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Zpacks Duplex Tent Review

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.)

Zpacks Duplex Tent

Comfort
Ease of Setup
Weather Resistance
Durabilty
Weight
Packed Size

Elegantly Designed

Ultralight and easy to set up, the Zpacks Duplex is spacious enough to be used by two people but lightweight enough to be carried by one.

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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
  • Dimensions:
    • 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 is light enough that you can use it as a spacious 1 person tent
The Duplex is light enough that you can use it as a spacious 1 person tent

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 bathtub floor is connected by mesh, allowing it to float independent of the walls
The bathtub floor is connected by mesh, allowing it to float independently of the walls

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.

Deep waterproof bathtub floor protects you from puddles and running water
Deep waterproof bathtub floor protects you from puddles and running water

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 vestibule doors overlap, but are not connected by a center zipper
The vestibule doors overlap but are not connected by a center zipper

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 held closed with a two-hook buckle
The vestibule doors are held closed with a two-hook buckle

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.)

Vestibule size is good for gear storage, but I’d recommend against cooking with an open flame.
Vestibule size is good for gear storage, but I’d recommend against cooking with an open flame.

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’s DCF is semi-transparent which can reduce privacy.
The Duplex’s DCF is semi-transparent which can reduce privacy.

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.

When packed the Duplex takes up about 8 liters of space, which is about the size of a 20 degree down sleeping bag.
When packed the Duplex takes up 8.5 liters of space, which is about the size of a 20 degree down sleeping bag.

Comparable DCF Tents

Key: SW=Single Wall, DW=Double Wall

Make / ModelSW/DWPeopleVestibulesWeightPrice
Big Agnes Fly Creek HV Carbon 2DW2122 oz$1,000
Big Agnes Scout 2 CarbonDW2011 oz$700
Big Agnes Tiger Wall 2 CarbonDW2222 oz1,000
Hyperlite Mountain Gear Echo IIDW2129 oz$695
Hyperlite Mountain Gear Dirigo 2SW2228.5 oz$795
MLD Duomid + Nest (all DCF)DW2126 oz$705
MLD Trailstar + Nest (all DCF)DW1120.5 oz$675
Tarptent Stratospire LiDW2227.7 oz$689
Yama Mountain Gear 2P Cirriform SWSW2127.1 oz$750
Yama Mountain Gear 2P Cirriform DWDW2128.2 oz$765
Zpacks DuplexSW2219.4 oz$599
Big Agnes Fly Creek HV 1 CarbonDW1116 oz$800
Tarptent Aeon LiSW1115.8 oz$535
Tarptent Notch LiDW1218.7 oz$500
Yama Mountain Gear 1P Cirriform SWSW1120.8 oz$630
Yama Mountain Gear 1P Cirriform DWDW1122.6 oz$630
Zpacks PlexamidSW1114.8 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 simple symmetric design of the Duplex makes it easy to setup
The simple symmetric design of the Duplex makes it easy to set up

Recommendation

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.

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38 comments

  1. Great tent! I’ve got a couple thousand miles on mine, and it is holding well. I do use kite tyvek as a ground cloth though.

    • I can see doing that if you camp on abrasive ground and actually use the tent A LOT and want it to last.
      I usually camp on very gentle forest duff or grasslands and don’t bother with a footprint.

      • Christopher Klemetson

        Nice review! I bought the Camo Duplex for my 2017 hike. It worked great! If I could tweak anything it would be the storage bag. I think it’s a lil too small.I find it a chore everytime trying to make it fit. -Inspector Gadget

      • That’s the problem with DCF. It’s bulky.

  2. I bought a Duplex as soon as they came out…Nov 2013…and love it. I have used a DIY 2x think Polycryo ground sheet (made from a Patio Door sealing kit) since new and have found no damage or wear. Given the cost of the Duplex, for 2 ounces I think it is a valuable addition regardless of the material you normally camp on.

  3. Although I don’t use it exclusively, I’m very happy with mine, very comfortable as a 1-person shelter, sets up faster than a double wall tent. I got the heavier DCF in green.

    I’ve seen and heard complaints about the cost, but it’s the least expensive 2-person shelter on your list, makes me feel even better about my investment. I waited until I saw them in the Bargain Bin in early fall, got a whopping $25 off (sarcasm) and it shipped almost immediately versus having to wait weeks for them to build it. The only flaw that I could detect was some excess adhesive that most manufacturers probably would have let slide.

    • I think that design and its simplicity would have also succeeded if it were made in silpoly and silnylon.
      The tent is incredibly easy to set up.
      Zpacks is leaving a lot of money on the table by not making the less expensive variant or at least licensing it (to china). I realize that they’re wedded to Dyneema, but having a set of less expensive products lets you grow your customer list and get them onto an upgrade path where none existed previously….
      Heck, they could even do it through MassDrop…

      • Ah, Marketing. Smart man!

      • I just have a lot of experience scaling start-up companies, having worked in many of them.

      • Those are some good thoughts. For personal reasons, if they didn’t want to expand the company, they could as you say, get it done in China.

        The first reviews are coming in on Dan Durston’s MassDrop tent.

      • I think you are definitely right about this. You are starting to see some copy-cat versions pop up at other companies. I bought some fabric and have spent some time trying to emulate the design in a silnylon because I like the design, but I am unwilling to spent $600 on a tent (and I like making my own stuff so I can customize details).

      • Gossamer Gear’s “The Two” is basically the silnylon version at around 30 oz and $389.

      • Looks quite similar, doesn’t it.

      • There is 3F UL Gear Lanshan 2 tent (also named Lancer, available at Amazon or AliExpress)… It is essentially it – Duplex made out of silnylon and tweaked (in particular it is double wall and there are vents).

      • One should never fall in love with a design or a material or product. Things evolve and prices can come down. Making things in China is less costly and the quality is as good or better than made in US or Europe often. I imagine that Joe and the team at ZPacks are always looking at improvements. A standalone DuoPlex along the lines of the coper spur would be good in a next generation Duoplex.

      • MARK ANDERSON, AKA, Thoth al Khem

        HI…GOOD POINT Philip ! I own a new Duplex AND a Lanshan 2 and have wished for a Duplex Style Single Wall in 7 or 15D Silnylon OR SILPOLY, for less stretch, with the mesh at the head and foot just like the Zpacks Duplex. It would be uber light (around 28-30 Oz) and SELL LIKE HOTCAKES……HECK I would buy it just to own it…..I also have a 2010 Tarptent SW and love it……28 Oz…..Condensation (for me) has never been a problem even zipped up……….LOVE your work. I start the 700 mile desert section of the PCT end of May and I have Congestive Heart Failure… 8-)

  4. About the scale reading 21.5 oz vs 19.4 for the spruce colored tent, the spruce is the heavier .74oz canopy material, and that material makes the tent 2.1oz heavier as per Zpacks.

    All tents have floors made from the 1.0oz material.

  5. I don’t think it is necessary but they do sell a double x-crossed eternal pole to make it semi-self supporting. (but I have no experience with this model)
    Clever , but probably only relevant if you do not use hiking poles

    • the stand alone poles are quite helpful but wobbly. If I need to be stand alone I use the poles plus my hiking poles and a string across the ridgeline. Rock solid like that.
      I am off again with my old duoplex that now has many nights on it. No footprint needed. Modified to keep doors tighter with two extra pegs. Modified to ensure floow cannot push outside and let water come in – two additional lifters on each end like those it came with.
      Overall a great piece of SUPERLIGHT KIT! I will buy another IF this one every wears out.

  6. I have a new Duplex and set it up twice. The tape that seals the top seam is already peeling away. Not happy for a $600 tent. I shouldn’t be fixing anything.

    • There’s a warranty on the tent – contact the company by email. Send pictures of the damage.
      I received a tent that was obviously defective (a door panel sewn wrong) and received excellent service. I did send photos and was able to exchange the tent for a new one, since I hadn’t used it. I’m not sure what they’d do about your situation, but the seam tape shouldn’t be peeling off –

    • Send them a note as they provide great customer service. Joe at Zpacks never lets his customers down.

  7. Excellent review. Single wall tents such as the Duplex have for me one fatal flaw: I can’t see the night sky when due to bug pressure cowboy camping is impossible. Falling asleep under the stars is for me one of the most beautiful parts of backpacking. Dual wall tents rule IMO in low precipitation/high mosquito areas such as the Sierra Nevada.

  8. Easy setup,durable,absolutely water proof ( last hike monsoon rains)

  9. The head and foot room can be expanded by running the sidewall guy lines over a short ~50 cm stick planted close to the tent wall. This pulls the ends out and up and gives a lot more room. The tension on the guy line holds the stick in place.

  10. Hope you get to borrow the Aeon LI for a review.

    • This is a part of a DCF tent review series. The next ones up are the Dirigo 2 and then the Plexamid, followed by the Aeon Li.

      • Excellent, I have been thinking about getting either the Plexamid or Aeon Li to compliment the Duplex. Looking forward to your reviews of these!

      • Great to see this. I’ve got Aeon Li/Plexamid fever and am looking forward to your thoughts on these two. Honestly, I think if Tarptent offered the Aeon in the heavier weight and darker Spruce or Camo, I’d already have my order in. Thank you for the reviews, Mark.

  11. Just got my Duplex and I use a LANSHAN 2 footprint as a footprint……Uber light also. LOVE my Duplex. I start the PCT May 28 and I am in Heart Failure……WHY NOT?

  12. Great review, as always.

    Quick question. Have you erected it with pacer poles? If so, did it pitch OK? Were there any problems with pole alignment?

  13. I’ll take the Tarptent stratosphere 2 Li for a 2 person Dyneema tent. It has much more USEABLE interior space and it is better in higher winds.

    For a one person Dyneema once again the Tarptent AEON.

    • Bill in Roswell GA

      The Duplex is popular because it’s easily available and has been around a few years during the Thruhiker YouTube boom. Personally I agree about Tarptent designs having some advantages. But at the start of AT Thruhiker bubble, Zpacks were easy to buy so Duplex and Plexamid dominate. I would take Zpacks or Tarptent over Big Agnes Dynema for any trip! Face it, we are now spoiled with choices!

  14. Looking at the 2 person Dyneema tents on the market I’ll take the Tarptent Stratospire Li.

    At 1 lb. 10 oz. its innovative design offers more interior space than the Z-Packs Duplex and better wind worthiness with better ventilation when closed up for a storm.

  15. Minor update, the Duplex does have loops in the two apex points now, I just received my Duplex for doing the JMT again. Was able to add a line inside using the loops for hanging clothes to dry overnight.

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