The Mountain Laurel Designs Solomid is an easy shelter to review, it’s been around a long time, but more significantly MLD’s specs and declared use are dead-on. The Solomid is a well-built, dependable shelter for the solo hiker who wants something which can be pitched very fast in a small spot, and provides excellent weatherproofing. The tradeoff is a modest amount of headroom and potentially very bad condensation.
The Solomid is available in sil or cuben. The sil version currently costs 195 bucks, and weighs a bit under a pound before seam sealing or adding guylines. It is 8.75 feet long, 3.5 feet wide, and a little over 4 feet tall when pitched to the ground. It can be pitched with one pole substantially offset, but is better with two in an inverted V. Said two pole arrangement requires two trekking or ski poles a little over 140cm long. The footprint is a perfect rectangle, which along with the small size makes the Solomid one of the fastest and easiest-pitching shelters around. With a little practice, zero to done in well under a minute is very realistic.
The modest size of the Solomid creates it’s major strengths and it’s major liabilities. The biggest strength, after the easy of setup, is wind resistance. The low, shark-fin like shape and perfectly- executed cat curves on the main seams makes the Solo slice through strong winds (from all five directions), and allows it to be very quiet while doing so. The inverted V pole setup provides additional support along the long side panels, which is welcome for snow and an asset in wind, though the design already deals well with both.
A small shelter is a small shelter, and that has virtues and downsides. The virtues have already been mentioned, the downsides are enhanced problems with condensation and low headroom. Condensation is a problem in any enclosed space, and gets worse the more people are packed into a given square footage. The reason the Solomid is particularly bad here is that other than raised the pitch a bit there’s no way to get more ventilation while still keeping rain out, and condensation is of course worst when humidity is high. This is an inherent issue with mids, and the Solo is simply worse due to size. The overhead clearance in the Solo is fine for a 6 footer in a 20 degree sleeping bag, but doesn’t leave much room for sag. Add a moderate amount of snow and you run a real risk of waking up with the mid all but on your head. MLD added an XL version this year, which is a hair longer and taller, and a fair bit wider, but I think these downsides will never be entirely separated from this design.
The other major downside of the Solomid is the cat curve along the long edges, which makes it quite impossible to truly seal them from wind against the ground. As will be discussed below, this runs counter to the major strength of the Solomid and is thus particularly vexatious.
The obvious application for the Solomid is the solo hiker in alpine environments during the nicer 6-8 months of the year. Space for gear is less of an issue here than during winter, and the concern for maintaining headspace when it snows less regular. The quick pitch, small footprint, and excellent wind resistance are all major assets here. The Solomid is less ideal when it’s darn cold, because of the side gaps, and during warmer, milder weather, due to the limited ventilation options.
After using it all year, I recently sold my Solomid. I was quite pleased with the shelter, and valued it’s virtues, but in the end the somewhat narrow window of ideal use put me off. My tarp always won out over the summer, and when winter begins to make an entrance I want something bigger and more easily sealed. The Solomid would have likely still claimed a place in the quiver had it not been so bulky. For a shelter from a ultralight specialist company the Solo is quite feature-heavy and even overbuilt. The zipper has two snaps at mid-height, and a snap and small buckle at the bottom. These, along with the sticky, waterproof #5 zipper are slow to use and bulky. The top vent, which is quite large, also adds a lot of material, which quite frankly I do not think does very much at all. The Seek Outside BT2, which could completely envelope a pitched Solomid, is only 9 ounces heavier once sealed, and takes up the same amount of space in a stuff sack.
In short, I think the Solomid is an eminently well-built and designed shelter, but not the most weight-efficient or versatile. It certainly has a place, and with MLD making a full half-dozen rectangular mids, to say nothing of other companies, there are plenty of other choices which folks might find more suitable.
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