One Tent to Rule Them All

The first item of gear we purchased this summer for the PCT was a tent.  On the AT we used a Zpacks Twin Hexamid.  This tent worked pretty well.  Yes we had some complaints, for example, I usually slept in the position furthest from the door and as a result I had very little head room… I couldn’t actually sit up.  Also we only had one door so if I wanted to get out in the middle of the night I had to straddle Kyle in a weird kind of crab walk way. Other issues, the detachable bathtub started to sag over time and sometimes, if it was raining particularly hard, water would splash back into the tent through the mesh.  Lastly, the footprint for the Hexamid is kind of huge and a couple of times it was difficult to set up and we wished for a free-standing tent.

Okay, so there were issues, but the weight savings that this tent allowed us was kind of unbeatable.  It is one of the lightest fully enclosed (with bug netting) tents on the market AND it is made out of cuben fiber.  All those haters of cuben fiber, who say the price tag isn’t worth it, must not have actually used cuben fiber because if they had they would know one very awesome and amazing thing about it.  No, not that it is super light or surprisingly strong.  It is completely waterproof.  I don’t mean it has a DWR coating or a laminate coating or any of that nonsense.  It is TOTALLY waterproof.  If the inside or outside of your tent gets wet you can quite literally just wipe it dry with a towel.  Like drying dishes after washing them.  And then it is completely dry.  On the AT we watched SO many people lug around sopping wet tents.  Their only option was to stop for hours every day to dry them out.  This was never a problem for us.  In the morning when we woke up we would just whip out our tiny towel and wipe down the inside.  Then we would roll it up, stuff it into the top of our pack and when we got to camp and set it up it would dry in a jiffy under a light breeze.  Still raining when we got to camp?  Not a problem, just hop inside, wipe it all down, and at least the inside was dry!  The condensation in it was really only bad when we camped on grass.  Otherwise the drafty design worked quite well to keep condensation down.

SO, while we were on the AT we dreamed of the changes we would make to our current tent and then, a year or so after we got of trail Zpacks came out with their new Duplex Tent, which weighs around 20oz, only an ounce more than the Hexamid.  It had everything we were looking for so we saved up and got it before our Wonderland Trip so we could test it out.

The Duplex poses some of the same challenges as the Hexamid, it has a giant footprint and can be a little tricky to set up.  No matter how many time we watch the how-tos we seem to have to readjust the stakes to get it taut.  Other than that it was great to have our own doors and awesome to have our own vestibules.  We experienced one night of crazy rain.  That was not a pleasant experience.  We had to have both vestibules closed fully because it was pouring so hard which meant there was very little ventilation inside the tent and the condensation was pretty bad.  Every time a giant raindrop hit the top of the tent condensation would splatter down on us from the inside, effectively making it rain on the inside of the tent.  This was fairly miserable, but of course, the boys who were using our Big Agnes Scout weren’t fairing much better.  I have experienced the same thing in our more traditional Hubba Hubba… as far as I can tell there is no way to combat this issue.

Besides that one night of rain the tent functioned fabulously.  We were able to wipe the condensation out in the morning and it dried very quickly once we got to camp that night and set it back up.  It is light and way more spacious.  I am looking forward to living in it for five months.

Do I feel completely bomb proof in it?  No.  There are very few tents I feel completely bomb proof in.  I would probably have to carry a Hilleberg four season tent up the trail to achieve that feeling of security.  A tarp-tent like the Duplex provides even less of that sense of security, due to its open walls.  But I know I will get used to it.  Before the AT Kyle and I had never used anything like the Hexamid.  Many people would have probably thought it crazy to switch to something less comfortable and spacious, just to save weight, but to me that is part of the growth one goes through as a backpacker.  You have to be willing to test your boundaries, find out how far you can push yourself, and often you will be surprised at what you can become accustomed too.  In this specific case I actually think we are taking a tiny step backwards, towards something a little more comfortable, but some of the features of the Duplex are worth the extra ounce.  That is the line we try to walk as ultralighters, the line between being comfortable in camp and being comfortable hiking all day with a pack on your back.


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As Edward Abbey said, "An indoor life is the next best thing to a premature burial."

11 thoughts on “One Tent to Rule Them All

  1. I like your comment that part of backpacking is treating boundaries and figuring out what we can become accustomed to. Definitely true in our experience but not many state it so clearly!

    1. cuben tarp? Instead of the tent or in addition to? We have thought of doing one in addition to the tent, to string up over one of the doors so we could still have the door open and allow for ventilation but keep the rain out. Neither of us wants to switch to a tarp instead of a tent, I like my bug protection and a liiiiittle bit of privacy.

      1. In lieu of a tent/tarptent. I switched to a 8×10 tarp and on a recent trip on the AT it really outperformed all the tents as far as weather protection (in what was driving rain and wind). Alas, it does not provide the privacy as you state…..

      2. Yeah or the bug protection. When we did the AT we would have been eaten alive without bug netting. But yeah, these tents are pretty similar to tarps, just adding in that bug netting and bathtub! But that’s the beautiful thing about backpacking, so many different things work for different people.

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