All in all, I think selecting my backpack took about five hours of research. My sleeping quilt took less than an hour. I fussed over my shelter for the better part of six months. I probably did more research on my shelter than I did purchasing my home.
There are a wide range of choices for shelters, but there is no ideal solution for the PCT. Hammock are awesome, but there are a limited number of trees in the desert (although it is not impossible to do). I sleep better when my feet are outside my quilt for temperature control, so a tarp and bivy is not for me. I have camped for years with a double-walled tent, but they are heavy. A single wall tent is lightweight, but can have condensation issues.
On top of all this is the fact that in the desert, most people cowboy camp anyways.
The fact that so many people cowboy camp ultimately became my focus. Do I want to take an additional light weight tarp so I can cowboy camp? Based upon that criteria, I discovered that zPacks makes a shelter that the bathtub is separate from the tent. It is the Hexamid. So, I purchased the Hexamid Solo Plus with a single person bathtub. The Solo Plus is designed for taller people. As I am average sized, it gives me plenty of room for my gear and me.
As the bathtub is separate, I can use it alone when I cowboy camp. The bathtub is the one piece that is likely to become damaged. It is easily replaced, so when I finish this hike, I will not need to replace my tent as commonly happens.
The issue with the Hexamid is that it is a single wall tent. As a single wall tent, I need to pay attention to condensation. On my six-day shakedown, I spent a whole day stuck in my tent during thunderstorms and hail. There was some condensation, but it was manageable. I need to be cognoscente of where and how I set it up to reduce condensation. I also found that the trash compactor bag can help by keeping the foot of my sleeping quilt dry.
I have made one change. I replaced the single person bathtub with the two-person bathtub. As a side sleeper, it was hard to say in the single person bathtub. The two-person is much wider and honestly fits much better.
The other issue I am concerned about is that there will be some locations I wish I had a self-standing tent. This will be a concern mostly in the Sierra Mountains. Before I leave, I’m going to learn to set it up using just rocks instead of my stakes. I’ve also asked the community about how often this might be a concern, and I’ve been told that it will be maybe one or two days out of the whole trip. With that, I’m not going to worry too much about it. I’m pleased with my selection.