The Zpacks Plexamid is a one-person, single-wall ultralight tent that weighs 14.8 ounces. It is made with 0.51 oz/sq. yard Dyneema Composite Fabrics (DCF), a waterproof material that has does not stretch or sag, making it well-suited for lightweight tents, tarps and stuff sacks. But, while the Plexamid “checks all of the boxes” for an ultralight tent including weight, ventilation, and interior space, it doesn’t really float my boat, the way that the 19.4 oz Zpacks Duplex Tent does.
The design of the Plexamid isn’t as clean as the Duplex; it’s less adaptable in poor terrain, and there’s a bigger learning curve to using it. I can’t decide if that’s a function of the design or the material used to make the tent, although it does call into question whether DCF is really the best material to build asymmetric “shaped” multi-panel tents with because it has so little stretch. More on this below.
Specs at a Glance
- Capacity: 1 person
- Type: Single-wall, trekking pole tent
- Trail weight (no stakes): 14.8 oz
- Minimum number of stakes to pitch: 6 (10 recommended)
- Doors: 1
- Interior peak height: 48″
- Interior floor: 28″ ends, 38″ center
- Interior length: 90″
- Materials: 0.51 oz/sq yd Dyneema Composite Fabrics, carbon fiber
- Guy lines and tensioners: Included
- Construction: Sewn and taped
- For complete specs, see Zpacks.com
The Plexamid has a tarp-tent style design with an 8″ deep floating bathtub floor to protect the interior from pooling water under the tent. The floor is connected to the side walls of the tent with fine bug mesh to provide additional airflow and so internal condensation will run down the walls, out the mesh, and not onto the inner tent floor.
When pitching this style tent, it’s normal for there to be an air gap between the bottom of the exterior walls and vestibules and ground to enable airflow, although it can make for a cooler tent in shoulder season weather and enable some splash back, with wind-blown rain under the side walls. Repositioning the tent to reduce its weather exposure can go a long way to increase comfort in such circumstances.
The Plexamid has a five-sided pentangle shape that provides generous floor space for a rectangular or mummy sleeping pad. Its floor plan is wider in the middle and tapered at the ends, with space to store your pack or other gear inside the tent next to you. The front wall is vertical, while the surrounding walls slope downward at an angle.
Despite the long length of the tent’s interior, the usable volume is limited due to the sloping side and rear walls, a common issue with pyramid-style shapes, so it’s best to position your sleeping pad adjacent to the vertical front mesh door for maximum headroom. There are also four optional guy lines that can be used to pull out the side walls at the ends and rear of the tent to increase interior volume and they are usually necessary to improve livability.
The front mesh wall has a rainbow shaped door that makes it easy to get in and out of the tent. It also provides excellent ventilation when one or both vestibule doors are open at night. Overall, I’ve been impressed by the relative lack of internal condensation when using the Plexamid, compared to other single wall tents, even though good tent site selection is just as important (See How to Prevent Tent Condensation.)
The Plexamid requires one front trekking pole to set up, which can be slanted to maximize freedom of movement inside the tent or accommodate a fixed length pole. There are two external vestibule doors that can be rolled back independently. They form a covered area that’s large enough to store a large backpack in one half, without blocking access through the other. Head clearance when the doors are rolled back is quite good and it’s easy to get in and out of the tent without crawling.
The vestibule doors don’t close with a zipper, but overlap one another, and are held in place with a hooked buckle connected to the front guy line. This cleverly eliminates the need for an extra guyline and tent stake. You can also hold the doors closed with a toggle, although its primary purpose is to reduce flapping in windy conditions.
The Plexamid has a flat ceiling formed by a rectangular patch of material, reinforced by two short crisscrossed carbon fiber rods, instead of the pointed center peak found in most pyramid-style tents or tarps. This helps increase the tent’s interior space without requiring a higher peak or pole jack to extend a trekking pole high enough to support it.
The handle-end of a trekking pole is captured by a pocket attached to the rectangular ceiling patch. It works well with naked trekking pole handles, handles with wrist straps, and even Pacerpole handles.
While there is a single mesh pocket sewn to the inside of the bathtub floor below the door, there is a notable lack of hang loops on the ceiling for lights or stashing fragile items, like glasses.
I tested a spruce colored version of the Plexamid, which is fairly transparent and can be a consideration if you prefer more opaque walls for privacy. That transparency can also make the tent quite hot inside if it’s pitched in intense sunlight.
Plexamid Tent Setup
The basic setup is fairly simple. It’s best to keep your guy lines very loose to begin and to stake out the four corners before inserting the center pole. Once it’s in place, stake out the front and rear center guy lines. You can do this in the rain without getting the inner tent wet, and during takedown, when packing the tent up.
When you pitch the tent, don’t put the vestibule doors under a lot of tension relative to the door hook. Also, make sure they’re hooked and toggled together when you stake out the four “optional” rear and side guy lines. If the doors are not closed and you put those four guy lines under strong tension, you won’t be able to hook the vestibule doors together from inside the tent, unless you get out and re-stake it.
Unfortunately, the asymmetric design of the Plexamid introduces a push-me-pull-you relationship amongst the tent’s guy lines, where you might tension one and have a stake on the other side of the tent pop out of the ground because there’s so little stretch in the tent body. There is a real learning curve to setting up the tent in less than perfect circumstances, especially less-than-level stealth tent sites.
My recommendation is to keep the guy lines as loose as possible during setup and not to tension the guy lines unless the tent is buttoned up with the doors hooked and toggled closed.
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||22 oz||$1,000|
|Big Agnes Scout 2 Carbon||DW||2||0||11 oz||$700|
|Big Agnes Tiger Wall 2 Carbon||DW||2||2||22 oz||1,000|
|Hyperlite Mountain Gear Echo II||DW||2||1||29 oz||$695|
|Hyperlite Mountain Gear Dirigo 2||SW||2||2||28.5 oz||$795|
|MLD Duomid + Nest (all DCF)||DW||2||1||26 oz||$705|
|MLD Trailstar + Nest (all DCF)||DW||2||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||19.4 oz||$599|
|Big Agnes Fly Creek HV 1 Carbon||DW||1||1||16 oz||$800|
|Tarptent Aeon Li||SW||1||1||15.8 oz||$535|
|Tarptent Notch Li||DW||1||2||18.7 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||14.8 oz||$549|
The Zpacks Plexamid is one of the lightest weight, single person backpacking tents available today, weighing just 14.8 oz including guylines. In fact, the company just announced an even lighter weight version called the Plexamid V Beta, which weighs 13.6 oz. If carrying the lightest weight tent is your number one priority, you’ll be hard pressed to find an ultralight shelter that’s as livable as the Plexamid, without switching to a floorless tarp or cowboy camping.
That said, the Plexamid wouldn’t be my choice because gear weight isn’t the most important criteria I use to pick a backpacking tent or shelter system, but there is a lot to like about the Plexamid if you’re willing to accept some of the setup nuances I describe above. There’s no such thing as a perfect backpacking tent or shelter, but if it works for you and you enjoy using it, that’s usually just as good.
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 links above. Click a link, buy what you need, and the seller will contribute a portion of the purchase price to support SectionHiker's unsponsored gear reviews, articles, and hiking guides.
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