I hoped on my bike and drove about a hundred and fifty miles up to the L.L. Bean store in Maine. Sure I could have hopped on the subway and gone to the local R.E.I., but hey L.L. Bean’s been at this a lot longer, has a much cooler place to visit, and… road trip! And, to be fully up front. I’d read some good reviews of the L.L. Bean Microlight Solo on their site and just wanted to see one in person.
Then, you lift up one of the poles, pull a series of plastic hooks over it, pound in a peg or two, and repeat at the other end. I found the easiest way to do it was to erect one pole, push in one tent peg, then step on, or press far side of the tent down while you grab and lift the other pole. Once you’ve got the far one lifted pound in the diagonally opposite tent peg. Congratulations you’ve just done the bare minimum required to raise this tent. I wouldn’t recommend stopping there but it’s pretty impressive that with two tent pegs you’ve got your tent up. A little floppy at the unpegged corners but hey…. Then just move around the tent putting in the rest of the pegs. The footprint matches the base of the tent exactly, has its own grommets that the poles also go through, and some loops for the tent pegs to pass through directly under the ones for the tent.
Once you’ve done that you now have a mosquito netting tent up with a waterproof base and a full view of the world. If you’d like some privacy, or expect rain, throw the rain fly over it and shove in a couple pegs. The rain fly also creates a little alcove in front of the door under which you can set things you want out of sight, or protected from the rain, but don’t want in the main body of the tent. There is a gap between the netting and the rain fly and this is a very important feature. Your body heat is going to cause condensation to form on the inside of any tent (assuming there’s water in the air to condense) but in a tent like this it forms on the rain fly which won’t end up getting you or your gear wet because of the gap. It simply forms on and runs down the inside of the fly to the ground without ever touching you. Unfortunately the fly tended to sag slightly between the two poles so there was about eight square inches of space in the middle of the tent where they did make contact. This was never a problem even on the most dewey of mornings but it shouldn’t have been happening. Casually putting up the tent, while pausing to listen to the insects and look at pretty views still took less than 8 minutes from start to finish, including putting all my stuff in it after it was up.
The slight sag of the rain fly was most likely because of the one badly designed element of the tent. At the foot end of the rain fly are two pieces of webbing. Each has a loop at the end for a tent peg to go through and runs through a plastic length adjuster thing. The problem is that no matter how much you shortened the adjuster never held it. I ended up looping the webbing around the adjuster and that was almost the right length. While certain parts of the fly get their own tent pegs there were no pegs for these so you had to put the end loop over one of the pegs used for the base. This would have worked perfectly if the adjusters worked, but they didn’t so it didn’t pull with quite enough tension on the top and you end up with that little sag in the middle. So, if you do get this tent my recommendation would be to purchase two more of the thin aluminum tent pegs that this tent uses. Then you can just put them at the end of the webbing and pull it as taught as you need to.
Space and Comfort:
The comfort was fine. It was wide enough that you could curl into a fetal position without trouble and laying there in the morning watching the silhouettes of leaf shadows on the rain fly was nice. You didn’t feel cramped in there. However, I would note that owing to the fact you can only sit up by the doorway you really wouldn’t want to be stuck in there hiding from the rain all day. That wasn’t a concern for me since I ride rain or shine. Also, obviously, this tent is not for anyone who is claustrophobic.
For the Footprint: fold it into a rectangle as tall as the bag and whatever width, then roll.
- Extremely light-weight and compact when packed up. I could easily roll it up smaller than the bag it lived in and there was plenty of space in there for the pegs, poles, and the footprint.
- So easy to put up you can do it in the dark. If you’re familiar with how all the pieces go together. I did it once in the pitch black since dealing with the flashlight too was distracting, and a couple times as I raced the last rays of sunlight.
- Enough space for you, some gear around your head, and some by your feet.
- Get the Footprint. It’s worth the $15 for the convenience of all its perfectly placed connectors, folds up very small and can fit in the tent bag.
- Buy two additional thin tent pegs to compensate for the bad adjusters on the rear of the rain fly.
- I’ve taken the tent down in a strong wind. I was very surprised to find that it wasn’t a hassle at all. There’s simply not enough fabric for it to be a big deal.
- Owing to extenuating circumstances I never actually used it in the rain, but according to the reviews on the site it performs excellently. I would not doubt this in the least.
- There’s some velcro on the outside of the rain-fly along the zipper. I am not sold on this. I’m sure they put it there because of some wind issue but whatever their decision was it never became apparent to me and occasionally gave me a trivial amount of annoyance when dealing with the zipper. This is totally nit-picking I admit.
- The elastic cord through the tent pole sections really made them trivial to put together. You could almost grab one end, wave it in the air and listen to the pieces snap snap snap into place… almost. In reality you can do it with your eyes closed, or better yet, while paying attention to the beautiful scenery you’ve found yourself in. Taking them apart is just as easy.