Zpacks Duplex Tent Review
The Zpacks Duplex Tent is a single-wall 2 person tent made with Dyneema Composite Fabrics (formerly called cuben fiber) that weighs 19.4 oz. It has two doors, two vestibules, and requires two trekking poles to erect. Despite its high-tech construction, the Duplex is a remarkably simple tent to set up and use, which probably explains its widespread popularity with backpackers of all stripes. (See the Dyneema Composite Fabrics FAQ for more information about this remarkable material.)
Specs at a Glance
- Weight: 19.4 to 21.5 oz depending on color (21.5 oz, actual in Spruce)
- Type: Single-wall, two-person
- Material: Dyneema Composite Fabrics, Insect Netting
- Doors: 2
- Vestibules: 2
- Minimum number of stakes to set up: 8
- Internal floor width – 45″
- Internal floor length – 90″
- Zipper entry height – 36″
- Vestibule depth – 20.5″
- Peak height – 48″
- Packed size – 8.5L
- For full specs visit Zpacks.com
The Duplex is made with Dyneema Composite Fabrics (DCF) which is a lightweight, high strength, highly waterproof material which makes it good for making tents because it doesn’t absorb water or stretch overnight. While the Duplex is large enough to fit two people, it is lightweight enough that you seriously consider using it as a spacious 1-person tent, which many people do. This is perhaps its greatest advantage over tents made with conventional fabrics.
The Duplex has a simple pleasing design. It’s basically a single-wall tarp tent, with a waterproof DCF bathtub floor connected to the sidewalls with insect netting. The bathtub floor is 8″ deep, which will protect you from puddles and running water if it rains. Like most tarp tents, the bathtub floor is connected to the tent’s walls with insect netting to provide air circulation and help prevent internal condensation. An added guyline running from the floor to the overhead panel lets you angle the ceiling so any internal condensation will drip outside and not onto the floor.
The netting also lets the floor “float” which is very beneficial on uneven tent sites, where one side of the ground may be higher than another and you need to adjust your trekking poles to different lengths. This is a great benefit if you camp on “wild” unprepared tent sites, especially in a forest.
The Duplex has two mesh walls and doors which are protected by side vestibules. The vestibule doors open in the middle, so you can roll back half for wind protection or both for increased ventilation. Long rainbow-shaped zippers in the mesh walls let you get out on either side of the vestibules if you only have one half-open. The mesh walls are flexible, so it’s best to use two hands when opening or closing them to help support the fabric and prevent zipper jams.
The vestibules don’t close with a zipper, but overlap one another, and are held in place with a hooked buckle connected to the side guy out. This eliminates the need for an extra pair of tent stakes and makes setup easier. You can also hold the doors closed with a toggle, although its primary purpose is to reduce flapping in windy conditions.
The vestibule doors are cut high to encourage airflow, which is a common design pattern in single wall tents to help prevent internal condensation. While you can moderate the amount of airflow to a degree, by shortening the poles and closing the vestibule doors, the Duplex is cold and drafty in winter and shoulder season weather.
While the vestibules are deep enough for gear storage, I’d think twice about cooking with an alcohol stove in one if you want hot food during a rainstorm. Canister stoves are much safer in these circumstances because the flame is covered and the fuel won’t fireball when lit. (Yes, there are parts of the world without bears, where you can cook inside your tent.)
The interior of the Duplex is quite spacious for one, with good headroom below the center of the tent at the peaks. The amount of ceiling clearance diminishes as you get closer to the head and food end, which is the nature of an A-frame design. However, you can raise the ceiling above your head and feet by staking out the guylines attached to the DCF side panels. It’s not really an option, but a necessity to avoid internal condensation transfer to the foot of your sleep insulation and to provide more clearance for your head.
While there are two mesh pockets sewn to the sides of the bathtub floor, there is a notable absence of corner pockets or hang loops on the ceiling for lights or stashing fragile items, like glasses.
I tested a spruce colored version of the Duplex, which fairly transparent, which can be a consideration if you prefer more opaque walls for privacy. That transparency can also make the tent quite hot inside if pitched in intense sunlight. Although it’s also a bonus during a full moon when moonlight lights up the interior.
The Duplex comes fully outfitted with guylines and linelocs, but you need to supply your own tent stakes for the soil or ground conditions you expect to encounter. The linelocs make it very easy and fast to tighten the pitch once you’ve got the tent staked out and set up.
When packed, the Duplex is kind-of bulky, taking up about 8.5 liters of space. DCF shelters are best folded rather than stuffed to minimize their volume when packed.
Comparable DCF Tents
Key: SW=Single Wall, DW=Double Wall
|Make / Model||SW/DW||People||Vestibules||Weight||Price|
|Big Agnes Fly Creek HV Carbon 2||DW||2||1||18 oz||$850|
|Big Agnes Fly Creek HV 1 Carbon||DW||1||1||16 oz||$800|
|Big Agnes Scout 2 Carbon||DW||2||0||11 oz||$700|
|Big Agnes Tiger Wall 2 Carbon||DW||2||2||22 oz||1,000|
|Gossamer Gear DCF One||SW||1||1||15.3 oz||$539|
|Gossamer Gear DCF Two||SW||2||2||20.8 oz||$589|
|Hyperlite Mountain Gear Echo II||DW||2||1||29 oz||$695|
|MLD Duomid + Nest (all DCF)||DW||2||1||26 oz||$705|
|MLD Trailstar + Nest (all DCF)||DW||1||1||20.5 oz||$675|
|Tarptent Stratospire Li||DW||2||2||27.7 oz||$689|
|Yama Mountain Gear 2P Cirriform SW||SW||2||1||27.1 oz||$750|
|Yama Mountain Gear 2P Cirriform DW||DW||2||1||28.2 oz||$765|
|Zpacks Duplex||SW||2||2||19.0 oz||$599|
|Tarptent Aeon Li||SW||1||1||15.8 oz||$535|
|Tarptent Protrail Li||SW||1||1||15.95 oz||$499|
|Tarptent Notch Li||DW||1||2||21.5 oz||$500|
|Yama Mountain Gear 1P Cirriform SW||SW||1||1||20.8 oz||$630|
|Yama Mountain Gear 1P Cirriform DW||DW||1||1||22.6 oz||$630|
|Zpacks Plexamid||SW||1||1||15.3 oz||$549|
There are relatively few one and two-person DCF tents available, and while tent weight and cost are important dimensions, it’s worth understanding what other variables are important to you before you make a purchase decision.
Here are some important dimensions that are worth considering when choosing between different tents and shelters. This might seem long a long set of variables, but they can help you avoid buying the wrong shelter, especially a shelter from a cottage manufacturer that you can’t return for a refund if it doesn’t meet your needs.
Modularity: Do you want the ability to split apart your shelter into components and only use part of it in different weather or terrain? For example, buying a pyramid tarp and an inner nest, or a double-wall tent, can be much more flexible than buying a single wall tent with a permanently sewn-in floor.
Internal condensation: Many people prefer a double-wall tent because they can’t stand the thought of internal condensation making their gear damp.
Interior Space: Do you want to be able to store your gear inside the tent with you? If so, you might be better off buying a two-person tent and using it by yourself. Do you need a tent that can fit two people, even though realistically you plan to mostly use it for one person?
Dimensions: Do you prefer a tent with a high ceiling or one that’s long because you are a tall person. Do you prefer a tent with vertical or high-angled end walls because you have big feet that will touch a sloped ceiling?
Number of Doors: If you plan on using a two-person tent for two people, it is much more convenient to have one with two doors.
Ease of Entry: Tents that have wide side doors are usually easier to get in and out of than ones that have a narrow front door. In addition, wide vestibules with two independent doors (split in the middle), make it possible to use one half for gear storage and the other half for entry.
Footprint: How much space is required to set up the tent? For example, if you like to camp at unprepared (wild) tent sites, it can be easier to find a level, dry, or open space for a one-person tent instead of a two-person tent.
Draftiness: Some tents are draftier than others. For examples, shelters with a rain fly and vestibules that go all the way down to the ground tend to be warmer than those that don’t because they have less airflow. Tarp tents, where the fly and the floor are connected with mesh, tend to draftier than double wall tents.
Pitching in the Rain: Can you set up a tent in the rain and keep the inner tent dry? You can with most single wall tents and some double wall tents, but not with ones that require that you pitch the inner tent first.
Ease of Pitch: Some shelters are easier to set up than others. The simplest ones are tents that have an exoskeleton frame, which is one reason why they are so widely used on mainstream tents. When it comes to cottage manufactured tents, ones that have a rectangular footprint and symmetric sides are usually easier to set up than ones that have offset, asymmetric peaks or asymmetric walls.
The Zpacks Duplex is a two-person, DCF tent that is lightweight enough that it can be used by one person. While it’s expensive compared to most conventional two-person tents, it’s a relative bargain compared to the handful of other one and two-person DCF tents available today. While the Duplex tends to be drafty in cool weather, it has excellent ventilation to reduce the chance of any internal condensation transfer to your gear. It’s easy to get in and out of, with wide side doors and vestibules which can be used to store gear or enter and exit at the same time. As a single wall shelter, you can pitch the Duplex in the rain and prevent the interior from becoming soaked, which is a real advantage in a wet climate on extended length trips. While the internal dimensions can be snug for two people, the vestibules provide valuable gear storage to free up the living space area. Perhaps best of all, the Duplex is drop-dead simple to set up, with a symmetric two-pole design that will get you out of the weather and high and dry in no time at all.
Disclosure: Zpacks loaned the author a tent for this review.Editor's note: Help support this site by making your next gear purchase through one of the affiliate links above. Click a link, buy what you need, and some sellers may contribute a small portion of the purchase price to support SectionHiker's unsponsored and independent gear reviews, beginner FAQs, and free hiking guides.
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