Thought process: What is right shelter for me?
When I decided to thru-hike CDT a couple of months back I tried to do a comprehensive assessment of all my PCT-gear to try and find out what to replace, change, or upgrade. From the get-go my Zpacks Duplex was probably my biggest worry. After some sketchy rain experience with the tent in Slovenia, I tried to tape over as many micro-holes as possible but it still left me with a feeling of uncertainty about it’s rain protection. Combined with my general problems with the Duplex ( See my PCT-Gear Review for more) I made the decision to replace or “upgrade” my shelter system.
I disregarded my first idea, the Zpacks Plexamid, pretty quickly as I felt like that I’m going to run into some of the same problems I had with the Duplex as well as further concerns about the untested squared peak.
This meant that my focus shifted to a combination of tarp and bivy, as I was most definitely not willing to add additional weight to by pack (Something probably most of the you can relate to). I was somewhat averse to using a flat tarp as I’ve never used one before and as far as I know the CDT is quite known for big storms.
My initial favorites were the MLD Patrol Tarp or one of their Mid Shelters. Still left unconvinced about either shelter I asked for advice in the r/ultralight subreddit.
Luckily, some comments steered my towards the Locus Gear Khufu. I hadn’t even thought about Locus Gear beforehand, despite owning and loving their trekking poles, but after checking out the Khufu I was convinced.
The Khufu, I felt, had the perfect design and stats for my need. It spacious, made out of tough 0.75 DCF and despite it size, it’s lighter than the MLD Solomid. This combined with the formidable wind resistance of a mid-style tarp and the reputation of excellent workmanship by Locus Gear sealed the deal for me.
Unlike the tarp, the decision about what bivy to use was rather simple. I think Borah’s bivys are by far the most revered and most liked of the whole cottage industry. The Cuben Bug Bivy seemed like a no-brainer, as I felt a “true” bivy was not necessary with a mid-style tarp. I also will not go into too much detail about the bivy, as it’s been covered enough in my opionion.
Ordering and Arrival
The ordering was as easy as one could hope for. Question were answered within 24 hours, despite the time difference to Europe. As far as I know, they do “minor” customization, but the only thing I inquired about was a DCF inner tent, wich I decided against rather quickly ( For the interested: Khufu Half Mesh DCF: 235 g / 8,2 oz at 8000 yen surcharge). Just keep in mind if you order, let your bank handle the currency exchange and not PayPal to save money.
They “advertised” a 10 week lead time but it shipped after just 8 weeks. Combined with the extremely fast Japense Postal Service (3 work days) the tarp arrived quite a bit early.
It arrived in a (maybe too) sturdy stuff sack and some unattached guy lines.
Putting it on the scale it measured at 321 grams or 11.3 ounces. This is very much in the expected range as the listed weight with stuff sack is 335 g or 11.82 oz.
As expected I was very excited and wanted to set it up as fast as possible. Sadly the Swiss winter wasn’t the biggest fan on that idea and it took my couple of days to find at least a short window of “acceptable” test-weather.
The setup is rather simple, especially compared to the learning curve of the Duplex. As shown in the pictures below you lay the tarp down and stake out the 4 corners. This if followed by opening the tarp and erecting a 130 cm trekking poles in the center. As a last step all the others tie-out points are staked out.
This results in this classical mid-style tarp with steep walls and a rather low footprint.
The build quality seems excellent, especially compared to my previous shelter. I’ll go over the specifics in the following paragraphs but in general I feel like this as good as it can get regarding workmanship and build quality. I have so far not found a single spot that could be prone to braking or any other problems associated with heavy use.
In a sense the door is the central point of a mid-style center, as the lack of an inner tent means that it is the only thing that isn’t just straight fabric. The Khufu has a somewhat unique approach to an ultralight door: It uses as two-way zipper. I’m not entirely sure how I’m going to take advantage of it. So far additional ventilation seems the main use, but it might prove more valuable in the future.
It also has an additional clipper at the bottom to keep the whole thing tightly together even if the zippers are open all the way.
Edit: Apparently the two-way zipper can be used to enter the tarp during rain as can be seen in this video.
The zipper itself seems quite sturdy. Despite it being a #3 YKK Zippers I doubt I’ll ever have any problems with it.
My only complaint about the door is the fact you have to disconnect it from the stake to actually open it. While it isn’t that big of a hassle, I would have appreciated a way to keep the connection to the stake. But I don’t think this is possible with the current design.
On the other end of the door the zipper ends in a small ventilation window. It remains to be seen if this will actually be helpful to avoid condensation.
The doors can be secured once opened: Two small cords, one on the inside the other on the outside, can be connected. Sadly I only realized this while packing down and subsequently forgot to take a picture of. I luckily found a picture of it online to compensate
As mentioned in the set-up section there are 8 ground level tie-outs. They all use a LineLoc 3 Guy Line Adjusters, a model that is close to a standard for ultralight tents. The sewing and taping looks very well made and well protected against heavy use.
There are 4 further possible tie-outs one on each panel and another 4 spots on the ridge lines. The guy-line is provided but I doubt I’m going to use them any time soon. It just seems overkill.
I also wanted to provide a pic from the workmanship inside the tent. This is the backside of a ridge line tie-out.
Interior with the Borahgear Bug Bivy
The inside of the Khufu is definitely big enough for 2 persons, but I think unlike my previous tent, the Duplex, the room for your gear would be rather tight. As you probably have already recognized my pole is a bit sloped. While this certainly wasn’t intended it also didn’t prose any stability problems.
I of course immediately set up my new bivy, filled with a Therma-Rest NeoAir XLite and my old EE Revelation. I bought some DCF Taps with hooks attached from Zpacks. Unfortunately, attaching them at the right spot was not the easiest thing to do. The steep walls are not the perfect attachment spot, as the bivy is made in a way where you not only want to pull it up, but also horizontally away from it. In a sense the “best” spot to tie the bivy to is therefore outside of the tarp.
The effect of the non perfect attachment spot is that the mesh is just laying on top of the quilt in the middle section of the bivy. It might’ve been a good idea to ask John from Borahgear to add another tie point in the middle of the bivy. I’m pretty sure you could nicely attach it to the sidewall.
As mentioned above the tie-points aren’t perfect, resulting in the bug bivy’s mesh hanging somewhat low. As a stomach-sleeper this doesn’t bother me to much, but it might be uncomfortable for side or back sleepers. A possible simple solution could be to attach the hook a little bit further up the wall.
While not storming it was rather windy with some strong gusts when I set up the Khufu. While it certainly isn’t enough to make conclusion it performed well in the wind, being comparativly quite and very stable. I’ll most likely update this section in the future once I’ve used in some windy nights.
From my impression the Locus Gear Khufu seems like a formidable mid-style tarp. It is beautifully designed and built with an even more impressive workmanship. In my humble opinion it is probably the prime 1-2 person mid-style tarp: It has an easy set-up, a lot of tie-out options to provide sturdiness, and lot of room (at least for a single person). All this with a very impressive weight of just 320 g / 11.8 oz, beating its competitors handily. It is certainly not a cheap shelter, but, at least so far, it appears to be worth every penny.
I’m not so sure about combining it with the Borah Gear Bug Bivy. The bivy on it self is definitely very well made and probably a good companion to most other tarps. In this case the attachment of the bivy is somewhat dissatisfying. If you don’t plan on using it in a buggy environment, a groundsheet should be sufficient, as splash water is minimal.
I’ll continue to use the Borah bivy for now, but I might get a simple Polycro groundsheet to use in the areas less prone to bugs. I will probably Update this post once I’ve used it for a bit on my upcoming trip to New Zealand and CDT thru-hike.