Why Lightheart? There’s a long backstory to my unflagging support for these tents, so let me get the basics out of the way first.
They are light.
They are simple. I’m not at all mechanically inclined, but I can pitch ours in a few minutes.
They come in configurations that precisely fit what you’re doing. We own a Solo, my original, and a Duo, which John bought when we decided to go the the Appalachian Trail together. There is also a SoLong, for you tall people, and Tarps for the ultralightweight hiker.
While they look small, they’re roomy. I can’t handle claustrophobic tents, so this was a major selling point for me when I bought my Solo. We lived in our Duo for more than two months, day after day. Both us and our backpacks fit in the tent, with some room to spare. We could sit upright to read or change clothes. Yet the tent was small enough that we didn’t freeze when the temperatures dropped substantially.
They use your hiking poles as the primary supports, to save on weight. If you’d rather not do that, aluminum poles are optionally available.
They come in a wide range of colors, so you can choose your own.
Here’s why I recommend them highly.
One lesson I quickly learned while backpacking was the value of keeping the load on your back as light as possible. It’s been a little less than 20 years since I first got into the sport, and I learned about it not from family or friends or Scouts or clubs, like most do, but online. I was making plans to hike the Appalachian Trail, and found an online discussion group, the AT-L – a listserv, it was called, back in the primitive days of the Internet – talking about the trail, and gear, and life. Over the years I became real-life friends with quite a few of the group members, and we hiked together.
It wasn’t uncommon back then for pack weights to top 50 lbs, so it didn’t trouble me that my first tent, a Walrus – bought on sale from Campmor – was touted as “lightweight” at 5.5 lbs. My first handful of backpacking trips meant 45 lbs or so on my back, and yeah, that was a strain. Especially as I was backpacking in the mountains of Pennsylvania, where I lived at the time.
Then a member of AT-L, Kurt, touted his new lightweight backpacking tent design, which he’d be sewing and selling himself. It was only 3 lbs, and no mainstream tent at the time was lighter. So I bought one, called a Nomad. It became my go-to tent for all sorts of adventures when I first moved to Florida, both here and on the Appalachian Trail. Part of the weight savings was achieved by using your hiking poles as your tent poles, a clever innovation but still a little tricky to do.
The Nomad had one major flaw. It was single-walled, so it was always wet inside when I woke up. Condensation would form from my breath. It was a serious problem once I started backpacking in Florida.
Kurt went out of business after a few years, a victim of his own success. He couldn’t keep up with the flood of orders. When a friend had his shredded by a bear (while he was in it) and was in the middle of an AT thru-hike, I sold him mine.
When I went looking for a replacement, I found Lightheart Gear. Founder Judy “Heartfire” Gross thru-hiked the AT in 2006 and discovered how hefty most tents were. I discovered her through friends who raved about her tents.
Her Solo tent was my first pick, and my first outing with it was on the Ocean-to-Lake Hike. For those that have hiked it, it’s especially humid there. Since it was double-walled – a fly stretches over the interior – the tent didn’t drip on me like my old Nomad.
But the outside of the tent was wet every morning. Blame that on our relentless humidity. All I had to do was lay it out in the sun and it would be dry in ten minutes. Combine that with a weight of less than two pounds, and guides into which you insert your trekking poles to form the frame, and it was a winner.
Judy runs a year-end sale every year. When I received the sale email at the end of 2012, I passed it on to John. Not long after, we talked about doing the Appalachian Trail together. He bought the Duo, which we then tested by taking it to Seminole State Forest for an overnighter, and on the Ocean-to-Lake Hike that February.
When we both let go of our residences to hike the AT, the Duo became our home. We’ve used it ever since. It only weighs a little more than the Solo, a little more than two pounds. We added a little weight by having Judy add vestibules on both sides, which provides more privacy and a nice breezeway for our gear. The Duo takes four hiking poles to set up in this configuration – two inside for the frame, and two outside to stake out the vestibules.
We both can’t say enough about what an asset Judy and Lightheart Gear are to the hiking community. Her products are superb and she stands behind them. She participates in hiking festivals and supports the trail community. And she’s still a long distance hiker. So if you’re shopping for a very lightweight and easy-to-set-up tent, look no further than Lightheart Gear.