I've decided to go as lightweight as possible for my two week hike across Scotland in May, 2010 and I expect that my gear list is going to be closer to 10 lbs instead of the 13-15 lbs I normally carry for early spring hiking in New England. I'm pushing my weight down because I want to avoid an ITB flareup like the one I experienced last summer in the 100 mile wilderness when I was carrying a much heavier pack, including 9 days of food.
One obvious place to cut a lot of weight on my gear list is to swap in a lighter shelter to replace my 46 oz Scarp 1 Tarptent. By replacing it with a pyramid tarp, I believe I can cut my pack weight by at least 32 oz. That's huge.
Pyramid style shelters are known for their wind resistance and are used for four season hiking due to their great versatility and excellent ventilation. The basic pyramid shelter is held up by a single pole and staked at its four corners. One side has a zipper entrance and you can usually stake open the doors in good weather to provide additional ventilation. In bad weather, pyramids have sufficiently high clearance that you can cook in them. It's also easy to pitch them so that air can blow under the walls to carry off the moisture which causes internal condensation, even in poor weather.
Due to weight considerations, I narrowed my search for a lightweight pyramid-style shelter to the new Hexamid from Zpacks.com, the Solomid and Duomid from Mountain Laurel Designs and the Alphamid from Oware. All of these pyramid variants, called mids for short, weigh 16 oz or less. Some large commercial manufacturers also sell mid-style shelters but the weigh significantly more. Examples include the Integral Designs Silshelter (16.5 oz), the Golite Shangri-La 2 Shelter (25 oz), the Black Diamond Mega Lite (37 oz), and the Black Diamond Beta Light (19 oz..)
In weighing the pros and cons between the different ultralight mid alternatives, the most important factors for me were weight, wind resistance, speed of setup, venting to prevent internal condensation, internal space, and price. Bug protection is a nice to have but wasn't essential.
Choosing among the available alternatives was difficult but I decided to order the Hexamid in the end. I ordered the cuben fiber version with nano-seeum netting, optional foul weather doors, guyline and stuff sack. Total weight is 11.2 oz, priced at $321, including shipping. Here's a video that shows the Hexamid in action and how to pitch it.
I also considered the MLD Solomid and Duomid quite carefully. Of the two, the Duomid was the more attractive (12 oz in cuben fiber) due to space considerations, but I consider the price of $405 to be way too high. Outrageous even, given the the silnylon version is only $205 and weighs 16 oz. I'm willing to pay $20 per ounce saved, but not $50. If you add on the additional solo bug net liner sold by MLD for $145 (8.5 oz), the Duomid becomes one of the most expensive shelters available on the market today ($405 + $145 for a 20.5 oz shelter).
Here is the thought process that led me to purchase the Hexamid.
- At 8.9 oz including bug netting, the Hexamid is incredibly lightweight. I considered getting the version without bug netting that just weighs 3.3 oz, but in the end decided to get the additional protection for convenience. There are midges (black fly like nuisances) in Scotland afterall. I can always cut the bug netting out if I decide I don't like it.
- The Hexamid has very good ventilation with the half height mesh side that is pitched away from the wind. This should eliminate almost all internal condensation except in heavy rain.
- The Hexamid is incredibly easy to pitch. Much faster than a Scarp 1.
- The Hexmid has a roomy 4.5' wide by 9 ' long internal area for a person to stretch out, with additional gear storage area under the windward wall as it slopes down to the ground.
- The Hexamid is large enough to cook in in very bad weather with a canister stove provided care is taken not to spill anything or burn the bug netting. I plan on using the removable framesheet of my backpack as a cooking platform under these circumstances.
- The pitch of the roof over the noseeum netting should shield the occupant from a significant amount of rain splatter, but the optional cuben fiber doors (1.3 oz) can be set up to eliminate it in very poor conditions, with very little weight penalty.
The bug netting in the Hexamid is attached to the walls and also provides a floor for the shelter. This is a bit of an odd design, but it is easy to manufacture and probably lighter than including a more traditional tent floor. Regardless, some sort of ground cloth is needed. I will use a trimmed Gossamer Gear polycro plastic sheet for this, I addition, I may also bring along a bivy bag to augment the warmth of my 20 degree down sleeping bag and to provide more protection against rain splatter or internal condensation. This will be something that I plan on testing in April and early May.
Stay tuned for more gear changes as I tune my gear list for this great adventure.
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