Gear Review: ZPacks Duplex Tent

After somewhere over 200 nights of sleeping in our little tent, I think it’s time for a full review.  We carried the ZPacks Duplex for 1,700 miles on the Appalachian Trail, and 2,650 miles on the Pacific Crest Trail, along with a few other shorter trips.  It’s been our shelter through countless rainstorms, through swarms of mosquitos, sweltering heat, wind and hail, and a few freak snowstorms.  It’s been through the desert and the woods and the mountains, from East to West, from the bottom of the Grand Canyon to the highest peak in the contiguous United States.

A lot of people ask about this tent, for obvious reasons: it’s about the lightest 2 person tent on the market, but it’s also about the most expensive.  So is it worth it?  I think so, but you have to know what you’re getting with this tent.

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First off, this tent is made of Dyneema Composite Fiber, more commonly referred to as Cuben Fiber among thru-hikers.  The fabric is both lighter than silnylon and naturally waterproof, so it doesn’t sag in wet conditions.  It’s also very expensive and can be prone to puncturing.  With care, punctures can be avoided.  With a little Cuben Fiber Tape, punctures can be easily repaired in the field.  I make sure to fold and roll the tent up every day, and store it in the provided bag.  Some hikers just cram it all in their backpack, but I worry that this will wear down the fabric faster.

Secondly, this is a tarp-style tent that has a full mesh enclosure and bathtub style floor attached.  Put another way, it is a single-walled, non-freestanding tent.  It is very open and breathable.  It is held up with your trekking poles and 6-8 stakes.  There is a learning curve to setting up the tent, and proper tent site selection is more important than with your average freestanding tent.  Adjusting the pitch of the tent depending on the weather conditions will provide the best experience.

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What we Love About this Tent

The Duplex has 2 doors and 2 vestibules.  When you’re sharing a small space, this is a big deal!  We don’t have to crawl over each other to get in or out, we both have some space for our own gear, and we can have our own vestibules open or closed.  This is definitely the lightest tent with 2 doors we could find.

It’s fully enclosed.  While there are many times I feel that just a tarp would be sufficient, I’ve walked through enough mosquito hell to appreciate a mesh enclosure to retreat to at camp.

It’s very open.  The A-frame style allows us to both sit up with plenty of headroom and not hit the walls of the tent.  Most nights we sleep with both vestibules open, which allows a breeze to pass right through the tent and offers views out both sides.  Even in a light rain it’s possible to keep each vestibule half open and still stay dry.  This open-ness helps to fight off condensation build up inside the tent.

It’s crazy light.  Because it uses our trekking poles, it eliminates the need to carry tent poles.  Our tent weighs in with stakes at 22 oz.

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What we Don’t Love About this Tent

It’s expensive.  We managed to get ours at a discount for $500, but they usually sell for $600.  That’s a crazy cost and there are much cheaper silnylon tents out there.  Cuben Fiber tents are costly.

It Doesn’t Come With Stakes.  A non-freestanding tent requires stakes to set up.  This tent costs $600.  They can’t throw in a set of cheap aluminum stakes?  We use the stakes that came with our freestanding Big Agnes tent, and they still work great.

It’s not ideal in snow.  Then again, no lightweight 3-season backpacking tent is.  Fortunately, thru-hiker season typically sees just a few isolated incidents of snow.

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So is it Worth it?

Yes, for the right person.  It’s not a tent for beginner backpackers, and would best serve a thru-hiker or someone who backpacks a lot in order to make the investment worth it.  It has proven itself to be worth it over the long-term for us, and has definitely outlasted the silnylon tent we had prior to this one.  We love this tent!

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