Sunday, May 12, 2013

ZPacks Hexamid

This is the first of a series of gear reviews for what I use when backpacking. As a preface, I tend to backpack mostly in 3 season conditions (25 to 100 F.) with the occasional foray into the mountains during the winter. I am a convert to lightweight backpacking and so I weigh everything I take with me. Weight is a prime consideration along with functionality and cost. With that being said, here we go with one of my favorite pieces of gear: the Zpacks Hexamid Solo tarp.

When I consider a shelter I try to balance weight with function. Weight because I have to carry the damn thing and function because when I need it, I want it to work. Being blessed to live in California, I rarely need shelter from the rain, I actually have to make an effort to find rain and even then I don't always succeed. So, I normally sleep under the stars in a bivy sack (review to come soon). But I always carry some form of shelter, just in case. Therefore, I want something light because it will spend most of the time in my pack.

After considerable research and talking with other ultralight gear heads I decided to purchase the Hexamid.

Hexamid Solo in my backyard

This is a really well thought out shelter, built by Joe Valesko. It is made from white cuben fiber and weighs 6.5 ounces (with all guylines but not stakes). Joe offers many options and will custom build as well, I purchased the solo tarp with the optional extended beak.

With extended beak rolled up

It requires one hiking pole and six stakes to set up (8 stakes for maximum security). I have it set up rather high here, this would be for maximum ventilation. It can be staked much closer to the ground for more storm protection.

Condensation can become an issue for single wall shelters and the Hexamid is no exception. This is most noticeable with cooler temperatures and/or damp conditions. Water condenses on the tarp and can drip onto whatever is below. However, most of the water that condenses will run down to drip off the edges of the tarp. I have accidentally brushed against the tarp and that can get things wet. Because I almost always sleep in a water resistant bivy, I am not worried about the condensation getting my down sleeping bag wet.

Hexamid with sleeping bag for perspective

The Hexamid is not a large shelter, this is both good and bad. The good is that it weighs less and does not require much space to set up, this can be a considerable factor when camping in some steep rocky areas where there is limited flat space available. The bad is that there is not a ton of space to hang out and move around. As I use this only when absolutely necessary, this is a reasonable compromise. I don't mind the limited space, I can sit up and lie down and that is really all I need to do under a tarp.

I have to admit, I have not had the opportunity to really test the Hexamid out in serious conditions. Most of the time it stays in my pack. I have spent one rainy night in it (stayed dry, no problems) and I have taken it snow camping (not recommended).

In the snow

This is a very minimalist shelter and for my style of backpacking it works perfectly. For 3 season use, this thing rocks. But you have to be aware of its limitations. Care must taken when setting it up as one side does not completely go to the ground, this is the side that should be away from prevailing winds. It does not provide much privacy, if you camp in campgrounds then expect people to be able to see you (the cuben fiber is somewhat transluscent as well). If you are snow camping, I would recommend something different.

Finally, if you are expecting a lot of bugs or you just cant stand the thought of creepy crawlies (big reason I use a bivy), then I would recommend going with the Hexamid that has an integrated bug net. This adds about 5 ounces to the total but provides complete bug protection.

If you want more information or want to check out some of the other cool products at Zpacks here is the website: