Cuben Fiber Tents

Why Cuben Fiber

There are four things that lightweight backpacking tents are made of:

  • Treated Nylon
  • Treated Polyester
  • Dyneema
  • Polycyro (window film).

Nylon is the most common. If you look at a mainline tent, such as one by REI, Big Agnes or MSR (Mountain Safety Research) they are made of coated nylon. Much lighter than the traditional canvas tents, generally accepted as tougher than Polyester.

The weakness is that they absorb water. They wet out in the rain and then the water runs down them to the ground. As long as you have an inner layer (usually made of bug netting), you won’t come in contact with it. Many thru-hikers have hiked with one of these tents.

Popular tents are:

I’ve hiked with a Copper Spur. With most of these tents the 1p (one person) is too small for one person, and the 3p (three person) is just right for two people. An REI Half Dome 2p is perfect for two people but too heavy for backpacking (though I’ve used one for short week long or so hikes).

Hiking with a tent like this is why I started carrying a tarp to set up the tent under and to keep the rain and the dew off of the tent.

Polyester turns out to be strong enough for the weight and is hydrophobic so it doesn’t absorb as much water. Ok, doesn’t absorb water at all, which means they don’t sag when wet. On why polyester. On how it is more durable too.

Lightheart Gear used to make the most common polyester tent. Now it does not show up on their web site. Now it makes the Firefly instead.

Otherwise, Black Diamond has a quasi-tent/quasi-tarp, the Beta Light. I remain unconvinced, thought it is an approach that might work on the Appalachian Trail.

Dyneema — basically lighter, stronger and completely waterproof. Also very expensive.

Polycyro — even lighter, by far the least expensive, just feels fragile. I’ve been happy with polycro tarps (I’ve instructions on how to make one on this blog). But you can make a tent out of it.

clearview tent.

Complete instructions, with video. I’d just hesitate to use one where I needed protection from bugs or where I was going to not be able to make repairs or find another place to sleep if something went wrong.

Dyneema Tents on the Market (List)

Currently Dyneema tents are available from the following:

  • Zpacks (the most common — and used to be the only one). (We own and have used a Triplex for about two thousand trail miles).
  • Tarptent (classic designs).
  • Big Agnes (fragile tents that are considered “stupid light”).
  • Hyperlight Mountain Gear (until recently, more aimed at extreme conditions). They have a new tent out aimed at thru-hikers that is a heavier and more expensive Duplex. 28 square feet.
  • Durston (what I am currently using)
  • Gossomer Gear–I’ve used some of their gear (not the tent) and was happy with it. Their two person tent is barely over twenty-five square feet.
  • Six Moons (a tarp/bug bivy solution).
  • Samaya–small, four season, $1,500.00.
  • Etc. (everyone seems to be getting into the market).

Dyneema Tents, a Discussion

There are really three brands and several tents to choose from for a thru-hiker.

Zpacks is widely known for the Duplex, one of the most common thru-hiker tent on long trails, when used by one person. It is really too cramped for two people and the vestibule really isn’t that useful. The Triplex vestibules aren’t much better, but the tent is a palace for two people and your gear will fit in the tent.

For one person, they brought the Altaplex back out (they had discontinued it) and we saw a lot of that tent on the PCT — especially used by people getting better or faster miles than the average hiker. In theory it is a “tall” version, but the truth is that it is just the right size for normal sized single hikers.

While they have freestanding versions of some of their tents, after you’ve hiked a while freestanding isn’t worth the extra weight over a tent that uses your trekking poles to set up.

All tents, even freestanding ones, function better if they are staked out. Once you get used to that and always staking your tent out, by a thousand miles or so down the trail, freestanding is just extra weight.


Tarptent makes several tents, all of which you will see on long trails now. The Dipole (about 32 square feet, 28.7 ounces including tent stakes) has extra stays for better interior volume, the Double Rainbow Li is free standing (using your hiking poles) and a neat design (it is a tent I’ve almost bought), and the Stratosphere Li is a neat tent, just small. They make great tents. The Dipole looked good on the trail, especially the way it vents.


The X-Mid 2 pro is the tent to focus on from Durston. 20.4 ounces (not including stakes). 30 square feet. Very, very usable vestibules with zippers. Top vents (which Hyperlight Mountain Gear also has). More than a hundred dollars less than the Dipole. Much more useable vestibules. Have I mentioned the vestibules? Without those it would not be large enough, with them it is great.

The X-Mid Pro–My current tent

If you are sleeping with your head and feet in the same direction as your partner, one of you (i.e. me) will have the tent closer to their face. Not bad though. No need for pole caps to pull the sides out, only needs six tent pegs and two poles to set up completely.

Yes. I can recommend tents from all three providers. The other tents from the list that I did not discuss I could recommend to four season users and to marketing departments.


First, if you haven’t done much long-distance hiking, I would suggest that you rent or buy used and try hiking first. Too many people discover that it really isn’t for them after they’ve spent too much money on gear. Do a shakedown hike of 190 miles on the Pinhoti Trail (Flag Mountain just before the start of the long road walk) or hike Springer Mountain, Georgia to the NOC.

Second, get a feel for how much space you really need. My wife and I found that for an overnight or short trip the Copper Spur was just fine. Any longer and we started to feel cramped and looking for someplace else to stay. Moving to the Triplex we suddenly felt just more comfortable with the tent.

Third, make sure you have time for a thru-hike. I’m retired and have the time. But if I didn’t, I’d probably been looking at a Quarter Dome (the Half Dome is just too heavy, though a great tent otherwise).

Finally, go to Trail Days (either the one in Damascus or the one in Cascade Locks) and see the tents set up. Crawl in and out of them. See what is for sale that has a blemish (a cosmetic flaw that doesn’t affect performance) or used. Get buy-in from your partner.

Honestly, crawling in and out of tents really made a difference to me in terms of what we have bought. In addition, a tent you are willing to use will save you money. I keep seeing people who can’t wait to spend a night in a hostel or a hotel instead of their tent. We often caught showers places that did not require us to spend the night or that let us camp for free or cheap once we had the larger tent.


I think Dyneema tents are worth it if you are hiking a thousand miles or more at a time. The combination of toughness, lighter weight and waterproof is huge. Which Dyneema tent is best is like asking which shoe or which pack — a question of what fits you and what suits you best that doesn’t have an abstract answer.

Other notes

Why n0 Big Agnes? If you don’t just want to take my word for it on the Big Agnes Dyneema tents, here is a real life review. I’ve also set the tent up and looked at it and it is as fragile and looked as prone to rip as Skurka reports it being. I liked the Copper Spur and we still have it (even though I’ve sold/passed along a lot of other tents). I’ve got lots of out of date advice too as well as the updated advice on this blog.

Things have changed since 2017-2018.

For tent stakes/pegs, on the Appalachian Trail with the Triplex I used titanium shepherd hooks with a couple v-stakes (for better holding power) I bought off Amazon. The cheapest brand works just fine. They are really, really light.


The PCT has tougher, rockier soil and the shepherd hooks had problems and the v-stakes bent and broke. On the PCT I moved to MSR groundhogs. They are a great tent peg that has good holding power and penetrates tough soil without bending or being destroyed.

Reviews by real people about their experiences with groundhogs.

Tarps and groundsheets. For a non-Dyneema tent I also recommend a polycyro tarp to go with it and a polycyro ground sheet. You can DIY (do it yourself — make your own) those. For a Dyneema tent, a Tyvek ground sheet works pretty well for some extra protection and for laying down on for mid-day naps when avoiding the heat of the day.

Looking towards April 13

The Pinhoti Trail was good in one way. We found the mileage easy except for the one super rocky day. I’m feeling comfortable with solid miles to start.

It also worked out so we hit two ALDHA meetings called “rucks” and I was able to buy a copy of Anish’s book “Thirst” about her FKT (fastest known time) on the Pacific Crest Trail.

I read it and enjoyed it. If I were to buy a copy I’d probably buy one used from Abe’s Books. Under 9.00.

The Rucks were also great in that we saw friends and talked hiking. Then we saw some great people in Philadelphia and had a wonderful vacation.

Continue reading “Looking towards April 13”

Pitching and taking down an X-Mid

Durston’s recommended approach
An alternative

The alternative is pretty simple when packing up.

Pack: The tent poles are removed and the tent peaks are folded on to the staked out rectangular tent fly as shown in the video. Next the tent is folded lengthwise in thirds with the footprint still in contact with the bottom of the tent floor. Stakes are moved from the corners and doors to act like a second person helping me fold up the tent. The tent is folded in half lengthwise to make it one-sixth of the original 80 inch width, then folded over to put the corner spars close to each other. The footprint protects the folded tent and keeps it free of mud and debris. Finally, the tent is rolled up tightly from the fold and placed in a sack or wherever you want it to be.


Durston recommends folding and rolling rather than stuffing with the statement that the tent will last longer, so that is what I’ve started doing (vs. the stuffing on the Triplex). It is easy enough to fold and roll and I don’t need to use the stakes like the video suggests to get the folding done.

More on Stoves– thinking about weight

Just go along with me for a moment. If all you do is boil water once a day to make a hot meal, or maybe boil water once and heat water up for electrolyte “tea” (warm water with electrolytes added) on the least efficient stove you will get ten days on the trail.

If you generally replace fuel at least every ten days (which many people do) — at the closest resupply — then the weight of the stove starts to become the most important factor.

I encountered a lot of fuel canisters that were left in hiker boxes with a fair amount of fuel left. I rarely ran into people who had run out of fuel.

In 1600 miles we ran out of fuel once — when we intentionally used a canister to the end. Otherwise, we always replaced them before we ran out. We carried two canisters for the longest time. I carried one and Win carried the other.

It was not running out of fuel for over a thousand miles that finally pushed us to just carry one canister at a time.

So. Have I been tempted to move to a Soto Windmaster? Yes. All the time, especially when I see efficiency charts like this. But the LiteMax (which we bought years and years ago), saves weight day in and day out in actual use.

To the extent that it burns more fuel, I sometimes see that as a cost of lightness rather than a defect.

I’ve been thinking about that more and more. Especially now that we have a new stove and Snow Peak’s customer service hasn’t gotten back with me about the Litemax.

Some of the reviews I’ve read are not as straightforward as you might think. “In calm conditions, the BRS burned 0.47 ounces of fuel while bringing one liter of water to boil” vs. the Soto Windmaster “Without wind, this stove used 0.49 ounces of fuel to boil one liter of water” You wouldn’t know that this review put the BRS at 2 out of 10 for fuel efficiency and the Windmaster at 8 out of 10.

The Windmaster “[w]ith no wind, it boiled a liter of water in 4 minutes” “The BRS brought 1 liter of water to boil in 5 minutes and 13 seconds with no wind” “7 out of 10” vs. “2 out of 10”. I probably would want to do my own tests, given that with a wider pot the Litemax we have was faster than the integrated stove/pot with heat exchanger type stove that typically are highly rated.

Anyway, will have to see how it goes, but I’m thinking that the GS-7900 is going to be ok. Win is positive about it vs. buying another/different stove or being concerned about Snow Peak’s delays in servicing their lifetime warranty.

I’m hopeful. 🙂

Afterword. I had the following link suggested to me to illustrate that weight savings often don’t happen.

Exhaustive tests of effects of wider pots and lids. The big surprise is that the Pocket Rocket Delux and the BRS were roughly equivalent in efficiency (the BRS being slightly better—and a lot lighter).

More fake reviews—a warning

I’m seeing more and more “sponsored posts” on Facebook that claim to be reviews but are really just advertising—and advertising for products no one has heard of.

They generally don’t include products real people in the industry use and recommend. Eg

Specific recommendations. If you want and can afford the best, buy the Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork (my long-term review). If you want to spend less, spend a lot less with the Cascade Mountain Tech Quick Lock Poles (my long-term reviews). I know of no pole between these two price points that is worth consideration.

In passing at Skurka on stream crossing and hiking poles

Brands that use the fake review approach to marketing are inherently suspect in my opinion.

Not to mention they often have disclaimers like this:

Gear. Our new stove. Gas One GS-7900

It is a Gas One GS-7900

We got it because our old stove died and Elevated Grounds had this in stock. It was cold. We needed a stove. So we bought it.

1.6 ounces —including the storage container

Not very expensive. Very light. Heats things quickly.

It really is tiny. That shows it with the grease pot lid for perspective.

I’ve been thinking a lot about efficiency.

The GS-7900

The problem is we rarely use a fuel canister to the very end. And a Pocket Rocket Deluxe weighs about three ounces. A Pocket Rocket 2 weighs 2.6 ounces.

Our Snow Peak LiteMax weighs 2 ounces. Still waiting to hear back on getting it serviced.

Sample stove review —note it is more about getting you to buy using their affiliate link rather than real reviews.

Many reviews are plain not accurate (Eg criticizing the BRS 3000T for not supporting simmering.

The BRS 3000T

Honest reviews by real people. I link to the BRS reviews because (a) the stoves are very, very similar and (b) they are the only ones available (GS-7900 reviews are not common).

So. That is the story of our new stove.

Gear: pictures and adjustments.

Neoprene socks for water crossings.

Two pairs of darn toughs. My wool top and capilene bottoms. These are warmer than the Silkweight and not much heavier (an ounce).

Sleep socks and two buffs. I’ve gone to using a buff as a hat instead of a beanie or a down baklava.

Garmin Spot

Inflatable trekology pillow. Bear/food bag with three smellyproof bags.

Microfiber small towel/large washcloth. Yellow dry sack for electronics and medical. Nitecore power bank, wall charger (30 watt) and cords. I’ve found longer cords to be worthwhile on the PCT, replacing the extra short ones I used on the AT.

Meds (ibuprofen) and vitamins, groundhogs (a brand/type of tent stake), toilet paper, black ziplock for carry out situations, freeze dried toilet paper (now four years old) trowel, sleeping pad patch kit, sunglasses, light (Nitecore), tiny scrubby for pot scrubbing and emergency scrunchies.

Toothbrush. Spare reading glasses.

Puffy. Hat. Crampons. Mini/spikes, Silkweight top for comparison. Compression sleeves for my calves (to prevent shin splints). My hat.

Rain coat (in far back). Gaiters. Water bottle with built in scoop in lid. Water filter.

Not in the pictures. My fleece, my sun hoodie, alternate socks.

My camp shoes. Currently swiftwater crocs. I keep bouncing back and forth on camp shoes which I wear only for water crossing. I’ve done crossings just using my shoes and using various camp shoes.

The sandals are secure enough. Barefoot just doesn’t do it for me. Shoes dry out fairly fast, even goretex ones.

But for cold weather and really cold water I’m thinking I’d prefer to stay dry. I’ll probably not have my mind made up until I’m finished hiking and maybe not then.

Gloves and rain shell mittens aren’t shown. Bear canister. Ice axe, hiking poles. Backpack, tent, sleeping bag and Dyneema pack liner. Gravity feed system for water filter.

Big changes from the Appalachian Trail/starting the PCT last year.

  • Changing to a base layer that weighs about an ounce and a half more but is much warmer. If it is cold enough I need the baselayer, warmer is better.
  • The alpha direct fleece. Lighter. Works well.
  • Katadyn water filter. Seeing one’s that made it Campo to Washington —used by people who filtered everything, that got my attention.
  • Crampons?! Depends on how conditions are but Happy/Six is sold on them. We will have them if needed.
  • The lighter sun hoodie.
  • Changed tents from the Triplex to the X-mid.
  • Gloves. Lost one on the Pinhoti. So I replaced them with 33 degree wool gloves which fit my hands better.
  • My sleeping pad wore out. I’m now using the newer, lighter, warmer replacement Thermarest sent me. Has a better pump sack too.
  • Happy scored a pad at REI’s garage sale. So she has her Thermarest regular, the cold weather pad, a Nemo and now a new Xlite short which is lighter, warmer and shorter.
  • I’m in Ultra Raptor shoes now. The mids are lighter than the Merrell Moab 3 low tops. I bought one of two pairs in stock at REI. Luckily one of the two pairs was in my size.
  • Might change my belt. New one is a little heavier but a better buckle. HMG sells them.
  • Better, lighter more efficient and faster charging power bank, 30 watt charger instead of a tenth of the power (charges faster) slightly brighter and lighter headlamp.
  • Use one buff on my neck and the other as a hat. Works better for me than the beanie did. New buff as my navy buff wore out.
  • New dry sack too. Old one wore out.

Otherwise more entries and discussion in other blog posts.

Most of the changes aren’t that big. Triplex was finally starting to wear out. 30^2 and usable vestibules made the X-Mid pro attractive. It is also easy to set up. Superior bathtub system as well.

If I was taller I’d probably not be interested in the switch.

The Ultra raptors are on the same last as the Wildcats but with a lower stack height making them more stable. Just a tiny bit more room in the toes. Means my big toe doesn’t touch the shoe from time to time.

Barely any difference in size, though my new shoes are technically 41.5s vs the 40.5 of my old shoes.

I’ll continue to train in the Merrells until they are worn out. The fit is close enough that I’ve switched on the fly between shoes based on the lasts before — at Rattle River on the AT when my Wildcats needed replacement. I switched easily into Moabs. The reverse seems ok.

I’ve got time to be certain.

Hiking Poles according to Skurka.

Specific recommendations. If you want and can afford the best, buy the Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork (my long-term review). If you want to spend less, spend a lot less with the Cascade Mountain Tech Quick Lock Poles (my long-term reviews). I know of no pole between these two price points that is worth consideration.

Note Skurka’s Alpine Cork review moved New url for review.

Review: Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork

At $180 MSRP, the Alpine Carbon Corks are among the most expensive poles in the market, and they will not be a trivial expense for most backpackers. But I still recommend them if you:

  • Can afford the best,
  • Will justify the expense with extended use,
  • Hike on extremely rugged trails, or off-trail and on early-season snow,
  • Are generally hard on your gear, or
  • Will stress these poles with a heavy body and/or pack.

Personally, these poles have won me over with their:

  • Comfortable cork grips and functional foam extension grips;
  • Shafts that are very steady under load, with minimal vibration or bending; and,
  • Locks that do not slip, wiggle, or corrode, and that can be easily operated and adjusted.

If you’re on a budget, don’t backpack often, stay on easy trails, and/or have a petite build and tiny pack, look elsewhere. For most backpackers, I typically recommend the Cascade Mountain Tech Quick Lock Poles (my review), which offer 75 percent of the performance for one-sixth the price; or the niche Ultimate Direction FKT Poles (my review), which are the lightest and stiffest poles I’ve ever used.

That said, I used Black Diamond Ergo Cork Aluminum poles for about 2,500 miles of backpacking. Really liked them, though I had to replace them after one broke on the trail and the outfitter did not have a replacement available.

January 31. Just passed Mile 190 into Cave Spring

We started at the shelter and mostly dodged the rain into Cave Spring.

Crossed the state line. Hit a few sections of Pennsylvania that had teleported in. Stopped at a shelter for early lunch/second breakfast/rain break.

Did some water crossings. Used the bridge. Crossed a lot of ATV trails/roads.

Did the road walk everyone does. Dodged a lot of loaded semi-trucks.

Got to the park and to the Hearn Inn.

Hot showers. Clean laundry. Met Fiddlesticks the Hiker.

Had a great dinner. Bought some candy with Win at the fudge shop.

Suddenly I’m ready to go to sleep.

Tomorrow I go back to 1600 calories a day.

I understand the people who would like to add the Pinhoti to the Appalachian Trail.

Not a fan of adding 360 miles and another month to the trail, but maybe letting people trade three miles on the Pinhoti for skipping two miles on the AT once you’ve passed the Doyle?


Probably not.

But I’ve enjoyed my time on it.

Video of today