The Eureka Solitaire AL is an updated version of the original Eureka Solitaire 1-person bivy tent, named the Eureka Solitaire FG-1 (see review) . The new model comes with more durable aluminum poles, replacing the fiberglass poles that broke frequently on the older model. The new model is also about 20% more waterproof than the older model. Weighing just 2 lbs 10 oz, the Solitaire AL costs $100 and provides lightweight backpackers with an interesting alternative to other solo backpacking tents costing 3-7 times as much. While the Solitaire AL does have some shortcomings, it also has a number of features that make it a surprisingly livable and versatile shelter, at a cost that’s hard to beat.
Specs at a Glance
- Capacity: 1 person tent
- Trail weight: 2 lbs 10 oz (minus stakes, the tested tent was 1 oz heavier)
- Dimensions: 96″ x 32″
- Peak height: 28″
- Poles: 7000 series aluminum
- Fly and Floor: 68D 185T Polyester taffeta 1500mm
- Doors: 1, Front (it is also possible to exit via top zipper when the fly is rolled back)
- Interior pockets: 2
- Freestanding: Yes, but the tent must be staked out for maximum volume
The Solitaire AL is a double-wall tent with a mesh inner tent and a rain fly. However, the two are sewn together, so you pitch them both at the same time. This is handy if it’s raining because your inner tent won’t get wet in the process.
The Solitaire AL is a bivy style tent, so the most comfortable position inside is lying prone with your head at the front door end. This also helps vent the moisture in your breath that can lead to internal condensation. While you can’t sit up, the tent has is quite wide (32″) and long (96″) so there is plenty of interior room to store your gear inside under cover, along the side of your sleeping pad or in the back.
The tent has two poles that slip into poles sleeves for setup. These create the tent’s tunnel shape. While the Solitaire AL is technically freestanding, you will want to stake out its corners and sides to fully stretch the tent fabric and increase its usable volume. The guy-outs are elastic cord, so a hooked-style tent stake is your best bet. While the tent ships with steel tent pegs, you’ll probably want to replace them with something lighter weight. I’d also recommend replacing the elastic guy-outs with non-elastic cords so you can get a tighter pitch. If you want to get fancy, you can even use line-loc tensioners.
In clear weather, you can roll back the rain fly over the front door and the top of the tent for star-gazing and ventilation. There are toggles and velcro-strips that wrap over the poles at both ends to keep the fly rolled up. There’s also a center zipper that runs the length of the overhead mesh, which you can open to get in and out of the tent at night. This is really handy.
The Solitaire AL can become quite warm if you can’t roll back the front vestibule fly at night, at a minimum. Of course, this depends on humidity and precipitation, but if it’s warm outside and raining, the inside of the tent can become insufferably hot and humid. It is a double-wall tent so you won’t get soaked, at least. However, I wouldn’t recommend this shelter for areas with high humid heat and frequent rain.
The chief advantage of using a bivy-style tent over a taller or larger tent is the ease of finding campsites. The Solitaire AL is narrow enough that you can plunk it down just about anywhere that’s level and set it up. This is a huge advantage if you’re hiking someplace where dispersed camping is permitted, because you can hike until dusk, without having to stop at a pre-existing tent site or shelter and end your day early.
The chief difference between the new Solitaire AL and the Solitaire FG-1, which is still available for sale, is the use of aluminum poles. The Solitaire FG-1 has a long history of pole breakage because fiberglass is far less durable than aluminum. If you want to buy a tent that lasts, don’t buy the ones sold in big box stores that come with fiberglass tent poles.
The Eureka Solitaire AL ($100) is a great value, especially now that it’s available with aluminum tent poles. While sleeping in a bivy style tent isn’t for everyone, the Solitaire AL is surprisingly spacious inside with excellent ventilation if you can roll back the roof on clear and dry nights. It’s also quite a durable shelter, with a high, seam-taped bathtub floor and durable fabric, so you can use it without a tent footprint. Weighing under 3 lbs, I think the Solitaire AL is an awesome value for anyone trying to minimize their backpacking gear expenditures and proof that you don’t need to spend $300 and up for a backpacking tent. The money you save will buy a lot of ramen.Editor's note: If you’re thinking about buying gear that we’ve reviewed or recommend on SectionHiker, you can help support us in the process. Just click on any of the seller links above, and if you make a purchase, we may (but not always) receive a small percentage of the transaction. The cost of the product is the same to you but this helps us continue to test and write unsponsored and independent gear reviews, beginner FAQs, and free hiking guides. Thanks and we appreciate your support!
Disclosure: The author purchased this tent.
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