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My packing list for a week in mountains

I recently went on a week long hiking and fishing trip in Northern Norway and Sweden. Total walking distance about 100 kilometers, and because I would be fly fishing I needed some extra gear with me like Wading pants and wading shoes (Crocs). I also had my dog with me and she slept nicely next to me in my tent on the Sarek 3mm EVA pad and my RAB synthetic jacket as her blanket to keep her warm. I will write more about my trip and the gear I used as well as publish a few videos on Youtube, but for now here is my full list with links to gear as well as quick info about the items I liked the most or surprised me the most.

Total weight:

The Big three:

I opted for comfort here and let me tell you, I never slept so good as I did on this trip, so the extra grams was worth it in the end. The Q-core is great. Very warm and plush, robust for my dog as well. Most comfortable sleeping pad I ever slept on. Highly recommend it for anyone who is looking for better sleep in the mountains. The EE Revelation has been my goto quilt for nearly a decade now, as always it performs as expected. Light, warm and comfortable.

The Osprey Aether Pro 70L – normally I opt for a HMG pack, but I wanted to give this one a try, I stripped off a few grams by getting rid of the toplock and one of the pockets. With the HMG pack I normally get bruised hips as the belt is very thin and I sweat like a pig as the HMG fits a little too tight against my back. I certainly didn’t have any of those problems with the Aether pro 70. Incredibly well fitting backpack and will be my goto pack for heavier loads. I am retiring my beloved HMG windrider 70. The aether is simply in a different class as far as comfort and carrying is concerned.

Sarek gear The Mid. and Inner. We had several different tents with us on this trip, I choose the mid as I love the space and weight of it, and after having used it in some seriously heavy storms, I trust the performance of it in the mountains. On one night in Norway the wind came in heavy gusts at around 17 mp/s – which is very very heavy for summertime winds. One of the tents we had with us snapped and Marcus came and camped out with me and Anna in the Mid. The Mid held it’s own, and other than the noise, I slept fairly well and certainly confident in the tent.

RAB Xenon synthetic jacket – Excellent lightweight synthetic jacket. I have been using this jacket for all my 3 season hikes this year as well as in town. I have nothing bad to say about the Xenon jacket. Simply a great, and great looking jacket at an excellent price. Sarek rain skirt – does exactly what it’s supposed to do at very little weight. Really nice not having to take off my pack everytime I want to put my skirt on.

Full list and links here:

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Why you freeze in your sleeping bag

I have a little secret to share: I know a thing or two about sleeping bags and keeping warm. Might come as a shock I know, and it’s not to toot my own horn, but simply a statement of fact. Here is the secret to finding the perfect sleeping bag that will keep you as warm as the promised comfort temp rating: it’s the sleeping mat. (This article is mainly for 3 season hiking, same rules apply for winter camping, but there it’s also a question of certain techniques)

In my own experience and in my years of being in the outdoor industry with my own gear shop, 9 times out of 10 (I would say 10 of 10, but I always leave a little margin of error) when you are cold despite your bag being warmer (comfort temp) than the outside temp, it’s your sleeping pad. Yes I know you don’t feel cold from underneath, no doubt your sleeping mat has a high R-value, yes I understand you have all kinds of clothing and extra layers on. It’s still more than likely your sleeping mat, or it could be you bought a bag advertising it’s Limit temp (the temp you will freeze your ass off at) as it’s bag name. Example is the Haglöfs down LIM +1. A +10 bag marketed at a +1 temp. Just an example, though most companies market their bags this way. Limit temp, is simply put, where you will be so cold your teeth will clatter. Buy your bag at the comfort temp, not the limit. 

With that said, if you buy your bag at the stated comfort temp, and you freeze despite the outside weather being warmer than the comfort rating of the bag, it’s your sleeping mat. There are many reasons for this, but the simple truth is that rating a sleeping mat is considerably more difficult than the more standardized rating of sleeping bags. Most comfort temps on most sleeping bags are fairly well measured, while sleeping mats can and do vary wildly. In my experience most thicker sleeping mats (air filled not cell plast) all get cold around +3 celsius. Once the temperature starts to drop, these pads start to get cold: regardless of r-rating. I think this might have something to do with how different companies measure their r-value. I’m not sure how it’s done, but it rarely matches up to reality. The exception being the Thermarest mats that all hold up quite well in colder temperatures. (Thermarest xTherm and xLite hold up to stated r-values).

I’m sure someone out there is going to tell me I have no idea what I’m talking about, and that sleeping mats are 100% accurate in their ratings. But alas, I’m not talking to you. I’m talking to everyone else that is freezing in their sleeping bags despite buying the thickest, most expensive bag on the planet. I know, because I’ve been there. Daily I have customers who call or write describing the exact same issue. Most of them have barely a thought on what they have for sleeping mats. My first response and question is always “what sleeping mat do you have?”. Don’t get me wrong, I’m more than happy to sell great, ultralight sleeping bags, but I don’t care for returns because of freezing customers. 

So what is my standard advice? Try putting a cheap cell foam pad on top of your current sleeping mat first – on top not underneath your sleeping pad. If you are still freezing, try a different sleeping mat, perhaps an xtherm. If you have tried different sleeping mats, then start looking at the bag. Check the comfort temp of your bag, actual temperature where you are at (temps on apps are often taken in cities or towns where temps are higher). There can of course be other issues with your bag such as down clumping – make sure your sleeping bag is properly “fluffed” and that the down hasn’t shifted into clumps. Another issue is a sleeping bag that is too small, which means you squeeze too hard against the sides, not leaving any room for the insulation to leave insulate. 

But at the end of the day, 9 out of 10 instances of people freezing outdoors in their “warm” sleeping bag, is due to a cold sleeping mat. 

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Big Agnes Copper Spur vs Nordisk Halland

First, if there’s one thing I love, it is testing equipment, especially tents. Over the past year, the company has grown and taken up more space and more time. Both Backpacking Light and our own brand Sarek Gear are on strong growth. We now have 6 employees and I think there will be twice as many in a year, which is incredibly fun but at the same time it takes a lot of time. I will continue to do Reviews but to get more credible reviews I will invite more guest bloggers to UL comfort, know that there are many Gearnerds out there. Also let my partner Marcus and employees test gear. Thinking that it might be interesting even for you to get more inspiration from several who love hiking and ultra-light hiking in particular to get maybe more perspectives on the subject. Below is Rasmus review and comparison between the Nordisk Halland 2 LW and Big agnes Copper spur.

First som start with some thoughts about the Nordisk Halland 2 LW. Some details as the small bungy bands that you can coil up the guy lines with when you do not use them is great features. The tent we used had the Burnt Red-color, blended in nicely in the pine forest and had a warm light inside. Easy to set up but quite small for two persons, one of them 187 cm, the feet touched the inner tent with a warmer sleeping bag and inflatable sleeping pad. The width of the tent is 135 cm wide which is perfectly ok for a two-man tent in this class. But if it’s two big people, it can feel a little too tight. But, with a weight of 1500 grams, this is a very smooth and lightweight two-man tent. The many guylines make the tent also robust, even for strong mountain winds.

If you want a safe, light and pleasant tent that you can trust, Nordiska Halland is the tent for you. But don’t invite your biggest friend to sleep with you, unless you’re going to spoon.

I would probably feel safer in the Halland than in the Big Agnes Copper Spur on a windy mountain, it has more guy lines and is not as high as the Copper Spur. The Copper Spur has steep walls and is very spacious on the other hand. In the mountains you maybe want the outer tent to go further down to the ground as on the Nordisk Halland. Maybe it felt a little bit humid inside the tent in the morning, likely because there was no wind. With some wind the ventilation would have been great! I Also liked the big door and roof pockets on the Copper Spur.

But I know, both from my own experiences and from others, that Copper Sour works very well when the wind blows. But the feeling is less robust. Another feeling is that copper spur feels more spacious than its competitor Nordisk Halland. But the fact is that both have about 100 cm in height and copper spurs maximum width is actually 3 cm smaller, i.e. 132 cm against Halland’s 135 cm. The fact that the tent is perceived as spacious is largely thanks to the tent arches that run over the long sides of the tent. Weight-wise, these two tents are very close. If you were to take tables Nordisk Halland’s upper ropes and cable brackets, they would end up at the same weight. Copper Spurs’ total weight is 1.42 kg. You can buy and read more about both tents at Backpackinglight.dk

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Kammok Mantis UL: An ultralight hammock kit

My first impression of the Kommok Mantis Ul when I got it in the mail was “Did they forget something? What is this wizardry” My Hammock of choice over the years has either been the Warbonnet ridgerunner or Henney hammock. Both are fantastic hammock systems that don’t weigh too much, but do take up some volume in my backpack. The Kammok Mantis is considerably smaller than either of the previous mentioned hammocks. The entire Kammok Mantis UL system is about the same size as just ridgerunner or just the Hennessy hammock minus tarp and pegs. Not much larger than a 1 liter Nalgene bottle. Keep in mind the Kammok Mantis UL is a complete system – you don’t have to buy anything else (well underquilt or sleeping mat). Tree huggers, Hammock, tent pegs, mosquito net and all guylines and stuff sacks needed. 

Setup: 

The Kommok mantis has a rather unique solution for it’s tree huggers, I can’t really explain in words, but kind of a ladder system that you feed into itself, rather intuitive and fast to use. Once the tree huggers are wrapped around a tree, you simply hook the hammock into the ladder system using a supplied carabiner, stake out the two hammock spreading guylines and your done with the hammock. The Tarp you simply pull tight the guylines, hook it into itself and use the supplied linelocks to tighten the tarp. Easy peasy. While not as easy to setup as the Hennessy Hammock, it’s not far off and on top of that weighs less that 500 grams that of the Hennesy explorer.

Weight:

On our scales the Kammok Mantis UL weighs just 1029 grams – with everything included in the weight. On top of this, it takes very little space in a backpack. One of hte lightest if not the lightest complete hammock system on the market. Atleast one meant for full sized humans. 

Size:

I am 190cm and 94 kilos. I find the Mantis UL to be a great size, I think I am on the limit though, and perhaps someone a little taller might want to look elsewhere. But certainly for anyone 190cm or under, the Mantis is a great size. I also find the Tarp to be a great size as well. On the Hennessy Hammocks, they often have a asym tarp that barely covers the hammock and just barely useable for anything other than light rain. The Mantis UL tarp is more of a flat tarp that covers the entire hammock and even leaves room over if you want to have a little camp in the rain. 

Overall impression:

It’s hard not to like the Kammok mantis UL. By pure chance I took it into the shop, but found that it’s such a high quality product that it’s going to stay in the shop for years to come. The mantis UL is the lightest complete hammock system in our shop and one of the lightest on the market. There are of course lighter hammocks, but usually a bit small, and weight starts to add up once you add a tarp, bug net, tree huggers, stuff sacks so on and so forth. I am also a huge fan of how easy the hammock is to setup, I’m not much a of knot guy, so I will gladly take linelocks and carabiners any day as it makes the Mantis idiot proof.. .. more or less. 

Plus: 

  • Very light system
  • Intuitive design and functions
  • Very small pack volume
  • Easy to setup
  • Nice size hammock and tarp
  • Full zip bugnet 

Minus: 

Review by Kenneth Shaw

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Soto Windmaster: A long-term review

My thoughts
I have been using the Soto Windmaster almost exclusively for over 2 years. Through Sarek, Padjelantaleden, Kungsleden, Island, Scotland and more. I have never needed a windshield and the Windmaster has never failed me. I have used it with dozens of different pots and pans without fail. Simply put, in my opinion the Soto windmaster is the single best stove on the market for pretty much any boil water and simple cooking needs. It is fast, efficient, lightweight and dependable. Even in high winds it is effecient and fast, rarely losing any of it’s performance. If there is one thing I think is a negative it’s that when I bought my Windmaster the tri-flex was included as well as the 4-flex. However, they have opted to sell those seperately now, which means that if you want the lightest most compact solution – the 3-flex. That must be purchased seperately. With that said, the 4-flex is an excellent, robust pot holder. I just prefer the tri-flex. 

Sizing
I am not too interested in physical diameter and height and so on. Instead I am interested if it fits in a single pot with gas tube. The soto windmaster fits nicely in pretty much all pots 600ml and more (with gas tube). This was always what was so convenient with the Jetboil kits – everything fit nicely in one pot. The difference between this and a jetboil are considerable – the Jetboil is not great in high winds, locked to one pot and in general considerably heavier than the Windmaster.

Weight
With the included 4-flex pot holder, the Windmaster weighs about 80 grams in total. Keep in mind, this is with a pezo lighter and no need for a windshield. So by any standards: Light.

Performance
This is where the Soto windmaster really stands out. For a long-time the Windmaster stood alone on it’s peak as the best performing stove on the market. Now it can be argued that the MSR Pocket rocket DLX shares the title. In anycase, whether it’s cold, windy or sunny: The Windmaster performaces with excellence. To show off to my friends on hiking trips it’s not usual for me to setup and cook my food in hard blowing winds while they all stand hovered around rocks and backpacks trying to cook their own food – only for the windmaster to be faster and more efficient. It really is remarkable. This of course also means that a can of Butane is going to last much longer with the Windmaster than pretty much anything else. 

Conclusion
The Windmaster is my favorite stove. Nothing really compares. There are lighter and smaller stoves – but once you add in the fact that you have to have both a windscreen and lighter, the Windmaster usually wins the weight war as well. The Windmaster is the “Ron Swanson” of stoves. Simple, effective and very high quality. 

Pros

  • Fast and efficient
  • Very good performance in high winds
  • Light
  • Small
  • Reliable

Cons

  • Tri-flex pot holder sold seperately

Review by Kenneth Shaw 17 February 2021

To buy the windmaster in europe check out https://backpackinglight.se/varumarken/soto/soto-windmaster-micro-regulator-stove

Video comparison

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Hiking with the Mamiya 7ii

A friend and I recently took a 7 day, 165 kilometer walk in Northern Sweden. Starting at Ritsem and walking along the Padjelantaleden then moving off to Nordkalottleden and finishing in Kvikkjokk. This isnt going to be a post about the hike itself, but rather about my choice to bring the Mamiya 7ii +43mm lens and a ton of film. The film I used for this trip was varied but mainly Fuji Velvia 100 and Portra 160, 400. All film processed myself at home.

As some of you might know from previous post I have been an avid analog photographer (hobby) forever. I never went total digital as I always preferred the look of analog. On this particular trip I wanted to bring my analog camera as it had been years since I actually went hiking with an analog camera. Though, because I am a lightweight backpacking nerd, its hard to justify 2 kilos of extra gear that can only take still photos. While my total backpacking gear weight with food for the entire trip came in at 11kg, with the camera that pushed everything to just shy of 14kg.

It really was an internal debate for weeks whether or not I would bring the camera and what camera for that matter. In fact, just before boarding the train to northern sweden, I was still changing out my different pre-packed cameras and camera cubes in my backpack. My biggest issue was mainly with volume. While 14kg would not kill me, and I knew after a few days of eating the food weight in my backpack, my kit would be under 10 kg in no time. It was the volume of my pack that bothered me. I normally dont need more than a 40 liter backpack, however, with the mamiya and a packing cube I would need a 70 liter pack. This sucked.

However, while debating whether to bring my Ricoh GR21, Nikon F5, Canon f-1 or Mamiya 7ii, I ended on the only choice that would make any sense: the Mamiya 7ii. WIth its built in meter, super sharp lenses and lightweight, it was a no brainer. Though, I do regret not bringing my 150mm lens for the Mamiya, as 43mm is arguably to wide for most landscape applications. (for the kind of photos I take). This choice was mainly due to weight, one lens was enough.

To protect my camera I kept it in a Wandrd camera cube, in a plastic ziploc bag, the bag filled with these gel packs that keep moisture out. This seemed to work really well as I didnt have fog or moisture in my camera at all despite several days of hard rain. I did have a tripod, which I used both for video and for photography, my tripod weighed about 400grams and gives about 150cm of height.

In the end I think the extra weight and effort was worth it. Though I think had I brough my 150mm lens I would have gotten a lot more quality shots – as it was, I think its hard to capture the “vastness” of an area with such a wide lens that I brought. Wide lenses have a tendency to “squish” and area into a small frame, so even large alpine like mountains, look like little hills. Live and learn.

Anyway, here are a few more shots from the Mamiya 7ii + 43mm lens (I didnt bring viewfinder for 43mm lens as I find its not really necessary). Scanned with Silverfast and no additional editing

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Nordisk Lofoten ULW 2: A review

When I first reviewed Nordisk Lofoten a few years ago at the outdoor show in Munich, I couldn’t understand what it would be good for. Far too small for a tent, I wrote about it then that you might have it as a dog tent. Then I got some requests from customers who wanted to buy it, so I brought it home. Still, I wasn’t so keen to test it myself. Why should I? I don’t hate myself enough for that. I am 190cm tall and 95 kilos large. This tent barely accommodates a dog … or so I thought.

Then I brought home the Nordisk Lofoten ULW2 and tested it. First in the showroom then out in the wild. If I see it as a tent, well, then I think there are tents that are both bigger and better for most uses. But if I think “Bivy sack”, then we’re talking. Basically lighter than any waterproof bivy bag on the market, as well as with good ventilation and relatively good comfort compared to a standard Bivy bag. Beyond that, it is double walled, so you don’t get too much condensation in the tent or on yourself.

After sleeping in the Nordic Lofoten ULW 2 under various circumstances just over 6 nights from rain, sun and even snow, I can say that it is actually quite okay. I can also say that it is quite fun to use. I like the “big” awning, and its small footprint on the ground. One of the first nights I slept in it I couldn’t find a good spot to pitch the tent, it was raining and in the forest there was simply nowhere that a standard tent would fit. Then I found an extremely small area, basically the size of my body. In 5 minutes, the tent was set up, under two trees, near a beaver hole. Fun! No other tent I would be able to pitch in such a place with.

Then another night I woke up in the middle of the night because it was snowing and the whole tent sucked in on me, but shook the tent a few times and fell back asleep

The tent is small, no doubt about it. Both my feet and head Mush the inner tent, it was not easy to get in and out and trying to put on and off clothes in the tent was not so easy. Not to mention sitting in the tent and blowing up my sleeping mat and getting everything in order for bed. Basically things you want to do when it rains. But, I did it. And you can’t do that in a bivy bag. Sleeping in it is actually quite nice – you feel like a little sneaky spy hiding. It has good floor surface and a large pocket where you can have some things in.

Now I’m just talking about what it’s like to have the Nordisk lofoten as a standard tent, I don’t run mountain marathons for which it is really made. As a tent, I think it works well! And it’s something I will use more often when I don’t want to carry hiking poles.

Plus:

– Extremely small pack size. Does not take much room in the backpack
– Light weight
– Double walled bivy
– Good floor surface
– Large awning
– Easy to set up
– Fun to use
– Low condensation
– The best Bivy bag

Negative:

– Extremely small living space
– Not two-man tent
– Can hardly be counted as a tent

Specs

Weight: 500 grams

Material: 7d sil-nylon

Size: tiny

The Nordisk lofoten can be purchased in Europe at Https://www.backpackinglight.se

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My favorite 2-man tents for 2020

  1. Big agnes Copper spur HV ul 2 – There is a reason the Copper Spur hv ul2 is one of the most popular tents in history. This tent is a fantastic balance of weight, stability and living comfort. At just 1220 grams and freestanding, the Copper spur can more or less put up with anything the mountains can throw at it. Granted, my size at 190cm, I would rather pick up the HV UL 3 version instead if I’m sharing the tent. But I can say that with just about any two man tent.

Positives:

  • Fast and easy setup
  • Ultralight two man tent
  • Stable enough for most conditions
  • Great ventilation
  • Love the new awnings
  • Double entry and exits
  • Freestanding

Negatives:

  • Can be small for two people
  • There are lighter solutions – but not many
  • Outer tent and inner are pitched separately
  1. Hilleberg Anaris – A proper two man trekking pole tent from Hilleberg that can withstand anything the mountains throw at it. Fast and easy to pitch, this is a great two man tent for most people not looking for the lightest solution, but a long term solution that will last a lifetime and a great weight for two people at around 1309 grams ex tent pegs. The Anaris is also a very flexible tent which is why it kicks out several other similar solutions that might weigh less. Can be used as a simple tarp, or if you just want to pitch the inner, or half and half. Hilleberg is one of the originators of the trekking pole tent, in fact the design of the Anaris was more or less stolen from a tent they introduced in the early 70’s. Generous sizing and vestibules make the Anaris an excellent purchase.

Positives:

  • Generous sizing – a proper comfortable two man tent
  • Great weight for two man tent
  • Very flexible solution
  • Easy to pitch
  • Can withstand the mountains
  • Will last a lifetime

Negatives:

  • There are lighter solutions
  • When pitched in “shit weather mode” the ends can be a little low
  • Would like to see a single man version of the Anaris
  • I hate the tent pegs. The three star top always cuts my hands when I have to use force
  1. Luxe outdoor sil Hexpeak f6a – Big, light and cheap. A great combination! Granted, outer and inner together make this the heaviest combination of my recommendations. But a Tipi this size normally doesn’t need an inner tent. Pitch it close to the ground and you’re not going to be bothered with bugs. The Hexpeak 6a in a generous sized two man tent that comes complete with inner tent and tent pegs. I have used mine in some seriously bad weather above treeline on a few occasions with zero issues. If you’re looking for a great Tipi solution for two people or one big and a bunch of kids, the Hexpeak might be the perfect tent for you.
Not a pic of the f6 – this is the Hexpeak v8.. Similar but not the same. This is also the winter version with stove jack. I couldn’t find my pics of the V6

Positives:

  • Comes complete with everything that is needed
  • Generous sized two man tent
  • Robust material will hold a long time
  • Great price

Negatives:

  • Heavy compared to the other tents on my list (if bringing inner tent)
  • Massive footprint. You need to find a camp spot big enough
  • Needs to be seam sealed
  1. Tarptent Stratospire 2 – A massive two man tent that can withstand anything, more or less. If you want lots of room, the stratospire 2 is hard to beat. Many of the reasons I loved the Stratospire 1 apply for the Stratospire 2. My only complaint? Its really big. This size has a cost when trying to find a good flat surface to pitch your tent on.
The Tarptent Stratospire Li – DCF dyneema tent. Weighs just 750 grams with tent pegs

Positives:

  • Big and light
  • Stabile in most three season weather
  • Massive vestibules

Negatives:

  • Requires a lot of space to pitch
  • Needs to be seam sealed

Alternatively you can get the Stratospires LI DCF version of the Stratospire at just 750 grams!

  1. Hyperlite mountain gear Ultamid 2 – 471 gram alpine tent. I have used the Ultamid 2 and it’s bigger brother the Ultamid 4 year round above treeline. To say the Ultamid 2 is a competent tent in any conditions is an understatement. From being snowed in late April, to sunny hikes in Sarek the Ultamid 2 has never let me down. Now that 471g is the weight of the outer only, so if you need an inner add another 500 grams or so. The Ultamid 2 also makes for a great solo tent. If you are looking for the perfect solo tent that even works as an excellent 2 man tent, look no further than the Hyperlite mountain gear Ultamid 2.

Positives:

  • Ultralight 
  • True all season tent
  • Big
  • Takes little room in pack
  • Fast and easy to setup
  • Easy to repair

Negatives:

  • Inner tent isn’t included in sale price
  • Single walled tents = Condensation is more obvious
  • Tent pegs and Trekking pole extender not included

Bonus Tent:

The Vargo No-Fly 2 man tent – I couldn’t possibly leave the Vargo No-fly out here, so I am cheating on my own list. Anyway, the no-fly 2 probably has the biggest living area of any of the aforementioned tents as the sides are steep, so you don’t lose any length or width because of hard sloping sides like you get in a pyramid tent. The No-fly is also for the most part freestanding, and I have pitched it on tiny broken sidewalks on the edge of a river with no pegs. Two big vestibules, extremely easy to pitch, great ventilation and a lightweight at just 1195 grams. Did I mention everything you need is included in the package? Seam sealed, tent pegs and carbon fiber tent poles. Excellent creation from the Vargo team.

Positives:

  • Fast and easy to pitch
  • Freestanding
  • Great ventilation
  • Complete tent
  • Lightweight

Negatives:

  • I would have liked to see a bigger side opening with the vestibules. Demands a bit of trickery to open up completely on sunny days
  • Included is 4 vargo ti pegs, I think 6 would have been better as it requires 6-8 if you want it completely pitched. 

Runner up: Zpacks duplex,

Zpacks Duplex: I felt a lot of internal pressure to include the Zpacks Duplex here. But for me personally the tent doesn’t work. My head and feet push hard on the outer tent, meaning I get wet. Wind blows through it, so on top of being wet I also get cold. The tent also loves condensation, so morning rain showers are common. However, if I were to hike warmer climates, summertime, then I would definitely look hard at bringing the zpacks Duplex with me. However for me, in the swedish mountains in most of the conditions I find myself in, the Duplex simply is a no go.

These tents can be purchased in Sweden at https://www.backpackinglight.se

In Europe at: https://www.backpackinglight.dk

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What is tent comfort?

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!

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My favourite solo tents for 2020

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. 

The positives:

– 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

The negatives

– 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. 

The Stratospire 1 can be purchased in Sweden at: https://backpackinglight.se/talt/1-personstalt/tarptent-stratospire-1

In Europe at: https://backpackinglight.dk/tents/one-person-tent/tarptent-stratospire-1

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. 

The positives:

– Big and light

– Excellent awning function

– Double entry & exit

– Packs down small

Some negatives

– 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. 

The Lightheart gear Solong6 can be purchased in Sweden: https://backpackinglight.se/talt/lightheart-gear-solong-6

In Europe at: https://backpackinglight.dk/tents/lightheart-gear-solong-6

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. 

Positives:

– 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. 

The Hilleberg Enan can be purchased in Sweden: https://backpackinglight.se/talt/hilleberg-enan-rod

In Europe at: https://backpackinglight.dk/tents/hilleberg-enan-red

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. 

Some pluses:

– Fast and easy setup

– Great weight at just 770 g for standard, 550 g for DCF

– Great ventilation

The negatives:

– small inner-tent

– can get drafty in certain situations 

The Tarptent Notch can be purchased in Sweden: https://backpackinglight.se/varumarken/tarptent/tarptent-notch

In Europe at: https://backpackinglight.dk/brands/tarptent/tarptent-notch

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. 

Some positives:

– Fast and easy setup

– Big, roomy tent – even the updated version

– Lightweight at under 800 grams

– Two vestibules that easily convert to Awnings

Some negatives:

– 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

The Sierra designs High route FL can be purchased in Sweden: https://backpackinglight.se/talt/1-personstalt/sierra-designs-high-route-fl-1-talt

In Europe: https://backpackinglight.dk/tents/one-person-tent/sierra-designs-high-route-fl-1-tent