Durston is an ultralight gear manufacturer based in the Kootenay region of British Columbia that’s making one of the most popular tents on the planet. Editor Vince Hempsall shares the skinny.
Dan Durston of Golden, British Columbia, knows what it’s like to haul camping gear over long distances. In 2014 he hiked the 4,000-kilometre-long Pacific Crest Trail. Three years later he did the Great Divide Trail—both ways! That round trip totalled 2,300 kilometres and the self-described “gear geek” says he had plenty of time during those journeys to obsess about the design of ultralight backpacking tents. Eventually he came up with his own concept, founded the Durston gear company, got the online retailer Drop to agree to manufacture and distribute it, and now the X-mid is one of the world’s top-selling trekking pole tents. He sent the Durston X-Mid 1-person model to me for review and below are my thoughts.
Snapshot: Durston X-Mid 1 Ultralight Tent
- Pros: A full-fly tent with two vestibules that weighs 790 grams, slightly more than a bivy sack.
- Cons: It’s finicky to set up. Definitely practice before embarking on a journey with one.
- Price: Cdn $275
- Who Should Buy: Ultralight hikers who want more space and comfort than a bivy provides.
- Who Shouldn’t Buy: Family car campers.
- Helpful Hack: The company sells a “Stargazer Kit” for Cdn $35 that allows you to set up the inner mesh tent without the fly.
- Author’s overall rating: 10/10
For this review I received the 1-person version of the Durston X-Mid ultralight tent and set it up multiple times during the winter, spring, and summer months in snow, on rocks, and in forests. Because it is so light, I had no qualms taking it backcountry skiing, hiking, and I even set it up while on a family car-camping trip to get a sense of how it compared to a behemoth shelter like the Marmot Orbit. (You could stuff six X-Mids inside the vestibule of that giant.)
There was a time I was really big into tiny, ultralight gear. I owned a minuscule bivy sack and three-quarter-length sleeping pad with a custom sleeping bag that had 800 down fill on the top side and straps on the bottom to attach it to the pad. The theory was you didn’t need goose down on the bottom of your bag because crushing it with your weight negated any warmth you might get from it. It was a ridiculously light kit. And it was brutally uncomfortable. I made the mistake of taking it on a two-month mid-winter rock climbing trip to Potrero Chico because, hey, it’s always warm in Mexico, right? It snowed. I was miserable. And so ended my obsession, but to this day I have an appreciation for well-designed ultralight gear used by thru-hikers and weight-conscious backcountry aficionados. And that’s why I was excited to check out the Durston X-Mid tent: not only is it one of world’s lightest trekking pole shelters, the company is a local Kootenay one, based out of Golden, British Columbia.
In short, I absolutely love this tent. In the 15 years I’ve been reviewing gear, I’ve rarely given a 10/10 rating on anything, but I believe the X-Mid deserves it. The geometry, the weight, the packaging, the features: everything about the Durston X-Mid is designed to perfection and if you are an ultralight gear nerd, I highly recommend you consider this tent for your backcountry forays. Before I gush too much, however, some qualifications are in order:
- The X-Mid requires two hiking poles to set up. If you’re someone who doesn’t like hiking with poles, this isn’t for you.
- Set-up of the X-Mid requires practice. The first time I took it out was in waist-deep snow and because the corners need to be weighted and the fabric taut, I eventually gave up digging and slept in the hut. Later I dialed in the technique required to set up the tent in a variety of conditions.
- I have little use for the one-person version of the X-Mid as I rarely go on solo excursions anymore, but because the X-Mid 2-person is a similar design and weighs only 200 grams more than the one I reviewed, I’m extending the perfect rating to both sizes.
The true genius of the Durston X-Mid tent is its geometry: the two poles are offset, which allows significant living space to fall between them, lots of headroom, two doorways that aren’t blocked by the poles, and two vestibules. The traditional pyramid-style of pole tents can’t touch that. I’ll reiterate, though, that the set up of this tent takes practice because the four corners need to be well staked in order for the fabric to be pulled taut. In fact, even after practice you’ll notice in the video above that two of the corners pulled out while I was adjusting the height of the poles, so it’s important to note the density of the ground: if you’re on snow, sand, or loose dirt, consider using a deadman anchor for each corner. Here’s a video how. Also, I found that in order to make set up easier, I kept the inner mesh tent connected to the outer fly.
Beyond its innovative structure, the X-Mid tent offers considerable features, well beyond what you’d find in a bivy sack or a comparable ultralight tent. For a full list, see the “Deets” section below but my favourites included the two doors and two vestibules, the two large vents that can be shuttered in inclement weather, and the interior ridgeline storage pocket. Two doors! Two vestibules that provide 2.2 square metres of storage! In a one-man tent that weighs 780 grams. Ingenious! What’s even more exciting is the company is now experimenting with Dyneema composite fabric, which will help lighten an already ultralight tent. Even if you’re not into ultralight gear, I recommend checking out Durston because it’s a local Kootenay company that’s having a huge impact on the global market. I look forward to seeing what Dan and his team do next.
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Durston X-Mid 1 Ultralight Tent – The Deets
- Weight: 793 g (31 oz) including tent, stuff sacks and 6 stakes
- Packed size: 30 x 13 cm / 12 x 5 in
- Floor area: 1.6 sq m / 17 sq ft
- Vestibule area: 2.2 sq m (1.1 sq m x 2) / 24 sq ft (12 sq ft x 2)
- Fly is made from 20 denier polyester
- 2500mm sil/PEU coating
- Peak reinforced with 210d black nylon
- 4 titanium shepherd’s hook stakes & 4 titanium V stakes
- Tent pitches fly first, so the inner tent stays dry during setup in the rain
- 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
- Polyester fabric does not absorb water, so it’s fast drying and stays light
- Interior ridgeline pocket
- 2 large vents that can be closed
- 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
- Fully double-stitched construction
- Non-slippery floor
- More info: durstongear.com
Author’s Note: Mountain Culture Group is not paid for these reviews. They are honest expressions of our opinions. In some instances we are given the product to keep but that does not sway our assessment. If we dislike a product and feel it would score a rating of less than 5/10, we simply won’t review it.