L.L.Bean Microlight FS 1
Source: bought it new
Price Paid: $169
A reliable companion for the solo backpacker. This tent delivers what you need without unnecessary frills. Best used by solo backpackers on trips of any length in any weather. Recommended.
- easy pitch
- easy strike
- Small vestibule
- Lack of internal organizational pockets/gear loft
- Low ceiling
- Cheap stakes
I am very picky about the gear I use. I have never used a piece of gear I was completely and totally satisfied with. This tent is no exception. That being said, the tent is a win and I will continue to use it.
Setup is a no-brainer. Everything fits together flawlessly and intuitively. Complete setup including fly takes 1-2 minutes. Set it up once in your living room and you'll never have a problem. The pitch is taut and effortless to get right. Everything fits together well and reeks of quality workmanship with the exception of the stakes. They're cheap and basic and could be replaced with lighter (titanium) or beefier/more reliable ones.
As with any ultralight tent, the floor is thin and requires a suitable groundcloth. I use this tent with a custom, self-made tyvek ground cloth. I have no experience with the L.L.Bean groundcloth. While thin, the floor is durable enough and I have had no problems with leakage.
The fly handles rain very well. I have never had any issues with water entering the tent while the fly was up.
The entire tent, minus the floor, is made of no-see-um mesh. Ventilation has always been excellent, with or without the fly.
The tent's dimensions are generous length-wise. I'm 5'8" and have plenty of room to stretch out. I would guess this tent would accommodate people up to 6'5" or so...a rarity in the ultralight tent ranks. Vertical height is another story. I can sit up but I cannot sit up straight, and that is the single greatest disappointment I've experienced. This is not a palace. It's not a place to sit up and hang out in. This is a place to sleep.
Internal pockets are non-existent, though unless you're unusually tall there's room around the head of the tent for various things. I usually store bear spray, my front pack, extra layers, gloves/hat, and maybe a book around the head area with room to spare. There is no gear loft, though there is a small clip at the top of the tent to hang small items. A small stuff sack works well here.
Packability is excellent. I've packed the tent both separated as well as combined in the included stuff sack. Either method works well but I recommend separated. Secure the poles to the side of the pack in one of the water bottle pockets Pack the body and fly in the main pack compartment, and pack the stakes wherever you have room.
L.L.Bean tends to be pretty conservative design-wise. As with most L.L.Bean products, there is nothing groundbreaking about this tent. What there is, however, is quality, proven design, and durability. I've used this tent since it was introduced in 2012 and can see myself using it for many years to come.
As far as I've been able to tell, and I've looked extensively, there is no other solo, freestanding, double-wall tent for sale that comes close to the Microlight FS1 when weight, ease of setup, durability, and cost are considered. You can shave ounces by using a bivy or tarp system or you can increase livability at the cost of weight, but when all factors are considered, simply put, this is as close to the perfect backpacking tent as I've found.