to pitch, Trekking poles or not and so on.
Anyway, just a quick thought on tent sizing and how to think about it!
Choosing a tent is always difficult. There is no such thing as the “Perfect” solo tent for all uses. My uses for the most part are rather specific. I want a tent that I can use both in the forest and above tree-line. Can stay comfortably in them for at-least two weeks in a go, fast and easy to setup, maximum weight of 1kg, fits nicely inside my backpack, has full bug protection and is built for somebody like myself that is 190cm tall. There are of course a lot of tents I have left out here, but not necessarily because I think they are terrible, but often because I just don’t like them as much as I like these tents that I mention.
With that said, I test dozens of tents every year, so I never really get a chance to fall in love with a specific tent. I have to use them, abuse them, then move on to the next one. SO the tents I do mention here are ones I have used a lot and are the tents that I myself reach for when I am going on hikes for myself.
1. Tarptent Stratospire – at 990 grams the Stratospire takes the proverbial cake for me. It’s massive inner space and vestibules, excellent above tree line performance, total cool factor. To me the Strotospire is as near a perfect solo tent as one can get.
– Big , there is no solo tent even close to the shear size of this tent.
– Stable above tree-line
– Double walled
– Dual entry, exit
– Two big vestibules
– it’s big. Almost too big for a solo tent. Finding camp spots in forest or campgrounds can be a real problem because of how big it is. In my guestimation it’s the size of two Hilleberg enans side by side.
– It can be tricky to setup. Even after having set mine up hundreds of times over the years, I still find it a pain to setup. at-least 8 tent pegs are needed, a good internal understanding of geometry, and patience.
2. Lightheart gear Solong 6 – As far as most liveable space, the Solong 6 is in a league of its own. This tent is designed with tall people in mind. it’s big, its light and it’s a fun tent to use. I have several tents I use and love but don’t have listed here for different reason. But one feature on any tent that I love is a big awning – the MLD Trailstar has the biggest, an open tarp is quite nice and the Tramplite shelter are all excellent tents with an awning. But the Solong 6 is the only “proper” tent with a nice big awning built in. With dual entries, a big liveable area and a massive awning, I just love this tent. This is a tent that you don’t really mind having to hunker down in for a long rain spell.
The solong 6 is also a relatively easy tent to pitch, but does require some practice as the trekking poles are setup on the inside of the inner-tent which is somewhat unusual.
– Big and light
– Excellent awning function
– Double entry & exit
– Packs down small
– requires 6 tent pegs, two trekking poles, an awning pole and between the two trekking poles a PVC pipe..
– I don’t really like the concept of having to buy a “basic tent” and then to purchase all the add ons. I wish companies, even small cottage companies would just sell a complete tent with everything I need to pitch and enjoy. Lightheart gear take this to a new level with basically everything being extra.
– Not sure I love the tent setup procedure. Would like to see a more optimised guy-line solution for the four corners. Not sure how much that PVC pipe is actually needed or if it could be scrapped in leu of a different solution. Like two poles and no PVC, or two poles and a simple strut that is sewn in place.
3. Hilleberg Enan – I don’t always want to bring trekking poles, in fact I find more and more that I am moving away from trekking poles and opting to instead have my hands free for camera gear and so forth. If I’m not bringing my trekking poles, than a trekking pole tent is a rather pointless venture for me. So with this, I bring the Hilleberg enan. Mine weighs in at 960 grams (Kerlon 600). That is complete with tent pole and add an extra 50 grams for 6 TI pegs. That is a lightweight, small packsize tent that is actually quite comfortable for someone of my height.
It also saves me weight by allowing me to leave my trekking poles at home – which together weigh around 350 grams. There is not a lot I don’t like about the Enan – it’s light, roomy, comfortable, double walled, easy to setup and fits in tight spots. I even love the fact that I can push my sleeping mat all the way to the top of one end and mush my pillow into place inside the inner tent. This is great for when I want to situp and read a bit, or at-least have my head raised. It’s the tightness of the tent that creates supreme comfort.
– Top quality
– I love the yellow inner-tent – the comfort it gives is indescribable
– No trekking poles needed
– Can withstand just about anything the mountains throw at it
So what don’t I like:
– It takes 6 tent pegs for a good setup. I would have like to see this cut down to 2 like the Tarptent Moment DW.
– While I love the tightness of the tent, I don’t really like getting caught in bad weather with it. Because of the tightness – in bad weather every tent shrinks (psychologically speaking), and the Enan just because a hassle with the size and condensation in bad weather.
4. Tarptent Notch – Everything I like with the enan I can copy and paste for the Notch, with the added bonus of it being lighter and easier to setup. With the notch you just need 4 pegs and two trekking poles and your done. The Notch has also great ventilation, double vestibules and entry/exits. The Notch is simply a superb solo tent. They even make this beast in an even lighter DCF version weighing just around 550 grams. That’s a double walled tent. The standard notch has a total weight with solid inner at around 770 grams. Perhaps the main drawback of the Notch is that the actual sleeping area of the inner tent is a rather tight fit. Cozy as some people might describe it. Where the Enan makes use of a little bigger inner-tent and one vestibule, the Notch cuts back on the inner-tent and instead makes room with two vestibules. I’m not sure which of the two I prefer.
– Fast and easy setup
– Great weight at just 770 g for standard, 550 g for DCF
5. Sierra designs High route FL – I get the question, often, If I could only choose one tent what would it be. This is such a difficult question for me because I am not limited to just one, so I can choose the one tent that best matches the situation I am likely to find myself in. With that said, one tent that usually passes everything I want or need to do is the High route FL. I love this tent, as easy to pitch as a pyramid tent, can be pitched with both inner and outer tent together, can easily remove the inner, comes complete seam sealed with tent pegs, big enough for me, and can withstand just about anything nature can throw at it. Granted the 2020 model is a little smaller and doesn’t have the dual entry & exits, it is considerably lighter than the previous model.
There is a lot of talk about the x-mid by Durston, for me the High route is a more useable tent. The x-mid is just too small for my needs, the high route is just right. I also find it an easier tent to pitch and more flexible. (Though still testing the x-mid, and I can say it might be just right for your own needs) What I liked most on the Lightheart gear Solong6 is the big awning, the High route has two of them. It is also the cheapest of all the tents that I rank as my favourite solo tents.
– Fast and easy setup
– Big, roomy tent – even the updated version
– Lightweight at under 800 grams
– Two vestibules that easily convert to Awnings
– I think it sucks they got rid of the two entry and exits.. Ok, admittedly I rarely used both at the sametime, but the flexibility of it was nice.
– Not sure I dig the color scheme so much. It works, but I kind of miss the red they had on the earlier model
– The actual vestibule space is tight – I usually try to pitch with awning for more room