Solo SUL/XUL Fully Enclosed Shelter Comparisons

February 2015: I have put together a new version of this article and spreadsheet. You can view it here.


Hello Hikers,

For the better part of the 2010 and 2011 hiking seasons I invested a great deal of time and money buying and trying different shelters that are presently on the market that meet the sub-20 ounce mark.

To me a sub-20 ounce shelter setup is something that should be considered a SUL/XUL shelter so if it is over 20 ounces I have kept it out of this review. I fully realize there are a lot of hikers out there who feel that there are some truly amazing tents that are in the 20-25 ounce range – and I agree, there are. As a SUL/XUL hiker I have come to realize that ounces count – and grams compile really fast – and that in order to achieve and maintain a truly exceptional SUL/XUL base back weight I decided early on that the 20-ounce range was going to be the limit for this review. This really did narrow down the available options, and the list I came up with is by far not a complete list of sub 20 ounce shelters that are on the market or that can be concocted together, but if it is missing anything, you can always let me know.

Again I just really want to lay forth the fact that I fully understand that there are some exceptional shelters out there in the 20+ ounce range that in their own right deserve some huge praise, but the goal of this Shelter Comparison is to compare those shelters that are in the sub 20-ounce range.

It is also important to recognize that this list is specifically targeting the “enclosed shelter” setups and does not include tarp-only settings. This is key because as I have presented a 2 ounce tarp is really all a person needs if they just care about basic protection from the rain.

How I calculate Total Shelter Weight:

When I set out to start this comparison I wanted to take a very firm stance on the total weight of the shelter not being over 20 ounces (567 grams) for the entire tent setup. Yes, that includes the guy lines and the stakes and the stuff sack. Way to many companies out there try to claim they have the “lightest tent in the world” than totally and utterly fail to include what it actually takes to set up the shelter. I abhor this.

So in this comparison I just want to make it clear that my entire comparison will be based on shelters that are a “Total Shelter Weight” of less than 20 ounces (567 grams) – including the shelter modular, stuff sacks, guy lines and required stakes.

What is not included within the “Total Shelter Weight” is hiking poles or dedicated carbon fiber poles. The reason for this is simple: there are to many pole options on the market to get into that whole mess of an issue. Furthermore I would rather not take on the argument for “hiking pole” verses “dedicated shelter pole” within the confines of this article. I love my hiking poles but more and more almost never use them, so this leaves them as dead weight, and if that is all they are, dedicated carbon fiber hiking poles are lighter so why not go that route. That is just not a discussion I want to bring into the aspects of this SUL/XUL Enclosed Shelter Comparison. I am sure you can understand.

The simple fact of the matter is this: when all is said and done what I want is a shelter that on my gear list has a total weight of under 20 ounces for the entire setup.

How I Define An “Enclosed Shelter”:

A very important consideration here is that we remember that an enclosed shelter must provide a few very important duties:

  • The must keep you and your important gear dry
  • They must keep you away from flying creatures (mosquitoes, black flies, etc)
  • They must keep you away from crawling creatures (spiders, scorpions, snakes, etc)
  • They must be reliable for a long distance hike

As a long distance hiker, and as a UL/SUL/XUL hiker I fully realize that there are times for a fully enclosed shelter and times for a tarp only. The purpose of this Shelter Comparison is to compare enclosed shelters. In future articles I will compare some of the truly exceptional SUL/XUL tarps that are on the market. And I will probably never do a comparison on non-solo shelter or even the solo shelters that are 2+ pounds such as MSR and Big Agnes and such as none of them are SUL/XUL.

So the primary responsibilities here are simple: An enclosed shelter has to keep me dry and keep the bugs away from me and be able to handle a long distance hike. Easy enough, right.

If you are a hiker who is already in the SUL/XUL world than you also understand that from a water perspective there is gear that is very important and gear that is important but not very important. By that I mean that gear such as a down sleeping bag and a down jacket is very important. Gear such as your backpack is not as important from a water perspective, that is whether your backpack might get light rain spray on it is not as important. Hopefully if you are a SUL/XUL hiker you have learned by now that most sleeping bags have enough DWR on them to keep rain spray from effecting your sleeping bag so lets not even go down that road. So the key in this comparison is to understand that all of the shelters I have compared are specifically designed to provide not only creature protection but enough protection to keep the most important gear items from getting soaked – key word: soaked. A sleeping bag or a jacket that has rain spray is not the end of the world, a SUL/XUL sleeping bag that is sitting in a pool of rain water, well that is something that should just be avoided at all costs. As I have said many times in my videos, when you are out there with a XUL setup every single piece of gear you have is of the utmost importance. Please do not mistake my attempt to explain the importance of definition based on water and calling some gear less important than other gear. In the XUL world everything is of equal importance. So please, let us not split hairs here on a word analysis level – all I want to do is to compare enclosed shelters and try to explain from where I am coming from in.

Enclosed Shelter Options:

There are a number of ways that a hiker can achieve an ‘enclosed shelter’ that should be well known to any hiker that is in the SUL/XUL range, so I list these simply for those who are looking to move from the UL into the SUL world of hiking.

The first approach that many hikers take is to buy a tarp and a bivy. I have a lot of good things and a lot of bad things to say about this approach. My love for tarps is huge. My love for bivys is rather low. I bought and tried a number of the finest bivys in the world, along with a few bivys friends have made, and in the end all of the bivys ended up having the same problems. This article is not about the problem with bivys so I will keep that issue set aside for another day.

The next approach that many hikers take is to buy a cuben fiber tent. There is a very short list of cuben fiber tents on the market that weigh under 20 ounces for “total shelter weight”. They are expensive too, often two or three times more expensive than a shelter that hits the scale at another five or eight ounces.

The next approach that very few hikers take is to buy a tarp and a bug enclosure. I only know of two or three bug enclosures on the market at this time. The difference between a bug enclosure and a bivy is that a bug enclosure is typically made up of bug netting along the entire top and sides. They are not water proof or even water resistant. One of the bug enclosures I know (the Gossamer Gear Bug Canopy – 72 grams) of is not even a full length enclosure, so it is hard for me to even call it an ‘enclosed’ shelter. A few companies call their bug enclosures ‘bivys’  – proper terminology is bivouac sack – but I hold to the belief that a bivy sack is designed to give you protection from the elements (wind, rain, etc) and a bug enclosure really does not do any of those, so I fail to understand why they call there bug shelters a bivy. But I digress.

Finally I would like to point out that in this comparison I very much want fully enclosed setups only. There are some awesome options out there that keep the flying creatures away but do little to protect you against the ground based critters. Such shelters have solid or bug netting for the sides and than offer what is called ‘perimeter netting’ on the bottom but not all the way across the bottom. For the sake of this comparison I am excluding these shelters because I am after a shelter comparison that is fully enclosed.

The Comparison:

I tried a lot more different setups that what is listed in this spreadsheet and decided they just did not make the cut for my style of hiking. The comparison does include setups that use a bivy – even though I am not sure if I will ever go back to actually using a bivy – because I believe that bivys are of sufficient quality and excellence at meeting the needs and hiking style of other SUL/XUL hikers out there.

For all of the setups I use the same stakes and the same guy line and the same stake stuff sack, the only thing that changes is the amount of stakes required and the total footage of guy line required. Additionally some of the setups (ones that use a tarp) require a ground cloth while others obviously do not need one.

I have published the manufacturer listed weights and prices as of the time of writing this article. Also for the record none of the shelters I list will have seam sealed weights applied – all listed weights will not include seam sealing.

One of the interesting aspects of this comparison is the Cost Per Gram/Ounce figures. It really gives an insight into the costs of different type of materials and manufacturers and whether it is cheaper to buy a fully assembled tent or to piece together a system from different companies. One such comparison is when you compare the “ZPacks Hexamid Solo Tent Setup” with the “ZPacks Hexamid Tarp + MLD Superlight Bivy”. Given the fact that the “ZPacks Hexamid Solo Tent Setup” is quickly becoming one of the go-to setups, it really shows just how expensive this setup is on a cost-per-gram/ounce perspective, something I have been saying for well over a year but never had the numbers worked up to actually prove.

One of the things I should point out is that I do not always pick the lightest options that there are. For example I choose to use the ZPacks Hexamid Solo Tent and Tarp with the optional beak in order to have it provide full cover protection like what the other tent setups offer. It already beat them out in weight so it just seemed fair to make sure all of them had about the same amount of weather protection. As you can see in the spreadsheet without the optional beak the ZPacks Hexamid + ZPacks CF Groundcloth blows pretty much all of the other full tent style setups  out of the water.

Final Thoughts:

I think above all what I hope to accomplish in this Shelter Comparison is a visual presentation to other SUL/XUL hikers on some of the options that are out there for us. I know a lot of us spend a lot of time in front of spreadsheets and are constantly working on playing the number game – the gram game – and hopefully this can just help save some of you a few hours of your life. It is by no means a complete comparison and I fully understand I have not touched one bit on DIY/MOY gear which many hikers in the SUL/XUL world do these days. I wanted to come at this from a perspective of ‘purchasable gear’ and not get into the whole DIY/MOYG factors which really complicates these type of comparisons.

An interesting note that I just have to share, the almighty Terra Nova ‘Laser Ultra 1’ – which claims to be the “Guinness World Record for the lightest double-wall shelter in the world!” is not included in my spreadsheet! Why not? Well, because as I have been laughing about since they day they announced it, and as I have said above, its just another case of these tent manufacturers claiming one weight when the true weight is a whole other ball game. While it might be 495 grams they claim, the “Total Shelter Weight” (again, going back to that) is actually 581 grams (20.49 ounces) taking it outside of our 20 ounces (567 grams) allowances for this Enclosed Shelter Comparison. It proves that regardless of claimed weight by a manufacturer there are usually much lighter options out there, and such is the case herein. The Six Moon Design Skyscape X is both lighter (Total Shelter Weight) and cheaper!

I would love to see Gossamer Gear release a Cuben Fiber version of their ‘The One‘ tent – it would give the SMD Skyscape X a serious bit of competition and make a whole lot of thru-hikers very happy!

You might also notice that the growing-popular LightHeart Gear shelters are not listed. This is for one reason and one reason only: A total and utter failure on their part to properly list true weights of their gear. They indicate their shelters are (for example) “18-2o ounces” and then sadly fail to indicate what all that includes and what the weight of additional options are (such as the weight of different bathtub material). In the end I suspect the LightHeart Solo could make it into this list if you set up the right options but I have no idea as they do not provide such details. A shame. It is for this reason I have never bought one of their tents. I actually want to know the true weight of a SUL/XUL shelter, imagine that.

For the MLD SoloMid setup you could remove two ounces of weight by removing the linelocks and switching zipper pulls as indicated on their website. I also list both the 0.75 cuben fiber option and their 0.5 cuben fiber (which they charge more for as they purchase mostly 0.7 cuben fiber and get a better price on it) which saves a bit of weight. From a cost perspective, the 0.5 setup is the most expensive setup on the comparison chart, which is a bit disappointing considering it is a pretty rock solid shelter!

Well, I am also sure that there are setups out there that I have not touched on.  If you know of viable setups that are in the sub-20-ounce “Total Shelter Weight” range that are fully enclosed please take the time to share it as a comment to this post (or contact me directly) as I would love to know about it and will update my spreadsheet accordingly!

Spreadsheet Access:

I have compiled the list of my favorite setups into a spreadsheet that I have made available to the public via a google spreadsheet.

Thank you,
+John B. Abela


Post Publication Updates:

February 2015:

I have started to update the spreadsheet to reflect 2015 pricing and weight changes, as well as remove shelters no longer sold and add new shelters that are now on the market or that I failed to get added previously.

January 03, 2014:

I somehow lost all of my spreadsheets so I have had to rebuild them from older/saved versions and/or rebuild them from scratch. It may take me some time to get this new spreadsheet back up to where it was before I lost it.

November 13, 2013:

Today Six Moon Designs announced that their Skyscape X shelter now has a double-door entry. I have updated the spreadsheet to reflect the changes. The second door added 42 grams (1.48 oz) and $15. You can read my review of this shelter.

November 12, 2013:

The ZPacks Hexamid Solplex shelter has been added to the spreadsheet.

August 29, 2013:

Today Mountain Laurel Designs announced the LittleStar, which is the solo version of their crazy popular TrailStar. Going with the CF version and their Superlight Bivy allows you to have a sub 500 gram shelter system. I have updated the spreadsheet to reflect this new shelter. Please note that it does require ten guylines and at this time I do not have a confirmed weight of the guylines.

July 19, 2013:

I have added the ZPacks Hexamid Pocket Tarp and the Suluk46 Bug Proof Bivy to the list. This setup now holds the top place as the lightest manufactured enclosed shelter available – as far as I am aware. This duo will give the most experienced XUL hikers a 277 grams (9.77 ounces / 0.61 pounds) shelter system! I am not aware of any other TSW sub 10 ounce enclosed shelter that can be purchased. This is taking 0.34 cuben fiber to the max – only buy this if you have a fair amount of experience with 0.34 cuben fiber, it could be a very experience “opps” if do you not.

(ps: I have still not added any LightHeartGear shelters to the list… they still refuse to list accurate weights for their shelters – sigh)

June 13, 2013:

I have added the ZPacks Hexamid Pocket as a potentially viable option to the spreadsheet. It would depend, of course, on whether or not ZPacks would be willing to add a bug net to the Pocket, but if they were, it would make this the worlds lightest weight manufactured one-piece fully enclosed shelter – to the best of my knowledge. It would basically be taking their 8.4 ounces TSW tarp and adding the 142 gram (5.008 oz) bug net on their standard hexamid shelters – but whether or not ZPacks would be willing to do this is unknown, given that they are marketing this shelter as an “emergency shelter”.

I have also added the TarpTent Sublite because it deserved to be in the list. At just a fraction over our limit (it is 552 grams) and priced at $199 this should be a shelter that anybody in mild weather conditions give some serious consideration too. It offers the least expensive shelter at this point in time, and is a mere ounce or two heavier than shelters three times its price.

December 30 2011:

Hello All,

I received a message from Ron Bell, the owner of Mountain Laurel Designs, yesterday with a few notes for me to pass along to everybody.

First up he wanted me to let everybody know that their Bug Bivy has been lengthened since I bought mine and you can also special order an extra-long, there is also an option for a cuben floor for the bug bivy and that it does indeed use 0.7 nanoseeum netting. In fact MLD uses a flame retardant on their 0.7 nanoseeum, which makes it a bit stronger than standard 0.7 nanoseeum and yet lighter than 1.0 noseeum that a few other manufacturers out there use. He indicated to me that he is going to update his website to reflect that the extra length is available for order as well as a cuben fiber version. I have updated my spreadsheet to indicate there are two different options know that I know about it. Personally I am going to have to order me a longer version with the cuben fiber floor. This will give me a 331 gram (11.67 ounces) setup, how awesome is that!

He also wanted me to point out that he too agrees that the 4-foot wide tarp I used is designed for a very specific purpose and that the wiser tarp to buy would be their Grace Tarps Cuben Fiber. This setup would still be under the 567 gram mark and give you a significant amount of additional room over the UltraLight Solo. I fully agree with this. I like a slightly longer tarp for the PNW and constant rain I get here in the Redwoods of Northern California so I will be sticking with my 11 foot long tarp for now, but I very much agree that for any thru-hiker that MLD Grace CF tarp is a prime choice, especially when matched up with the MLD Bug Bivy!

Ron also recommends that you consider going with the regular solo Innernet instead of the cuben floor one as the weight only increases ~2oz (keeping it under 567 grams) but the price comes down quite a bit.

Lastly Ron shared the following (and I will exact quote him here) but of information which based on my experience with the MLD DuoMid sounds right on. I have never actually used the MLD SoloMid though I have really wanted too. Ron had this to say, “the one giant thing that make the 0.75 {cuben fiber} or silnylon SoloMid different from all the the others, including the tarps, is that when the wind get BAD- it’s far tougher“. Having spent a few nights in the MLD DuoMid I quickly came to realize just how much abuse these pyramid shaped tarps can take. Considering the lower profile of the SoloMid and duel pole use, it truly does have to be a rock solid shelter!

Thank you to Ron for taking the time to read this article and contact me with your insight and allow me to share it with my readers!

December 30 2011, 3:30pm

I received a message from Ron “Fallingwater” Moakl, the owner of Six Moon Designs, that I should give some consideration to adding the SMD Gatewood Cape and  SMD Serenity NetTent to the caparison chart – he is right I should have!! I knew of it and have even been inside of one and its an excellent SUL/XUL Enclosed Shelter!! It ends up being a mere 4 grams over the 567 grams mark, with the required 6 stakes it is 571 grams (20.14 ounces), which includes two different stuff sacks. I would be willing to bet if we were to switch out the original stuff sacks with cuben fiber ones we could save over 4 grams. So I have gone ahead and added this setup to the spreadsheet. There is no argument from me, nor a whole lot of other long distance thru hikers that the SMD Gatewood Cape is one of the finest trail shelters that exists. One PCT hiker that I am aware of (with over 10,000 miles under his feet) carries nothing but the SMD Gatewood Cape. That is testament alone in my book of the worth of this setup. It is also worth taking a really hard look at the “weight per gram/ounce” for the SMD Gatewood Cape + Serenity NetTent option… it blew me away and I triple checked that I did the math right!

December 30 2011, 4:30pm – I added the Gossamer Gear ‘The One‘ to the spreadsheet. I originally had it in there and than must have deleted it at some point because I just realized it was not in there anymore. It deserves serious attention due to its cost per gram/ounce. While around 50 grams heavier than a competing cuben fiber shelter setup, it is 40-80 cents cheaper per gram which makes it an ideal SUL/XUL enclosed shelter for those looking to do so on a budget!

29 thoughts on “Solo SUL/XUL Fully Enclosed Shelter Comparisons

  1. I will admit, before I ordered my Hexamid I really toyed with the going with the Wild Oasis for quite a while. I am not a fan of Ponchos, so I didn’t really consider the Gatewood Cape, even though it is 2 oz lighter. But I also like that the WO has the bug netting around the outside perimeter, and after using regular tarps, I believe that the 18″ of bug netting would have been sufficient, especially considering it would be feasible to think that the ground sheet could overlap the netting and pretty much create a closed environment.

    Now, if Ron would just make the Wild Oasis with cuben fiber…that would be sweet!

  2. Why not consider the MLD solomid in silnylon? base price of $170 makes this setup instantly the best cost per gram. you could also use perimeter netting (+$40) and a poly groundsheet instead of the innernet, bringing price and weight down more (I’m not sure how much weight the perimeter netting adds). with those changes, and maybe the -2oz by removing the linelocks, you ought to get under the 20oz threshold, while saving you about $400.
    IMHO (influenced by a lighter wallet), if you’re looking at a $400 price difference, I might take an extra couple ounces, especially considering the strength of the structure.

    1. Hey Phil,

      At some point I had to stop and realize that enough different possible setups was enough, before the spreadsheet just got totally out of control and turns into a mess. I could easily have added 30+ more different setups – I ended up removing about 12 of them just to make it less chaotic.

      Thanks for taking the time to look over the list and to share this possible configuration. MLD is a great company and has a lot of gear that with some tweaking here and there can become an exceptional SUL solo shelter system!

      I think the average hiker does have to take into serious consideration the costs. It is something I try to take into consideration in most of my articles. However this specific article is all about trying to find and document some of the lightest of the lightest solo enclosed shelter systems that a hiker can buy, regardless of the damage it does to your bank account.

      John B. Abela

  3. Consider adding the LightHeart Gear Solo tent to you list. This past year I spent quite a lot of nights in one with a cuben upper and silnylon floor. I own a Gatewood cape and a Contrail, but this Lightheart Solo is definitely now my go-to shelter. I weigh mine at 19.7 oz seam sealed, but without stakes (or any sort of ground cloth). This is a fully enclosed, essentially double-walled tent.

    1. Hello Brian,

      I addressed the issue of the LightHeart Gear shelters in my article above. I really have no further input on the matter until they resolve the issue on their end. This article and associated spreadsheet deals in accurate and hard numbers, not a guessing game on my part as that would not be fair to my readers.

      Thanks for taking the time to post and share your thoughts on it. The LHG is starting to get some recognition but I will not play the guessing game because they are unwilling to provide accurate data.

      John B. Abela

  4. Hi John,

    Thanks for a great analysis. I feel many people forget that the Zpacks Hexamid is available without the net floor and can be fitted with a net inner instead with no weight penalty. The netting adds about 160-180g depending on the model while a net inner is around 200g. This leaves 20-40 grams for a groundsheet that is needed with the net model but not with the separate net inner.

    For me this provides more flexibility as I can leave the net inner at home and just take a polycro groundsheet when conditions suit for an all up weight of approx 200g (Solo Plus with beak, polycro + pegs).

    I have been using a Gatewood Cape recently and it needs to be remembered that it provides a saving of around 200g as there is no need to carry a separate rain jacket so the system can be considered sub 400g.

    1. Hello,

      Yes so very true. I used a ZPacks Hexamid w/o netting for an entire hiking seasons and loved the versatility of it. I used it with both the ZPacks HexaNet and with the MLD SuperLight Bivy and just a piece of GG Polyco with my bag on top of it. It provides an amazing about of “move around room” when you are under it.

      Totally agree on the SMD Gatewood Cape. For me the unfortunate part is that is it not long enough with the bug net attached. I was able to squeeze into one two hiking seasons ago and ‘squeeze’ is about the best word I can use to describe it. It was a really tight fit for me (6’1 and 200 pounds). The Cape itself is very awesome and I have almost bought one more times than I care to remember.

      Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts and experiences!

  5. Hi John,
    great effort, but your cost per gram value seems meaningless to me, as a heavy expensive shelter would get the same value as a light cheap one. Wouldn’t it be better to compare the price per gram saved in comparison to a reference, say 20 pounds or the heaviest shelter in the test ? Then a light and cheap shelter would get a good value, as expected.

    1. Hey Jed, thanks for stopping by and taking the time to post a comment!!

      Looking at it from that perspective you are right, it would be of huge benefit to do so. Could be one of those things a person could figure out rather easily with the data that I have already compiled.

      I wanted to come at it from a pure point of view of just how much each of those grams was going to cost you. A lot of people out there are critical about the costs of cuben fiber shelters and the goal was to show that a few of the cuben fiber shelters, on a cost per gram level, are actually financially reasonable.

      In all truth I was amazed to see that some of the ones I was expecting to be rather expensive on a per gram level turn out to be some of the least expensive options out there.

  6. John,

    As someone who has made the switch to the Hexamid Solo Tarp, I am going through the decisions of what to put under it (poly, ty, bivy, bug inner…and so on). You mentioned that the MLD bivy was your goto bivy until you moved away from using bivys. Why did you move away from bivys? In other news, great analysis and I am sure you just saved a bunch a people millions ;-)

    1. Hello Chase,

      Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to post a comment!

      The issue of a bivy is a hot-topic these days. I used one for the vast majority of the 2011 hiking season and loved a couple of things about them and grew to really hate a lot of things about them.

      Over the last four or five months that I have answered the “why” to this matter, I really do think I said it best a few days ago within this post over at

      That Hexamid Solo Tarp is awesome!! I bought one a couple years ago and loved it. Even compared to a rectangle tarp it is crazy light weight. I still have not figured out exactly how it can provide so much coverage (way more than a rectangle tarp) and weigh in at pretty much the same weight as a rectangle tarp. I mean, I understand how, it just seems crazy that it does. It is also a sweet option for those that do not use two hiking poles!

  7. Re: SMD Gatewood Cape

    It is possible to reduce this system by a full ounce in a single step – replace the revised 8 oz Serentity Net Tent with the original 7 oz SNT. You should be able to buy one on one of the many used gear forums. Ron sold them new for $90 when he discounted the remaining inventory to make room for the revised version.

    That would bring the total weight down from 20.14 to 19.14 ounce.

    1. Thanks Bob,

      The SMD Gatewood Cape is already in the list as you know, so I have appended a note about the previous version of the insert being one ounce lighter.

      What accounted for the additional one ounce – was it a higher bathtub walls?

      1. Chase:

        According to Ron Moak at SMD:

        “The biggest change you’ll note with the new Serenity is that we’ve raised the side walls by six inches. This has the same effect of lengthening the floor of the tent by over a foot without actually changing its length. The corner guy-outs have been redesigned to lift and pull the canopy away from your face. This significantly increases the internal volume of the Serenity. A fifth guy-out has been added to the rear to add some additional tension.

        New glove hooks have been added to the guy-outs. This makes it incredibly easy to connect the Serenity to the Gatewood Cape.”

        My wife added extra guyouts to the original net tent and to the cape itself so the only thing the new model gets me is the sidewalls. The original did not have them.

        Wandering Bob

        1. Thanks Bob, sure that info will help out others who happen to visit this article!

          I think the SMD GC is one of the finest pieces of gear that is out there – and its the only thing many old’time PCT hikers carry. If I was a few inches shorter it could very likely be what I would carry. But once the netting goes inside it just becomes to tight for me. Go to try one two seasons ago on the Lost Coast Trail and I almost could not get inside of it :(

  8. I’m eyeballing the SMD GC + serenity. With the elevated walls, do you think you would fit now?

    1. Hey Dennis,

      The Gatewood Cape by Six Moon Designs is a pretty sweet option! Billy Goat (a PCT legend) has used nothing but that shelter for a very very long time, probably well over 30,000 miles worth of trail hiking as I understand it.

      The usable space inside is around 31 or 32 inches wide. That is an inch or two more width that the zpacks hexamid solo and about 17 inches less width than the SMD Skyscape X.

      The widest part of the Mountail Laurel Designs Serenity Shelter is 32 inches… so, I suspect it might be a bit tight getting that into the Gatewood Cape. I just do not know. Maybe it will fit, but I do not have any first hand experience/knowledge of that setup.

      1. Sorry, I was referring to the SMD Serenity net tent, not MLD. Does that change you answer? Also with your experience, would you go for a Cape or Cricket?

        1. Hello, the SMD Serenity is only 26 inches wide. That is 6 inches narrower than the MLD one. So for me, I would not go that route. But, if you are a smaller person and a back sleeper and do not need a lot of room inside, it could be a very good route to go. In looking at the photographs by PCT hikers this year, the thing that stands out a lot to me is just how little room some of the camp sites have to setup a wide/deep tent.

          As for “cape or cricket”. I would not pick either of them. I think two part shelters are a cause and effect shelter. People tried pushing the extremes and than realized they had screwed up and than had to find a way to solve the problem. I think the average weekend hiker should just go with a fully enclosed one-piece shelter or just go with a tarp. But, this is just me.

          I very much believe that the average weekend hiker should have as little fussing around as possible when they do get the chance to go out hiking, so why complicate the hell out of it with two piece shelters for the sake of a few grams. Just seems like the few nights spent in a shelter throughout the year should be done so with a bit of luxury.

          This article was specifically designed to give those who are SUL and XUL hikers a spreadsheet to be able to quickly realize that numbers speak and not a bunch of hype they might be reading on different blogs and forums and magazines and websites and such (plus I was trying to find the lightest of the lightest of the lightest for myself).

          I think if you are a SUL hiker than the SMD Cape setup (573g / 20.21oz / 1.263p) is a really good option for its price point.

          I think if you are a SUL/XUL hiker than the MLD Cricket setup (452g / 15.94 oz /0.996 lb) is a really good option for its weight, but at 0.67 cents per gram more expensive than the SMD Cape, well, that is not so much of a good point – unless you are really after that sub-one-pound shelter setup.

          Because I am looking to push my own personal boundaries even further this year I have put together a totally crazy setup, but it hits the scales at a Total Shelter Weight of 433 grams (15.27 ounces, 0.954 pounds):

          Simblissity Inner Peace – 122 grams
          ZPacks 0.34 CF 6×9 Catenary Tarp – 88 grams
          GossamerGear Thinlight Insulation Pad 1/8″ Pad – 64 grams
          ZPacks Carbon Fiber Poles – 62 grams
          Gossamer Gear Polycryo Ground Cloth – 46 grams
          Vargo Outdoors 6 inch Shepherd Hook Titanium Tent Stakes – 45 grams
          ZPacks Small Cuben Fiber Stuff Sack – 5 grams
          ZPacks Cuben Fiber Stake Sack – 1 grams

          The Simblissity netting also serves as a full body bug covering while hiking – and I do not even take it when the bugs are not out making the TSH a sweet 311 grams (10.97 oz / 0.685 pounds).

          And if I were to use hiking poles (I do not anymore) I could cut out the 2.1 ounces for the poles. So, I suppose I could get my setup down to 249 grams, 8.783 ounces, 0.548 pounds if I really wanted too. While not the lightest setup out there it will hopefully work out for me this year. I did buy the GossamerGear Bug Canopy but it was just not big enough for my needs.

          So anyway Dennis, I have no idea if you are a weekend hiker or a thru-hiker or a UL or SUL or XUL hiker. If you are just looking to invest money into a single shelter, it becomes a really had choice. If I were to only have a single shelter for all three seasons, I would probably not choose any of these, and instead try to find (or wait until it is available) the Six Moon Designs Skyscape X shelter. It provides a much easier setup, better protection, and more usable room than either of the ones you listed.

  9. John, absolutely awesome. I have read this shelter comparison before and was glad I read it again, always learn something new. Thanks for all your time and efforts.

  10. Refreshing. Fabulous insightful article that has embedded within so much more than Solo SUL/XUL Fully Enclosed Shelter Comparisons! So very many well thought out sober pts of view/comments that include factors very often neglected when embarking on the wt saving journey. You understand that gear and gear wt do not exist within a bubble in and of themselves. BRAVO! So many on this road narrowly focus in on gear wt specs and the lightest wt gear without considering these other factors. I so very much appreciate, particularly as you have adopted a SUL/XUL hiking style, you are able to fairly make comparisons, balance out and include these other factors in wt saving decisions, and yet are able to do so without it becoming mind numbing super complex. Additionally, you’re sincerity, honesty, and non bullish yet knowledgable writing/reviews enable one to stay on target, at the same time, which makes you and this article a must read for everyone interested in saving wt, whether highly evolved/experienced or a neophyte. What you do is make it easier to soberly clearly see the bigger wt saving picture without narrowly ignorantly focusing on gear wt which is somewhat becoming a rarity in wt saving comparisons/reviews.

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