ZPacks Duplex Tent Review
The price tag on the ZPacks Duplex Tent may shock you at first, but if you’re an avid backpacker, it may be worth every penny. This tent is pretty spendy, but it's also an incredible investment if you love to backpack as light as possible. Here’s why I like it so much:
First of all, the Duplex has an ideal design for 1-2 people. It's simple and smart. It has two doors, two vestibules, and a high middle ceiling. The high ceiling will allow both you and your hiking partner to sit up comfortably at the same time and the two-door design will keep you from crawling over each other to get in and out of the tent.
Also, and this should not be overlooked, the Duplex is crazy freaking light. Remember that the next time you’re hauling a 50 pound pack over a 1,000-foot ridge. Pack weight has a big impact on enjoyment, and your tent will usually be one of your heaviest items (along with your sleeping bag, backpack, and sleeping pad). The Duplex only weighs 21 ounces. Yup, 1 pound 5 ounces for a fully-enclosed, waterproof two-person tent. That's pretty ridiculous.
The secret to this tent is in the material. Cuben Fiber is waterproof, tough, and incredibly light. The downside is that it’s very expensive. Performance wise, it’s superior to Silnylon, which is a common tent fabric. Unlike Silnylon, this material won’t sag when it’s cold and wet (every time it rains), so when you really need your tent to perform, the Duplex will.
Its high-wall bathtub floor is completely waterproof and positioned to maximize ventilation. You won’t need any ground sheet with this tent, unless you want to add extra durability to your tent floor. During a recent downpour in the Jefferson Wilderness, rivers of rainwater were cascading under our tent, but not one drop of water made its way inside.
There are some significant downsides with single-wall shelters like the Duplex though, and the biggest one is interior condensation. On cold and wet nights, moisture from your breath and the air can form condensation on the inside of the Duplex, which will be very uncomfortable to rub up against. In really bad conditions, big raindrops can even knock condensation off the tent walls, which causes a misting sensation inside the tent. It's rarely that bad, but on really wet nights it can be an annoyance to deal with.
Also, the Duplex isn't freestanding, so it will take some practice to master setting it up. You'll need more time and space at campsites to get the perfect pitch, and really rocky terrain can cause you to get creative with your pitch. This isn't the worlds biggest deal, but for the casual backpacker looking for convenience, this won't be the best route. If you're thru-hiking or trying to hike as light as possible, these types of tradeoffs may well be worth it.
Price Rank: Expensive, but worth it for thru-hikers and ultralight enthusiasts planning to hike thousands of miles. Check the ZPacks website for current pricing.
Weight: 21 oz - Crazylight. (weight doesn't include trekking poles or stakes)
Setup: 6-8 stakes and 2 trekking poles. (tent poles optional for additional cost)
Size: It's a tight fit for two people, but manageable with regular width pads. Wide pads most likely won't fit. For one person, this tent is practically is a palace.
Peak Height: 48 in
Interior Width: 45 in
Interior Length: 7.5 ft
Material: Cuben Fiber
Design: Simple & Smart. Two doors, two vestibules.
Weight: Incredibly light.
Space: A tight fit for two, but a palace for one.
Water Protection - Excellent rain protection.
Cost - Expensive, but can be well worth it if you're thru-hiking or ultralight backpacking.
Interior Condensation - All single wall tents suffer from interior condensation in wet and cold weather. This can be a very big downside for casual backpackers, but is worth dealing with for many ultralight backpackers. When backpacking in dry conditions, this won't be a factor at all, but in cold and wet conditions, it can be a bummer. Learn more in our tent buyers guide.
Setup Practice - It’ll take practice to master setting up the Duplex, like most single wall shelters. With a little time, you’ll get it down and setup will take 5-10 minutes unless the terrain is tricky. This tent will never be as simple or fast to set up as a freestanding tent and will always require a bit more space for guy lines and stakes.
If you’re an avid ultralight backpacker looking for lightweight, waterproof performance out of your shelter, I recommend seriously considering the ZPacks Duplex Tent. This tent is one of the best shelters I've ever used, hands down. True, it's not a small investment, but it'll be worth it for thru-hikers and long distance backpackers.
Update: The Zpacks Triplex is also excellent for hiking partners wanting a bit more space. We mostly use the Duplex for solo hikes and the Triplex for more interior space with two people. See our full review of the Triplex here.
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Disclosure: ZPacks provided a sample tent for this review, but I am under no obligation to say any positive comments about their products. This tent just rocks.