Hilleberg Soulo 1 man tent – a review

Time for another review I think. This time its the Soulo, a tent that was launched about 2 years ago by Hilleberg aimed squarely at the one-man “5-season” market.

I bought this tent literally as it was launched and one of the first people in the UK to own and use one. It cost a lot more than I was used to paying at the time but I bought it because I was going to the Lake district in the winter and wanted something “bombproof”. Of course I had only had the Hilleberg website description and a pod-cast with Petra Hillberg to go on. There were literally no reviews on the tent at the time. So why did I go for the Soulo when there were already quite a few heavy duty 1-2 man tents already out there that were also significantly cheaper?

The Soulo in its natural habitat!

The Soulo in its natural habitat!

Ok, the aims for my new tent at the time (with my specific trip firmly in mind) though knowing I might have to compromise somewhere, were:

  • 5-season (ie able to handle snow well)
  • 2.5kg or less
  • very robust (able to handle very bad wind)
  • simple to erect
  • external pole, fly-first erection
  • 1 man but roomy

So, I made a list of tents that fitted at least several of these criteria and sat down to make my decision. I had short-listed the Hilleberg Akto, the Hilleberg Unna, The Lightwave F2 ultra, The Terra-Nova Voyager and the Haglofs Genius. I already owned a Lightwave T0 ultra but felt that being a small tunnel tent it wouldnt quite (potentially) be up to the job. The Akto I dismissed as it was a single pole tent, the F2 was heavy as was the Genius. That left the Unna, The Voyager and the Soulo. After seeing that the Voyager was an inner first it was down to the Unna and the Soulo. According to the specs, the weight difference was negligible, both were heavy duty, outer first and aimed at the roomy one-man category. In the end I felt the extra pole for the Soulo was worth the extra 100g although it was more expensive and I would take a leap of faith for an untested/unreviewed tent.I bought my Soulo from Alpenstock which meant it automatically had 15% off the list price. Not only that but their customer service is good as well.

I had chance to pitch the tent inside the house and then outside before having to take it on my Lakes trip so could have a good look at it first. Pitching the tent, it has to be said, was ridiculously easy. Peg out the corners of the outer (with inner already pre-attached), insert the poles into the end sleeves and then clip the outer onto the poles working from the ground up. Attach the top vent cover and peg out the guylines (if required). It was very easy and quick to erect the tent even on the first go. With practise I could get the tent up in a couple of minutes. A couple of things with the erection: the attachment of the outer to the poles was insanely easy as the “clips” were reasonably sized and of the “snap-on” variety. I suspect that even with heavy mitts on, this would still be a doddle to perform and so a real bonus to anyone caught pitching in a storm and/or darkness. Outer first is a real winner here and when completed, with 3 poles being used, it achieves a really taut pitch. Being a free-standing dome, the guylines are optional but obviously add a huge amount of extra strength to the pitch.

The Soulo "pitched" in my house.....

The Soulo "pitched" in my house.....

Apart from the ease of the pitch and the pleasing outline of the Soulo, there were a whole host of features that I found I liked on inspection. The inner tent had room enough for a sleeping pad+bag but also extra internal space for various other things and just about squeeze in a medium sized rucksack as well. Another thing I noticed upon sitting in the tent for the first time was that the headroom was excellent. The yellow inner was also quite cheery having been used to my previous tents having been white. There were a variety of pockets on the inner and also the top vent could be opened and closed from the inside. The porch was roomy enough for the usual boots, rucksack etc and getting in and out of the tent was easy. I just loved the look of it, the pitching of it and the features of it but would it do what I wanted it to when tested under extreme conditions?

The said planned trip for which I had bought the tent produced a stunning 3 days worth of dazzling sunshine, no rain whatsoever and a top windspeed of 2mph! I did however get chance on a different trip to test the capabilities out more and the Soulo on that occasion didn’t disappoint (I had 60mph windspeeds and the Soulo didnt budge). Having used the tent, my initial observations still held true with a couple of extra things to note. In cold weather the arrangement of the inner and outer (including vent and actual material used), seemed to give me a huge amount of extra warmth (tested intially with an outside overnight temperature of -7deg C but feeling quite warm inside the tent). The tent was as easy to put up and take down in the field in a variety of conditions as it was in the house! The only downsides were that the bulk of the tent when packed was quite large and the weight of 2.1kg whilst not really heavy gradually became heavier “in my mind” as time wore on. This happened especially when I bought the Terra Nova Laser Competition shortly after and was bowled over by its incredible lightweight design.

The Soulo packed in its bag

The Soulo packed in its bag

So, all in all, I found the Hilleberg Soulo to be a really well designed tent that was easy to pitch, looked good and was versatile and able to put up with poor weather. Its comparatively “heavy” weight when compared against the Laser Competition meant that I started to use the latter more and more often. But then thats the trouble, I have found a different tent that although is flawed in small ways is less than half the weight of the Soulo. Having said that, the Soulo is the tent you really want to have and to use on extended trips and in very poor weather, period.

Pro’s:

outer first pitch

ease of pitching

incredibly storm-worthy

well designed

free-standing

good internal room

able to sit up inside the inner with good headroom

Con’s:

packed size slightly larger than most

weight slightly heavy when compared to other 1-man tents

Advertisements

About Saddlebags and Backpacks - a brewer's outdoor adventures

I am a keen hiker, camper, cyclist and general all round gear addict..... I also manage to be a professional brewer in my non-spare time :->
This entry was posted in Gear and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

33 Responses to Hilleberg Soulo 1 man tent – a review

  1. backpackingbongos says:

    Cheers for the review – I have wondered about the Soulo as a winter tent for a while now. I brought the Voyager a few years back to use in the winter as a solo tent, its great but the inner first set up is a bit of a pain if raining. Its worth the extra weight if you are spending 16 hours in it! I must resist the temptation to buy another tent!

    • backpackbrewer says:

      Honestly truly, its the dog’s danglies when it comes to heavy duty winter use. If I knew I had really bad weather its the tent I would take. The downside is that if the weather is ok and certainly in summer I prefer to take the Laser Comp at around 1Kg instead. Of course there is a solution of sorts. The inner is easily detached from the outer and so can give you a bombproof “tarptent” at under 1.5Kg. Also, I know of at least one manufacturer of tent accessories in the US who has made carbon-fibre poles for the Soulo which take off around 300g in weight

      • Great review. I wonder if you’d mind posting the details of that US accessories manufacturer? I’ve got a Nallo 2 and would love to knock 300g in weight off of it if they do poles for that one too…

        P.S. the Nallo 2 is utterly bombproof too, and only 2.15kg for a very roomy 2-man tent. It literally saved my life last winter when I had it up in a snow storm at 10,000 feet in the middle of Feb. It didn’t budge an inch!

  2. Roger says:

    Thanks for such a detailed review the Soulo is a great tent and ideal for the conditions it is designed for, it is a little heavy, but it is my tent of choice on those cold winter trips.

    • backpackbrewer says:

      Hi Roger.

      It is definitely a class tent and superb for winter. If I was up 3000ft in a howling gale in January, there is no other 1-man tent I would rather be in!

  3. blogpackinglight says:

    It does look like a totally fabulous tent. There’s something very special about being in a tent that you know is completely bomb-proof. My Marmot Thor is the same, although not a backpacking tent.

    I almost bought one, but the weight put me off. Over 1kg heavier than the Comp just seemed too much. Now we have the prospect of the new Scarp 1, it seems even less logical to buy. It’s a shame that Hilleberg don’t do lighter versions of their tents, but I guess that’s the market they are in. If the Soulo weighed 1.5kg, I would have bought it.

    It’s amazing how the Comp has changed perceptions over tent weights. Not long ago 2kg would still have been considered lightweight. Now the bar is at 1kg and anything over 1.5kg is starting to look heavy. A cuben fibre Soulo with DAC poles and Spinnaker ground sheet would be interesting.

    • backpackbrewer says:

      Hi Robin,

      as you were typing your reply, I was typing mine to the others comments! 🙂 You can get the carbon-fibre poles for the Soulo bring the weight down to around 1.8Kg which is something approaching reasonable although I am not sure how much poor weather those type of poles could withstand….
      Like you, I wish Hilleberg would experiment a little bit with their tents and offer “options” as per your suggestion. Having said that, I suspect if you lighten up the Soulo, you end up with a Scarp! Therefore I believe the Soulo will always have a niche position in the market but it IS a niche.

  4. joe says:

    Interesting! Another option to add to my list for a bomber winter tent. In a purely alpine environments I would have gone for the Rab Superlight Bivy but the west coast of Norway can be very wet and cold in winter.

    I know what you mean about being spoilt by the Laser Comp during the rest of the year, anything else seems porky in comparison.

  5. backpackbrewer says:

    Absolutely Joe.

    The cold/wet aspect of winter camping really lends itself to the use of the Soulo as it gives you a warm stable base. The option also exists that should the inside become saturated for whatever reason, it can be detached and emptied/dried etc whilst leaving the outer and poles still in place.

    It is THE winter tent 🙂

  6. blogpackinglight says:

    I seem to remeber Ducan (Aktoman) had a carbon fibre pole for his Akto which didn’t last long. They seem to have a habit of failing suddenly.

  7. backpackbrewer says:

    And that is the danger of course. I cant remember the site that sold the Carbon fibre poles for the Soulo but it was definitely based in the US. I might have a shufties to see if I can find it again…..

  8. backpackbrewer says:

    Hi Chris,

    as per above, I’ll have a look around to see if I can find the website of the pole manufacturer again

  9. backpackbrewer says:

    Its not the site I had in mind but this one does pole sets specifically for Hilleberg tents and very kindly puts the weight savings alongside. Not cheap mind! The Soulo isnt mentioned but then I am sure they would advise and suggest a set

    http://www.fibraplex.com/tentpoles.htm

  10. Hendrik M says:

    Nice review Dave. I like the look of the tent, and find the weight OK – it could be lighter, surely, but its what Hilleberg does. I think I will be fine with the Scarp 1 and the other tent I got last week for the winter, though.

  11. backpackbrewer says:

    I agree Hendrik. I dont think that Hilleberg will change their philosophy much and their tents do exactly what it says on the tin. Its a great tent all in all and if you want bombproof and luxury its the bees knees

  12. john says:

    can you get a second person in this…

  13. backpackbrewer says:

    interesting question….probably but it would be up close and personal with no other room for gear apart from in the porch. For an overnighter I guess you could get away with it but nothing longer !

  14. Sinbad says:

    I bought a set of carbon fibre poles for my Soulo from Fibraplex in the US. They were half the weight of the supplied alu poles but I had 3 issues with them:

    1) I got stung by Customs when they entered the UK (an extra 35 odd quids as I recall),
    2) They were considerably thinner than the alu poles supplied, such that the clips no longer snapped onto but were free to slide about. Not really a problem once they’re all on and everything’s taut, but not as strong etc..
    3) Most seriously the cross pole (the shorter one with the tightest curvature) simply snapped at the base of one of the ferrules when I was taking it out of the short pole sleeve! It was a fine morning with very little breeze, and I was not being heavy-handed at all, it just couldn’t handle that little extra load, which made me thankful it had been a still night!

    Fibraplex did refund me but with another extra cost of posting them back to the US it was quite an expensive lesson in trying to save a little over 250grams.

    P.S. The Soulo’s an awesome tent if, like me, you’re prepared to carry a little extra weight to know you’ve got the security of having a shelter that could handle owt that’s thrown at it.

    • backpackbrewer says:

      thanks for the considered reply Matt. I did look long and hard at the fibarplex poles for the Soulo but in the end decided that they would be a risk and for only 284grams saving. At the end of the day, the Soulo is a bomber tent, no more no less 🙂

      • Sinbad says:

        Apologies for my tardy response but, judging by my and Aktoman’s experiences, I don’t think these carbon fiber poles are worth the weight they save. Given the way mine failed I didn’t even contemplate a replacement set.

        The Soulo is definitely a bit of a porker (I don’t get much change out of 2.2kg), and I too use a 900g single skin shelter in fairer conditions. However, when I head north of the border and/or out in Winter or poorer forecasts the Soulo is absolutely nails and I too wouldn’t want to be in any other tent.

  15. backpackbrewer says:

    I do think that when you consider the robustness of the Soulo then the weight isnt really an issue especially in winter. I mean, why skimp on 500 or so grammes for a lesser tent when you are fairly well packed with other beefed up equipment and are probably on the wrong side of 20lbs carried anyway

  16. peter says:

    Hi-

    Thanks for the review and blog. My first question is, how tall are you? Maybe I missed this in your discussion of the Soulo, but being 6’3″ myself, an essential part of the equation in looking for a tent like this.

    cheers,
    peter

  17. backpackbrewer says:

    Hi Peter,

    I am about 5 foot 8 so a big difference to you but the tent is pretty roomy so I dont think this would be an issue but like they always say….try before you buy

  18. keels says:

    Hi. Nice review. Do you know if there is an optimum length for the cord that runs under the tent? I’ve been fiddling with it on mine and just wondered what other users had it set to?

    I’d say a definite no for 2 sleeping inside the inner, though if you take it down it would sleep 2 head to toe. I got the groundsheet which makes removing the inner a more viable option in some conditions. I once had 3 in mine for breakfast one cold and rainy morning.

    I really like being able to pack away everything inside the tent and get ready when the weather is bad outside. It then only takes a minute or so to exit, pull down and stow the outer and set off. The oversized stuff sack makes packing a wet tent much easier.

    Cheers.

  19. backpackbrewer says:

    never really “measured” the length of the cord so cant really answer the question. I guess the optimum length is that which gives you the best peak height and even tension in the fly and poles

  20. Dave says:

    Great review. I chuckle, however, when I read how much lighter the Scarp 1 is than the Soulo. If you add the crossing poles, all guylines with line runners, seam seal it, and all required stakes, there is less than a pound difference. Add in the additional inside room and the more robust (and MUCH more waterproof) fabrics and one finds that the Scarp 1 is really not that special.

    • backpackbrewer says:

      Hi Dave,

      I think that once you “bombproof” a tent and ensure you have adequate room and so forth then the range of weights is very narrow as you say. Most bombproof tents for 1 man are in the range 1.5kg to 2kgish

      The Scarp is a great tent from what i have seen and read but falls in between really lightweight and really bombproof. I opted for very lightweight (tarp/bivvy) and very bombproof (Unna) as my shelter choices so

  21. Garry gale says:

    Must echo all positive comments about the Soulo … I have now used it in a variety of appalling weather conditions in the North West of Scotland and Skye and it has been a joy .. well worth the extra weight for the comfort and confidence it inspires. It is worth fixing the inner’s tabs at the base to the outer ‘hooks’ .with small rubber bands. it is frustrating if you set the tent up and then discover that the inner and outer have become detached at the base.

    • backpackbrewer says:

      Hi Garry,

      yes the Soulo is that “ultimate” 1 man tent. Even though I have and love the Unna, I do still hanker after the Soulo. 🙂
      Good idea re the inner/outer tabs&hooks.

  22. rozza smith says:

    These tents sure look the D’s B’s lol. I’ve still got a Quaser dating from 1984 that I bought after reading a review of it in Footloose by Chris Townsend. This tent is bombproof. The first time I used it was at the NT site in Wasdale and on the first night there was a storm. MY quaser collapsed and sprang back up and I went back to sleep. When I woke up in the morning and looked out the tent, it was just one of a few that was still standing! There were people in their cars and tents up in trees.
    On another occasion, I stayed at the same site during winter and was the only tent there. The wind blew all night and sounded like a locomotive was coming down the valley but that tent held its ground. I paid £170 for it in Field & Trek…..when it was a ‘proper’ outdoor shop in 1984.

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 )

Google+ photo

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

Connecting to %s