Zpacks Hexamid Solo Review
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Zpacks Hexamid Solo is a unique non-symmetrical pyramid style shelter for one person with built-in bug netting. It uses one single adjustable trekking pole placed at an angle from the apex so that the user doesn't have a pole in the middle of their sleeping space. Its DCF fabric is highly waterproof, and the design is very stable in the wind provided you find eight secure stake out points, but we found the living and sleeping quarters to be a bit cramped and were mildly vexed by the lack of a floor.
Bug netting instead covers the entire floor, but is both water-permeable and seriously lacking in durability. The solution proposed by Zpacks is to add in a modular DCF floor or use Tyvek (much cheaper) or a similar ground cloth inside the bug netting. We also found the vestibule to be small, and the door very low to the ground, which is awkward to enter and exit. While it is a decent solo tent, it's not the best solution out there.
The Hexamid Solo comes with the tent and sewn in bug netting, a lightweight DCF stuff sack, uncut staking and guy line, a tiny bit of field repair tape, and printed directions for setup. You will need to cut eight pieces of cordage (directions provided), tie them, and attach them to the tent before setup is possible, so best do this at home. In our opinion, you should also purchase eight line locks and add them to these stake out cords, as these are frustratingly not included, and very necessary for ease of setup and tailoring to individual tent sites. You will also need to purchase separately eight stakes, as these are also not included. Also necessary is a floor, and a modular DCF floor insert can be purchased from Zpacks (not tested by us). Alternatively, you can use a ground cloth or Tyvek of your choice, cut to fit inside the bug netting. Lastly, you'll need a single adjustable trekking pole for set-up, or Zpacks will sell you a made to fit carbon pole.
Despite the low weight, awesome materials, and interesting design, this tent was a fair bit less livable than its competition. Inside the tent, there is plenty of ground space for our sleeping setup and extra gear, as well as leeway at the head or feet to accommodate taller people. Likewise, the head clearance when sitting up is plenty for comfort. However, when laying down, the clearance to the tarp is very low, meaning that either our feet or our face are touching the fabric above, which feels claustrophobic and leads to your sleeping bag getting wet if there is condensation build-up.
The vestibule is a bit small, and the door is, without doubt, the lowest and smallest we have encountered, requiring us to duck very low to crawl into the tent. We wish it had an internal pocket or two for our glasses and other valuables at night. However, for us, the biggest issue was simply the mesh floor. We tested it using our groundsheet but found that the desert sand ended up in all our stuff as it easily filtered through the mesh. This situation can also occur if the ground is wet. While Zpacks suggests that a removable floor makes cowboy camping easier (which it does), this small perk is far offset by its impracticality. Mesh can easily tear and is not resistant to dirt or water. We found ourselves wishing it just had a sewn-in bathtub floor, like nearly every other tent, even if that comes at a high price.
At 11.5 ounces, including bug netting, you could certainly argue that this is the single lightest, fully protective shelter available today.
It has a lightweight and packable design that makes it easy to fit into a backpack with seemingly very little on your back.
Using a pyramidal design, DCF fiber, and a whopping eight stake out points, this is one super solid shelter in a storm! The DCF fiber is waterproof and doesn't stretch when it gets wet, so there is no need to get out and fiddle with all the tension points once the rain starts falling. It also comes seam taped, so there is no need for a gooey seam sealing session. In our testing, we have found that pyramid-shaped tents are far and away from the most stable in the wind, and this tent is no exception.
However, we still encountered some problems. The mesh interior tent is sewn directly to the edges of the DCF tarp overhead, without any eaves to give the distance from the splashback. Even worse, rainwater runs off the overhead tarp and down the mesh netting towards all your things, rather than dropping off and soaking into the ground, as most tents do. According to Zpacks' website, this is by design, and the water will run under your ground tarp or floor insert, but you can't possibly convince us that this design is more protective than a standard bathtub floor with walls, and leads to some nervous sleep when having to check the water's progress into your shelter regularly.
Despite stories we read in some online customer reviews, we don't feel this tent is suitable for two people except in emergencies. We also thought that it suffered a bit for adaptability, considering it isn't free-standing and needs at minimum six solid stakes, but eight is recommended and preferred, making it difficult to set up on firm ground or slick rock. That said, it can be used in almost any weather or climate and has built-in bug netting, so it is not limited on that basis. While the modular floor is meant to add to its adaptability, we found the downsides far outweigh the positives in this regard.
Ease of Setup
Like most tents, this one becomes more straightforward to set up with practice, but that said, we think it may be the most challenging tent to erect quickly with only one person. In particular, holding the single pole at the proper angle (which must be setup inside the inner tent), while simultaneously staking out the vestibule door tensioning stake is a big challenge, as we were unable to reach both at the same time. Combine this fact with the need to stake out eight lines with proper tension, but without line locks on the stake wires, and we felt like we could spend all evening moving and adjusting the positions of the stakes to achieve the perfection we wanted.
While there is a lot of room for customization, and it seems that Zpacks assumes that you will customize to your desires, we think it is a service to the customer to provide a fully tuned and trail-ready tent. The small percentage of people that want to take it all apart and customize everything can do so to their desires.
The Hexamid Solo retails for a relatively low price considering the use of heavy and more expensive materials. Considering the level of weather protection it offers, and the fact that it has the highest quality materials, we think this is pretty awesome value, and point out that it is more affordable than similar DCF tarp + modular bug netting or bivy sack combos. Solo-hikers seeking a lightweight set-up where bug netting is required will find the highest value in this shelter set-up.
The Zpacks Hexamid Solo is a unique shelter design and weighs in as the most functionally light shelter we have ever tested as long as you feel bug netting is needed. Its major downside is livability. With some refinement, we feel it could be the best ultralight shelter you could imagine buying, but as is, it offers a lot of awesome with a bit of head-scratching thrown into the mix.
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