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Eureka Solitaire AL Tent Review

Eureka Solitaire AL tent Review

Eureka Solitaire AL Tent

Comfort
Ease of Setup
Weather Resistance
Durabilty
Weight
Packed Size

Excellent Value

The Eureka Solitaire AL is an upgraded version of the classic Eureka Solitaire 1 person tent that has more durable aluminum poles, instead of fiberglass ones which had a history of frequent breakage. This tent is a great value for the money.

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The Eureka Solitaire AL is an updated version of the original Eureka Solitaire 1-person bivy tent, renamed 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, 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 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 its raining because your inner tent won’t get wet in the process.

If you roll back the fly, there is a lot of ventilation
If you roll back the fly, there is a lot of ventilation

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 poles slide into sleeves so you get a sturdy structure
The poles slide into sleeves, anchored by grommets,  so you get a sturdy structure

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 a non-elastic cords so you can get a tighter pitch. If you want to get fancy, you can even use line-loc tensioners.

You can get in and out of the tent through the central roof zipper when the fly is rolled back.
You can get in and out of the tent through the central roof zipper when the fly is rolled back.

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.

You can completely enclose the tent in rain or cold weather
You can completely enclose the tent in rain or cold weather

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.

Sleeping with the front entrance uncovered is usually enough to keep internal condensational a bay.
Sleeping with the front entrance uncovered is usually enough to keep internal condensational a bay.

Recommendation

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.

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Disclosure: The author purchased this tent.

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9 comments

  1. Spot on Phil! My original Solitaire is now close to 10-years old and still sees regular use during the busy Spring on the AT when I don’t want to fiddle with a hammock or tarp in cold/rainy conditions. Very quick easy set up and it does well in wind & rain – never ever leaked. Condensation hasn’t been a problem for me possibly because I pull those side guy lines out as far as possible. I’m a short s–t, so I can just barely sit hunched over inside. I also have room for my stuff, even my pack & shoes. Still using the original fiberglass poles – maybe I’m just lucky or more patient when bending them. Chucked the pegs for something better. Tempting to upgrade for the zippered roof mesh and the aluminum poles. But its worked well for me and it was inexpensive to purchase.

  2. The challenge with this tent is getting in and out with any sort of rain, as soon as you open the door at the head, it exposes your sleeping bag and anything else in that area. Also not a fan of the 2 dozen stakes you need to get a decent pitch.

    • The tent is long enough that you can move your gear back to keep it dry if it’s pouring rain. You also don’t need 12 stakes. 4 will do in a pinch although 6-8 would be a bit better.

  3. Eureka seems to make some impressive tents for the cost. During my AT thru hike last year, I hiked with a guy that completed his hike with the old black and orange version of this tent that he purchased about 10 years prior for $45 that had seen pretty consistent use throughout that whole time before his successful thru hike. It was pretty beat up by the end of the trail with some leaks and broken poles, but he was able to finish with it.

  4. I found one of these at the Goodwill store for….get this….Five dollars ! It is the original model where the zip only goes halfway across the front panel. Not sure what they were thinking. I only used it a few times. My opinion is to rig up my poncho over the front door if rain is expected. It’s better than a bivy sack.

  5. This is a common tent that is made in China and comes with a large variety of logos. Mine has a different logo and is 3 years old but came with Alloy poles and tent stakes and cost well under $100 US.

    It has served me well during all four seasons but I find a Tyvek footprint well worth the extra weight. Problems are the opening! If raining the rain comes in as soon as the fly is opened. I have now modified the loops so that I can disconnect and draw the ground sheet back before opening the fly. This is also great for that early morning brew as the stove (Trangia) can be used whilst still in my sleeping Bag with the fly tied back of course. It is very warm as Philip has said but is is very bug proof too and with the fly tied back in good weather a good nights sleep is assured. A great wee tent that fits in almost anywhere.

  6. You might want to look at the Snugpak line of tents if you like this one… I bought the Snugpack Ionosphere two years ago and this tent looks very much like it……..

  7. Christopher Moellering

    I really don’t think this tent qualifies as “freestanding,” based on the design.

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