Gram-Counter Gear – A brief chat with it’s founder plus a video of the LiteHouse Solo shelter

This post is primarily aimed at those new to hiking and those who wish to venture down a more ‘lightweight’ route.

One of the first things folks will look at to save some kilos is their choice of shelter. So, the following could be of some interest….

It’s not often you come across a ‘cottage industry’ company in the U.K. Gram-Counter Gear is one such business set up a few months ago and now producing it’s LiteHouse Solo tent.

I’ve been fortunate enough to be testing one only recently as some of you may know – and overall impressions are very positive on my part. I like it’s small pack size and weight along with how it manages potential condensation – being a single skin shelter this inevitably can be a problem.

I managed to grab five minutes with Mark Richardson who is the founder of Gram-Counter Gear and also the owner of well known British website Ultralight Oudoor Gear.

What was the inspiration for creating Gram-Counter Gear (GCG)?

When I was a teenager I used to make my own rucksacks and tents, I had a business for a while selling them mail order, so I really like to design stuff – funnily enough the main focus then was rucksacks – I had a view that there weren’t any 35 Litre rucksacks with a decent harness system – so I made on – its only in recent years that this gap in the market has been plugged! Even now I get annoyed when I look at a bright new rucksack only to find that it has a ‘webbing hip belt’ – I think the extra weight of a decent hipbelt is more than compensated by the extra comfort.

This time round I’m into single skin shelters – inspired by those available from the US but seeking to make something that is comfortable in UK weather.  

There are quite a few companies out there offering alternative lightweight products. Who is GCG aimed at and why?

GCG is essentially aimed at me! And people like me – who want to go very lightweight but in comfort – there’s always a trade off – but I’d rather camp in a single skin shelter with more room to move around in than a smaller two skin – but I don’t want to go as far as an open ended tarp – I’ve done it and my judgement is that I’d rather carry a bit more and have the ends! On lightweight packs – I’d rather have a frame than a frameless pack for carrying 25-30lbs – a frame means more weight – but to me the benefits outweigh the extra weight. So the gear we produce will occupy the middle ground between super super light and trad.

Any particular hopes and aims for GCG?

I don’t have any particular hopes or aims – if people respond to the gear we produce then thats great – if not we’ve made the wrong stuff.

We often hear arguments about lightweight gear being expensive – is this really the case?

Yes and no! Cutting edge design or fabrics will always be expensive – thats not where GCG is – but you can buy just behind the curve and get good lightweight gear at a lower price. There are some areas though that are tough to find a bargain – sleeping bags are one – down is down and it will always be expensive to buy a down bag and there’s no real alternative.

What do you think were the main reasons for the general outdoors public for not pursuing the ‘lightweight’ route before and why now?

First of all I don’t think that many people are going lightweight – that may seem odd but everytime I go walking in Europe all I see are people with huge packs – I rarely see people who have obviously made lightweight choices. But awareness is slowly growing – I think as people replace gear weight is becoming a more important consideration.

I think there are a number of reasons why this is the case.

1. Many people are not clued up about ultralight – they don’t know whats out there.   

2. Some people are perfectly happy lugging 40-50lb packs around not realising there is another way

People are changing now because of the availability of gear and the move towards ultra racing which gets people thinking about minimising their gear to give them a competitive edge


The LiteHouse Solo tent is a single skin shelter. These are very prone to condensation issues – can such tents really work in the U.K?

Absolutely they can – but its a slightly different mindset – inside a two skin tent you feel a high degree of protection from the outside world – its comforting! With a single skin you feel a bit more exposed, even though the protection is still there – some people like this others don’t – I love it. The LiteHouse TWIN adopts the same concept as the LiteHouse SOLO but again – its spacious, has two porches and two entrances so its practical as well.

Which fabrics have you chosen to use and why?

We used silicon coated nylon for the LiteHouse SOLO with a Hydrostatic Head of 2000mm for the main tent and 3000mm for the floor – the decision was based on a balance between fabric weight and cost. We could have used Cuben Fibre and halved the weight of the tent but no one would buy it because of its price coupled with an unknown brand.

And finally, tell us more on this lightweight lounger you’ve come up with that weighs about 100g’s.

No!

Fair enough – if you’re interested in purchasing the LiteHouse Solo tent you can do so via Mark’s excellent www.ultralightoutdoorgear.co.uk

Retailing at £139.99 incVAT the LiteHouse Solo tent is primarily aimed at those who are on a budget and wish to take up the joys of a lighter load on their back when hiking.

For the money, I’d say it’s great purchase – much better than the likes of a Vango Ultralite, for example. At least with the LiteHouse Solo you get a porch for cooking. Granted, it’s a small porch – but there is room if you use and stash your gear wisely. And if you really are going ‘lightweight’ – well, this isn’t a problem.

There is a  mesh lining that is raised around the groundsheet (all built-in) which has a small fabric lip to prevent any condensation from rolling down the inside of the fly and onto you – this neat idea really does work.

I woke one morning after trying the tent out and noticed some small pools of moisture which were slowly dripping through the mesh.

The groundsheet is not of a bathtub design, though. As long as you pitch carefully in a drained area this shouldn’t prove to be a problem. There are only a handful of times I’ve actually needed a bathtub groundsheet – so a little bit of care maybe required.

Here’s a short video, I made over the weekend of this shelter – you can give it the once over for yourself:

Tent’s can be subjective to the user and their needs, of course. But being one who has used many tents over the years (tent addict?) I’m not given to recommending shelters willy nilly – for what it’s worth.

In the meantime, I’ll continue to use the tent for a longer term test. So far it get’s the thumbs up from me.



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5 Comments Add yours

  1. Mac E says:

    Good stuff from Mark there, I particularily like the fact that he's making what he likes and if others like it great, I admire that approach.

    I also agree about the space thing, I know when I use my Phreeranger fly only it seems much more spacious, or at least you've more choice about how you use the space, the downside of using a fly only is no mozzie net, not an issue with the Litehouse Solo.

    The price is about right IMO, the price suggested back in March was I felt a little high. In the end if you want a 1kg shelter you either pay a considerable sum, accept a very small tent or go the single skin route, taking the £250-300 option out of the equation I'd personally opt for a spacious single skin.

    I still feel a bathtub ground sheet would have been preferable although I use a flat ground sheet myself with the aforementioned fly, I'd also have preferred integral side tie-outs but there you go.

    I hope it does well.

    Like

  2. terrybnd says:

    I agree on all counts, Mac.

    Good luck to Mark and well done. It's a good shelter and deserves a good run. Such bits of kit will always have compromises and perhaps the bathtub groundsheet is one of them.

    Either way, so far the shelter gets a thumbs up from me.

    Like

  3. Terry, good interview. I like the price on this, but I am not sure about a single skin tent in the UK. I have a 1 kg 2 man two skin tent- although it cost a lot more than £139 !!
    Mark

    Like

  4. -maria- says:

    Nice interview, Terry. I like the attitude of Mark Richardson – the fact that he is making stuff that he likes and that he is not into extremes just to shave off all possible extra grams.

    IF I ever go for a single skin shelter, this might be a good alternative – or the LiteHouse Twin to sleep two, when it comes to the market.

    Like

  5. terrybnd says:

    @markswalkingblog – Thanks. I think the price is good, too. In fact, I like the tent that much I'm going to continue using it as much as I can through the winter. And see how it copes.

    It's much better for use than a Vango Ultralite or The North Face Solo, namely because of the condensation control and a porch.

    @Maria – Hi and thanks. I like Mark's attitude, too. And good luck to him cause I think he's onto something interesting. He's got his finger on the pulse I'd say.

    Like

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