X-Mid 1P Tent
Awarded one of the tent 10 best 1P backpacking tents, the X-MidTM has been developed from the first principles of geometry to achieve the most weight efficient design for a trekking pole shelter (e.g. optimizing the volume:area ratio) and thus provides high performance at the lowest weight. Simple, spacious, stormworthy and well featured for only 29 oz (824g). Anything lighter is substantially smaller, lacking in features or using more delicate materials.
The X-Mid 1P is developed and sold via a partnership with Drop.com ($200). They are working hard to keep it in stock, but due to much higher than anticipated interest it is often sold out. Drop is expecting another batch around June/July 2020 which is currently on pre-sale over at Drop. This batch is relatively small so it is likely to sell out long before these tents are delivered. Drop has an estimated ship date of July 20 but that is likely cautious as the tents could be a month sooner.
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The goal with the X-Mid was to start with a clean sheet of paper and reason from there to create 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 tents base? Most trekking pole supported tents are based around hexagons or even more complicated shapes, but as the number of sides increase, so to does pitching complexity, number of seams, stakes and weight. Typically these complex tents require estimates of stake locations, angles, distances between stakes, pole lengths and pole positions. Setting that up can be fun in the backyard, but not fun in a rainstorm. The X-Mid is rooted in the philosophy that simpler is better, and thus 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 the 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 are lauded for their simplicity but lack headroom and the single pole in the center typically interferes in the living space or doorways. Other rectangle based designs have used two poles to increase living space, but these having typically been positioned near the perimeter (e.g. an A frame design) which creates overly steep wind-catching walls, adds mandatory guylines and stakes, results in an inefficient use of materials and these poles still typically interfere in the doorways or living area.
Reasoning from first principles, it was obvious that the ideal solo tent should use two poles to bolster living space since hikers commonly have two poles on hand anyways and it would be a shame not to utilize them, but how to achieve this while avoiding the common pit-falls was a design 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 patent-pending X-Mid layout:
The X-Mid layout starts with the unique idea of placing the sleeping area on a diagonal inside a rectangular fly. This creates vestibules on either side and uniquely allows for two trekking poles to be positioned inward from the edges so it 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 is quite a bit less fully featured.
The X-Mid also provides outstanding performance in tough conditions. When it’s rainy, the X-Mid is as good 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 condensation, entry ways 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 can prove otherwise, contact me).
The X-Mid is also solid in the wind and snow due to the weather resistant shape, durable materials and additional guyout options. Unlike most tents, the X-Mid geometry results in wall slopes that are both consistent and moderate. Most tents have quite variable wall slopes (e.g. low angle roof panels but steep sides) so there are often low angled roof panels that accumulate snow yet overly steep sides that catch 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 in stormy conditions to further strengthen the shelter.
The materials are also up to the task with tough #5 water resistant zippers on the fly (many competing tents use cheaper non-waterproof zippers with flaps that don’t work as well and snag in the zipper, or door clips that are a hassle to use). The X-Mid fabric is a durable 2500mm sil/PU coated ripstop polyester (20 denier) that has been independently tested to verify that it is still highly waterproof after extensive wear. This weight of polyester 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 optimal design for a trekking pole shelter because it is maximally simple, spacious and lightweight while providing robust weather protection.
Features & Specs
- Ultra simple pitch with just four stakes
- Tent pitches fly first so the inner tent stays dry during setup in the rain
- Twin pole structure provides generous headroom and living space
- Double wall design protects from condensation
- Dual doors and dual vestibules provide easy access and ample gear space
- Protected doorways can be left open in light rain
- Doorway is not blocked by the trekking poles like many designs
- Polyester fabric doesn’t sag in the rain
- Interior ridgeline pocket provides handy storage
- Large vents provide good ventilation and close easily during harsh conditions
- Excellent snow shedding via steep roof panels
- Full coverage fly extends to the ground to block drafts yet can be raised for more ventilation
- Packs short enough to store horizontally in a pack
- Fly and inner can pitch independently
- Fully seam taped
- Non-slippery floor
- Premium materials and hardware (e.g. YKK Uretek Zippers, ITW buckles)
- Optional peak guylines plus six additional stake points around the base for harsh conditions
- Fly: 19 oz / 540 g
- Inner: 10 oz / 284 g
- Stuff sack: 0.5 oz / 13 g
- Stake sack: 0.2 oz / 4 g
- Stakes: 0.3 oz/ 8 g each (8 included)
- Complete tent: 29 oz
- Typical setup: 31 oz (tent, stuff sacks, 5 stakes)
- 20 denier 420 thread-count 100-percent polyester in desert sage
- 2500mm sil/PU coating
- Peak reinforced with 210d black nylon
- ITW hardware
- Water resistant YKK uretek #5 zippers (fly)
- YKK #3 zippers (inner tent)
- Eight titanium shepards hook stakes
- Fly: 67 x 100 in / 170 x 254 cm
- Fly area: 46.5 sq ft / 4.3 sq m
- Fly peak height: 46 in / 117 cm
- Inner peak height: 43 in / 109 cm
- Floor width: 28 in / 71.1 cm
- Floor length: 87 in / 221 cm
- Floor area: 17 sq ft / 1.6 sq m
- Packed size: 12 x 5 in / 30.5 x 12.7 cm
Q) Can I pitch just the fly or inner?
A) Yes. The inner easily disconnects via buckles at the peaks and clips at the four corners. So you can easily remove the inner to pack it up separately or to pitch only the fly. If you want to pitch only the inner, you will need to remove the guylines off the fly peaks and tie them to the inner peaks.
Q) I don’t use trekking poles. What can I do?
A) If you use one or no trekking poles, you can use folding poles instead. We don’t currently offer them but many companies do. The X-Mid 1P pitches with the poles in the range of 46 – 47″, so if you buy a fixed length pole you should opt for 47″ and just use that slightly angled as needed. The best option is a custom, 4 piece, adjustable carbon fiber pole from Ruta Locura but there are also cheaper options, such as the $16 poles from TarpTent.
Q) Why polyester over nylon?
A) The main reason is that nylon absorbs water in wet conditions so it expands (or “sags”) about 4%. In the rain that results in a limp pitch which looks and performs poorly. 4% expansion is an additional 6″ over distance of the fly, which is very noticeable. This is a common problem in nearly all lightweight tents, but low weight polyester fabrics are finally available which solve this. Polyester still has stretch in the weave of the fabric (which spreads forces during harsh conditions), but virtually no sag, so it avoids wilting in the rain.
While nylon is a bit stronger, this difference in strength is commonly overstated because it is only 15-20% and nylon immediately loses about 10% of its strength when wet (unlike poly). Then nylon further degrades much faster during UV exposure, so a year down the road, polyester is likely the stronger material. That’s why it’s taking over, with numerous lightweight companies making the switch over the last year or two.
Q) Why aren’t you using DCF/cuben fiber?
A) The dyneema fibers in DCF are undoubtably super strong, but DCF as a material is not more durable than 20D polyester because it has no stretch to spread forces, the outer mylar layers handle abrasion poorly, and it can delaminate due to torsion or folding. So the claims about it being “bombproof” are misleading. The dyneema fibers are, but the composite material is not. It has a lifespan about half that of a nylon or polyester tent. Other disadvantages are that it is quite bulky (the packed size is about 50% greater) and it sheds snow poorly because it sticks.
The only notable advantage of DCF over polyester – and it is a big advantage – is that it is much lighter at typically 0.5oz/sq yd rather than 1.2oz/sq yd typically. This can make for a much lighter tent, but also expensive and less durable. So polyester is a better choice for a well rounded tent due to its higher durability, lower cost and smaller packed size.
Eventually we may offer a DCF version of the X-Mid that is fantastically light, but if that happens it will be much more of a specialized shelter. It will compromise in many ways to be as light as possible (smaller zippers, fewer vents, single wall etc). Thus the poly version will always be the well rounded version that is the best choice for most folks, while the DCF version will be a more specialized tent for folks that want the lightest gear and are willing to sacrifice some durability, features and expense to get that.
Q) How should I pitch it in stormy weather?
A) For the most weather resistant pitch, you should pitch it low to the ground (shorten the cord at the corners as much as possible), use the optional stake out points around the base to spread the load and deploy the peak guylines. Orient the guylines towards the long sides of the tent to support those larger walls. For extreme conditions, you can add a second peak guyline by tying cord inside the peaks and running it out the vents. This way you can guyout each peak from two directions, which makes it extremely strong.
Q) How does the X-Mid compare to [some competing tent]?
A) The X-Mid geometry is the most volumetrically efficient shape possible. Thus it is not possible to design a lighter tent unless you use lighter materials, less features or make it smaller. If you find a lighter tent, it likely is a single wall design that isn’t nearly as good in sloppy conditions or it uses DCF fabric and thus costs at least 2.5x as much.
Any tent that uses similar materials and is also a double wall is normally quite a bit heavier. Of the few tents that are not, these are always smaller, less featured or both. We could make the X-Mid smaller or less featured too, but its current design is carefully considered so that it is among the lightest tents in its class while still offering a comfortable amount of space and useful feature set. Basically the weight is similar to the lightest woven double wall tents out there, while offering more space and features. To save another two ounces would require large compromises in function or durability, such as hard to use door clips instead of zippers, smaller or omitted vents, and delicate hardware. Tents that make these compromises are much less well rounded.
Q) How can I repair my X-Mid?
A) The X-Mid uses polyester fabric for the fly and floor, with a silicone coating on the outside and a PEU coating on the inside. Thus, different products adhere differently to the inside and outside.
For small holes or cuts, you can seal the tent on the outside using clear silicone caulk, such as GE Silicone II. You can buy small tubes that don’t require a caulking gun.
For larger repairs, first close the wound by sewing it shut or using tenacious tape. Tenacious tape will stick well to the inside of the fabric and will last permanently if it’s applied to clean fabric (wipe with alcohol). The sage color matches the X-Mid remarkably well. With either sewing or tape, you may wish to also seal the outside with silicone to ensure it is waterproof and to add strength. If you sewed it shut, it is best to dilute the silicone cault 3:1 with mineral spirits to create a thinner slurry that will soak into the stitching.
It is also possible to create patches of the fly material by pirating some from the stake stuff sack and adhering it to the outside (with silicone) or to the inside (with SeamGrip) but there is little reason to do this since tenacious tape on the inside accomplishes something similar.
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