Photograph from the Gram-Counter Gear website
This is new country for me; doing a first look, well my first look at a bit of kit. The disclaimer part. The tent, a Gram-counter Gear LiteHouse Solo I have is from Phil Turner, you can follow or find him here @MrPhilTurner on twitter or his website Lightweight Outdoors. Phil is also a good friend of mine. He's had a play with this tent before me. You can see and read that here. I had read Phil's post and had commented that it would be interesting to see how it tested. It has now come my way and these are my initial thoughts and impressions.
I'll start at the beginning. I met Phil in the car park at Ballantrae. Where he handed me the tent, a sleeping bag and a sleeping mat. Lucky guy, yes I am. Phil gave me the low down. It weighs roughly 850g; in my hand it didn't feel like 850g of tent, lighter if anything. The Gram-counter Gear LiteHouse Solo feels very light for a tent. It is a classic ridge design with a single skin and fully stitched-in mesh interior with a sewn in groundsheet. The groundsheet is not the bath tub type you are used to with a traditional tent, some care is need when pitching. Also I had the nice happy yellow version. The website says orange but it looks yellow to me, there is however a green version available should you wish to blend more into your surroundings.
The pack size is great it fitted into my Alpkit Gourdon 30 litre rucksack width wise very comfortably leaving plenty of room for the rest of my overnight gear. I can't find any details of the stuff sack size but having measured it once I got home, it came out at 33cm by 12cm. Once we arrived at our camp I was handed a set of pitching instructions, immediately I'm thinking uh oh. Nothing to worry about, it's just like every other tent you've ever done. It's a comprehensive pitching guide as the version I had came with 3 different styles/sizes of pegs. Two large aluminium pegs, 6 titanium micro pegs, 4" long and 5 titanium pegs, 6" long. I think that's just so you are aware which pegs have to be used where. It was definitely a good thing to read especially being new to lightweight tents.
The pitching is quite simple and admittedly I did have an expert on hand but his input wasn't really needed. More just a check to see if I had it down correctly. Having pitched it once it will be really easy next time.
The four corners get pegged first with 6" pegs then in goes your first walking pole, stabbed in to the ground. That gets held in place with the tension on the first guy line and a large aluminium peg. Then its round the back with second pole but doesn't have to be a walking pole, a branch would suffice. This is what gives the height at the rear by using the guy line to create the ridge line. Again this guy line is pegged using the other aluminium peg. After that it's just a case of securing the other points with the remaining pegs and tightening everything up.
My description makes it sound a bit of a long process but it's not. I reckon ten minutes max and that would be pushing it. Nothing complicated even although using walking poles was completely new to me.
Once pitched the gear porch gave ample room for my boots and Alpkit sack. I had plenty of room inside for the Pacific Outdoor Equipement Ether Elite 6 and the Therm-A-Rest Haven top bag. I actually had masses of room inside meaning I could bring in my rucksack. I should point out that I'm not the tallest person on the planet, being only 5' 7" on a good day. It was a good day. I can also sit up comfortably in the doors of the tent for cooking, putting on boots or just watching the sun go down and the stars come up.
It was my first time in a single skin tent and I had read and heard that they can have problems with condensation but don't all tents? I had none or nothing noticeable inside the tent and it was a very cold night. Not quiet double minus figures but somewhere around -5. There was however plenty of ventilation in the tent which certainly helps. There's venting all round where the groundsheet meets the the sides. Nice big mesh panels which also keeps out the creepy crawlies in the night.
The only things I could find fault with and fault is not the right word. They are just niggles, trifles or personal preferences. I found the pockets inside not to be of much use to me. They were too far down for me to reach easily. I would have much preferred them closer to the door of the tent. Then when I'm lying in my bag they are within easy reach but I had plenty of room to place my specs safely out the of the way. The other would be better guy locks on the strings, don't get me wrong there is plenty of tension there but it could be tighter in my opinion. However it's nothing that hampers the use or enjoyment of the tent.
All in all the Gram-counter Gear LiteHouse Solo is a great wee tent. So much so I can't wait to pitch it again and give it another thorough testing.