GoLite Hex 3 (Shangri-La 3) review

Lightweight and simple, the Hex 3 / Shangri-La 3 has been much talked about in backpacking circles. I though i'd add my amateur penny's worth to the discussion and allow myself to pour over the details of my latest toy.

My Story (of no real significance to review)

I've been lusting for the Shangri-La for a long time now but due to its incredible price and non-availability in Canada. Got lucky on eBay with a used Hex 3 in awesome condition, and from Ontario with the nest to boot!. While i'd love to be able to say i am a backcountry mountaineering backpacker with a straight face, but in reality i am little more than a glorified weekend warrior, so the GoLite lightweight Hex 3 is probably overkill. Bit, who can resist the simple pyramid in a world of fancy polygons and poles. My excuses are the following, my bad back demands something light, and the resale value on the then will pay for itself when i do let it go (who am i kidding, i'm keeping this baby!)

History/Brand (of little significance to review)

Another classic family business story. Backpacking enthusiast Kim and Demetri Coupounas sewed together their first lightweight backpack in the mid nineties looking to shed a few bounds off their backs. Their packs became so popular that the couple could not live up to orders from friends and later other customers online, even with with the sewing help from ladies in their neighbourhood. GoLite was then launched in the late nineties as a light-weight focused backpacking gear company. The couple eventually returned to their previous professions (engineers?) and left the company to able hands, but the personal touch GoLite brings to their product line and service was never quite lost. Now if only their gear were not so damn expensive!

Technical Summary

- type: 4 season hexagonal pyramid shelter/tarp with nest and tub floor options
- area: 3 person, 59 sq. ft | 5.5 sq. m
- height: 62 inches | 157 cm
- weight tarp: 24 oz | 680 g shelter + 12oz | 340g pole + 3oz | 85g stakes
- weight nest: 28 oz | 794 g
- weight total: 4.15 lb | 1.9 kg
- material: No-See-Um Mesh and SiLite with waterproof coating

Pitch:

One of the easiest tents i've ever pitched. Mind you, though, that i had the nest as well, so staking in the perfect hexagon involved only pulling all six corners of the nest taught. There's that and the test pitch took place first in our backyard and later on a front country lot (my girlfriend's first time camping!), so the ground conditions were near perfect. Under these conditions it took a very casual span 6-7 minutes to set the mesh and tarp up. The extendable aluminum pole propped the nest up quiet taught even when not extended, and setting up the orange tarp was a matter of draping it over the mesh and hooking the adjustable stake out loops in and tightening them.
  
  
My only beef with the Hex 3's pitching is that all six stakes needs to be in and secure if the tent is to work, and to get the tent fully staked out without any sagging along any of the six faces you'd have to put 11 stakes into the ground. That's a lot of stakes for rocks to get in the way of. There is a way to pitch the shelter only with only 4 stakes, but that would compromise some space, arguably leave a few edges slackened, and give up use of the nest.

I suppose staking is a drawback for all non-free-standing tents, but it's slightly the more so for the Hex in my opinion. In its defense though, once staked out with 6, the tent is solid and will stand up a good deal of thrashing since the only pole to bend is the centre one that doesn't bend. The nest and tarp can also be pitched hanging from a tree using the loops built in instead of using the pole. It's not as convenient but does work. However, i'm not too sure about using a hiking pole or oar as advertised instead of the supplied aluminum pole. The Height would have be just right for a pitch that will stand up to moderate winds.

Room:

For something that looked this small, there is a surprising amount of room. My girlfriend and i, both around 5'9 fit with a lot of room to spare. The slanting walls didn't bother me too much, and i can stand almost fully close to the middle of the tent (an welcoming change when changing in and out of clothes while it's pouring outside). The pole in the middle is a bit of a bother but there was enough room for the two of us to fit on one side of the pole, leaving half the tent to gear (and a lot of luxuries brought to soften the blow for her first time sleeping under the stars, and in the cold May mountain air to boot). There'd be enough room for an eventual addition to the family with comfort :)

Water, Moisture, and Dew:

The dual vents are propped up by flexible and quite packable arc of plastic, work very well in keeping the interior ventilated and dry. The mesh here are the only area you can peek out of with the tarp zipped up. The tarp itself can be adjusted to rise a bit from the ground and let in additional air-flow. It got a bit windy the first night so we had the tarp dig in along the ground to keep out the breeze, and yet dew and morning moisture was still almost non-existent. The shape of the tent itself would lend to shedding interior moisture to the edges should the morning be especially damp anyways.

One night of moderate rain was shut out by the tarp without fail. The seems and zippers of the used Hex 3 worked like new. The floor of the nest on the other hand was moist where our small blue tarp failed to protect. I had predicted this because the floor of the nest is Very thin and i already had misgivings treading on it while pitching the tent. It felt fragile enough for gravel to poke through. A floor of some kind is a must next time.

Nice Suprises:

The warm golden orange glow in the morning was quite nice to wake up to. And, even in overcast and drizzling weather, the filtered light in the tent made it cozier. I would expect the woodland greens of the other Hex 3 or the newer Shangri-La 3 to be darker and gloomier. The bamboo yellow Shangri-La 3 wouldn't be too far off from the orange, but likely not as warm.
Another nice feature is the reflective stake loops. Not that finding the tent is of any difficulty with a flashlight at night, but it is definitely a lot easier to mentally note where the possible trip corners are when they're reflecting back at you.

Misgivings:

Another complaint is the lack of a vestibule. This would not be too much of a problem on other tents, but with the Hex 3's tee-pee sloped door, opening it alone would let even the lightest rain in, in addition to having no space for shoes and wet gear. This would not be so much of a problem if the nest is not used, but there is a work-around with the nest. What i did was unhook one corner of the nest from the stake (the corner by the door's zipper) and pull that corner in. The entrance of the nest still works well enough for easy access and enough room is left for at least 2 pairs of shoes and a pack and a half.

Summary:

I love this tent. Maybe it's because the Hex 3 is my first lightweight backpacking tent, i was and still am amazed by how light the pack is... all together, nest, poles, peg and all, weighs in under 2 kg! The fabric for the nest floor may be a bit on the thin and fragile side, but the shelter's SiLite feels as tough as my Gortext hard shell jacket. And, both folds and packs so easily that you really don't need to fold or roll systematically to get it in its sack with room to spare. Conversely, they can pack Really small. There are obvious compromises for the weight, for some of which work-arounds are available, but i would keep the Hex 3 even as a car camping tent. It's too much fun, the only like it, and so easy to set up i was able to keep another self delusion alive, that instruction manuals are for starting fires.
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