Durston X-Mid 1 Review: A Beginner-Friendly Ultralight Shelter

Jac Mitchell

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The Durston X-Mid 1 ultralight shelter has received such high acclaim from the outdoor community since its initial release in 2018 that it’s often sold out on their website. The X-Mid has a unique space-maximizing geometry at an incredible price. I first slept in this tent on Outdoor Life’s inaugural backpacking gear test on the Oregon Coast Trail back in April. But Dan Durston designed the tent in the Canadian Rockies, which is exactly where I went to put it to the test. I hiked with the Durston X-Mid for 67 miles of the Great Divide Trail, which straddles the British Columbia-Alberta border. 

This section of the GDT produced varied conditions—rain, wind, and even wildfire smoke. I treated this tent as I would one of my own: with respect, but also the expectation that this gear should be built to live up to the rigors of heavy day in, day out use, including exposure to high UV, rain, and any other elements the Canadian Rockies dared to throw at me. I was impressed to see the X-Mid hold up to the elements, my expectations, and its reputation.

Durston X-Mid 1 Specs and Key Features

Jac Mitchell

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Weight: 1 pound, 12 ounces

Dimensions: 90 x 32 inches

Peak Height: 46 inches

Area: 20 square feet

Packed Size: 12 x 5 inches 

Fabric: 20 denier PU coated polyester

Warranty: 2 years

Assembly

The Durston X-Mid shelter is brilliantly stripped down and unfussy to assemble. It’s foolproof to set up and teardown quickly. But it’s completely reliable in inclement weather thanks to its double wall construction and storm-worthy silhouette. An easily assembled tent means you get to sleep faster and a more easy going backcountry experience. 

Geometry

The X-Mid’s innovative geometry also maximizes the interior space. Durston

At 28 ounces and 20 square feet of floor space, the Durston X-Mid 1 has a great weight-to-space ratio. Its double wall, storm worthy design with twin vestibules, gives this shelter a livable feel. Held up by two poles (either your own trekking poles or Durston’s ultralight z-flick tent poles), yet intended for a singular adult sleeper, the diagonal ridgeline of the tent maximizes interior space.

According to Durston’s website, the dual pole set up increases the interior volume of the shelter by 30 to 50 percent. This shelter probably wouldn’t be the first choice of someone looking for space to travel with a pet, or who prefers to stow their gear inside the tent’s sleeping area, but I can sit up and change without hitting my head on the tent wall, or even getting my head anywhere near it. 

Price

Despite its ever increasing popularity, the polyether urethane coated, sil-polyester X-Mid comes in at $240, a more inclusive, entry-to-ultralight price point than a Dyneema Composite Fabric shelter, which runs closer to $500. Durston attributes this to a low mark up and direct-to-consumer sales. 

Testing the Durston X-Mid in the Field

The author put the Durston X-Mid 1 to the test in the harsh conditions in was built for. Jac Mitchell

To test the X-Mid I took this shelter back to its place of inception—the Canadian Rockies. The Durston was created for the same rugged and varied terrain of the Great Divide Trail, making it the perfect place to put it through the wringer. This trail runs from the U.S./Canadian border at Waterton National Park to Kakwa Provincial Park 746 miles north. For this test, I took section B north from Crowsnest Pass. 

My campsites varried in terrain: a rocky ridgeline, a meadow, the damp forest duff in nearly freezing temperatures. I experienced wind, rain, fog, and damp conditions, but the X-Mid remained a steadfast shelter through it all. 

This way my first experience with a tent that uses only four stakes and no required guylines. It’s easy to get a taught pitch on the X-Mid, which really paid off on windy nights. In the past I’ve often been kept awake by tent fabric that won’t stop flapping, despite my best efforts. The X-Mid was notably silent, which meant better quality sleep and more recovery time.

The Durston X-Mid’s dual trekking pole setup doesn’t require your poles to be at a fixed height when assembling. Rather, you simply insert the poles upside down into the twin apex grommets and extend them to achieve the required tensioning. In fact—the whole X-Mid assembly can be described in two steps: 

Step 1: Stake the tent out in a rectangle using four tent stakes. Make sure it’s a proper rectangle, and not a rhomboid. Jac Mitchell

Step 2: Insert trekking poles upside down into apex grommets and extend until the tent is well tensioned.  Jac Mitchell

That’s it. I never needed to use or adjust a single guy line. I did replace the factory stakes with my preferred tent stakes, the MSR Groundhog Mini. The included stakes disappointed testers in the ultralight tents test

The tent is so simple to set up that I was able to get a steadfast, storm worthy pitch in just a few minutes. The inside of your tent won’t get wet if you have to set up in the rain either. The last thing I want to do when I’m tired and hungry after a long day on trail, is fuss with an abundance of guylines to find a just-right pitch while losing light. With the Durston X-Mid, it was set up in record time and I could move on to getting fed and cozy. 

Two optional vents increase breathability and reduce trapped condensation. Durston

Even though one night on trail was damp and nearly freezing, I had no issues with condensation. I did use one of dual peak vents, which easily adjusts by opening the Velcro closure, reaching in, pulling down the lightweight strut, and velcroing it to the fly. There was no condensation on the walls, ceiling, or under my inflatable sleeping pad. The X-Mid is factory waterproofed and needs no seam sealing after purchase. Additionally it features waterproof zippers with convenient magnetic toggles to hold them aside when setting up for the night or gazing out at your view from camp. 

I appreciated the oversized stuff sack Durston includes with their shelters. Some manufacturers require you to painstakingly fold and roll your tent to fit back into a tiny stuff sack. But with the Durston, I was able to effortlessly stuff my shelter into its bag as I packed camp in a hurry. 

The floor is made of a hearty 20 denier silicone infused polyester fabric and coated in what the outdoor industry refers to as PE—which is shorthand for polyether urethane for water resistance. PE coating is less commonly used than the PU coating (polyester urethane) and is typically found in tents manufactured to withstand harsher conditions because polyester doesn’t absorb water and sag like nylon, so the shelter retains its structural integrity in wet conditions. This coating is carried throughout the entirety of the tent and coupled with the double-wall design and vents, makes condensation unlikely.

However, should the Durston X-Mid become damp, the generous headroom keeps moisture and condensation further from your head and gear. While this is a single person shelter, the double vestibules allow for double the outdoor storage of a typical one-person tent. I can easily stow my backpack and shoes with room to exit, and that still leaves the entire second vestibule to spare. 

What the Durston X-Mid Does Best

The X-Mid sets up and tears down like nothing I’ve experienced in 10 years of backpacking with ultralight tents and gear testing. Using only four stakes, zero required guylines, and flexible trekking pole heights according to the tension you need, the X-mid is a great option for a person who wants to dip a toe in the waters of ultralight backpacking without the intimidation of a complex set up. Additionally, the X-mid offers an entry level price point for those interested in trying out their first non-freestanding shelter without breaking the bank. 

Where the X-Mid Can Improve

Plan to spend a little extra money on some MSR Groundhog Minis. Laura Lancaster

The Durston X-Mid is an ultralight, non-freestanding shelter. That means if you break or lose a pole while hiking, your shelter will be compromised. This tent is designed for the ultralight, minimalist, backpacker. Though it feels roomy as a single person tent with two vestibules, it’s still a relatively small shelter with enough space to recover and regenerate. If you are someone who has a lot of gear to store inside, has a larger body, limited mobility, or a pet, you might need to upgrade to an X-Mid 2. A small detail that can make a big difference: The provided stakes for the Durston X-Mid 1 were not as high quality as we would have liked.

Final Thoughts

If you’re looking for a simple-to-erect ultralight tent at a fair price, I highly encourage you to check out this tent. I was consistently impressed by how well the X-Mid delivered on standing up to wind and rain, while resisting condensation. I strongly believe backpacking and ultralight gear in particular could expand on being more accessible to a wider base of users, and the Durston X-Mid 1 offers a refreshing price, without sacrificing on value or experience. 

The post Durston X-Mid 1 Review: A Beginner-Friendly Ultralight Shelter appeared first on Outdoor Life.

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