My Gear

ZPacks Hexamid Solo Tent (2014)

Zpacks Hexamid Solo tent with extended beak rolled up

The ZPacks Hexamid is a cuben fiber tent/tarp which requires a single hiking pole and 8 stakes for setup.  Cuben fiber is lighter than silnylon and doesn’t stretch when wet like silnylon.  The tent option adds ultralight insect netting for the floor and a few inches up the wall for a full bug-free enclosure.  Also available is an extended beak which helps to block rain and wind.

My tent includes the screen, extended beak, and a cuben fiber groundsheet.  I also opted to change my cuben fiber from 0.51 oz/sqyd to the slightly thicker 0.74 oz/sqyd for added peace of mind and a small penalty of 1.5 oz total plus $15.  The advertised weight for all of the above is 15.9 oz.  My scale showed about an ounce more but this was probably due to including the entire roll of spectra guy line and the cardboard piece it was wound around.  Still, a fully enclosed tent at barely over a pound is a godsend on the trail, although it comes at a high cost.  Including the cuben fiber groundsheet, titanium stakes, and some cuben fiber repair tape, the total price was ~$475.

Tent setup is quick and easy but it takes some practice to understand how stake placement, pole angle, and pole length impacts ventilation, tent height, and tent tautness.  Since the cuben fiber does not extend all the way to the ground, there is ample ventilation to prevent condensation.  For me, the tradeoff was between pitching the tent low enough so that it was not too cold while preventing condensation.  Coming from a free-standing double-walled tent, I had to adjust to this new tent’s draftiness and inability to just pick up to change location or orientation.  There is ample room for a solo hiker and some gear, but a large backpack does block some of the cross-ventilation, whether desired or not.

The tent held up well to strong winds and rain.  On a recent trip in the Sierra with warm monsoonal rains and very little breeze, I experienced a fair amount of condensation.  But the advantage of the cuben fiber is that it doesn't absorb water like silnylon so it dries off faster after a storm.

Since the Hexamid is essentially a tarp with an insect netting option, it comes with the advantages and disadvantages of a tarp shelter.



Enlightened Equipment Enigma Quilt (2014)

Enlightened Equipment Enigma Quilt, bottomside up

The Enigma is a down quilt, essentially a specialized lightweight blanket.  The bottom footbox section, in which your feet go in, is similar to a sleeping bag but from the waist up, it is more like a blanket since it has no back nor zippers.  You sleep directly on top of your pad.  Two straps keep the quilt tucked in under you.

Enlightened Equipment provides many different customization choices of colors, fabrics, temperature ratings, lengths, and widths.  My specs were 750 duck down, 20C, regular width and regular length with Ultralight Phantom 10D nylon inside and out .  Total cost and weight was $235 and 20.25oz.  The Enigma quilts have since been updated and come with 800 fill-power down instead of 750 at a slightly higher cost.  Other options are also available.

It is difficult to compare the warmth of this bag to my previous TNF 20C Blue Kazoo since I had also switched to a draftier tent at the same time.  In retrospect, I should have ordered a quilt with a higher temperature rating to go with my drafty ZPacks Hexamid tent.  But paired with my Thermarest Prolite4 pad and wearing an extra layer on cooler nights, I have been comfortable in my quilt.  Since the quilt does not have a hood, I also sleep with a fleece balaclava on an Exped air pillow on cold nights.  Aside from the reduced weight, I also like being able to fold the top down on warm evenings.  This is always awkward with a sleeping bag that only unzips on one side.  I recently used this quilt with a NeoAir XTherm and have been quite warm.

[More to come]