ZPacks Hexamid Solo Plus

Cuben Fiber Roundup - Part 2

This is the second part of our Cuben Fiber Roundup series. Today we’re taking a look at the Hexamid Solo Plus shelter by ZPacks.

Overview

The Hexamid Solo Plus is the big brother to the popular Hexamid Solo shelter. The ‘Plus’ version adds more living space without going to a full blown double sized tent. For those who need more room, or regularly sleep double there is also a Hexamid Twin. As you might have wondered, and possibly suspected, the ‘Hexamid’ name comes from the 6-sided shape. The illustration below should give you a pretty good idea of what the Hexamid Solo Plus footprint looks like (as measured by us, dimensions in inches). The dotted rectangle is the imaginary rectangular area inside the tent.

Unofficial Approximate Footprint Measurements

Unofficial Approximate Footprint Measurements

To pitch this shelter you’ll need one trekking pole around 130cm long (or optional tent pole from ZPacks), and 8-10 stakes (10 covers all the guy lines). One neat thing about the Hexamids (and ZPacks in general) is the ability to order the shelter as a tarp or a tent, the latter of which includes a fully enclosed bug net and floor also made of bug netting (more about the floor later). There is also a beak add-on available which provides greater protection from the elements. ZPacks standard material for these is .51 oz/sqyd Cuben Fiber. The weight of the tarp is 4.2 oz, the tent version comes in at 9.3 oz, and the beak adds 1.4 oz to either. The Hexamids come fully seam taped and bonded – no need for seam sealing!

First Impressions

Our model as tested was the tent version with beak, custom made using .74oz Cuben, so slightly heavier than above, but still a super light tent! Ours was made before the seams came bonded and sealed, so seam sealing needed to be added; no big deal but how lucky future owners will be to not have to seam seal theirs, sheesh.

The Hexamid Solo Plus

The Hexamid Solo Plus

The construction is top notch; Joe Valesko’s experience working with Cuben Fiber shows in the finished product. A stuff sack (also Cuben) is included along with a length of ZPacks ultralight guy line cord, and instructions detailing which lengths will need to be cut and how many of each. Cutting all of the guy lines and tying loops was a bit tedious, but that’s a sissy gripe. Moving on… with guy lines attached and instructions in hand it’s time to set ‘er up.

Side View (Beak Extended)

Side View (Beak Extended)

Side View

Side View (Beak Up)

Front View

Front View

Back View

Back View

Upon unfurling the tent it’s not immediately clear which end is which, but locating the ZPacks logo makes it easy to identify the front left corner of the shelter. Setup is really simple, and Joe does a great job demonstrating it in a video on his website; I will just paraphrase… stake front corners, insert pole, stake front center, rear center, back corners, optional tie outs, done. Although there are a total of 10 guy lines it pitches up very quickly.

Inside View of Top

Inside View of Top

Laying down, Reaching up

Laying down, Reaching up

Interior with pad and bag

Interior with pad and bag

Foot Clearance

Foot Clearance

The mesh floor is free floating, and when pitched correctly provides about 5-6 inches of ventilation all around the tent. The idea with the floor is that condensation will run down the sides of the tent and onto the mesh, then down to the ground. Obviously a ground sheet is good idea whether it’s a DIY Polycro or Tyvek jobby, or one of the sweet Cuben ones that ZPacks makes. The groundsheet goes on top of the mesh floor. This ensures that condensation runs under it and out, instead of leaving you in a puddle. Great idea… but how will it work?

In the Field

I’ve been out in the Hexamid Solo Plus a few times now. Most recently I decided to do a bit of a torture test to see how it would handle some really wet weather. I was out at Henry Coe State Park down at Soda Springs. This time of the year it’s a very lush, muddy, humid little valley complete with a small stream running through. I headed out while some heavy rainstorms were soaking the area. It’s a single occupancy spot, and site selection is important (as always) especially with a mesh floor. The primary spot is a flat carved out of the hillside which had a river running onto it during the rain, and looked to be collecting a small amount of standing water. Instead I opted to pitch under a large tree on a slight slope, on top of some forest duff.

Setup was straight forward as per usual, being on a bit of a slope my pitch wasn’t 100% perfect, but it was pouring rain and I was ready to get out of it. Got the tent up, and my Tyvek groundsheet spread out inside without as much as a drop of water on it… ok maybe just a drop or two. I rolled down the beak to cover my shoes and pack, and waited out the rain for a bit… but it hardly let up at all. When the rain lightened I set up my sleeping pad and bag. I use an insulated air pad, so I had to have the beak rolled up for a bit while I inflated it; during that process and getting my bag unpacked and laid out a little bit of water did splash onto the front of the groundsheet. For me this illustrates why the beak is an important feature.

The other reason why I, in particular, need the beak is because I need to sleep near the front of the tent. I’m 6 foot 3 and change and use a long (6′-6) sleeping bag. I’d say I’ve hit the height limitation when it comes to laying down and not touching at either end; it’s very close for me. Sleeping on 2.5 inches of air pad also makes the shelter feel a little shorter, anyone who sleeps on a thin foam pad will eek out a bit more room. Utilizing the optional side tie outs also creates more space by pulling the sides outward a tad, and thus recommended for setup. As a precaution I used my rain jacket to protect the foot end of my bag in the event that I moved a bit during the night (and I did). I was expecting heavy condensation due to the site and the weather, which is exactly what I got.

Heavy rain pretty much all night, and despite some wind, plenty of condensation going on. So… the the mesh floor… it worked as designed – in fact it worked great. I would not have wanted all of that condensation hanging around with me in there. The reality of single walled shelters, especially Cuben Fiber shelters, is some condensation inside the living quarters; this is a great way to deal with it. The photo below is an attempt to show the dry spot that was under the area I slept, the remainder of the area below my groundsheet was wet from condensation run off and rain water passing under.

The morning after, a dry patch about the size of my sleeping pad.

The morning after, a dry patch about the size of my sleeping pad.

To no fault of the Hexamid, I did experience some condensation spatter when hail (yep, got hailed on too, it was an exciting night!) or large drips/rain droplets would strike the tent hard and knock some condensation off. I woke about 3 times over the course of the night and wiped down the exterior of my bag with a bandanna that I had with me. All in all I stayed warm and dry, as did my gear which was mostly toward the back of the tent. Winds didn’t phase the tent much. It’s not as low profile as a traditional style tarp, but it held it’s own.

The Bottom Line

Going to Cuben Fiber is all about shaving weight, and the Hexamid Solo Plus is an excellent lightweight shelter. The balance of space and weight is very good, although I wish it was a just few inches longer. Anyone using a 6-foot or under sleeping bag/quilt will fit quite fine, longer people/bags will be maxing out the length when laying down. As far as sitting upright and moving around, there’s plenty of room even for a taller person such as myself. For use with two people, unless the second person is a child or small adult, I think it’s best as a roomy solo shelter. The mesh floor is a big plus in my book. Personally I found the original Hexamid Solo a little too small for my taste, this one suits me much better. For someone who likes the design of the Hexamid but wants a little more room… this should be an easy decision. Hike It. Like It.

The Hexamid Solo Plus

The Hexamid Solo Plus


12 comments to ZPacks Hexamid Solo Plus

  • At last – a backpacker who is the same height as me and so who struggles to find a shelter with sufficient length (and headroom?). I wish more reviewers were tall – manufacturers might then start to size up their gear!

    David (UK based)

  • […] plan that’s any longer than ZPacks’ other shelters – actually I measured the Hexamid Solo Plus to have a slightly longer floor at 92 inches overall. So what […]

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  • marko

    hi jacob
    great review thanks for sharing. Also Im considering ordering one of these. Im 6 foot tall and use a 6 ft sleeping bag and air matress-but Im trying to decide whether to get the hexmid solo or solo plus. Im concerned about length and my head and feet touching the ends. Do you recommend geting the solo plus? (Id rather get the regular hexmid due to less weight and price)

    I currently use a Six Moons lunar solo and usually dont experience problems of touching the ends, unless Im on really uneven terain with the tent. Plus I was thinking of asking for an extra guy line attachment at the head and feet area to pull the tent out more there, on the regular Hexmid.
    let me know what you think.
    thanks
    Marko

    • Jacob D

      Hi Marko. If I was in your position I would still choose the Solo Plus. The reason being, it will allow you to move your sleeping pad away from the front of the tent which will give you a little more entry space, but more importantly, it will keep your sleeping arrangement away from rain splatter and wind driven rain. I’d consider better rain protection a big trump card over a couple of ounces carried, this thing is already crazy light to begin with for what you’re getting. I would highly recommend the beak option for the same reasons. If you’re on the fence, drop Joe an email and ask him what he thinks. I’m sure he’ll give you an honest opinion.

      • marko

        thanks for the info. If I were looking at only the length issue (re:head and feet touching) with the regular hexamid, with additional guyout lines at the head and foot, do you think it would be ‘ok’ for a 6 footer?
        -I have talked to a Matt at zpacks. but wanted to check with a backpacker too.
        marko

        • Jacob D

          You may be ok going that route. It’s hard to answer directly because I don’t have any experience with the standard Hexamid, and I’m closer to 6′-4 :) Let me say this, maybe you’ll relate, maybe not… Sometimes I tend to take less shelter than I should and end up being more exposed than I’m comfortable with. If I feel like the situation is escalating in a bad way, I’ll pack up and retreat, or bail out in the middle of a storm… which sucks but sometimes that happens and it’s almost always when my gear was on the margin of being adequate.

          I don’t think it’s enough to just have ‘a’ shelter, but to have enough shelter when it counts. Lightweight gear can work just fine in nasty conditions, but it needs to be the right gear (coupled with good decision making). So whether or not ‘ok’ is really ok, it’s sort of a personal thing. With the Hexamid I feel that the ability to move back away from the front of the shelter is important because, at times, I’ve needed to. My height prevents me from being able to do that very well in Plus (the long was not available yet) so I wouldn’t want to steer you down a similar path.

          That aside, tinkering with more guylines, and more stakes doesn’t appeal to me either, so I would avoid that situation if I could. Let me know what you decide and how it works out!

  • Hello there! This blog post could not be written much better!
    Going through this article reminds me of my previous roommate!

    He constantly kept talking about this. I’ll send this article to him. Pretty sure he’s going to have a good read.
    Thanks for sharing!

  • Foster

    I’ve got one of these and thick it’s great; however, this summer I’m hiking in a area where the camping will be on sand. My question is have you used yours on sand with the mesh floor? If so how did you deal with the sand getting inside the tent?

    • Jacob D

      Foster, I’ve not taken my Hexamid out on the sand. I imagine this would be a weakness for the shelter. As with any floorless shelter windblown snow and sand are not easy (if not impossible) to keep out. I think you either have to suck it up and live with the sand, or switch to a tent with a (solid) floor; a 4-season tent without any mesh would be the best way to keep the sand out if it’s really going to be bothersome.

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