MontBell Monoframe Shelter Hexagon Tent REVIEW

Two-person double wall tent that nearly breaks the 3-pound barrier but gives up some features.

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by Will Rietveld | 2006-02-07 03:00:00-07

Overview

Montbell Hexagon Tent Review - 1
The MontBell Hexagon is a two-person double wall tent that nearly breaks the 3-pound (1.4 kg) barrier.

The MontBell Hexagon is a two-person double wall tent that nearly breaks the 3-pound (1.4 kg) barrier. With its unique single pole design, it is easy to set up, and has a fast and light option that provides a poled tarp with zippered entry. The Hex provides a lot of floor space for its weight but the inward sloping walls reduce the usable space. To save weight, there are few extras; a vestibule and interior convenience pockets are missing from the design.

Specifications

  Year/Model

2004 MontBell Monoframe Shelter Hexagon

  Style

Double wall with floor

  Fabric Description

Tent body is 15d Ballistic Airlight ripstop nylon; floor is 40d high-density nylon taffeta with polyurethane coating waterproof to a 2000 mm hydrostatic head; rain fly is 30d polyester ripstop with 1500 mm waterproof polyurethane coating. Ballistic Airlight is created by a heating and stretching process that gives it one-and-a-half times more abrasion resistance and three times more tear strength than similar weight fabrics.

  Pole Material

DAC Featherlite 8.8 mm aluminum base alloy 7001

  Weight Full Package

Backpacking Light scaleManufacturer claim
3 lb 5.4 oz (1.51 kg)3 lb 5 oz (1.5 kg)

  Weight Minimum Package
Includes tent body and fly, minimum necessary stakes and guylines, no stuff sacks or extra hardware

Manufacturer supplied minimumBackpacking Light minimum
8 stakes, 8 ft (2.4 m) guylineSame as Manufacturer Minimum but with 0.25 oz (7 g) titanium stakes and 0.004 oz/ft (0.37 g/m) Aircore 1 Spectra guylines.
8 stakes, 8 ft (2.4 m) guyline
3 lb 1.7 oz (1.41 kg)3 lb 1.5 oz (1.40 kg)

  Weight, Light & Fast Option
Fly, pole, webbing strip, 10 stakes, 2 guy lines

1 lb 12.7 oz 28.7 oz (0.814 kg)

  Component Weights

Tent body 23.4 oz (663 g); fly 15.9 oz (451 g); pole 6.9 oz (196 g); stakes 3.9 oz (111 g); stuff sacks 1.5 oz (43 g); guylines and pole repair sleeve 1.4 oz (40 g)

  Floor/ Vestibule Area

Floor area Vestibule area
34.4 ft2 (3.2 m2)None

  Floor Area/Backpacking Light Minimum Weight Ratio

0.69 ft2/oz

  Dimensions

InchesCentimeters
Width59150
Length96244
Height46117

  MSRP

$250

Features

Ease of setup

Montbell Hexagon Tent Review - 2
The MontBell Hex's inner tent is made of Ballistic Airlight, a strong water repellent fabric. Note the bathtub floor and the vent opening in the tent that lines up with a vent in the fly.

The unique feature of the MontBell Hexagon is its "monoframe" - one 12 foot (3.7 m) pole that runs the length of the tent. Set up is easy and fast - simply slide the pole through a sleeve on the tent and slip each end into a grommet, then stake out the tent floor at the six corners of the hexagon. The fly attaches to the same stakes plus two more at the center of the sides.

Usable Features/Options

The Hexagon is simple and lightweight. It has no vestibule. Entry into the tent is through a zippered door in the fly and one or two zippered doors in the tent (one door is the Ballistic Airlight material and the other is bug netting); either one or both can be used. The tent has one prominent vent above the door, which vents the tent unimpeded, or through bug netting. The amount of venting is adjustable. There are no pockets on the inside of the tent to store small items, which we greatly missed. Inside the tent there are six loops for tying a cord for drying clothing or adding a mesh gear loft.

There are a total of ten 7-inch-long (18 cm) angled 7075 aluminum alloy stakes for securing the tent. They have a notch at the top to hold the tieout cords. They do not easily bend, but they usually require cleaning when they are pulled out. The tent's single pole is made of DAC Featherlite 8.8 millimeter aluminum base alloy 7001. There are two optional guylines that attach to a loop on the pole sleeve at each end for windy conditions. An aluminum pole repair sleeve is also included.

The tent packs into four stuff sacks: one for the pole, one for the stakes, one for the guylines and pole repair sleeve, and one for the entire tent.

Montbell Hexagon Tent Review - 3
The Hex has one entry with three zippered doors. Two doors are enough: one in the fly and a mesh door in the inner tent.

The Hexagon does not have any options available such as a footprint, mesh loft, or vestibule.

Weight/Sizing

At 53 ounces (1.5 kg), the Hexagon approaches the 3-pound barrier for a two-person double wall tent. Accomplishing that, while maintaining good durability and performance, required some ingenuity and discipline. Many of the extras are missing, like a vestibule and inside pockets. The monoframe (single pole) design and thinner fabrics save a lot of weight, yet allow for a roomy (34.4 ft2/3.2 m2 of floor space) two-person tent. This adds up to one of the best area/weight ratios (0.69 ft2/oz) of all the tents in our Gear Guide.

Flexibility of Pitching

Overall, the shelter has three pitching options: 1) the tent body only for fair weather camping with bug protection, 2) the tent plus fly for bug and storm protection, and 3) the fly only for lightweight storm protection where bugs are less of a problem.

Montbell Hexagon Tent Review - 4
Angled tent stakes weigh 0.38 ounces each and have a notch to hold guylines. They hold well, but are a bit difficult to pull out and that notch is sharp (note blood on stake).

A very nice feature of the Hexagon is its fast and light optional setup, which allows the tent fly to be used like a tarp. This setup consists of the tent fly, pole, webbing strap, stakes, and guylines (28.7 oz/814 g). This configuration is very fast and easy to set up and provides excellent shelter. There is no bug protection per se, but the fly can be staked close to the ground to exclude most flying insects. Entry is through the zippered door in the fly, and the excellent vent above the door is retained to provide ventilation (but without any bug netting).

Usable Space

Montbell Hexagon Tent Review - 5
One door provides entrance into this ultralight tent.

I have complimented the Hexagon for its excellent area to weight ratio. However, the downside of the monoframe design is the sloping tent walls that drape inward toward the center. This gives a claustrophobic, restricted feeling for two people, and reduces the usability of the floor space. The Hex has ample floor space for two people plus gear, but to effectively use the floor space it is necessary (in fair weather) to press against the tent sidewalls or pack gear against the interior sides of the tent to provide the desired headspace and elbowroom. The confined interior space (due to the inward sloping walls) is our biggest complaint about the Hex; we longed for some provision to pull the walls out so they were not "in our face" all the time.

With the tent's entry located to one side of the pole, one person sleeps with his/her head or foot in front of the entrance. Getting up in the middle of the night means disturbing the person blocking the entrance. The problem can be avoided if a shorter person uses that location.

The Hex is adequately long for a taller person, especially on the side not in front of the door. There is adequate headroom to sit up and change clothes, although you frequently hit the sidewalls with your arms while putting on a shirt.

Usable Vestibule/Porch

Montbell Hexagon Tent Review - 6
The Fast and Light option weighs less than 2 pounds, giving you a highly storm worthy rain shelter.

The MontBell Hexagon does not have a vestibule or auxiliary protected area. There is limited space on one side to place boots between the tent and the fly. Alternatively, boots can be placed in a plastic grocery bag and stored in the tent. There is no provision for cooking inside the tent during inclement weather, and it would be very dangerous to do so.

Performance

I used the Hex on seven backpacking trips in the Southern Colorado Rockies. It got quite a workout, being exposed to thunderstorms with rain, hail, or strong winds on every trip. On one trip, a pre-dawn thunderstorm at 12,000 feet (3658 m) hit the tent broadside with 30 mph (48 kph) gusts, heavy rain, and 2 inches (5 cm) of hail. The temperature dropped to 34 °F (1.1 °C). On the other trips, an afternoon or evening rain or snow shower created very wet/damp overnight conditions. Nighttime low temperatures were 28-45 °F (-2 to 7.2 °C) during our August testing period.

Stability

Obviously it is best to orient the tent so the back of the tent points in the direction storms will come from. That is easier said than done. The pre-dawn storm described above hit the tent broadside, and I had not used the Hex's additional guylines for wind (it was fair weather the evening before). While inside the tent, it held up to broadside winds fairly well, although strong gusts flattened the windward side and pushed the pole off to the leeward side. Since the fly uses the same stakes as the inner tent, it does not have a taut pitch, especially when wet/damp. This makes it more vulnerable to wind and causes more flapping. A tauter pitch (and more fly/tent ventilation space) could be obtained by securing the fly with separate stakes (which would require four additional stakes).

The Hexagon comes with two extra guylines for wind, which attach to a loop on the pole sleeve. These are inconvenient to use since they must be threaded through small hooded holes in the fly. Instead of this arrangement, we would recommend using two guylines at each end that are attached to the fly at the top of the tent at 45° angles. The user can leave these guylines attached to the fly, and use them whenever windy conditions are possible. This arrangement would require two additional stakes.

Overall, the Hex has good stability if an attempt is made to orient it in the direction of storms, extra stakes are used to tighten the fly, and extra guylines are provided at the ends of the tent.

Storm Protection

Montbell Hexagon Tent Review - 7
Because of the Hex's single longitudinal pole, the inner walls drape inward and reduce inside volume and usable floor space.

The Hexagon provided excellent storm protection. It has a waterproof bathtub floor that extends 6 inches (15 cm) up the sides, and the fly has plenty of overlap. All seams are taped on the fly and floor. I weathered a number of storms, mild to wild, with not a drop inside. The Ballistic Airlight fabric of the inner tent is water repellent up to a point. It frequently contacted moisture on the inside of the fly, but did not readily transfer it through. However, pressing against the tent and fly caused water to come through, which dampened our sleeping bags in areas of contact. I verified this with a simple test in which we laid the fly on our floor at home and poured some water on it, then laid the tent fabric on the wetted fly, with a cotton T-shirt on top of that, then a board and 20-pound (9.1 kg) weight. The water soaked through and dampened the T-shirt in 15 min, and most of the water passed through into the T-shirt after 30 minutes.

Used as a solo tent, the Hex is quite roomy while waiting out a storm, but it is snugger for two people. Weathering a storm in the Hex is a sitting up part of the time, lying down part of the time experience. There is adequate headroom to sit up, but the inward draping sidewalls get in your way. I would really like to see some sidewall tieouts, with a hook connector to the inner tent, to pull out the sides of the tent to provide more interior volume.

Also notable is that the Hex is quite warm inside. We took an inside/outside thermometer with us on two trips to measure the temperature difference. On the first trip we intentionally camped in a low alpine meadow. At 1:00 a.m. the outside temperature was 31°F (-0.6 °C) and the temperature inside the tent was 41 °F (5 C). By 6:00 a.m. the outside temperature was 28 °F (-2 °C) and inside temperature was 45 °F (5 °C), a 17 °F (9 °C) difference! On the second trip we again found that the Hex was 15-17 °F warmer inside. This is a plus in cooler weather, allowing one to get by with a lighter sleeping bag, but it is obviously a negative in hot weather.

Ventilation/Condensation Resistance

Since the Hex's rain fly envelopes the tent nearly to the ground, getting enough ventilation to exhaust excess heat and moisture is a challenge. The Ballistic Airlight fabric has a tight weave that does not transmit a lot of air when blowing through it, yet there appears to be enough ventilation through the tent to exhaust moisture under warmer/dryer conditions. The prominent vent near the top of the tent helped to provide adequate ventilation for most of the conditions we encountered. During numerous warm/damp nights following a light afternoon or evening shower, I did not experience any condensation in the Hex. There was plenty of condensation on the inside of the fly, but the interior of the tent stayed dry even with all three doors zipped. However, in prolonged rainy conditions (with the fly and mesh doors zipped) I had heavy condensation inside to the point that our sleeping bags were dampened. On several below freezing nights the upper tent walls were quite wet and the inside of the fly was covered with thick frost. Fortunately I found that the condensation could be reduced considerably by leaving the inner tent's doors open and zipping only the fly door.

The Ballistic Airlight fabric of the Hex's inner tent is water repellent and contributes to the interior dryness of the tent under normal conditions. The inner tent contacts the wet fly a lot, but water is not transmitted through - unless you are pressing against it with your sleeping bag, then you get a dampened bag.

Insect Protection

Montbell Hexagon Tent Review - 8
During windy conditions, two extra guylines are used. They attach to a pole sleeve and thread through small holes in the fly.

Because the Hexagon is sealed with a zippered entry, it provides complete insect protection, which is a big plus when bugs abound. With the fly zipped, the Hex has no view at all to the outside. With the fly door open and the bug-netting door zipped, there is some visibility to the outside in one direction. The lime green color of the tent makes it easy to find your tent in a crowd and transmits plenty of light to the interior. It also makes you crave key lime pie and a margarita when you get home!

Durability

I used the Hex without a footprint in our tests. In my opinion, the Hex is made of materials that are a good balance between lightweight and durability, and I expect it to hold up well long-term with reasonable care. The construction quality is excellent, with adequate reinforcement in all stress areas.

Value

The MontBell Hexagon is an excellent value for a near 3-pound (1.4 kg) two-person double wall tent with lots of floor space for its weight. It is fast and easy to pitch, and is sufficiently durable for long-term use. I like the fast and light option to use it as a poled tarp at only 1 pound 12.7 oz (814 g). The MontBell Hexagon is not as light as the Terra Nova Laser at 2.8 pound (1.27 kg), but the Hex's price tag of $250 is much more affordable than the Laser's $450 price tag. The MSR Zoid 2 costs $50 less, but it has less floor space and weighs 21 oz (595 g) more. Finally, the Big Agnes Seedhouse 2SL costs $50 more and weighs an extra 4 oz (113 g).

However, the Hex's confined interior volume because of the inward draping interior walls is a downside. If this tent had sidewall tieouts to increase interior volume, and the other improvements suggested below, it would certainly be a candidate for a perfect score.

Recommendations for Improvement

Montbell Hexagon Tent Review - 9
The wire-stiffened vent and matching mesh panel on the inner tent proved very effective at providing ventilation.

I compliment MontBell's innovations to provide gear that has a good balance between light weight, functionality, and durability. Some suggestions we can offer to make the Hexagon an ever better product are the following:

Add sidewall tieouts for the fly, with a hook connector between the fly and inner tent, to provide significantly greater interior volume.

Increase ventilation to minimize interior condensation.

Eliminate the zippered door made of Ballistic Airlight; a single door made of mesh will do and will further reduce weight and increase ventilation.

Provide four more stakes so the fly can be staked separately from the tent to get a tauter pitch and better ventilation. Also consider providing titanium stakes instead of the angled aluminum stakes; they weigh half as much and do not require cleaning of the "V" each time they are used.

Provide two wind guylines at each end of the tent that attach to the fly at 45-degree angles. In our opinion, this would be more convenient and effective than the current single guylines that must be threaded through a small hooded opening at each end each time they are used.

Eliminate the second drawcord on the tent storage stuff sack to save a few grams of weight.

Add two small mesh pockets for convenient storage of small items; the added weight is miniscule.


Citation

"MontBell Monoframe Shelter Hexagon Tent REVIEW," by Will Rietveld. BackpackingLight.com (ISSN 1537-0364).
http://backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/montbell_hexagon_tent_review.html, 2006-02-07 03:00:00-07.

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