Zpacks makes some of our all-time favorite backpacking gear, and their Triplex Tent is truly an exceptional ultralight shelter. Its combination of weight, weather protection, and functionality makes it one of our favorite ultralight shelters for two people, especially on difficult trips with a lot of elevation gain and long mileage. Though it’s not a great fit for casual backpackers, thru-hikers and long distance trekkers will absolutely love the benefits of the Triplex. So if you like hiking long miles in rugged terrain and keeping your pack weight down is a priority, we highly recommend the Zpacks Triplex.
Specs & Analysis
WEIGHT: Weight is the key strength of the Triplex, and an area where it blows the competition out of the water. The main body of the Triplex (tent poles and stakes excluded) weighs only 22.5 ounces. That’s 1.4 pounds for a three-person tent! Truly insane. If you already hike with trekking poles, you can use them as your tent poles and add no additional weight (other than tent stakes). Alternatively, Zpacks sells excellent carbon fiber tent poles that will only add 5 ounces to your tent weight (though they do cost an extra $58).
If you add it all up, shelter, optional tent poles, and stakes, the total weight of the Triplex is still under two pounds! That’s just nuts. There are pros and cons with every piece of backpacking gear, but the weight savings of the Triplex is a huge pro in our books. The Triplex helps keep our backpacks light with every step, and that makes a massive difference when we’re climbing up to high mountain passes or trekking 20-mile days.
PRICE: The biggest downside to the Triplex in our opinion is it’s price. There’s no way to get around the fact that this is a very expensive piece of backpacking gear. That said, the Triplex is also awesome, and it’ll last a long time if treated with care. For example, if you’re planning to live out of your tent for 5 months on a thru-hike of the 2,650-mile PCT, spending an extra couple hundred bucks on your shelter would be well worth it in our opinion. So, it all depends on how much use you plan to get out of your shelter and what your priorities are. If you plan to put your tent to good use and traveling ultralight is a top priority, the Triplex may very well be worth the cost.
INTERIOR SPACE: The Triplex is listed as a three-person tent, but like most three-person backpacking tents, it’s best application is actually as a roomy two-person tent. Bumping up in size from the Duplex (two-person) to the Triplex (three-person) will give two hikers the ability to sleep on wide pads and have a lot more interior space to move around freely without getting in each other’s way. The upgrade from the Duplex to the Triplex will cost an extra $100 and add 3.5 ounces of weight, but we think those downsides are well worth it if you mostly plan to use your tent in pairs. The Triplex has a high peak height, fully vertical sidewalls, and a good amount of width, all of which provide a spacious interior.
DOORS & VESTIBULES: The Triplex has an ideal two door, two vestibule design that’s great for hiking partners. Each hiker will have their own entryway and plenty of room to store a backpack in the vestibule out of the rain. The vestibules can be rolled up completely for views and airflow, one side can be deployed, or they can can both be pulled down for full weather protection. The door zippers often require two hands to operate, but they’re large, convenient, and they work well.
WEATHER PROTECTION: The Triplex is made with a unique fabric (DCF) that’s insanely light, very strong, and fully waterproof. The unique DCF fabric is also why the tent is so expensive, but it it does have some distinct advantages, and weather protection is one of them. We’ve used Zpacks shelters in many all-out downpours and have found them to be excellent at keeping nasty weather out. Additionally, DCF fabric won’t sag when wet like silnylon shelters, which helps keep your tent pitch taught regardless of the weather.
SINGLE WALL: The Triplex is a single-wall shelter, meaning it doesn’t have a separate rainfly and mesh tent body like many freestanding tents. Instead, the Triplex only has one shelter wall that acts as rain protection. The main upside to this design is reduced weight. The main downside to this design is interior condensation (more below).
INTERIOR CONDENSATION: Interior condensation is an important consideration for single-wall shelter users. In very wet and cold weather, moisture can sometimes form on the interior wall of a rainfly. In a double-wall shelter there’s a mesh tent wall to protect users from rubbing up against the moisture on a rainfly, but in a single-wall shelter there’s no such barrier. So when the weather is cold and wet, you’ll want to be careful not to rub up against the interior of your tent, or you may be in for a damp surprise.
In dry conditions, this is a total non-factor, and even when it’s cold/wet, it’s often possible to limit interior condensation so it’s not a big hinderance. For thru-hikers and long distance backpackers, this tradeoff for the weight savings tends to be well worth it. For casual backpackers, interior condensation might be a deal breaker.
NON-FREESTANDING: The Triplex is a non-freestanding tent, meaning it needs to be staked into the ground with at least 8 sturdy tent stakes for a proper pitch. This is usually not a big deal, but if the terrain is hard and rocky, you’ll sometimes have to get creative with tent stakes and heavy rocks to get a sturdy pitch. Non-freestanding tents like the Triplex will always take a bit longer and be a bit more complicated to pitch than freestanding tents, so if ease of use is a top priority, a freestanding tent might be your best bet. That said, it usually only takes us 10-15 minutes to pitch the Triplex properly, and it gets easier with practice.
TENT STAKES: The Triplex doesn’t come with any tent stakes, so you’ll need to buy some separately, and you’ll need at least 8. Zpacks does sell ultralight tent stakes, but we prefer affordable aluminum tent stakes with reflective pull cords (like these), because we want burly stakes with good holding power that can withstand being gently pounded into the ground with a rock and are visible at night. Carbon fiber tent stakes don’t last long in our experience.
DURABILITY: Zpacks says the expected lifespan of the Triplex is at least one full 2,500+ mile thru-hike, or many years of casual use with some care. We think that’s a fair, if not conservative estimate. The tent floor of the Triplex is made of a thicker and more durable DCF fabric than the fly, so there’s no need to use a separate ground sheet. In the event of a rip or tear (we haven’t experienced any yet), the fabric can easily be fixed with repair tape or tenacious tape. The Triplex also comes with a one year warranty against defects in materials or workmanship.
Triplex Photo Gallery
SUMMARY OF PROS:
Ridiculously light – Excellent for serious backpackers
Fully waterproof & sturdy in storms
Won’t sag when wet like silnylon shelters
Two big doors and vestibules is a great design
Spacious and convenient interior for two hikers
Durable and easy to repair if need be
SUMMARY OF CONS:
Non-freestanding tents take longer to setup than freestanding tents and may require creativity on rocky terrain
Unideal for car camping and casual backpacking trips
Some practice is required to get the perfect pitch
Interior condensation can be annoying in wet/cold weather
No tent stakes included – we like these ones and carry 8 of them
No tent poles included – Use your trekking poles or pick up Zpacks’ carbon fiber poles.
Like any piece of high-end backpacking gear, the Zpacks Triplex comes with a range of pros and cons. In our opinion, the pros of the Triplex heavily outweigh its cons, especially if you plan to put it to good use over many miles. For thru-hiking couples and ultralighters with the budget to spend, the Triplex is our top tent pick, and one of our all-time favorite shelters. If you mostly backpack solo, we’d recommend choosing the Duplex over the Triplex, but if you mostly backpack in pairs, the Triplex is an excellent choice for the extra space.
If you think the convenience of a freestanding, double-wall tent is more your style, or you don’t have the budget to spend on a tent like the Triplex, we recommend checking out our list of the best backpacking tents or our best budget tents list. Also, if you liked this review and you want more recommendations, check out the CleverHiker Backpacking Gear Guide and our Top Gear Picks list.
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