For the solo camper, or folks who just plain don’t want to share their space, a good bivouac-style shelter is the way to go. Of course, when you choose to brave the elements on your own, you’ve must be certain that your gear has your back. After all, there won’t be anybody to cuddle up to for warmth if things get chilly. Fortunately for those outdoorspeople who like to adventure alone, the New York-based Eureka corporation has bent 120 years of experience with outdoor gear toward crafting a shelter that can keep a single trekker safe and comfortable.Be warned, however— this model does come with one major, and widely-reported, design flaw.
When designing a bivy (slang for a single-person tent) one of the first concerns is usually portability. After all, this design appeals first and foremost to solo backpackers, who prefer to enjoy nature with a little hassle as possible—which means carrying the lightest possible gear. At a mere 2 pounds, 9 ounces this one will definitely not be a burden, meaning you can save more stamina for your explorations.
The body is certainly equipped to keep you safe and comfy. Nylon taffeta comprising the floor and full-coverage fly are made to shrug off rough weather, while the tunnel shape and generally slight profile help wind shear off before it can stress the structure to excess. The fly also comes fully attached, but rolls back to reveal a ceiling of mesh, great for both ventilation and stargazing.
Though unusual in larger models, having a rain fly that stays hooked up to the body can mean much quicker deployment when bad weather is moving in fast and you don’t have anybody to help get it set.Of course, the shelter as a whole is designed for quick and easy set up—again, that’s important when there are no extra sets of hands around—but be observant, as many are surprised to discover that their tent needs staking to provide proper structure, rather than being designed to be self-supporting.
Of course, some flaws are intrinsic to such a small shelter. What you gain in efficiency, you lose in luxury; a peak of 2 feet and 4 inches of overhead clearance might feel cramped to some, and getting in and out can require some wriggling. The interior also leaves little room for gear; even the vestibule is minimal.
This design also has few, if any, true “extras”—likely the solo adventurer wouldn’t want or need them, and they would only create extra weight—but some might want a model with a bit more to offer than two small storage pockets and a loop to hang a flashlight.Then again, providing safe shelter for those who are out in the wild should be a higher priority for Eureka than trying to pack in bells and whistles… which is why it’s a shame that the Solitaire is widely-known for a serious flaw in its construction, a problem centered around one of its most crucial elements, the support poles.
Many campers are immediately skeptical of fiberglass poles, like the ones that come with this model. Certainly they’re light, which makes them a good fit for a product designed around the idea of minimizing size and weight, but unfortunately they can also be quite fragile. When aluminum poles bend, they can be bent back into shape. When fiberglass breaks, It shatters and splinters, leaving you with a useless and unfixable pole.
Not the kind of situation you’d like to find yourself in if you’re braving the great outdoors without any company. What’s worse, cold weather—something a Solitaire is otherwise quite able to endure at least up to a point—worsens the fragility of fiberglass.Worst of all, this model is susceptible to an outright manufacturing error, one that causes the body to strain against the poles, leading to widespread breakage.
Fortunately, solutions exist to address this issue—it’s not unheard of for campers to simply replace the fiberglass poles after (or even before) they break, usually with aluminum. A bit heavier, but aluminum is far less likely to leave you stranded with a useless, structure-less pile of fabric. Eureka customer service also receives a great deal of praise for their handling of this issue. Should the worst happen, the poles can be inexpensively replaced. You may even be able to send yours in to get re-sewn, altering the structure enough to reduce that stress on the supports.
Though adventuring off into the wilderness by your lonesome isn’t generally recommended for newcomers, the Solitaire makes for a solid entry-level shelter for adventurers who need to balance cost with other concerns. And, for the most part, this tent should offer the backpacker just about anything they may need on a solo hike: good protection, easy setup, and such minimal size/weight you may not even notice it’s there.