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.
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.
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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