Hands-on Gear Review

Zpacks Hexamid Solo Review

Price:  $399 List
Pros:  Very lightweight, DCF construction, sewn-in bug protection
Cons:  Doesn’t come with the necessary floor, many stake out points mandatory, not much head room
Bottom line:  A very unique and interesting design that is extremely lightweight.
Editors' Rating:   
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Trail Weight: Fly/tarp, tent/optional bug net, poles:  11.1 oz (w/o poles)
Shelter/ FastFly Weight (tarp and minimum guy lines or fly and poles):  5.9 oz. (w/o poles)
Weight of Components:  Total w/ bug netting: 11.5 oz. ; tent: 10.7 oz. ; stuff sack: 0.4 oz. ; optional repair items: 0.6 oz.
Manufacturer:   ZPacks

Our Verdict

The Hexamid Solo is the original tent designed and made by Zpacks, a small independent gear manufacturing company based in Florida that specializes in ultralight thru-hiking equipment. It is a one-person pyramid style tent that needs only a single adjustable trekking pole (or custom tent pole) for setup but requires eight stake out points for optimal stability. It is made of high-quality DCF material on top and has sewn-in bug netting on the sides and floor. Curiously, the floor of this tent is also made of lightweight bug mesh, and a modular bathtub floor or similar solution like Tyvek is needed to complete the system. Weighing in at a mere 11.1 ounces including bug protection, the argument could be made that this tent is lighter and more versatile than a tarp. However, taking all our metrics into consideration, we thought Gossamer Gear's The One was a better solo choice.


RELATED REVIEW: The Best Ultralight Tents and Shelters of 2018


Our Analysis and Test Results

Review by:
Andy Wellman

Last Updated:
Thursday
May 31, 2018

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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 - an interesting solution to this problem. 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 for an extra $100, or use Tyvek (much cheaper) or a similar ground cloth inside the bug netting, which can then be removed for cowboy camping outside when the weather doesn't require a shelter. We also found the vestibule to be small and the door very low to the ground, which was awkward to crawl in and out of. While this tent has survived the tests of time by countless long-distance thru-hikers, we couldn't help but wish it took the best and refined the rest. As such we think Gossamer Gear's The One is likely a better single person solution for most people.

What is Included, and What Isn't?
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 stake out cordage (directions provided), tie them as needed, 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 ($95, 3.2 oz.) (not tested by us). Alternatively, you can use a ground cloth or Tyvek of your choice, cut to fit inside the bug netting. Lastly, a single adjustable trekking pole is needed for set-up, or Zpacks will sell you a made to fit carbon pole ($29, 48", 2.5 oz.). We often found we liked our tent pole longer than the 48" that is recommended.

Performance Comparison


The Hexamid Solo is a pyramid style one person tent that uses a single trekking pole at an angle for its central support. It uses DCF fabric  white on our version  and many guy out points for optimal weather protection.
The Hexamid Solo is a pyramid style one person tent that uses a single trekking pole at an angle for its central support. It uses DCF fabric, white on our version, and many guy out points for optimal weather protection.

Livability


Despite the low weight, awesome materials, and interesting design, this tent was a fair bit less livable than its competition, especially The One, or even our Editors' Choice award-winning Zpacks Duplex. Inside the tent, we found there to be 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 was plenty for comfort. However, when laying down the clearance to the tarp was very low, meaning that either our feet or our face were touching the fabric above, which feels claustrophobic and also leads to your sleeping bag getting wet if there is condensation build-up.

The door of this tent is very low to the ground and requires some crawling to get inside  and the vestibule is a bit small compared to the competition  although still big enough for one pack and shoes.
The door of this tent is very low to the ground and requires some crawling to get inside, and the vestibule is a bit small compared to the competition, although still big enough for one pack and shoes.

Compared to the competition, the vestibule was a bit small, and the door was, 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 own groundsheet, without Zpacks modular DCF floor but found that in the desert sand ended up in all our stuff as it easily filtered through the mesh. This can also be an issue 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 the impracticality, in our opinion, of a mesh floor. Mesh can easily tear and is not resistant to dirt or water. We found ourselves really wishing it just had a sewn-in bathtub floor, like nearly every other tent, even if that comes at an elevated price. We awarded 6 points for this metric.

In this photo you can see how there is a minimal amount of clearance from a sleeping pad to the roof of the tent  a concern if condensation has built up on the inside.
In this photo you can see how there is a minimal amount of clearance from a sleeping pad to the roof of the tent, a concern if condensation has built up on the inside.

Weight


At 11.5 ounces including bug netting, the argument could certainly be made that this is the single lightest fully protective shelter available today. As such, we awarded it the top score for weight, tied with the Hyperlite Mountain Gear Square Flat Tarp.

You can't fake that low weight! Everything that comes with purchase included.
You can't fake that low weight! Everything that comes with purchase included.

While neither of these super light setups come with a floor, stakes, or poles, for a single person the Hexamid Solo is arguably more practical, as it includes bug protection, four-sided weather protection, and is far more solid in a storm. For those who don't feel the need for the bug netting, the Hexamid Tarp weighs only 5.9 ounces and costs $300. While not as adaptable, this shelter is far more protective than a standard square tarp and weighs a lot less as well.

Everything that is included in a purchase of the Hexamid Solo: stuff sack  tent  guy wire cord uncut  a bit of repair tape  instructions.
Everything that is included in a purchase of the Hexamid Solo: stuff sack, tent, guy wire cord uncut, a bit of repair tape, instructions.

Weather Resistance


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 the most stable in the wind, and this tent is no exception.

The mesh lining is sewn directly to the edge of the tarp above  meaning water runs off the edges and tracks down the mesh into the shelter  rather than just falling harmlessly to the ground.
The mesh lining is sewn directly to the edge of the tarp above, meaning water runs off the edges and tracks down the mesh into the shelter, rather than just falling harmlessly to the ground.

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 distance from 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 are designed. 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 constantly check the water's progress into your shelter. We still awarded 7 points, but this tent is not nearly as water resistant as competitor's DCF designs, like the Hyperlite Mountain Gear UltaMid 2 or even the Zpacks Duplex.

DCF  also known as Dyneema Composite Fiber  or Cuben  is extremely waterproof  super lightweight  and doesn't stretch when it gets wet  making it an optimal choice for tents.
DCF, also known as Dyneema Composite Fiber, or Cuben, is extremely waterproof, super lightweight, and doesn't stretch when it gets wet, making it an optimal choice for tents.

Adaptability


Despite stories we read in some online customer reviews, we don't feel this tent should be used 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 slickrock. That said, it can be used in almost any weather or climate and has built-in bug netting, so 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. As such, we rated it right in line with The One and Duplex, but concede that it isn't as adaptable as a freestanding model.

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.

Holding the single pole at the optimal angle while also reaching out far enough to hammer in the tensioning stake is a bit of a challenge alone.
Holding the single pole at the optimal angle while also reaching out far enough to hammer in the tensioning stake is a bit of a challenge alone.

While there is a lot of room for customization, and it seems that Zpacks assumes that you will customize to your desires (indeed you really have no choice, unfortunately), we think it is a service to the customer to simply provide a fully tuned and trail ready tent, and let the small percentage of people that actually want to take it all apart and customize everything do so to their own desires. The other pyramids tested, such as the Black Diamond Beta Light, were far and away the easiest to set up, but this one is the hardest. For that, we gave it the lowest score, 3 points.

One bizarre feature is that the tip of the trekking pole fits through a hole cut into this tab of cordura-like material in the floor of the mesh netting.
One bizarre feature is that the tip of the trekking pole fits through a hole cut into this tab of cordura-like material in the floor of the mesh netting.

Best Applications


This tent is best suited to solo thru-hikers who want the lightest setup they can purchase, and are willing to suffer minor inconveniences for low weight. In situations where bug netting is needed more often than not, or prolonged bad weather is going to be encountered, we think it is far more practical and functionally lighter, than a simple square or cat cut tarp ¬– something all gram counters should ponder.

This tent is the optimal choice for those who simply want the lightest shelter they can buy  but also want built in bug protection and solid weather resistance. For these types it is actually more practical  and lighter  than a tarp.
This tent is the optimal choice for those who simply want the lightest shelter they can buy, but also want built in bug protection and solid weather resistance. For these types it is actually more practical, and lighter, than a tarp.

Value


The Hexamid Solo retails for $399, although the bathtub insert will cost you another $95 unless you choose a cheaper option like Tyvek (~$15). Considering the level of weather protection it offers, and the fact that it's made of 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.

The Hexamid Solo is a very protective single person shelter that has survived many thousands of miles of thru-hiking by multiple users.
The Hexamid Solo is a very protective single person shelter that has survived many thousands of miles of thru-hiking by multiple users.

Conclusion


The Zpacks Hexamid Solo is one of the most unique shelter designs we have encountered 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, a major reason why we recommend the Gossamer Gear The One as our Top Pick for Solo Use instead. 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.
Andy Wellman

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Most recent review: May 31, 2018
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