Monday, 29 September 2014

Z Packs Hexamid Duplex


Side view showing the non-zip overlapping doors. A clever idea. Will they be flappy in wind? They appear to be pretty taught when fastened properly. Two vestibules and two entrances, which is a highly desirable design feature.

Yet again this is not a gear review. But yet again I have had a number of queries from people about my latest purchase with requests for photographs.  And for the third yet again I know I've gone mad buying lots of new gear.  But there you go, and I did sell a load of stuff including the Akto, a Rab down sleeping bag and two backpacks to help pay for this stuff. And I am hoping to get a longish foreign trip in next summer, so want to spread the cost of any new gear needed.  Actually, I seem to have bought everything all at once.

First thing to say is I don't usually do radical. I am pretty small 'c' conservative which is why I end up normally only buying gear that is well established and, preferably, that I have seen in use and have first hand recommendations.  However, I am fed up with carrying too heavy a pack - I am just getting to an age where it is unsustainable, as I recently explained .  Also, I am fed up with gear that is not quite right for me, especially backpacks which have too short a back, tents with insufficent length and headroom and so on, all of which make for a less comfortable trip.

Having sold the Akto I needed (well wanted) a replacement shelter as my stock was getting dangerously low ie down to two, a Trail Star and a Tarptent Scarp 1. I love the latter but it is about 1550gr and would be a real squeeze for me and the dog. I wanted 'roomy' to fit my overlong body and to give me the possibility of fitting hyperdog in with me.  And I wanted as light as possible which likely meant Cuben Fibre. Ideally it would also be bomb proof but that wasn't the prime consideration, given my other options still available if the weather was looking iffy before a trip.  I considered things like the Mountain Laurel Duomid and its nest, but the former was just too narrow, and it's an expensive combination. I considered the Six Moons Designs Haven Tarp plus nest but that is also a hefty price and the space in the nest is pretty restricted. So after much agonising, I settled on the Z Packs Hexamid Duplex . I went for this rather than the one person version for the reasons of space as mentioned earlier. So I could have gone lighter. This is not, incidentally, one of their tents with a mesh floor, a design which seems to raise strong feelings. To me it seemed a great combination of weight (the best weight of all actually, bar other tents from the same manufacturer), space and headroom.  It is also a fully enclosed tent, so although it is spendy there was no need to get a nest as well. To put price into perspective it is way cheaper than a new Akto (£490 now folks!), not that I wanted an Akto again,  and a fair bit cheaper than a Cuben Duomid and nest combo.

I had a few non-standard modifications which put the weight and price up marginally.  Firstly, I had the guylines fitted for me and linelocks added at the same time.  Joe charged a tiny amount for that service. Secondly, I had it made up in the heavier 0.74 oz cuben fibre. Joe Valesko believes this isn't necessary, but I suspect it is quite a popular option.  It was $15 and an extra 62 gr for this peace of mind (and a nicer colour!).  The weight now, with all the mods, is 685 gr.  I need to stress that no bug nest is needed and this is a shelter that is big enough for two, so it is pretty much one of the lightest tents out there for the spec.  On top of that it needs 8 pegs. I am using 6 Vargo titanium V pegs and 2 Clam Cleat Tornadoes. With a couple of those tiny orange ended titanium skewer thingies as spares the pegs weigh in at 130 gr. Oh, and it doesn't need seam sealing.  It is all taped or bonded or something technical.

Right that's almost your lot, in that I am not going to comment on the merits of something I haven't tested. I will, however, give some thoughts, or pose questions, about some of the features. There are various reviews out there if you want to look on the Internet. I hope to get mine on a hill very shortly.

So for the rest of the photographs. It is worth saying they were taken on the very first time I put it up. Having practiced a bit since I know I can get it looking better than shown in these.   There is a Youtube video on the Z Packs website where Joe demonstrates how it should really be put up.


The cunning but slightly fiddly door fastening arrangement. The gap between door and ground is higher than in other shelters I own. Good to minimise condensation; how will it be in wind?  @CleverHiker tells me it is good.



Side view, doors rolled and fastened open. Yes, the trekking pole is supposed to be at an angle and not vertical, although it is also a bit off centre here! Two vestibules, two doors, and the two trekking pole set up mean the good headroom is right across the width of the tent. The trekking pole is set to 48 inches (about 120cm).



Very deep cuben fibre bathtub floor and mesh inner doors. Full mesh doors mean draughtier - but less condensation.


More cunningness.  The mesh thingy at the end of the bathtub (1) Obviously there are mesh doors to keep the bugs out. In addition, there is a piece of bug netting attached to the full width of the bathtub and then to  the tent wall to mean that you are entirely enclosed by mesh so it should keep the midges and mozzies at bay.


Designer Joe Valesko is certainly more cunning than Blackadder.  Here is the bathtub 'holder upper', a piece of shock cord and a mitten hook. The gap between bathtub and wall is so that condensation on the walls would run out of the mesh rather than into the bathtub.

Hyperdog Moss cowers at the thought of having to spend a night in the tent with me, whilst at the same time trying to swallow a whole tennis ball. He insisted on me throwing this to play chase througout my attempts to put the tent up, hence some of the wonkiness.



View from inside, again showing the generous bathtub. Should help slightly with draughts?

You can have any combination of the four door sections closed or open depending on the weather

Hey Carl (@Locomountaineer) !  As will be clear from the text of the above I paid for this with my own hard earned pension and I have no relationship with Z Packs other than being a customer.

46 comments:

  1. Was it a large lottery win then?

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    1. As I said Alan, I sold loads of stuff to cover most of the costs. When I win the lottery I shall buy a Sherpa to carry my kit so I will not have to worry too much about weight.

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  2. Hi David, a couple of interesting posts on Zpacks. I glad some-one has taken the plunge and purchased some kit. I have been a bit reticent to buy this myself as I have not seen others in the UK using it ( well not that I am aware). I look forward to your comments on using it. The weights are really attractive and as another 50's something walker I can understand your need to get the weight down. Thanks for taking the plunge!

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    1. Hi Mark

      Glad there is some positive feedback on my choice!

      There appears to be some (jokey???) resistance to some of this stuff from some UK people. As I keep saying, backpacking in the USA can not be all in the Californian sun. There must be some wind and rain and this company gets a universal good press from American backpackers. And Keith Foskett, the UK long distance backpacker appears to be a Z Packs fan. I think it is the shelters that give most concern. We shall see. I have high hopes but I need a windy night to be really certain. Apart from Keith Foskett, the only UK review I've seen of one of their tents is at:

      http://www.andyhowell.info/trek-blog/2013/12/05/first-impressions-review-z-packs-hexamid

      But that is of a different tent to the one I've got and one that does look to me as if it is more susceptable (sp?) to the elements than the Duplex or Solplex. But what do I know? I have never claimed to be an expert in backpacking or gear. Time will tell. If the worst comes to the worst I will use it at times when the weather is more settled but I have no reason yet to think this will be necessary. And the weight to space ratio is undeniably fantastic.

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  4. Good stuff David, look forward to reading how you get on with all the new gear

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  5. Thanks Matt. And I'm looking forward to finding out how I get on with it!

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  6. My experience has always been that if you can secure a tent frame/structure so it's bomb rigid, then it should stand up to some pretty strong winds. I guess this is why some UK tents over the years employed A-frames, and multiple guying systems to hold poles absolutely steady. Once a pole moves in the wind it slackens off the fly and the whole lot starts to flap. The old Phoenix tents sometimes looked overkill with three point guying, but I've been holed up in Patagonia in some 60mph+ gales and by morning my Phoenix was the only tent left standing. TNF Tadpoles and Vaude Hogans left in tatters.

    If you can find a way to really secure those poles in all directions then I'm sure you can get a pretty sturdy pitch.

    Did you consider asking if Joe could add a popper half way down the doors where they overlap ?

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    1. Good points. I need to have a think about whether there is anyway to get any extra storm guys attached to the trekking poles given their positioning. I used to swear by the Vango Force 10 A frame set up for stability.

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  7. I've had a good look at all the videos and your pictures, Sir, and have come to the same conclusion that you must have come to when you bought this new palace.
    :-)
    It look pretty damn good!

    As John S says in his comment, I would look to double-guy the poles for stability. The tent can flap all it wants, but if the structure's secure, it's not going anywhere. I think the mesh arrangement is ingenious - as you say, no inner's required for midges. You will need to factor in a very lightweight bivi bag for your sleeping bag, as you *will* get condensation knock-down in heavy rain and wind that will otherwise soak your sleeping bag. But that's just a matter of 200g, so no big deal. It will also give you a bit more draught-proofing on cold windy nights.

    I'm wondering how the quite large gap between canopy and ground will cope with the wind. If there's a way of cinching that down lower to the ground it will make it more of a tent rather than a canopy. Canopies aren't great in the wind. But then, will this reduce the tray effect of the bath-tub ground sheet?

    A very sound idea, that, of the heavier cuben material - Mr Ibbotson would back that up, I'm sure.

    I like it, Sir! It's not one I would have ever have thought of - but now you've got the old grey matter thinking again. Take her out for a spin Sir. I'm looking forward to seeing how she does.

    What's her name, by the way? I feel we haven't been properly introduced!

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    1. Hi Alan

      As I said to John I will have to play around with her and see if she is able to take a little more tying down. I also agree with you about the use of some rubber to make her that much more pliable when it gets a bit rough.

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  8. A bit more that I forgot to say in my comment: I think it would be a good idea to incorporate a bit of bungee cord in the pull-out/lifter guys, as cuben isn't so great when pulled away from the surface, and this will add a little shock resistance from strong wind gusts - rather like MLD do with their rear tieout on the Solomid.

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  9. how ever you set it up David, you can't do any worse than this guy.
    http://youtu.be/SQG-uB5dYdA

    Laughed my socks off. It takes him half the video to try and get it back in the bag. If you're looking for a taught pitch, don't take instruction from this.

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    1. Hi John
      Yes this video is brilliant. Not the tightest of pitches! And as for the pegs he was using in that sandy ground...

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  10. That Guy is Francis Tapon . I dunno why he posted that vid, with the shelter so quickly thrown up. Excitement at receiving a new shelter I guess. He did warn it was a hasty look see though. From it you wouldn't be aware of his immense hiking achievements and years of nights under a tarp.

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    1. Well it certainly made me laugh!!! On another point connected to your comments on my next post you may want to look closely at the second photo down on this post and note that I do know how to put a V peg in! This was not one from Vargo but a Tornado from Clam Cleats.

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    2. :D I see it! I believe you! I was more responding to Alans description of how to place them and your replies. I never have that problem cos I don't use V stakes - Eastons an Ti Nails are the same whichever way they go in! I KIS cos I is S ;)

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    3. I might get a couple of Ti nails too.

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  11. Hi David. Some excellent information on the Duplex - thank you, and top marks for taking the plunge!

    If you have the time to comment after trying it, I'd be very interested to know:

    1. Is the Duplex as warm as your old Atko? I ask because, when using my Hexamid, I often find I have to take my thicker sleeping bag, which negates the weight saving. Sometimes I might as well stick with my old Laser Comp and my lighter sleeping bag!

    2. Do you get condensation drip from the inside? If so, is it enough to necessitate a sleeping bag cover? I'm reluctant to use one because, again, it makes up some of the weight saved by using a lighter shelter. If yes, maybe a quick wipe with a lightweight towel might suffice?

    I suspect you will be better protected from the elements than I am in my Hexamid, because the bathtub groundsheet on the Duplex comes up several inches higher than it does on the Hexamid. I reckon the airflow should pass over you (hopefully keeping the inner dry).

    Please do publish a follow up. I'm sure I won't be the only one waiting for more!

    John Davison

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    1. PS tell us more how you get on with the Hexamid!!!

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  12. Hi John

    Although it was only one night, my next post (Friends Old and New) of 4 October tells how I got on in my first trip with the Duplex.

    I think the deeper bathtub groundsheet and the doors rather than the beak may make a difference in warmth over the Hexamid Solo or Solo Plus - but the Duplex will inevitably be draughtier than my old Akto or the Scarp. The draughts. of course, will help with condensation. Until I have full confidence in the Duplex, especially its wind shedding ability, I will be cautious about my choice of shelter when I go out, as the Scarp is very good in wind. I don't know whether I will get out in it again before the spring - I am not an enthusiast of lying in a tent for 12 hours or more of darkness in the winter months. But I will feedback when I can. I hope that my experience will change the views of some of the doubters out there, of whom there seem to be many. A number of these have several shelters and choose according to the trip and likely weather - which is what I would do. So I am putting some of their views down to cuben fibre envy :-)

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  13. "Cuben envy": I like it!

    I can identify with "not an enthusiast of lying in a tent for 12 hours or more". Yesterday I got back from backpacking the South Downs Way. I got drenched to the skin once (right through the Goretex) and it sucks all the pleasure out of the walk. But the alternative isn't much fun either (16 hours in a one person tent on Chanctonbury Hill waiting for the storm to pass). I did consider taking the Hexamid but I'm glad I stuck witth the Laser Comp. I'm not sure I could keep me and my kit dry through a long storm in the Hexamid, and the wind whipping through it as well might not be good for morale!

    Kudos to Keith Foskett for doing the SDW in 3 days though.

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  14. Hi John

    I have never walked in the Downs, being based so much further north. Always looks lovely, though.

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  15. Hi
    Good to see someone else in the UK with a ZPACKS. I have the Solplex. Funny enough I have only used it in Sunny California so far (JMT in September). It is designed to be mainly used with the doors open even in slight rain. In a bad storm (there was a couple) if you do close the doors it does suffer from condensation. As for feeling cold I never did. On the last day at 11000 feet I got up to frost on the ground which surprised me. Someone said it had dipped to low 20s (F not C!). I was in a -7C bag and was toasty with both the doors open blissfully unaware of how cold it had got. There wasn't a wind though.
    Looking forward to using it over here. Will probably get some reactions using it in a public campsite. The cuben raises some eyebrows but seems ok. My initial pitch wasn't much better than Mr Tapon's to start but slowly getting the hang of it. Havent had any strong winds to test it in yet but camped in some awesome spots that required some creative work to pitch. Will try it on the Coast to Coast next year. Happy with it. It deals with rain very well. Trick is to leave the doors open as much as possible. Counter-intuitive to a degree but surprising how much you can get away with but deffo not 4 season! I expect it to be my 3 season tent for a fair few years. If you do have to batten down the hatches the condensation is manageable. I found the Nordisk Telemark Silnylon tent worse. I imagine the Duplex would be even better in that regard. You have a better chance of having at least one door that is out of the wind so more chance of leaving at least one open in driven rain.

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    1. Shaun,

      Nice to chat Zpacks with someone who actually has one! I'd welcome your thoughts (and David's) on this dilemma:

      I have a Hexamid and a Laser Comp, and two down sleeping bags (500g and 1000g). I should add that in the examples below I'm talking 3-season camping in a sensible location.

      On most occasions when I use the Hexamid, the air passing through it necessitates the heavier sleeping bag. So, Hexamid + 1000g sleeping bag = 1500g.

      Or I could use a different combination. My Laser Comp keeps the wind out so I can get away with the lighter sleeping bag. Laser Comp + 500g sleeping bag = 1500g.

      There's no weight saving! I often feel that I've invested a lot of money in a lightweight shelter but I haven't reduced the weight I have to carry.

      Thoughts?

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  16. Hi
    At the moment I only have 1 bag. It is rated to -6 and c1000g. I feel it is too much. I often use it as a quilt and only hunker down when necessary. I want to buy a c500g bag (PHD have a 0C one on sale atm) and try that as my 3 season bag.
    I think that will work well for me for the majority of my trips - April to October. Of course I haven't tried it yet so lets see.
    You mention wind. It sounds like you are camping higher and more exposed than I am.
    Can you experiment with the 500g bag? Block the wind with a waterproof,etc to see that is the problem. Are you generally cold all over or in a particular place? I used to suffer from cold feet but down booties take care of that. Does your bag have a zip? They can let in cold air if there isn't a good baffle.
    You could build a windblock out of Mountain House and the contents of your rucksack?
    I would have thought you should be good to 0c with the 500g bag. A bivvy cover might work to block wind but that's weight and cost again.
    Sounds like your pad is good as it works in the laser but I use a xtherm as the worst night I had was on a wooden tent platform. Just seemed to suck the heat down. Got the Xtherm after that trip and now don't worry about that.
    TBF you have pinpointed the problem as being the wind so I would focus on trying to minimise that (I camped on the JMT mostly below tree level and on days when that wasn't possible it was fairly calm but I pitched amongst big rocks,etc). The Solplex does have those doors as well.
    If the wind is in one direction you could pitch the back of the Hexamid into it but nature doesn't always play fair and tbf you are probably experienced enough to have thought of all this already.
    It maybe we use them differently. I bought the Solplex to do things like the JMT, Coast to Coast, Kingsluden and I am quite happy to camp down low, camp in a commercial campsite,
    retreat to a hut or B+B if it gets to bad.
    I can see your dilemma though. These things aren't cheap and if you don't actually save any real world weight that would be frustrating.
    I am forever tweaking and luckily my pack weight is still going down. If you don't hear from me again I will probably have frozen to death in a 500g bag but it will be a few months before I go out in that.
    Good Luck

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    1. Thanks Shaun, some useful stuff there. Maybe it is just a question of persevering and learning as I go.

      I have considered selling both tents and using the money to buy a Laser Photon. Used with the 500g bag, that would total 1250g. That said, I can't hep feeling that if other people can thrive with tiny pack weights then I should be able to do so too!

      FWIW, I backpacked the Coast to Coast last May and I was plenty warm enough in my 500g sleeping bag (it's a Cumulus Quantum 200). But I was inside my Laser Comp, not my Hexamid!

      I've published a guide aimed at CtoC backpackers:

      http://www.amazon.co.uk/English-Coast-Walk-What-really-ebook/dp/B00NMFWX8W/ref=sr_1_3?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1413471967&sr=1-3&keywords=the+english+coast+to+coast+walk

      It's only available on Kindle or e-reader at present, but I hope to have it out on paper in the next few weeks.

      John

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  17. No worries John.
    I don't think there is any such thing as the perfect shelter (or rucksack ...) but I find it fun trying them out. I think of my kit as a work in progress. And the strengths and weaknesses of them points you in the direction of the next one. I think I still have a lot of bonding to do with the Solplex.

    If you don't get on with the Hexamid you shouldn't have any trouble selling it but you may fall in love with it yet.

    Going to do the coast to coast in early September so hoping for good weather but once the times booked off work will go whatever. No bear canister this time and hopefully plenty of good pubs.

    A kindle was something I bought this year. Battery is apparently good for 20 or so days. Perfect for backpacking. Will have a look at your book.


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  18. A very concise initial look at a very interesting shelter, David. Thanks for sharing.
    Personally I admire you're embracing the unknown and it looks as though you've made a good choice. I see that Zpacks also do a 3 Person version and that will certainly go on my list of shelters to consider for family wild camping.
    Hope you're further adventures with Daphne are happy and exciting! I look forward to reading more about them.

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    1. Hi Elton

      Thanks. I don't normally embrace the unknown! And they do a one man version but I wanted something big enough for me and the dog.

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  19. Hi David,

    I was wondering if you experienced high winds with the duplex so far.

    I also live in the UK and was thinking about buying the duplex. In the end I bought the solplex cause it looked like it would perform better in the wind. The solplex had too less liveable space in bad weather for my taste (i am 6"1). I sold it and continued to use my trailstar. I love the trailstar for its space and reliable protection in serious wind and rain (which is very important) but I hate having to crawl in and out like a dog in muddy conditions wiping the condensation off the inside with my head. I prefer much more a tent in which I can "sit into" instead of "crawl into" at least in good weather - if you know what I mean. So the duplex looks good to me except that I am not sure about how well it can handle wind.

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  20. I agree entirely about the desirability of being able to get in and out of the shelter without crawling and to be able to sit up without getting covered in condensation. The Duplex is excellent in those respects. I sold my Trailstar because of those drawbacks and its lack of liveable space for taler people.

    Hi Dieter
    I have only had the Duplex out once when it has been very windy and it was pretty solid. However, I doubt that it is as good as the Trailstar or, say, an Akto, in very high winds. I only have the Duplex and a Scarp 1 and I would consider the weather forecast before deciding which to take on a trip - the Duplex for space and weight, the Scarp for greater warmth and wind shedding ablity.

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  22. Hello Fellbound/David, sorry tech issues before.

    I really appreciate the honesty of your blog and highly value your remarks.

    I am planning to trek the Pennine Way, around the end of August. First long one in a few years.

    Having done hours of mind numbing research, I have also decided to go for the Duplex or Triplex. I noted your observations, regarding high winds and driving rain, though hope I don't see it :)

    Would it not be possible, to shorten the poles, and lower the tent in these circumstances, to provide better cover. I appreciate that that bathtub will also be lowered but it should be no different to using the Trailstar tarp and a ground sheet. Though I suspect that it might be possible to raise the tub temporarily, in some way. I may also ask Joe to put 4 tabs on the bathtub in order to stake out the corners?

    Any thoughts you may have a re very welcome?

    Happy camping,

    Andrew.


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    1. Hi Andrew

      I think you could shorten the poles - I do vary the height occasionally but only by a few inches. As you say this would lower the bathtub but it is very deep. Having used the tent last week n pretty strong wind I have gained confidence in i -it held up fine. But use decent pegs. I use the gold Easton 9 inch stakes which I got with my Trailstar and they seem to hold it well. I'm not certain that tabs to stake out the bathtub are necessary or would help but definitely ask Joe to add linelocks for the guys. Much more flexible choice of pegging points then.

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  23. Hello Fellbound/David, sorry tech issues before.

    I really appreciate the honesty of your blog and highly value your remarks.

    I am planning to trek the Pennine Way, around the end of August. First long one in a few years.

    Having done hours of mind numbing research, I have also decided to go for the Duplex or Triplex. I noted your observations, regarding high winds and driving rain, though hope I don't see it :)

    Would it not be possible, to shorten the poles, and lower the tent in these circumstances, to provide better cover. I appreciate that that bathtub will also be lowered but it should be no different to using the Trailstar tarp and a ground sheet. Though I suspect that it might be possible to raise the tub temporarily, in some way. I may also ask Joe to put 4 tabs on the bathtub in order to stake out the corners?

    Any thoughts you may have a re very welcome?

    Happy camping,

    Andrew.


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  25. Oh, one more thing, I am having trouble finding an ultralight sleeping bag, with a rating of +10-15.

    Any ideas please?

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  26. Oh, one more thing, I am having trouble finding an ultralight sleeping bag, with a rating of +10-15.

    Any ideas please?

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    1. Hi again Andrew

      I am not really expert so can only comment on the sleeping bags I have used. I am so far very pleased with my Z Packs bag. Think they are the lightest around. I went for the extra long and wide and if I bought another I would get the 10 degree rather than the twenty degree as I am a very cold sleeper.

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  27. Hello to you too,

    I am generally a very warm sleeper but hearing some stories about the PW, now worried that I may not have calculated enough insulation. PHD have amazing bags and are a British company quite expensive, however being part of the big 3, I may relent and dig deeper in my pockets. Even at home in the winter, I open a window and turn the heating off and still get hot under a 4 tog summer duvet. http://www.phdesigns.co.uk/

    Because it's been so long, since I camped, difficult to make the call...maybe I'll layer up.... already have a silk liner and a Gortex Bivvy bag, maybe with a quilt of 10-15C bag it will be enough?

    How easy was it to pitch your Duplex?

    Thanks,

    Andrew.

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    1. The Duplex is easy to pitch, especially if you get linelocks fitted to give flexibility. There is a helpul / essential video on the Z Packs website about how to do it.

      PHD have a great reputation for sleeping bags. I would always go for the warmest bag I can carry comfortably. Being cold at night is awful. I have a good bag AND layer up.

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  28. Interesting comments! I bought a Hexamid Duplex and Zpacks sleeping bag last year, in a late night what-the-hell spending frenzy. The sleeping bag is brilliant - incredibly light and warm. I love it. I bought the Duplex because I needed a tent that was big enough for me and my large dog and it's great - my only reservations with it are that it is quite light in colour (a bit see-through) so not great when camping somewhere very public, and its quite shiny and bright, which isn't ideal if you're trying to camp discretely. I think the shine might wear off with time. I spent my first night in it half way up a hill in Snowdonia and we survived well though it was a bit noisy in the wind, and I was a bit cold as I was paranoid about condensation and had the flaps more open than necessary. I have gained a bit of confidence in pitching it since then though and I love the vast amount of space inside. I have also got a 2 person F10 Helium which is more discrete and warmer, but doesn't have the roominess or the super-light weight.

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    1. Hi Jac Mac

      I went for the heavier cuben fibre and haven't found it especially shiny or translucent. Good so far in wind. And yes, space is brilliant for one person. ☺

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  29. Still happy with the purchase? Any idea what it set you back in £ including customs and shipping?

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  30. Hi there,

    Mind sharing your current thoughts on this after a couple years?

    Thanks!

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