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Zpacks Hexamid: First Impressions

Zpacks Hexamid

Many of you will recall the Zpacks.com Hexamid that I purchased this spring. Scheduling issues have prevented me from testing it out until recently, but I have a bit more time on my hands and can finally play with my toys!

Intro to the Hexamid

The Hexamid rocked the Ultralight Backpacking scene earlier this year because it's a single person, pyramid style, cuben fiber tarp that weighs under 3 oz. It's made by Joe Valesko at Zpacks.com, who has hiked the AT and the CDT, and has a good rep in the community. He used a prototype version of the Hexamid on the CDT last year and there was a lot of excitement when he came out with the production model. People, including me, started buying it before he could even get a web page up about it.

The Hexamid is available with sewn-in no-see-um netting and I purchased this option. On hindsight, I probably should have just purchased the tarp without it, as I explain below.

Price and Weights

The base weight of the Hexamid is 2.6 oz and costs $155 in cuben fiber. Pretty incredible, huh?

A version of the Hexamid is also available with sewn-in no-see-um netting. It weighs just under 8 oz and costs $275. This is the model I discuss below.

An optional 1.6 oz door is also available for added protection in blowing rain. It costs $59. I purchased that too, but haven't used it yet.

A ground sheet and 8 stakes are sold separately, and are not included in the Hexamid price or weight.

Tent poles are also available if you don't use trekking poles.

Dimensions (from Zpacks.com)

  • Peak Height: 45 inches (114 cm)
  • Length: 9 feet (2.75 meters)
  • Width at center: 5.5 feet (137 cm)
  • Width at ends: 30 inches (76 cm)
  • Entryway Height: 28 inches (71 cm)

The Hexamid in Action

When pitched, the Hexamid has a six-sided pyramid shape. If you've purchased the no-seeum-netting option, it hangs down from all of the walls, resembling the Six Moons Lunar Solo with its full side mesh wall, or the Six Moons Wild Oasis Tarp with it's perimeter bug netting.

Zpacks Hexamid

The interior of the Hexamid is very spacious with a lot of room to spread out and store your gear. The no-see-um netting provides excellent cross ventilation in hot weather and the sides of the tarp can be easily raised for increased air flow or lowered for protection against blowing rain.

The Netting Option

The design of the netting option is a bit strange because it's not cut off where it touches the ground, like on the Wild Oasis. Instead, it runs underneath you instead of a bathtub floor. This means when you're under the tarp, you're lying on top of a layer of bug netting.

Hexamid Interior

I thought I could get over this, but I find the added weight without function to be irksome even though the weight of the netting is less than if there was a silnylon bathtub floor.

Joe says that the full netting design improves the ease of manufacture, but I'm not sure that's a good enough reason.  In New England, it still means that I need to use a bivy bag or a ground sheet to protect my sleeping pad/bag from ground moisture.

Rain Splatter and The Netting Option

If you're lying in a Hexamid with the bug netting option and it starts to rain, water runs down the door side of the tarp, wicks into the netting, and splashes into the living space. Joe explains that this happens on the Zpacks site, so be forewarned. Approximately 1/3 of the width of the tarp floor will be compromised by the rain splatter.

To get away from the water, you need to move your sleep system and all of your gear away from the door, so you're rubbing up against the other wall of the tarp. When it's raining, this almost guarantees that you're going to get wet from internal condensation transfer.

Mind you, when I'm talking about rain splatter, I've pitched the mid so that the mesh door is facing away from an incoming thunderstorm. The rain splatter that occurs comes from water falling down the door side of the beak, and soaking into the no-see-um netting. It's not being blown into the tarp by the wind. 

The Optional Door

While I haven't used the door option yet, Mark Verber reports that it cuts down on this internal rain splatter in his Hexamid review.

The door is a triangular piece of cuben fiber with 3 mini biners attached on the corners. These hook onto elastic loops on the inside of the mid, on the inside of the no-see-um netting that serves as the door.

I consider the interaction between the netting and the rain splatter to be a fairly significant design flaw. While, one could conceivably mitigate it somewhat with the optional door, it seems unfair to charge extra for the door option, because it's not really optional anymore, is it?

From a design standpoint, it seems like a better option would be to add a vestibule to the front of the mid beak like the ones used in the Six Moon Designs Lunar Solo or the Tarptent Squall 2. This would provide a gear vestibule and completely eliminate any rain splatter (with or without the no-see-um netting option) with very little impact on the overall weight of the shelter.

The Bivy Option

Another alternative would be to buy the Hexamid without the netting option. Most people who sleep under tarps use a bivy sack to keep rain splatter or internal condensation off of them. For example, I own a Superlight bivy from Mountain Laurel Designs that also has netting over the face, so it doubles as my bug protection when sleeping under a tarp. It weighs 6.8 oz and cost $155.

If you do the math, the cost of the Hexamid netting plus the optional door ($120 + $59) is more than the cost of the MLD Superlight, and the two alternatives weigh almost exactly the same. Since the bivy can be used with other tarps and mid shelters, it makes more sense to purchase it than the Hexamid add-ons if you're trying to get the most bang for your buck.

Climate Makes All the Difference

If I were camping in the desert where there's little precipitation, I think I'd go for the version of the Hexamid that includes no-see-um protection for the added protection it provides against insects, scorpians, spiders, snakes, etc.

But if you're camping in the New England rain forest, I think its best to get the Hexamid without the optional bug netting and door, and use a UL bivy sack and head net instead.

Disclosure: The author owns this product and purchased it using their own funds.

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13 comments

  1. Nice write up, Philip!

    Have you ever tested these shelters that drape the netting on the ground (and don't fully encase you) in extremely buggy environments, like Maine in May?

    I wonder how many mosquitoes sneak in which are lying in wait on ground. Of course, a ground sheet should theoretically stomp them out, but I'm not sure if that all really works in a high bug environment.

    What's your experience?

    Francis

  2. Thanks for the review! I have been looking at the hexamid with the bug netting and was glad to read your opinion on it.

  3. Phillip – now I'm confused. I am in NZ and we get a lot of rain down here, a bit like the Pacific NW.

    I had the Oware Cat2 Tarp and the Six Moon solo enhance – I have just sold these but kept the Oware biv (has netting like yours).

    I am trying to decide between GG The One, GG SpinnTwin or Hexamid. I agree with you about the simplicity of designing a removable beak verses the door. Joe seems like a pretty switched on guy and must have given this consideration.

    I also have a waterproof bag – MacPac Adventure (NZ brand) made for adventure racers. It is a bit on the heavy side at 700gms, but would work well with the Hexamid with netting – or without netting using the Oware biv and WM Hilite bag (455gms).

    Now I am back in rethink mode!!

    I do love the Hexamid design (look) and the weight!

  4. Rob – I have been eyeing the GG Spinshelter for several years. GG has added a setup video tothe product page that is worth looking at – here's the link

    I like the versatility and the front beak. The only thing that gives me pause is the reliance on trekking poles – since I camp mainly in forest, but my guess is that one could get by with longer ridgeline tie-ous and two trees.

  5. Francis – I've never used one of those shelters, but I do remember one time camping in Vermont on The Long Trail during black fly season. My strategy was complete clothing coverage and eating a cold meal. I can still remember trying to eat a spicy sausage while wearing a buff over my face, mouth, and the top of my head! One of the benefits of hiking solo is that no one can see how idiotic you look.

  6. What are your thoughts on using a tripod instead of a trekking pole on any of the tarptents you have used?

  7. I'm not willing to carry a third hiking pole if that's what you are asking. :-) Seriously, I don't see how that would even work with any of these shelters. You can pitch many tarps with 2 trekking poles, angled along the tarp sides, if you require more interior space.

  8. Well, my current setups is a Big Agnes SL1, which is pretty light by freestanding tent standards. I don't use trekking poles, but I do carry my tripod. I was thinking that I could use the tripod (extended but closed) in place of the trekking pole in a tarptent setup. Then, I would be able to get rid of my tent poles and free up some room in the pack.

  9. Nice write-up and a reminder I should update my review. Your observation that "Climate Makes All the Difference" is spot on. On many of my trips in California the chances of rain are small, but the likelihood of bugs is high. The Hexamid is perfect. I certainly found that when facing a lot of rain and wind the door was required to fully use the internal space, and even then, getting in and out was a challenge.

    For very wet locations, I would recommend trying something else. I found that the spinnshelter worked very well in harsh conditions, though I really wanted more internal space. The GG The One was just about perfect size use perspective, but was hard to get pitched really taut which caused problems when facing strong wind.

    –Mark

  10. Thanks Mark – that means a lot to me coming from you. I love all of the information you publish on your site. It's extremely informative.

  11. quite late comment

    ive had the hexamid now for 2 month hiking in the alps and massive central, i really like the netting floor but was very skeptical of it, since i like to sit straight up in my shelter without having any bugs flying or creeping around i am very pleased, the first week of the trip it rained every day and night, one night it rained heavely from 7 in the evening until 9 in the morning, i dident sleep to much because i was worrried i would wake up in a pool of water, i dident even use the door, but had a french polycro sheet seems the same as the gossamer one, true there where some water inside the tarp like described in the above review, but none touched me or was even that close of touching me, when i got to grindewald i bought the montbell breeze dry bivy to feel even safer, so i could sleep without being worried, it was worth it, also because i tend to hit the walls of the tarp and wet my sleepingbag, i dont mind carrying both the tarp with netting and bivy, its still so light and i feel safe enough. no holes in the netting or any damage after 2 months of hiking plus 5 nights in sweden.

    i dont think i am super good of placing the groundsheet either, i find there is if it rains heavely for many hours, some water at the both ends, but it never reaches my head or feet since i have some stuff under it making it little like a bathtub floor, also some at the door, the netting of the sides sometimes get wet if it rains many hours, but never has made me wet.

  12. I spent about 6 months with an IV (“pick line”) in my arm taking daily doses of Rocephin to combat Lyme disease. My wife had her IV in for 18 months (yes, an IV for a year and a half). I’ll carry the extra netting for the floor.

  13. I have the door version of the Hexamid solo and have decided to take an ultralight micro tarp along next trip. This will be rigged over the tent – from just behind the peak – and mitten hooked to the ront two guylines, then supported by trekking poles at the front. I’ll have added 4 ounces but created a very useful vestibule. It won’t stop stormy driving rain but I won’t suffer so much with a soaking wet doorway. What do you guys think of this idea? Will the silnylon cause abration?

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