Pretents Soloist

In my quest for the perfect pyramid, I became aware of the Pretents Soloist when scanning through one of the contintental European gear sites (I can’t remember which one, though). At the time they were rather confusingly branded with mentions of Tara Poky, TFS (The Free Spirits) as well as Pretents. I think they were in a period of transition at the time.

To cut a long story short, Pretents is some sort of collaboration between long standing tent manufacturer TFS, and Tara Poky, who started out in 2011 as a MYOG manufacturer making the sorts of things MYOGs start with (bags, small packs and accessories) and built it up into the Tara Poky brand.

Finding out that one of my favourite suppliers, Valley & Peak, had now started stocking the Pretents range was enough to tip me over the edge from curiosity to actually buying.

The tent has been pitched in the garden a few times to play with it, and I’ve also slept in it 3 nights in the garden (due to lockdown). I’ve also just taken it to Dartmoor for my first post-lockdown backpacking trip.

The Details

The tent’s dimensions are as follows:

So on paper, this meets my internal sizing needs and doesn’t go overboard on vestibule, although it is very much at the minimal end of vestibules – it’s fine for generally good conditions but I’d want a bit more for grottier times.

The tent currently retails for £299 at Valley & Peak, but I managed to get mine when they had an offer on. A footprint is also available if you’re the sort of person that always buys the matching footprint for your tents.

The weight is stated as being 750g, including guys and pegs. The pegs are a bit shorter than my usual 9″ Eastons, so I immediately discarded them.

The fly is constructed of 30D silnylon, treated on both sides. The inner is mesh with a 30D silnylon floor. The sides of the inner slope straight down to the corners – there’s no vertical bathtub bit at the bottom.

As the tent is silnylon, it therefore needs to be seam-sealed.

A key feature of the tent is the dual door zippers, meaning entry from two different directions. A bit different to the usual central zip arrangement, but it gives some additional possibilities to pole the doors out a bit like the tarp extensions you can get for some tents.

The zip on the inner is a rainbox zipper, which you’d kind of expect if you can open the fly from either side.

Quality is good – although it’s made in China, this isn’t one of those cheap knock-off jobs. It’s a decently-made shelter in its own right.

Initial Impressions

I woke up after my first night in the tent and found my feet and quilt touching the mesh. With a Thermarest Xtherm mat under me, either my head or my feet touches the mesh, which is not what I’d choose. Luckily the separation between inner and fly is good, so even touching the mesh doesn’t get anything wet anyway.

Less of a problem given that it more than beats my 80cm minimum requirement, is the width of the inner. Even though it’s a reasonably generous 90cm wide, the slope of the back wall effectively makes it feel less than it is. As it’s possible to pull out the rear corner of the shelter a little there’s plenty of scope for a tweak here.

So I added a Gramcounter Gear tarp clip to the base of the inner, aligned right under the central vertical seam. A piece of bungee cord then pulls this out to the rear staking point, and everything sits a bit better.

The shelter doesn’t have anything on the front of the inner to tie it down, or secure it to the trekking pole, so I added another tarp clip here too.

Adding these additional tie-out points to the inner made a noticeable difference to the sense of space in the inner, although, of course it didn’t deal completely with the length issue.

So, I put pencil to paper and sketched out the fly, marking the fit of various others inners – an old oooknest, a Lanshan 1 inner and my MLD Solomid XL inner, along with the tent’s own dedicated inner of course.

All of them looked like they would fit, except the Solomid XL, which was disappointing as it’s perfectly sized for me. Having gone and measured the tent pitched at 120cm (vs spec height of 125cm) to help answer a question for one of Mark’s potential customers, that also prompted the personal questions as to whether a pitch higher than 125cm might work.

I sketched the effect of a 130cm pitch, and the solomid XL inner now fitted, albeit with not a lot of clearance at the top of the bathtub.

InnerLength (cm)Width (cm)Height (cm)Minimum Soloist pitch height to fit inner (cm)
Soloist 23090105110
Oooknest20876122125
Lanshan 121075/95115120
Solomid XL23986120130

So I tried some of them:

The Oooknest is the shortest of them all, but the vertical bathtub walls negates some of that. But it relies on mid-seam attachments to maintain a good shape and the Soloist doesn’t have any of those. As a result, it was all a bit saggy. Fail. But it may be a little better with a higher pitch.

The Solomid XL was very close to the fly at one end, whatever I did. I think this shows that even a very small difference in alignment of either the fly or inner, or the slightest not flat pitch will cause this. Nevertheless I persevered.

Because my corner tieouts for the Solomid XL inner are sized for the Duomid, the front ones were way too long, so I had to play about with them and even then ended up using separate stakes. But they don’t need to be bulky or heavy stakes.

The biggest issue was the rear corner vertical seams which fell close to the fly. Luckily these have mitten hooks half way up for attaching to the MLD fly, so i tied a length of shockcord to these and pulled forward to the point where the soloist inner would attach at the front. This flattened the corner and side a little, but not in any way that would be an inconvenience.

Once I’d finished getting the pegging right and the corners of the inner pulled away from the fly, I was quite happy with what I had.

As long as I’m happy to commit to a higher, and hence draughtier, pitch, the Solomid XL inner fits. If the pitch is uneven at all, I may find a few spots where condensation transfers. But none of this should land on me. Of course the higher pitch also increases ventilation so condensation should be reduced anyway.

While I had the tent up, I played around with various ways of setting the doors.

All in all it’s a really versatile shelter but to make the best of it, it needs a few things beyond the basic standard pitch:

  1. A set of mid seam tie-outs to attach to the supplied loops on the outside of the shelter. I made four in 2mm dyneema with a line lock and a mini s-biner, meaning I can attach and detach them to my heart’s content. They’re sized so that they will work with all of my shelters. These can be used to facilitate the various door arrangements shown above.
  2. An apex line in 3mm dyneema. Basically the same modification I’ve made to my Duomid, and which also came as standard on my Lunar Solo. This makes everything nice and stable if keeping both doors open. This is on a karabiner attached inside the peak of the tent, so it can be detached and used for various things.
  3. Extra pegs to make my choice of inner work, as they don’t automatically fit with the tie out points for the supplied inner. So half a dozen thin skewer stakes need to be included in my pegging kit.
  4. The tent takes 6 stakes for standard pitch, but requires a further stake if using the apex line, unless you manage to align the door front to tie out here too. Additional stakes would be needed for some of the door arrangements shown above.
  5. Better guys. Although apparently the supplied guys are 2mm (which I don’t consider enough anyway), they look a lot thinner. I replaced them with some 2.5mm dyneema. This gives a much more secure feel, but they are now a bit tight in the lineloks as a result.

First backpack with the Soloist

The forecast for Dartmoor last weekend was fine on the Friday with a few showers on the other days. That would be an ok test – I didn’t want to push it to its limits. As it turned out, and as is so often the case, Dartmoor weather was nothing like the forecast and we got much more rain, mist and wind than the forecast suggested.

A lightly mediocre pitch the first night had me worried about the amount of space inside and specifically the likelihood of transferring condensation to my gear. It wasn’t too bad though – I had a damp patch on my rucksack which had been put specifically at the foot end for exactly that reason. Everything else was fine.

Overall it was fine, but if the weather had been a couple of levels worse it might have felt a bit besieged.

One thing the shelter did do was look solid, when I pitched it on nights two and three. Adopting the Lunar Solo pitching technique I picked up from some chap on YouTube ensured a taught pitch. There was virtually no movement at all.

I got some remarks about how small my shelter was, and it does have a modest footprint. But in truth it was fine for this sort of trip. For cold and worse weather, not so much – you’d want a bit more space if you were confined to barracks.

In Conclusion

This is a good quality, well-made shelter, that feels very robust, and is well-thought out. It offers some degree of versatility because of the dual side zip doors, although clearly this won’t be for everyone.

Pros:

  • Quality – it’s well-made and pitches well.
  • Versatility.
  • Weight 750g + the weight of the few small tweaks I’ve made.

Cons:

  • Inner feels smaller than it actually is because sides slope all the way to the floor with no vertical bathtub.
  • Supplied guys need to be thicker.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.