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New Zpacks Hexamid Shelter

New Hexamid Shelter from Zpacks.com

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. The Hexamid is incredibly easy to pitch. Much faster than a Scarp 1.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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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26 comments

  1. Philip, I have seen photos of the Hexamid and wasn't convinced. This video on the other hand gives me a much better idea of the mid, it is a very innovative design, and it starts to grow on me. Really looking forward to your experiences with it.

    And I agree on MLD DuoMid in cuben pricing, though there seem to be plenty of people who are willing to pay that price.

  2. Yesterday I received a hexamid just in time to test it in the series of winter storms we are getting. I have had a duomid for a bit. They are quite different shelters with overlapping uses.

    The DuoMid is clearly superior for harsher conditions. High stress areas have more reinforcement than the the Hexamid, the Cuben seems a bit heavier (and I expect stronger given Ron's quest for the best materials), and the seams look to be more robust as do the tape that Ron uses. Obviously, the DuoMid can be put into a completely lock down pitch which is a lot more protective than the Hexamid, even with the optional door. The DuoMid has more stake / guy points and 360 degree wind shedding which will make it better in a nasty storm. It is certainly easier to cook under the DuoMid than with the Hexamid with the netting.

    The Hexamid obviously has weight going for it, especially if you want a bug free space. The Hexamid's bug free space is much more in keeping with my desires than the InnerNet which is a bit too short for my taste (I am 5'10"). With the InnerNet Solo I can't lay down, prop myself up on my elbows, and read without bumping into the roof. This isn't a problem with the Hexamid. The Hexamid is also very reasonably priced given the expense of Cuben. All this said, the Hexamid can't be pitched all the way to the ground and isn't as wind shedding as the DuoMid.

    –Mark

  3. A good choice. Midges shouldn't be problem in May (so they say!) but I'd keep the netting. Arm yourself with some Avon Skin So Soft as well.

    A 20 degree sleeping bag should be fine for Scotland in May too.

    With a groundsheet a bivi bag isnt essential but adds to the security of the set up. And you have the option of not bothering with the shelter shoould the opportunity arise.

  4. Nice choice. I've been very interested in this design as well.

  5. Mark- completely agree. I figure I can always use another shelter if the Hexamid doesn't work in my spring testing. This was not an easy choice and really could have gone either way, but it helps knowing that Joe used it on the CDT in bad weather. I really do like the extra ventilation and I'm glad to hear that it is more comfortable inside than the MLD innertent.

    One thing that swayed me was the floor plan which is quite like the pentagram shape of the Six Moons Lunar solo. I have been in hellish rain and wind storm with that tent and had no worries at all. The Hexamid design reminds me of it, so I hope they share the same robustness in crappy weather.

    One thing I did do was decide not to count on the Hexamid for winter weather. That really is still the domain of the Duomid. But for the warmer spring weather of Scotland, I am hopeful that the Hexamid will suffice and as Baz notes, I'll have a bivy bag along anyway.

    By the way, I'll probably punt on the groundsheet to save weight.

  6. Chris – I figure you for the 3.3 oz hexamid without the netting. Incredibly light. Should work well down south.

  7. the video is great i can't wait till I get my hexamid in some weeks

  8. I notice that Joe has not yet posted the Hexamid to his website. Do you know when it will be available to the public?

  9. After another night in the rain, I have been reflecting on my initial thoughts about my "comfort" with the space of the innernet solo vs the hexamid. reflection after two nights with the hexamid. The longest stretch of the hexamid is 9ft. For the innernet it's 7.5ft. In good weather when you can align near the front of the hexamid it feels much larger to me. When it's raining hard and you need to stay further back (at least I did without the door) the head room frops so it seems about the same between the hexamid and the innernet solo.

    It's worth noting that if I had gone for the innernet duo (rather than the solo) that I would have had enough headroom because I could have laid down diagonally. The Duomid without the innernet feels much larger than the hexamid.

    Gerry… the hexamid is being sold. It's just not linked to Joe's main page. Google hexamid or use the URL http://www.zpacks.com/shelter/hexamid.shtml

    –mark

  10. Thanks, Mark. I wonder if Joe realizes there is not a visual link to his hexamid on his site.

  11. So Mark, using the hexamid a few times in wet weather, for less harsh conditions would you be inclinded to prefer it over the MLD products IF you got the option door for the hexamid?

  12. Holy cow! I'm glad you mentioned this shelter. I've seen one ZPack on the trail, and was pretty impressed with it. I bet the mid will be very nice. I can't wait to hear how it holds up on your Scotland trip.

    I've been trying to find a good shelter to replace my rectangular silnylon tarp for a while, but the price jump to Cuben is so huge I can barely contemplate it. But $90 for a 6.5 oz silnylon mid (sans netting) seems almost too good to be true.

  13. Would I choice the Hexamid over MLD DuoMid + InnerNet in less harsh conditions? I will tell you for certain in a season to two when I have had enough time to feel I really know them. Right now I would be inclined to go with the hexamid. Would the door make a difference? I actually purchased the optional door, but started using the hexamid without the door to determine if I need the door for solo use. My tentative conclusions is that I can be OK without the door, but the door is helpful with blowing rain. I have started to write up a review which I will update as I get more experience with the Hexamid. I will try to finish the initial impression after next weekend pt reyes trip:

    http://www.verber.com/mark/outdoors/gear/reviews/

  14. Midges are not a worry. You might see some hovering by a forest section and that should be all the worry they will course you. What is a worry is the wind.

    Colin Ibbotson tarp for the Challenge has lots of guy-lines. Wind is the issue. Better to have a MLD DuoMid or even the Trail Star. Nice review by Colin on Andy Howells blog. Next is wet ground. A bathtub ground sheet is a good idea. Colin made one for his tarp on the 09 Challenge. Check his photos out. Wet ground is a real issue in Scotland.

    I have seen tents flooded out on section you are walking on the Challenge and the bathtub ground sheet saved my friend from wet kit. Also the wind again can bash that shelter showering condensation all over your kit. So a bivy bag is a good idea. The use of a single skin is fine. Making it work for two weeks in Scotland if its bad weather takes a bit of planning. My choice would be DuoMid and bivy from MLD and very light ground sheet for non wet days where you don't need the bivy. That Hex shelter is too open one side and who needs to get up in a storm as the wind changed direction.

  15. Mark – I look forward to your review. All if the information you provide on your personal site is just great IMHO.

  16. Guthook – I got a blast 32 from zpack as well. It rocks.

  17. Good feedback Martin. I really value your input. I know how unpleasant a flooded tent can be, so I’ll add my ground sheet back in. Time will tell if I stick with the hexamid, but I want to so some testing with it to see how well it does in wind.

    But surely site placement should be able to ameliorate some of the effects of the wind. I would imagine that camping in trees (there are few left in Scotland) or on the lee sides of hills would help break the winds effect somewhat.

    By thew ay, I will be bringing a Superlight bivy along from MLD based on a comment you made a while back on your blog about condensation in the Duomid. I was so swayed by that remark that I opted for the Hexamid because of the ventilation it provides.

  18. It looks like about 14oz with pegs, ground cloth and door. If you add a bivy you will be getting close to the Tarptent Sublite which seems to be a great solo tent. This does look to be very interesting.

  19. Hi

    I’ve not got or seen a Hexamid in the flesh but from its design I doubt it will be great in the wind. Large areas of unsupported material that cannot be tensioned do not make for good wind shedding abilities.

    Challenge weather could go either way but I would expect a bit of everything and certainly last year there was a couple of days that tested even the Akto users! Walking over to Torridon the day before the Challenge I had winds gusting to 70mph! A Hexamid could be fine if your route allows you to camp in sheltered areas but an exposed night in the Lairig Ghru would be interesting. Don’t rely on trees for shelter in Scotland, in the wilds there are few but a lot of what there is are farmed and the ground around and through these plantations is ploughed to drain away excess water. It’s impossible to camp in or near plantations like this. These trees also don’t have much rootage and blow over frequently.

    I would think hard before bringing the Hexamid (how much does a Scarp 1 weigh without the inner?) and test it well unless you are doing a low level route that has some good sheltered camping areas. Another option could be to supplement the Hexamid with a fully waterproof bivi if it should get really windy but the weight saving will be less.

    Martin is right about water coming up from the ground and I will be using a Spinnaker groundsheet to protect my Cuben based bivi.

    Bugs shouldn’t be a problem in May except for Ticks but as the winter has been quite harsh so far I would expect the tick problem to be reduced.

    The Hexamid looks a fine shelter but like most it isn’t designed with our weather in mind.

  20. Oh, I just noticed you mentioned you have a Zpacks Blast 32. Do you plan on using it for the Scotland trip? How often do you use it, and in what kind of trips? And how many funny looks do you get from other hikers? :)

  21. Colin – thanks for the advice. I think it is starting to actually sink in :). I am still going to go the tarp route in stead of the Scarp, so I guess I'll be getting onto the MLD waiting list tonight. What's you're feeling on the solomid compared to the duomid in terms of internal space without a bug net? I'm always a solo sleeper.

  22. I haven’t yet seen a Solomid so comparison is difficult. I do like that you use your walking poles to support the large side panels which would be a weak spot with the Duomid (if they are long enough). I don’t like that the centre panel guying points have been removed (Ron could fit them if you asked). I would have a chat with Ron and see what he thinks but if it was my money then I’d probably get a Duomid or as you say you want a tarp then the TrailStar could be even better (see my review!).

  23. Just wanted to say thanks for this review and video. I must say, I'm impressed. I don't normally hike with a tent (if it's raining, I usually stay home). This looks like just the ticket for me!

  24. I saw that you intended to buy a single Fibraplex pole to use with this tent and wanted to know how it worked out? I assumed that pole would be too flexible, what is your experience?

    Thanks

  25. I second the query about the fibraplex pole — that is also how i would intend to use this tarp, as i do not make use of trekking poles. do let us know how that works out and also if there are any links to photos of the hexamid with the fibraplex pole that you could post online.

  26. I'm not sure why you guys think I plan to test with the fibraplex pole. I use hiking poles. If anyone else as tried these, could you post a comment or send me an email and a few photos.

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