The Eureka Solitaire Tent is an inexpensive one-person bivy style camping tent for people who don’t want to spend a lot of money for a lightweight tent. Weighing less than 3 pounds (see specs below), it provides backpackers and campers with a fully functional alternative to other lightweight and ultralight tents costing 3-7 times as much, as well as innovative features not found on other tents in this weight range. While the Eureka Solitaire Tent has some limitations, it’s hard to beat the value it provides.
The Eureka Solitaire Tent has an inner net tent with a waterproof floor and an outer rain fly. Unlike most double walled tents, both are attached to one another and erected at the same time, making the tent good for less experienced campers. It also means that you can pitch the Solitaire in the rain without getting the inner tent soaked, countering the major drawback of most double-walled tents.
When pitching the Solitaire, it’s best to begin by laying the tent on the ground and inserting the two fiberglass poles that give it some structure. Both shock-corded poles are inserted into fabric sleeves on the outer fly, with the ends slotting into side grommets, sewn to the tent floor.
Once the poles are locked in place, you can walk around the tent and stake out the bottom inner tent and the rain fly. All of the tie-outs are small loops of shock-cord, which are best-staked out using a Shepard’s hook stake. While the Solitaire comes with a set of steel stakes weighing 8.4 ounces, you’re probably going to want to substitute them with lighter weight alternatives.
Once pitched, there are a variety of ways to configure the Solitaire to improve its internal ventilation. The simplest starting point is to roll back the rain fly over the front screened in vestibule. You can further open up the vestibule, by rolling open the doors, so that they are flush with the top pole (toggles are provided).
In this configuration, your head will be positioned in front of the front pole, inside the front wedge-shaped and screened in vestibule. This works great on a dry night without any morning dew, but leaves your head exposed to moisture if it rains. The size of this wedge-shaped screened area also makes it impossible to store your backpack under cover, although there’s plenty of interior room inside the tent to store its contents.
There is a zipper in the right side and front of the vestibule that opens the screened area to allow for entry. But, like most bivy shelters or A-frame tarps with inner tents, you need to crawl in feet first to enter the tent, which can be awkward. There’s not really enough space inside the tent to turn around to face the other direction, but you wouldn’t expect there to be any in a tent of this type or shape.
You also can’t sit up straight in the Solitaire because the tent poles don’t reach high enough. There is however ample room inside the inner tent for gear storage on either side of your sleeping bag/pad and in the front vestibule: certainly a lot more than 1-person tarp shelters like the Tarptent Notch.
There is a second entrance to the Solitaire that can be used to enter and exit the tent, but only when the outer fly is rolled back in stargazing mode. This is a really cool option and I’ve never seen anything like it on a 1 person shelter.
A double-sided zipper runs along the top of the inner tent, making it possible to step out of the Solitaire or enter when the top fly is rolled back. Unfortunately, you can’t roll back the outer fly if it starts to rain from within the tent.
There are a number of issues with the Solitaire that you want to know about if you’re considering buying this shelter, which is an excellent value for the money (about $70 dollars retail.)
The factory tent poles that come with the Eureka Solitaire have a bad reputation (going back years and years) for breaking. While I haven’t yet managed to break mine yet, this isn’t a failure you want to experience on a backpacking trip, since it would make the Solitaire impossible to pitch when you need it the most.
You have two options:
- Buy durable aluminum replacement poles for the Solitaire from Tentpole Technologies for $49.75/pair. They replace Solitaire poles all the time and can replace them for the current version of the tent as well as the two older models which have slightly different pole sets.
- Buy the Canadian version of the Solitaire (available on Amazon Canada), which comes with aluminum tent poles and not the fiberglass ones that are packaged with the US version. The cost of the Canadian version is currently $108 in US dollars.
Is it worth it? I think so, because you end up with a very inexpensive functional and lightweight tent for under $120 if you buy the replacement poles or for $108 if you buy the Canadian Solitaire. That’s still a very good value. You do get your money’s worth with this tent and it will last for a good long time if you get it with aluminum poles.
The Solitaire can become quite warm if you can’t roll back the front vestibule fly at night. Of course, this depends on humidity and precipitation, but the side mesh windows on the inner tent don’t provide enough air flow to keep you cool unless there’s a steady wind blowing. If it’s warm outside and raining, the inside of the tent can become insufferably hot and humid, but it is a double wall tent so you won’t get soaked at least. Overall, I wouldn’t recommend this shelter for areas with high humid heat and frequent rain.
It’s difficult to get a very taught pitch with the Solitaire because it’s guyed out with shock-cord not fixed line. This can be easily remedied however, by replacing the shock-cord with fixed guylines, like Kelty Triptease with cord tensioners like GSI Line Locs. This would really improve the sidewall ventilation as well.
The Solitaire comes with 12 steel shepard’s hook stakes and one plastic one which are awfully heavy and weigh 8.4 ounces. Since you need a dozen to pitch the shelter, I’d replace them with titanium shepard’s hook stakes that weigh 0.2 ounces each. These can be pricey so shop around or mix and match with whatever you have handy. If you’re obsessed with weight and cost, you can always carve out a dozen stakes from sticks you find on the ground using a knife.
The Eureka Solitaire Tent is a surprisingly inexpensive lightweight tent. Weighing just 2 pounds 9.5 ounces (without stakes, which you’d want to replace anyway), it’s a surprisingly good value for a double-walled bivy-style tent that has more interior room than similar style tents or tarp shelters costing much much more. With a convertible mesh stargazing roof and front mesh vestibule, the Solitaire is bombproof enough to survive a thru-hike and only requires a small amount of space to set up making it a good option for solo backpackers who have to camp where they can.
If you buy the Solitaire, you should upgrade the fiberglass poles to aluminum ones from ($49.75) from Tentpole Technologies or buy the Canadian version (available from Amazon Canada for $108 USD) where the aluminum poles are standard. I would not recommend using this tent with the fiberglass tent poles that come standard with US version of this tent. They have a reputation of breaking and you can’t afford to have that happen on a trip in bad weather.
Tent pole issues aside, the Eureka Solitaire is still a very good value for money when you consider what you get for close to $100. Easy to pitch, the Solitaire is a good option for a new camper or backpacker who wants a functional durable tent without having to spend a lot of money and one that won’t break their back when carried in a backpack. If you want a lightweight tent of comparable value, but with more interior sitting room, take a look at the Eureka Spitfire, which has an MSRP of $139
- Value priced, well under $100
- Easy to set up. Very fast pitch.
- Great ventilation in stargazing mode
- Can be pitched in rain without flooding interior
- High bathtub floors and seam tape keep inside of shelter dry
- Packs up small
- Roomy interior for a bivy tent.
- Hard to get a very taught pitch
- Not robust enough for very windy conditions.
- Fiberglass poles break easily (Aluminum poles are available)
- Fabric: 70d polyester and 40d mesh
- Dimensions: 8 ft. x 2 ft. 8 in
- Area sq ft: 16 + 5 vestibule
- Interior height: 2 ft. 4 in.
- Including inner tent and rain fly (2 pounds 2 ounces)
- Fiberglass poles x 2 (7.5 ounces)
- 12 steel tent stakes and 1 plastic (8.4 ounces)
- Three stuff sacks: 1.5 ounces
Disclosure: Philip Werner purchased the tent reviewed here with his own funds.
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