X-Mid Geometry Concept
Trekking pole shelters save weight by repurposing the trekking poles that you may be carrying anyways, but they often suffer from a long list of downsides such as a more complicated pitch, poles blocking the doorways, and a lack of living space. The goal with the X-Mid was to solve these problems en route to creating the optimal trekking pole supported shelter: one that offers maximal functionality, space, storm resistance, and simplicity at the lowest weight.
The most fundamental – and thus first – design question was: What shape should form the tent’s base? Most trekking pole tents are based around hexagons or even more complicated shapes, but as the number of sides increases, there is an increase in pitch complexity and weight. Typically pitching these complex tents require estimates of stake locations, angles, distances between stakes, measuring pole lengths, and estimating pole positions. Setting that up can be fun in the backyard but not fun in a rainstorm. The X-Mid eliminates most of this guesswork by opting for a rectangle base – by far the easiest shape to stake out.
The challenge with the rectangle – and reason why it hasn’t been used more historically – is that it’s hard to implement a good trekking pole structure. Most prior rectangle-based tents have been single-pole pyramids, which have a single pole near the center and are lauded for their simplicity but lack headroom, and the central pole typically interferes in the living space and doorway. Other rectangle based designs have placed two poles along the perimeter, such as the classic pup tent design. This appreciably increases living space but having the poles along the perimeter creates flat side walls which catch wind and complicate the pitch because they rely on guylines and more stakes. It’s also a more boxy and an inefficient use of fabric, and the poles still interfere in the doorways.
Reasoning from first principles, it was obvious that the ideal tent should use a simple rectangle base plus two poles to bolster living space (since hikers commonly have two poles on hand anyways). But how to achieve this while avoiding all the common problems was a challenge that resonated in my head throughout my 2014 PCT thru-hike. It resonated again during my 2017 Great Divide Trail thru-hike until I realized a solution to all of these long-standing issues with the patented X-Mid layout:
The X-Mid layout starts with the unique idea of placing the sleeping area on a diagonal inside of a rectangular fly. This creates vestibules on either side and importantly allows for two trekking poles to be positioned in from the perimeter so the shelter can pitch robustly without guylines (optional ones strengthen it further in storms). Positioned like this, the poles provide abundant living space while being out of the way of the doors and living space, and not complicating the pitch. It’s a spacious shelter that pitches easily with only 4 stakes.
The X-Mid geometry is also lightweight because it is the most volumetrically efficient shape for a trekking pole shelter. If you do the math, you’ll find any other comparably sized trekking pole shelter uses more fabric, stakes, or both, resulting in a heavier geometry. Any competing double-wall tent as light as the X-Mid is either much smaller, using more delicate fabrics, or quite a bit less featured.
The X-Mid also provides outstanding performance in stormy conditions. When it’s rainy, the X-Mid is as good as it gets due to the fly first pitch, generous living space, large vestibules with space for cooking and wet gear, no-sag fabric (polyester), fully taped seams, a double-wall design that protects from contact with condensation, protected entryways that can be left open in light rain, and large vents that open and close easily to reduce condensation. No other tent can claim that entire list (If you know otherwise, contact us and we’ll change this).
The X-Mid is also stable in the wind and snow due to the weather-resistant shape, durable materials, and additional guyout options. Unlike most tents, the X-Mid geometry provides wall slopes that are both consistent and moderate. Most tents have quite variable wall slopes, and there are often low angled roof panels that accumulate snow yet overly steep sides that catch the wind. The X-Mid is rare in having consistent panels, and importantly, they are all at a moderate slope, which balances performance in the wind and snow.
In addition to this high-performance shape, the tent also buttons down solidly in harsh weather with numerous optional stake out points around the base, vents that quickly shut to block wind and snow, and peak guylines that can be deployed to strengthen the shelter further.
The materials are also up to the task with tough #5 water-resistant zippers on the fly (many competing tents use weaker #3 zippers and cheaper non-waterproof zippers with flaps that don’t work as well and love to snag in the zipper). The X-Mid fabric is a durable 2500mm sil/PEU coated ripstop polyester (20 denier) that has been independently tested to verify that it is still highly waterproof after extensive wear. This polyester weight is the ideal material for a well-rounded lightweight tent because it is light, durable, and unlike nylon, it doesn’t sag, weaken in wet conditions, or degrade with UV exposure.
Overall the X-Mid layout is the ideal design for a trekking pole shelter because it is maximally simple, spacious, and lightweight while providing robust weather protection.