Initial Impressions of the Lightheart Duo Tent
I just bought a Lightheart Gear Duo tent, got it in the mail yesterday and set it up in my backyard for the first time this morning. Here’s a link to the manufacturer’s site for reference:
What follows are some initial impressions and some basic data — the sort of more detailed data that’s sometimes hard to get when evaluating any tent.
Not My First Lightheart
Note that I have had a Lightheart Solo tent for 6 – 7 years now, and really like it. I bought it to thru-hike the CDT, and in total have perhaps 4000 to 5000 miles and many nights spent in it. I’ve found the manufacturer (Lightheart Gear) to be very good to work with, and please understand that what follows is intentionally as critical and picky as I can be from a first impression, so take these comments in that context. There’s no absolutely perfect piece of gear IMO, everything involves compromises, so it’s about understanding the compromises to pick what’s best for you. My wife and I picked this tent as a good compromise between weight, interior space and how that space is configured, and being “sort-of” a double-walled tent (we live in the Pacific Northwest). We considered alternatives from Tarptent, Six Moon Designs, ZPacks, and a Big Agnes offering, among others.
Out Of The Box
Once ordered, the tent arrived quickly, I think it took maybe 2 days. Everything was exactly as ordered. Well, we had specified the “Steel Blue” color, and I would say this is more on the greener side of teal — but according to standard color tests I’m somewhat color blind, so who knows. We quite like the color whatever it’s called, more than we had guessed that we would.
We paid to have it seam-sealed, which includes some seam sealer put on the floor surface to keep an inflatable pad from slipping around on the sil-nylon floor. We also paid all of $4 for a set of 12 orange zipper pulls; the little metal zipper pull tabs are pretty small. And we ordered a Tyvek footprint cut to fit. We did not order an awning pole, figuring that we would only use this tent when two of us were hiking, and between us we will have four trekking poles (only two are needed for the main structure of the tent).
The orange zipper pulls weren’t installed, but it’s less than five minutes work to install these yourself. In a perfect world I think I’d like 6 of these in one color for interior-side zippers and the other size in a distinctly different color for the exterior-side zippers, but that’s a pretty small quibble. The seam sealing job was nicely done, better than what I’ve been able to do on new tents in the past. The tent was initially a little “sticky” from being newly seam sealed and packed, but the fabric pieces came apart with no problem.
Not As Double-Walled?
From my experience with a Lightheart Solo I would say that while both the solo and duo are sort of a single-wall/double-wall hybrid, the duo is a bit less of a double-walled tent insofar as there’s a broad flat chunk of single-wall fabric at the head and foot ends of the tent, while the sides clearly are double-walled. On the solo, the “awning” fabric is sewn in such that it’s only at and near the top fore-and-aft top of the tent that it’s not double-walled. Look via the initial link above at pictures of the two tents to see what I mean. Once I got into the tent the clear upshot for me was that I’ll need to take care, especially with a thick (“tall”) inflatable — a Neo Air inflatable pad for me — to keep the foot end of my sleeping bag well away from the single-walled foot end of this tent. That’s not a problem really, as the tent is pretty long at 100 inches, but still. The usable space is a little impacted by that I think.
Tent Stake Musings
Now let’s talk about tent stakes. Four stakes are needed at the four corners, but really — maybe eight at the corners? Because you might want to stake the bottoms of the little corner legs in place and structurally you absolutely have to stake out the tops of those little legs, and the tent isn’t designed — as some tents are — to integrate these top-and-bottom connection points into a single cord loop. Maybe I could jury-rig something, or more likely I’ll just go with four additional separate little cords so I can put in some substantial stakes (I’m thinking 7.5” MSR Groundhog stakes for good holding power) at the four corners and connect both tops and bottoms of the little “legs” to those. Then you need, or at least have the option to add one stake each at the center of the head and foot end of the tent — I’m thinking Ti “Shepherd hook” type of stakes, as I don’t need the structural-integrity stake holding power there. Then two additional stakes are definitely needed to stake out the sides. I’m mixed on these, but just to not have too many different types of stakes I’ll try the lighter “shepherd” stakes but might ultimately accept the weight cost of two more MRS Groundhogs as the Shepherd hook stakes really don’t have a lot of holding power, depending on the particular soil conditions. So one could end up with as many as 12 stakes for this tent if two stakes were used at each corner. While for higher wind conditions it’s nice to have a total of 8 stake-out point, I think that how the cordage is done at the four corners is my biggest beef with the tent design, at least so far. But it won’t be hard to mitigate I think.
If I went with 6 Shepherd stakes and 6 Groundhog’s I think that would be about 5.9 oz worth of stakes. I hope I can make do with more like 4 oz of stakes (8 stakes total, 4 of each type, rather than 12 stakes total).
A Little Heavier Than Expected
The overall weight of the system was a bit higher than I had hoped. Seam sealed (by Lightheart Gear) and with the 12 zipper pulls added, I get the weight of just the tent body to be 36.0 oz, 1023 grams. The specs say that the tent weighs 36 oz, but I took that to mean including at least what Lightheart calls the “plastic ridge pole”. As an aside, this isn’t a “pole” at all, but a ridge support piece that connects to the tip-ends of two trekking poles to create a sort of inverted ‘V’ frame for the tent. This plastic piece weighs 1.1 oz (30 grams). Perhaps (most likely) the specified weight does include that, and the extra 1.1 oz accounts for seam sealing and the cord pulls. I should have weighed the cord pulls before I installed them, but did not.
The included stuff sack weighs 0.6 oz (16g). So if I end up with 4 oz worth of stakes, the total will be 36 + 1.1 + 0.6 + 4 = 41.7 oz, or 2 pounds 9.7 oz. Of course that doesn’t include the two required trekking poles, but I carry those anyway.
The weight calculation gets noticeably worse if you’re using any sort of ground cloth. Now, I well understand that a ground cloth is optional, especially for those that are just occasional users of their backpacking gear, as I will likely be for a 2-person tent. But if you like to use one, whether for concern about wear of the floor, water resistance, just keeping the tent floor cleaner, or the option in drier conditions to cowboy camp — then note that this one weighs 7.7 oz (219g). Add that in and you’re up to 3 pounds 1.4 oz for the total. I could go to the hardware store and get a sort of polycro ground sheet alternative (one of those kits that creates a sort of ad hoc storm window using shrink-to-fit plastic). These are less durable, but it’s an option.
Tent Weight in Perspective
None of this weight data is terrible. At one point in the past my wife and I were happy with a 5 pound more traditional tent. What we’re replacing now, however, is a single-walled tent that turns out to be about 10 oz lighter than the “full system” weight of the Lightheart Duo. We’re replacing this lighter tent because we like having 2 side entrances, we like having the height of the tent in the middle rather than at one end, we like the ability to convert it to a sort of net-tent (or at least get a lot more ventilation when we only want bug protection), and we like that it’s a sort-of double-walled tent. We knew that the Lightheart Duo would be a little heavier, but we didn’t realize that on an apples-to-apples comparison basis we would end up adding about 10 oz to for these features.
When the tent is packed up my wife and I split the pieces somewhat between us, typically I carry the main tent, she carries the ground sheet and stakes. In our old system that meant that I carried 31.9 oz of tent and my wife carried 7.7 oz of ground sheet and stakes. With the Lightheart Duo, I’ll carry 37.7 oz of tent (including the plastic ridge piece stuff sack), and my wife will carry an estimated 11.7 oz of ground sheet and stakes. So my load is increased by 6.2 oz, hers by 4 oz. I guess we can live with that for what we’re pretty sure will be an overall better tent ! But it’s helpful to have the numbers broken out like that when evaluating alternatives.
This is pretty long already, so time to stop, especially as I don’t yet have experience with this particular model aside from putting it up this afternoon in my backyard (!). It’s fairly roomy inside, and one thing that was better than I expected was the ability for both of us to sit up at the same time in a tent that slopes upward. On the flip side, something a little worse than I expected is that it feels like inside-of-the-tent storage space will be a little more limited than I had hoped. What that means is that I suspect that each of us will use a lightweight large black yard waste bag to store “don’t need during the night” stuff just outside the tent under the awning — in the side “vestibules” just outside of each side entrance. Not quite as convenient as just keeping everything in the tent, but it should work fine.
Despite some quibbles, I’m looking forward to our next backpacking trip together to try this out. If you’re looking for either a solo or a two-person tent, I want to say again that I’ve been very pleased with the customer service from Lightheart Gear, and I think their products are very credible competitors that should be considered along with the more mainstream tent offerings that you tend to see in retail sporting goods stores such as REI or (in Canada) MEC.
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