Rating: 5 / 5
Seeing the stars at night is one of my favorite parts of backpacking so I wanted a two wall tent, bug net inner and rain fly outer.
My first solo UL tent attempt was a Eureka Solitaire – too hard to get in and out of and still too heavy. Then I learned about Henry Shires’ Tarptents – great tents, but you can’t see the stars at night. Then I got the Gatewood Cape and Serenity Net for solo hiking. In good weather I just used the Serenity Net and only set up the Cape if it looked like rain – a great setup. Then I realized that I always carried my Dry Ducks as my third layer (shirt, insulation, and shell) to wear around the camp at night, and they doubled as raingear and wind gear. So why did I need to carry around that 14 oz poncho tarp as well? I tried a bivy bag but found it was too claustrophobic, and I still needed a tarp for rain. I had been trying to find someone to make me a Cuben fiber variation on the Gatewood Cape when Joe Valesko came out with his new Hexamid and HexaNet. I figured the Cuben HexaNet weighed a bit less than the Serenity Net and just about the same as a bivy bag. The Cuben Hexamid with the beak weighs in at only about 4 oz – much less than the Gatewood Cape.
On arrival, both the Cuben Hexamid tarp and the Hexanet with the Lite floor weighed just under the specified weights on the ZPacks web site (4 oz and 6.6 oz respectively). With the Hexamid pole (1.5 oz) and nine 8” Ti stakes, the whole set up weighs just 15 oz on my scale. (My Gatewood Cape, pole, and stakes weigh about 24 oz.) The workmanship on the Hexamid and HexaNet is excellent; I couldn’t find a single flaw in any of the stitched seams. The Hexamid pole fits into a reinforced cup inside of the tarp. I put a piece of cork on the tip of the pole since it seemed a bit “pointy”, but this isn’t needed if you use a trekking pole. The HexaNet clips to the exterior tarp with five clips, one at each corner and one at the middle of the side away from the pole. The “bath tub” floor in the HexaNet is several inches deep depending on the pitch and provides adequate protection from rain splatter and windblown rain. The peak of the HexaNet is 45 inches high, and the base is 7’ 6’ long by 32“ wide (at the center). I’m 5’ 11” tall and find that I can comfortable sit up as well as stretch out to sleep. The front of the tarp is just about as low as I’d want it for comfortable entry and exit. The optional “beak” in front can be dropped down to give a small vestibule in front of the tent and a substantial improvement in coverage. . The tarp is minimalist. This is my first formal tarp and it seems like the outside is “right there”. That being said, on my one windy, rainy night to date, the rain dripping off the tent seemed really close, but I stayed nice and dry. You can set up the tarp first if it’s raining and then install the HexaNet from the inside, but unless it is really raining heavily, I’m not sure it’s worth the effort.
I think this is an excellent lightweight shelter for typical Sierra three season backpacking. You can sleep under just the bug netting and watch the stars, and if it does rain you have a 4 oz tarp that provides minimalist, but adequate protection.
Hexamid with HexaNet
Hexamid HexaNet clips
Hexamid pole cup
Hexamid with optional beak down
Photos courtesy of Tony Wong