I was generally very happy with my Tarptent Notch on my thru hike, but I began to get envious of those with LightHeart Gear tents, specifically the SoLong model. It only weighs 4 oz more, but it has slightly more head room and twice the floor area, 30 sq ft compared to the Notch’s 15.2. That’s a huge difference in living space. The SoLong isn’t completely double walled, but no one I talked to had any problems with heavy rain coming through the single walled portion of the ceiling. It still has my preferred side entry with two doors and two vestibules. The vestibules are smaller than the Notch’s but one has an awning, which would be great to cook in or check out the view, and with all that interior space, who cares about a little less vestibule space?
I had almost convinced myself to purchase the SoLong, when I saw the Duo. Less than 2 oz more weight than the SoLong nets you another 10 sq ft of floor area! The tent still comes in at 2 lbs, which is doable for one person, but this tent is actually spacious enough for two! Splitting the weight between two people makes for a luxurious but ultralight shelter.
My only issue with the LightHeart tents is that they’re not freestanding. I don’t know why I’m obsessed with freestanding tents because it’s not like I often camp on rock slabs or other surfaces I couldn’t get tent stakes into. I guess I just want the insurance that I could if I had to. There have been a couple of times when I couldn’t get stakes in the ground with my Notch and I was able to rig it up by tying it to logs, trees, and rocks. But that doesn’t provide a taut pitch by any means so I was just lucky the nights I had hard ground also had fair weather.
My current freestanding two man tent is an REI Quarter Dome T2 (the first version, which is heavier than the latest). It weighs 2.5 lbs more than the Duo but has 10 sq ft less floor area. Two people fit in it okay but all gear has to stay in the vestibules. I started looking up other two man freestanding tents before my Arizona trip since it could be rocky enough in the areas we’d be camping to not be able to get stakes in easily, and I was hoping for more floor space like the Duo has.
The best option I could find at the time was the Big Agnes Copper Spur UL 2. A lot of tents billed as freestanding are actually not. That is, they’ll stand up, but many of them need to be staked out to get the full floor space usable and to get a taut pitch for bad weather. Even if the tent body doesn’t need to be staked out, the rain fly does, which in my opinion is negating the point of having a freestanding tent. Regardless, my Quarter Dome’s rain fly needs to be staked out, and so does the Copper Spur’s. The Copper Spur is very similar in size to the Quarter Dome, but weighs a little over a pound less. Still, reviews I saw comparing the two said the slope of the walls on the Copper Spur made it feel smaller, and I couldn’t see spending $400 on a new tent to save half a pound each in our packs.
In the interest of frugality and indecision, I ended up not buying any new tent since my Notch is still fine for one person and the Quarter Dome is decent for two. But that didn’t stop me from researching more tents and I have finally found a completely freestanding (including the rain fly!), double walled, ultralight tent: the Big Sky Soul.
Different configurations of the tent can be ordered to make it cheaper or lighter, but the lightest version of the Soul 1P weighs in at just 1 lb 9.7 oz (and $450). The interior looks a little roomier than my Notch, but not by much. The only thing I don’t like about these tents is the one front entry door and vestibule, but that’s how they made it completely freestanding so I’ll take it.
Jumping up to the Soul 2P gets you a lot more floor area and a little more height for only 1 lb 9.5 oz (and $640). It’s even lighter than the 1P because of a material change.
If I hadn’t already spent a few hundred dollars on my current tents, I would go for the Soul 2P for sure. It’s lighter than my one man Notch but still big enough for two with similar dimensions to my Quarter Dome. I haven’t dealt with the materials it’s made from before but they look fragile enough that they’d need to be babied a bit, although I try to be nice to my gear no matter what (note my Notch still being in good shape after living in it for seven months). If I wanted a more affordable and durable tent and was not worried about freestanding, I’d definitely get the Duo. It’s still the roomiest tent for the weight, and much cheaper than the Soul.
For now, I have no real need for a new tent so I can’t justify spending the money. What I can do is start planning a trip where I might just need one of these new ones.
Bonus tent recommendation:
If I was not worried about money or weight and just wanted something really cool, I’d go for the Tentsile Stingray.