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?
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.
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.
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.
outer first pitch
ease of pitching
good internal room
able to sit up inside the inner with good headroom
packed size slightly larger than most
weight slightly heavy when compared to other 1-man tents