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Frequently Asked Questions

Jump to: Miscellaneous - Tents - Backpacks - Sleeping Bags


Where are you located?
We are located in West Melbourne, FL, 32904.

Can I call you to ask questions or place an order? I don't see your number listed.
It is more efficient for us to handle questions via email. Please shoot us an email and we will make sure that it gets to the right person with the knowledge to answer your question. Our email address is listed on our Contact page and we are normally very responsive.

How long does it take to ship my order?
We try to keep accessory items in stock, but many larger items are built to order and have a lead time. Please see the notice at the top of each index page for the current lead time.

How much is shipping?
Please see our Shipping Policy page for shipping rates and services.

Do you accept returns or exchanges?
Yes. Please see our Returns / Warranty page.

If you have any feedback or an idea on how to improve an item, please let us know!

How long have you been doing this?
Joe Valesko has been building his own gear since the late 90's, and started in 2005.

Joe thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail in 2004, the Pacific Crest Trail in 2007, and the Continental Divide Trail in 2009. Joe and his wife Sheryl thru-hiked the Te Araroa in 2012-2013. See the Adventures page for more.


How do I adjust the tension on my Arc Blast frame?
The Arc frame should be bowed about 2.5 inches (6 cm) at the center for air flow and cushion. Stand the empty backpack upright on the floor, or on your hip and push down on the top of the frame to flex it. Pull the webbing at the top and bottom of the mesh back panel to cinch it tight.

Try to make sure the left and right sides are adjusted evenly. We usually adjust the tension so that the stays are flexed about 2.5" at the middle. When traveling (on a plane etc), you can let out the tension so the stays are straight and the backpack packs smaller. You can also take the tension off the frame when the pack is stored long-term. The frame comes out if you need to remove it for traveling.

Are Zpacks backpacks waterproof?
Our backpack materials are waterproof, and all have taped seams. They are very water resistant, but it does not hurt to have a second line of defense such as a Pack Cover, a Pack Liner or individual Dry Bags, or a poncho.

How much weight can I carry in your backpacks?
The comfort limit for each of our backpacks is listed on the Backpack index page.

Generally speaking, a pack with no frame can handle up to 20 lbs (9 kg) before it starts to get too heavy on the shoulders.

A backpack with a frame (like our Arc packs) transfers more weight to the belt, and can handle 35 to 40 lbs (18 kg).

What backpack do you recommend?
If you want a super minimal backpack for very ultralight sub-20lb loads, try the Nero.

If you generally carry 20-25 lbs and occasionally push 30-35 lbs, try the Arc Blast. The Arc Blast is our most popular pack. It is comfortable and reasonably durable. Most ultralight hikers would do well with the Arc Blast.

If you regularly carry loads in the 30+ lb range or need extra durability consider the Arc Haul.

What do I do if my frame breaks?
It is uncommon for our backpack stays to snap, but it could happen. Tape a nail or tent stake around the break as a temporary splint.

The frame pieces are easy to slide out and replace. Just shoot us an email and we will send free replacement parts as needed.


What is the difference between the Hexamid tents and the 'Plex' style tents? Which one should I get?
Our original Hexamid tents are alot like a tarp with fully enclosed screen. They have a separate bathtub groundsheet which is removable. That is useful because you can take the groundsheet out to sleep under the stars or to dry everything out faster. If rain spray is blowing hard at one side of your tent you can shift your groundsheet and gear away from it. They are just like tarp camping except with fully enclosed screen. They are more minimalist shelters and the price is lower.

The Plex tents have a tall sewn in bathtub floor and they perform more like a normal tent that you might be used to. The have a taller entryway for easier access, and the storm doors close off more fully and create more vestibule space. I think they are more comfortable for the average person, however both types of tents have their advantages.

How transparent is DCF? Can you see through the material?
All of the DCF colors are somewhat transparent. If the sun is shining you can see a fuzzy silhouette of a person inside a tent. You can not see any details, and generally speaking you can change your clothes inside without worrying too much. In dim light such as in the evening you can't see through at all. We also have slightly heavier Green .74 oz/sqyd fabric or Camo .67 oz/sqyd fabric which is more opaque.

What about shade?
Some light shines through DCF and you can see the outline of trees and your surroundings when looking out. That is kind of nice, it helps connect you with your surroundings. If you need shade during the daytime you could drape your sleeping bag over the tent, or drape a space blanket over it to block the light.

What color tent should I get?
If you like to blend in with your surroundings choose Olive Drab or Camo. Olive drab is the most popular choice.
If you like to stand out choose Blue.
If you want a darker tent consider upgrading to the thicker Spruce Green or Camo fabrics.

Does DCF degrade in Sunshine?
Most plastics break down under excessive sun exposure, and DCF is no different. A day or two in the sun here or there will not hurt it, but it is probably not a good idea to leave a tent set up in the yard all summer.

How do your tents do in the Wind?
The tents do pretty well in the wind, about the same as a typical tarp. The material was originally designed as sail cloth, and it can handle high wind loads without tearing. The tie outs are reinforced very well and can handle being buffeted in the wind. Try to find a sheltered spot when possible, and aim the back or side into the wind if you are exposed.

The main thing is make sure the stakes are securely in the ground, especially the front center stake. If you are camped above tree line, or in a windy area pile rocks on the stakes if rocks are available.

Will I get cold if it is windy?
The tents are intentionally made to have a lot of airflow to reduce condensation.

In the original Hexamid tents you can un-clip your groundsheet and slide it up against the wall to block wind from coming in the screen. Either that or use your backpack and spare gear against the screen as a wind break. The Plex tents are a bit more closed off and do a better job of blocking wind.

Do I need to add Linelocs to adjust my guy lines?
Plex tents include sewn on Lineloc 3's and pre-cut 2mm cord to fit them.

Hexamid tents are shipped with un-cut 1.25 mm bright colored cord, and instructions. My personal strategy is to use fixed-length lines with no knots other than a stake loop at the end. This is super light, and fuss-free. If there is a rock or obstacle in the way the guy lines can be moved side to side to avoid it. If you are on uneven ground you may occasionally need to tie a temporary stake loop elsewhere on a line for better placement but most of the time fixed length lines are good to go.

Many people like to add Linelocs to easily adjust the length of the guy lines to avoid obstacles or to adjust for uneven ground. There are two popular types of Linelocs, which can be found Here.

Micro Linelocs are the lightest, and they will work with the thin cord that is shipped with the tent. They can sometimes cause your lines to get tangled when packing/unpacking and they are a little more fuss to use.

Lineloc 3's with Loops can be attached directly to your tent's tie out loops. They are easy to use and are not prone to tangling, but you will have to upgrade to heavier 2 mm or thicker cord.

If you decide to add Linelocs you will want to cut your guy lines a bit longer than is specified in the instructions.

How much warmth do your tents trap?
On a relatively calm night our tents will trap about 6-7 degrees Fahrenheit. One night I measured 23F outside and 30F inside my Altaplex tent. On another night it was 42F outside and 48F inside. That can be a significant difference in cold weather. Having a screened in tent is useful even when the bugs are gone!

Do the tents get Condensation?
All single wall shelters will get some condensation in cold humid conditions. Even a flat tarp with no one under it will collect some moisture in the right conditions. Our tents are open and airy to help avoid condensation from your breath. The tents are large enough to keep your gear away from the potentially wet walls, and any condensation will run down the walls and out harmlessly through the screen at the perimeter. You can wipe down wet walls in the morning with a pack towel.

Camp away from low lying areas near water. Cold wet air settles to the lowest areas.

Camp on dry leaves or pine needles if given a choice, rather than moist grass or wet ground.

Camp under tree cover if available. The trees keep the air warmer which keeps the relative humidity lower. Tree cover also seems to block cold wet air from settling on your shelter.

Can you add a peak vent?
The tents already have a ton of airflow. Leave the doors open for air unless you are getting wet from rain spray. A small peak vent would not make much difference in air flow.

How durable is the Screen floor in the Hexamid Style tents?
Hexamid style tents have a fully enclosed screen floor, with a removable bathtub groundsheet that floats on top of the screen. The screen floor holds up better than you might guess. If you are careful to move any pointy things from your tent spot you shouldn't get any punctures. Small pointy things like pine needles and thorns can go right through the screen without doing damage. The screen floor generally doesn't get any abrasion. It is protected from your body movement by your groundsheet on top of it. Even if the screen were to get a puncture it would likely be under your groundsheet where it is inconsequential. On a typical 5 month thru-hike you might get one or two pencil sized holes. Screen can be patched with a piece of seam tape on both sides of the hole. It is not necessary or recommended to put anything under the screen.

Can I camp on the sand, on tent platforms, rocky areas, or other places where stakes won't work?
Yes, it just takes more work. On firm ground wedge the tip of your stakes in, and then anchor them with rocks. If you are camped above tree line on stone, wrap the guy lines around rocks to anchor them. On beach sand use rocks, driftwood, etc as anchors for the tent guy lines. On tent platforms you can wedge the stakes between the boards, or use extra line to tie off to the ends of the platform. There is always a way to make it work if you use some imagination.

How strong is the DCF tent material? How about the groundsheets?
The tent material is thin, but has high tensile strength and it does not tear easily. The abrasion and puncture resistance are only moderate, but tents normally don't get any abrasion. Our DCF groundsheet material is twice as thick as the tent canopy and resists punctures better. The tents and groundsheets are extremely easy to repair with DCF Tape.

At least one person (Dave "Freebird" Osborn) has done THREE full thru-hikes with the same DCF Hexamid Solo without a problem.

Can you make my tent using stronger material?
We haven't had any problems with the normal .51 oz/sqyd tent material, but sure we can do any tent in Green .74 oz/sqyd material. It adds a couple ounces to the weight. This is an option on each of the tent pages.

What is the packed size of the tents?
It is listed on each tent page. Most of our tents ship in either a Medium 6" x 12" or a Medium-Plus 7" x 13" stuff sack. The stuff sacks are a loose fit so that you don't have to fight to get the tent in.

When I set up my Hexamid tent the screen door is stretched too tight and the zipper has a hard time zipping. What am I doing wrong?
You have the tent tilted backwards too far, which is bringing the front up too high. Think of the peak of the tent as the fulcrum. You need to bring the front of the tent forward and down so the screen door is looser. Try playing with the distance apart of the two front corner stakes to give yourself more or less slack and more or less peak height. You could also drop the height of your trekking pole a bit.

There is a loop of elastic with a mitten hook at the peak of my tent. What is that for?
The Hexamid tents include 5 elastic loops with mitten hooks at the corners for clipping a groundsheet in place. A 6th loop is temporarily clipped to the peak of the tent. Move it down to the front center of your groundsheet and clip it around your trekking pole to keep the front of your groundsheet elevated. Or leave the elastic and hook at the peak of the tent to hang your flashlight, watch, etc.

How sturdy are the optional tent poles?
We've done several upgrades to our tent poles to help them withstand higher winds. The current poles are thicker than they used to be. Even so, they can still snap in crazy wind, but normally they hold. Trekking poles are a sturdier alternative to tent poles!

Can I wash my tent and other DCF gear?
Hand wash any DCF gear in a bucket or bathtub with laundry detergent and warm water. Line dry. Do not put any DCF gear in a dryer on high heat or it may shrink!

Should I fold and roll the tent or just cram it into the stuff sack?
I normally fold and roll. It seems to trap less air and compress smaller compared to crumpling it up. It also keeps the tent from getting all wrinkly. Other than that, cramming should be fine too.

Help! My zipper stopped working!
We use standard #3 YKK zippers, the same kind as in most other ultralight gear. Metal zipper sliders can wear down over time, especially in dusty, gritty conditions. If that happens the zipper won't seal properly. Luckily zipper sliders are cheap and easy to replace, even on the trail. If you are doing a thru-hike on a dusty trail (like through the desert on the PCT for example) you may want to carry a couple extra sliders, available on our Hardware page.

Sleeping Bags

Is your Goose Down ethically sourced?
Yes. Our white goose down comes directly from a meat processing facility in Europe. It is a byproduct of the goose meat industry and would be thrown away if it didn't have a use. No birds are force fed, live plucked, or any of that nasty business.

Other sleeping bags I have compared have more/less down than your bags, how come?
The important metric to compare when looking at sleeping bags is the amount of loft, not necessarily the amount of down used.

Our bags have a slim efficient design, and they don't have hoods so there is less volume to fill. We also use the highest quality 900 fill power down. Lower quality down requires more down to fill the same volume.

The amount of down we use in our sleeping bags is explained Here

What temperature rating should I choose?
A lot of factors can affect how warm a person is at night. For example body fat, clothing worn, your tent, your sleeping pad, metabolism, humidity, how windy it is, how acclimated you are to cold weather, etc. External factors can make a big difference.

I personally am chilly but ok at the bag's temperature rating, in my tent, on a pad, wearing most if not all of my clothes. I would personally consider 20F to be the reasonable lower limit of our 20F sleeping bag. If you sleep cold consider sizing down a rating. Women sometimes sleep colder than men and may want to size down.

The temperature ratings on our bags are meant to be comparable with other mainstream bags with the same temperature rating. If you know you typically get cold at night in another company's 20F, consider going down to a 5F. Our bags are lighter but don't necessarily expect them to be warmer given the same rating.

Make sure to fluff up your bag at the beginning of the night. Sleep in a warm jacket and whatever clothes you have, and sleep in your tent to stay warmer.

EN Ratings?
We have not had our sleeping bags tested for European EN ratings. EN ratings are a standard that measures a bag's Comfort Rating / Lower Limit / and Extreme rating. Based on feedback and use I would estimate that our sleeping bags ratings are closest to the middle "Lower Limit" rating.  As an average man, for me that means that a 20F sleeping is a little chilly, but OK at 20F, wearing clothing suited for the weather, in a tent.

Is the zipper uncomfortable to lay on?
The zipper is thin and is not very noticeable. The only "bump" is the metal slider. When the zipper is zipped up the slider will be in the small of your neck and there will not be any pressure on it. When the zipper is unzipped it will be between your calves. We have not had any reports of discomfort from the zipper.

Will laying on the zipper damage my inflatable sleeping pad?
No. The zipper slider is rounded and there are no sharp edges. I use a NeoAir myself and have never had any issues.
Please email us with any other questions!