Mountain Laurel Designs Solomid XL Review
The Mountain Laurel Designs Solomid XL is a USA-made, single-pole asymmetrical pyramid shelter that weighs just under a pound and provides ample interior space. Paired with the optional InnerNet, the Solomid becomes an ultralight, bug-free tent designed to hold up well in almost any conditions. Miles has had a Silnylon Solomid XL for over six months now, and shares his thoughts here…
Mountain Laurel Designs, or MLD for short, has a massive following in the ultralight hiking world that has been trickling over to bikepackers for some time now. Ron Bell started MLD in 2002, mostly offering lightweight Silnylon tarps, but quickly added more sophisticated designs, including lighter and more durable fabrics. It wasn’t long before Ron and MLD branched out into ultralight packs, hammocks, and shelters – all fostering the brand’s philosophy and core values: simplicity, self reliance, and adventure. Their tent lineup currently consists of six different pyramid-style designs, from spacious single-person dwellings to the monstrous five-person, 10’x10’ Mondomid, and everything in between.
The SoloMid XL, a slightly larger version of the SoloMid, is a single-pole, single-person pyramid shelter that utilizes a unique asymmetrical design to provide space behind the centre pole for the user, and space in front for a vestibule. As a pyramid shelter, its original intent was to be pitched using a hiking pole, but MLD offers a collapsible carbon pole for those travelling without hiking poles. The SoloMid XL is available in SilNylon or Dyneema Composite, and has a few optional add-ons like a bathtub floor, an internal bug net, tent stakes, and upgraded guylines. Here’s a quick breakdown on the prices and weights of those options:
- Solomid XL 20d Silnylon: 395g, $265 USD
- Solomid XL 0.75 Dyneema: 365g, $430 USD
- InnerNet SilNylon: 285g, $155 USD
- InnerNet Dyneema: 255g, $225 USD
- SilNylon Floor: 156g, $75 USD
- Dyneema Floor: 104g, $155 USD
- Carbon Fiber Pole: 85g, $65 USD
I opted to test a SilNylon SoloMid XL, complete with MLD’s SilNylon InnerNet and carbon fiber pole. Putting the total retail at just under $500 and around 765g. Right away you can see how quickly the total price can jump higher, far from the base price of a SilNylon SoloMid if you’re in need of bug protection, added insulation from the elements, or a different way to pitch it. All of MLD’s SilNylon tents also require seam sealing, which is why they include a small bottle with each of them, but you can also have them do it for you for an extra $40.
Setting up the SoloMid XL and InnerNet
One of the primary benefits of MLD’s pyramid tent design is that it pitches quickly and easily. That is, as long as you’ve got a firm base to drive your tent pegs into or the ingenuity to use rocks, bike parts, or anything else lying around at camp. It’s a matter of pegging out the four corners of the tent, inserting the centre pole, and adjusting its height as needed. Of course, my first time setting up the SoloMid XL wasn’t nearly this straightforward. Although the SoloMid XL comes shipped with basic 2.7mm guylines, MLD has decided to ship it uncut and uninstalled, so a bit of DIY work is required with any of their tents. To be honest, such a simple added step kind of threw me for a loop and seemed kind of unnecessary.
Of course, all of the necessary steps are clearly outlined on the Mountain Laurel Design website, including details on how to pitch the tent, add the InnerNet, and apply seam sealer. It just seems like a lot of prep to me, especially when compared to equally lightweight and priced, freestanding tents available – like the Nemo Hornet Elite 2P – which I can comfortably set up with my eyes closed. I suppose the trade off is having the opportunity to support a smaller, USA-made company, which is likely going to be very important for many of our readers.
The InnerNet, which is an internal bug net and bathtub floor, provides a bug-free sleeping environment as well as protection from the ground. Just like the main shelter body, it does require some preparation. First, a small bungee may be needed to attach the apex of the InnerNet inside the shelter, and then you must repeat this process for the four corners, before clipping everything together. I won’t dive into how to adjust and tweak this setup, as MLD does a good job outlining these different processes on their website. Even with these instructions, I found installing the InnerNet into the main shelter body pretty awkward.
Since the SoloMid has only one main door, it’s a matter of either crawling inside to clip all the corners together, or reaching under the pitched body and attaching things together blindly. I would most often resort to the latter. Part of me wishes MLD offered a version with the InnerNet semi-permanently installed, saving some of the headache of trying to get things to fit just right. I don’t think I’ve ever lined the main shelter to the InnerNet 100% spot on.
Sleeping in the MLD Solomid XL
Once the SoloMid is set up, things get much more straightforward. The single-zippered entry is large and can be cinched back to keep out of the way. There’s a buckle at the bottom of the door for added security in windy conditions, and the zippers are beefy #8 YKK Aqua Guards. When setup properly, the centre pole can be offset to provide a little more room for entry and exit, which offers more than enough room. Without the InnerNet installed, the SoloMid XL boasts a massive amount of internal space, perfect for those well over 6’ tall. The asymmetrical design means 70% of the 40+ square feet of inside space is for the user, and the extra 30% can be used as a vestibule. Emily and I shared the SoloMid XL on multiple occasions by simply exaggerating the angle of the centre pole, and sleeping quite close together.
With the optional InnerNet installed, the amount of useable internal space decreases substantially. The shelter goes from being big enough for pretty much anyone, to just big enough for folks up to 6’4” tall, and 44” wide. Of course it provides protection from bugs, and an impressive bathtub floor with 5” tall walls and reinforced corners for extra rigidity. Even with the InnerNet installed, I found there to be plenty of room for me and a few pieces of gear, including my riding clothing, hip pack, and camera. One thing I found kind of odd was the orientation of the zipper on the InnerNet, which was actually updated in 2019 to provide easier entry and exit by adding a full arch zipper (with no zipper across the bottom edge). However, I’ve been having an opposite experience, and felt unable to open the zip in a fluid motion. From the outside, the centre pole is in the middle of the door, which means you’re forced to open the InnerNet in two steps, rather than one. I don’t really see the benefit of having the updated larger opening, especially considering it’s a tent designed for one person.
The SilNylon InnerNet packs down quite small, about a third of the size of the Silnylon SoloMid XL, which is one of the benefits of choosing the silnylon options over the more expensive Dyneema version. As a complete package, it’s easy to spread the various components throughout a couple bags, compressing them down into very small packages.
Ruta Locura vs MLD Carbon Pole
What kind of pole is used for a pyramid-style tent like the SoloMid will likely come down to personal preference, and I wanted to try out two different styles to form my own opinion. MLD doesn’t provide a pole with the shelter, catering to hikers who will likely opt to use their hiking pole instead. But they do offer an optional carbon pole add-on for those travelling without hiking poles, which includes a 4” pole-jack to increase the height of the shelter without relying on any clamps or moving parts. MLD purchased and tested every pole out there to land on this design, and they claim their 13mm unidirectional cello carbon wrapped carbon fibre tube is “super bomber and light.”
Ruta Locura is owned and operated by Josh Leavitt in Utah and offers a wide range of USA-made camping accessories, including custom sized carbon fibre tent poles. Unlike the MLD pole, Ruta Locura’s optional adjuster provides ~8” of adjustment and uses a rubber expansion plug that locks into place when twisted. I tested out am adjustable 48” pole that packed to just 13.5” long, whereas the MLD pole packed down to 18.5” when folded. I was much more interested in the quick adjustment offered by the Ruta Locura pole, and accompanied by its shorter folded length, it made for easy packing within a frame bag or small basket bag. This configuration retails for $45 USD. You can learn more at RutaLocura.com.
- Lightweight. Even with a centre pole, InnerNet, and tent pegs.
- Made in the USA. Support a local company producing high quality gear.
- Versatile. Can be used as a floorless, minimalist shelter or a bug-free tent, depending on your needs.
- Plenty of room for one person and their gear, or a smaller close friend.
- Price increases once optional components are added on.
- Initial setup requires some work. Don’t ignore the instructions online.
- InnerNet decreases living space considerably.
- Non freestanding. Requires some solid tent pegs to get proper tension.
- Model Tested: Mountain Laurel Designs SoloMid XL, SilNylon
- Weight: *504 grams (SoloMid XL), 298 grams (InnerNet), 108 grams (MLD Pole), 136 grams (Ruta Locora Pole)
- Place of Manufacture: Virginia, USA
- Price: $265 USD + $165 with InnerNet
- Manufacturer’s Details: MountainLaurelDesigns.com
Weights include stuff sacks and guy lines, where applicable.
Mountain Laurel Designs’ SoloMid XL has clearly had some serious thought put into it, which has helped this lightweight shelter evolve over the years. For those interested in some tinkering with their gear, the SoloMid XL will likely check a lot of boxes. There’s no question that MLD produces some high-quality gear, with a Made in America tag that will be valued by many of our readers. And I have no question that the shelter I tested will continue to function for years to come.
However, if you’re like me and prefer a shelter to be a little more straightforward, it might not be the shelter for you. The initial setup for both the shelter itself and the InnerNet seemed unnecessary to me, especially considering the price of both. The add-on carbon pole MLD offers is great, but I preferred the carbon Ruta Locura pole for its adjustability and pack-size.
Since receiving my SoloMid XL for review, Mountain Laurel Designs has announced a 2020 version that offers even more living space. The new design is long enough for up to 6’6″ users, about 4″ wider, taller, and longer. The InnerNet XL sees the same updates as well.