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Reader Response: Thru-Hiking Shelter Space and Size

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ZPacks Duplex Tent – Oregon Coast Sunset

I often get fantastic emails from readers with really great questions. I try to answer them to the best of my ability and I frequently wish that others could read my responses. So today I’m trying out a new idea and I’m going to publish a recent reader email. If you like this type of content – please let me know with a “like” or “comment” below. Thanks to everyone for the wonderful notes and questions. You guys rock!

Reader Response: Thru-Hiking Shelter Space and Size

Hello Dave,

I found CleverHiker while researching gear on the ZPacks website. My wife & I hiked the JMT in 2014 and will be hiking it again this summer. We used the REI Dash 2 tent. I’m 6’5″ so the Big Agnes Fly Creek UL2 is not long enough. The Big Agnes Copper Spur 2 is narrower & heavier than the Dash 2. I was able to get the total weight of the tent down to 44.4 oz by removing all tags, rubber bands, and excess packaging. Had to replace the included tent stakes with MSR Carbon Core. Also, using GG Ground sheet. Thought this could be a potential gear recommendation for your website? The interior is 90 x 54 it’s cozy for two people but surprisingly spacious with it’s near vertical walls.

I’m in the process of researching gear for a PCT 2016 thru hike and wanted to ask about the ZPacks shelters – mainly the Duplex vs. Triplex tents. Both are incredibly light and pricey! The Triplex seems like it would be overkill for two people plus gear, but the interior dimensions for Duplex shows a width of 45″ which seems extremely cramped. Given that the Dash 2 has a width of 54″ and I wouldn’t want to go any narrower. I’m not so worried about my head or feet touching the shelter walls as this is fine in the Dash 2. We spent several nights in rain and it held up great.

Despite the big price tag the ZPacks shelter the weight is less than half. Wanted to know your thoughts about using this tent on a longer thru hike. Some blogs I’ve read suggest that Cuben fiber is very delicate and recommend not setting up a shelter (cowbody camp) to prolong the life and prevent wear and tear. I’ve never used this type of shelter so using trekking poles and staking it out takes much longer but the weight is very low. My goal is to find a very lightweight shelter with great ventilation that we can use every night on the trail.

Thanks for taking the time and energy to put together such a great website. I appreciate your time and all that you’re doing to share you love of backpacking and the outdoors.


My Response: 

Hi Chance,

Thanks so much for your fantastic email! It’s really nice to get such a detailed note and I can tell that you really know your stuff. Also, the JMT is such a beautiful stretch of trail. I love that place and it sounds like you must too. Enjoy! I’m jealous 🙂 

I appreciate the heads up on the REI Dash 2. That’s a tent I hadn’t paid too much attention to, but I do think it would be a great fit for many of my readers that are nervous about cottage company gear and like solid brands like REI. I was just looking over all the specs and it seems like a solid value buy for lightweight backpackers that want more space. I’ll have to pick one up and test it out. 

As far as the ZPacks shelters go, I can’t say enough good things about the ZPacks gear I’ve used. I consider the Duplex to be the best overall tent I’ve ever taken on the trail. I’ve been backpacking with it for the past two years and I love the protection/space it provides and how light it is. I haven’t carried it on a thru-hike, but I have taken it out on hundreds of miles of trail in all types of conditions, and I can tell that it still has a ton of mileage left in the tank. I would consider it an ideal shelter for a thru-hike. 

The two downsides are that it costs a lot and it will be slightly less durable over time than other tents. I don’t really think the durability piece is actually that big of an issue and I know several thru-hikers that have used the duplex on their thru-hikes and then continued to use them well after. The price is significant, but cuben fiber is really expensive stuff and it’s worth it if you backpack a lot, which it sounds like you do.

You’ll have to treat cuben fiber more gently than silnylon, but it has some huge upsides. It’s completely waterproof, won’t absorb any moisture at all, and won’t sag when it gets cold and wet like silnylon. It’s essentially bombproof in a downpour, which is obviously a huge win. 

It will take a bit of time to master setting up the ZPacks shelters, but after you’ve practiced a couple dozen times you’ll have it down easy. It probably takes me 3-5 minutes to set mine up max. 

The space on the inside is great for me – I’m 6’2″ and 180lbs. I just took it on the trail with a buddy of mine that is about the same size and we had no space issues at all. You’re a bit taller than I am, but I don’t think 3 extra issues will put you out that much. It also sounds like you’re more used to a lot of interior space, so you may consider bumping up to a triplex, but I’d recommend sticking with the duplex, especially for a thru-hike. There’s room in the duplex for some gear storage by your head/feet, but I usually just set my pack and anything I’m not using in the vestibule outside. Both hikers have a door and vestibule which are easily accessible. I consider the duplex to be a comfortable fit for two and a palace for one. I often take it out on solo hikes too because it weighs so little. 

As you can see, I have very high regard for the ZPacks tents, and I think you’ll enjoy yours if that’s the way you decide to go. It’s a different style of tent that will take some time getting used to and it does cost a pretty penny, but it’s really a fantastic product. 

Take care and thanks again for your wonderful email!