Gear Review: ZPacks Hexamid Twin (2014)

Hexamid Twin, Zpacks, Lost Coast

Quick and Dirty
Gear Type: Shelter/Tent
Material: .51 Cuben and Nano-noseum
Weight with Poles and Stuff Sacks: 13.5 oz
Trail weight: 13.5 oz with no floor, 18 oz with optional cuben floor
Price: $320 – $530
Link:  Hexamid Twin
Pros: Easy pitch, very lightweight, innovative design
Cons: Lacks headspace opposite of the door

The Zpacks Hexamid Twin (Hexamid) is a ultra-light sub 13 oz “fully enclosed” singled-wall tent or 18 oz with the cuben bath tub floor.  Zpacks uses .51 cuben fiber and a nano-noseum door and floor to ease construction.  The Hexamid is the only production tent on the US market that uses a noseum floor.  Zpacks claims that it is plenty durable for trail use.

Our Hexamid was purchased specifically to be used for solo and two person trips without the dog.  Our Hexamid is not the current storm doors model.  Instead, it is the 2013-2014, bonded model with the roll-down beak.  By far, this is one of the most beautiful tent designs on the market.

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Gear Review: GoLite Imogene UL3 / MyTrailco Tent UL3

Updated 2/8/2017

Quick and Dirty
Gear Type: Tent
Material: Rip Stop Nylon
Weight: 48 oz
Price: $300 (discontinued) / $249
Link:  GoLite Imogene UL3 (discontinued) / MyTrailCo Tent UL3
Pros: Light, free standing, pop-up vent hole, seam sealed.
Cons: Small vestibule, shorter than competition, pointed roof, very little pocket storage, feels smaller than competitor.

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Dog Sleep System

When we first started backpacking with Dakota, we had a lot of questions about gear. Does she need a pack?  How about boots?  Jackets?  Suffice to say, Dakota is probably has enough gear to rival her human counterparts.  The biggest question was about her sleep system.  While some dogs have thick coats and are suited for cold weather, Dakota’s short coat does not retain enough heat to keep her warm.

While on one of our trips, the weather turned from a 75 degree day, to dipping in the low 30s at night.  Dakota was freezing.  Her Rough Wear jacket (photo below) and bed were not keeping her warm enough, instead, she forced her way into our quilts and huddled close to our bodies.

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To decide on the best sleep system, we looked at several factors:

1. Weight – It needs to be light enough to keep her pack weight low, and keep her mobile

2. Size – A small form factor matters. Dogs need to be nimble enough to navigate through technical terrain.

3. Warmth – Why else would you buy a sleep system?

We found three options that worked best were, but not all satisfied the requirements.

A thick coat

We bought a cheap and thick dog coat at our local pet supply store for about $20.  The coat keeps Dakota warm at night and has holes for her legs to pop through.  The problem we found is that it is bulky, heavy, and not designed to be used for backcountry camping. Dakota could not carry the coat on her own, and it added a good pound and a half to our pack weight.

An old sleeping bag

IMG_20140426_141503We had an old Suisse Sport sleeping bag in our gear closet with a broken zipper. Originally, we were planning to cut the bag up and use it as a quilt system.  Instead, we used it as a full sleep system for Dakota.  Bottom folded up into a bed, and the top wrapped around her body, keeping her warm in cold weather.  At two pounds, it was relatively lightweight, Dakota could carry it with ease and this increases her cuteness factor by at least 10 fold.  However, it didn’t stay on her very well, and when she moved around at night, we would have to get up to fix the bag so she would stay warm.

A child size quilt

IMG_20141009_173243By far the best solution was a child size quilt with snaps on the back.  We purchased a used Enlightened Equipment  Protege quilt.  The Protege quilt was designed as a child’s size quilt, but is perfectly suited for a dog her size.  The snaps allow Dakota to walk around freely with the quilt on in the morning, move around the tent as she pleases, and stays securely strapped to her.

We’d love to hear what are some ways you keep your dogs warm during backpacking trips!

Gear Review: Winter Traction Devices

Quick and Dirty
Gear Type: Winter Traction Devices
Trail weight: 12 ozs
Price: $41.95 MSRP, we bought it for $7 on Sierra Trading Post during a clearance event
Link:  Kako Traction Device
Pros: Very affordable when on sale, grips well on snow pack and small icy patches
Cons: Fragile metal bands at the connection points

Earlier this year Louis found the Kako Traction Device on clearance at Sierra Trading Post for $7. Based on the positive reviews, he bought two pairs for us to hike in the winter time. Theses traction devices worked great the first time we wore them to hike down from the San Bernardino Peak last January. It provided great traction from the early morning freeze, while our friends slipped down the mountain, we didn’t fall once! Excited to use the traction devices again, we brought them with us to Utah this past week. To our disappointment, both pairs of the traction devices broke during the trip, mine on the first hike and Louis’s on the last day.

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Louis’s broken Kako ICEtrekkers traction device.

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Sam’s Kako ICEtrekkers traction devise broke at two places.

To our surprise it was the actual diamond grip that was severed instead of the rubber fitting on the exterior of the traction device.

I bought a pair of Yaktrax at Ruby’s Inn to replace my broken Kako ICEtrakkers. These were the only traction device available in Bryce and they are coils instead of the gear traction like the Kako ICEtrakkers. We tested my new Yaktrax out during a snowstorm while hiking the Peek-A-Boo trail at Bryce Canyon National Park during a snow storm. The trail condition had about 6-inches of fresh snow with small icy patches underneath. The Yaktrax worked very well, the coils gripped on the thin ice the same way Kako ICEtrakkers did. Compared to the Kako ICEtrakkers, the Yaktrax was much easier to put on my hiking boots (Salomon XA 3D Ultra 2) since the rubber fitting is more flexible. I will put up a separate review on the Yaktrax once I have put some more mileage on the traction device.

First Look: REI Flash Air Pillow

Quick and Dirty
Gear Type: Pillow
Trail weight: 1.25 oz
Price: $19 (on sale), $29 retail
Link:  REI Flash Air Pillow
Pros: Ultralight
Cons: Air moves around the baffles, small surface area.

REI Flash Air PillowAlright, I caved in.  After years of using a stuff sack and dirty clothing, I ran into a problem: I do not carry a lot of clothes on the trail.  That lead to my impulsive purchase of the REI Flash Air Pillow (Flash).  For $19, it was worth a shot.

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