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Zpacks Plexamid Tent Review

Dyneema DCF Tent Pitch

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.

Zpacks Plexamid Tent

Comfort
Ease of Setup
Weather Resistance
Durabilty
Weight
Packed Size

Setup can be Fussy

The Zpacks Plexamid is half-pyramid style ultralight tent made with Dyneema Fabric. While it has a spacious interior with good ventilation, setup is not always straightforward and can take some fiddling to get right.

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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 splashback, 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.

Its best to stake out all 10 guy lines to maximize interior volume
It’s best to stake out all 10 guy lines to maximize interior volume

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.

Tent vestibule example
The front has two vestibule doors that can be rolled back independently

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.

Open tent vestibules
The two vestibule doors can also be rolled back for maximum ventilation in dry weather.

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 vestibule doors are held closed by a two-pronged door hook
The vestibule doors are held closed by a two-pronged door hook

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.

The Plexamid has a single interior pocket below the mesh door
The Plexamid has a single interior pocket below the mesh door

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.

The Plexamid is very easy to set up and folds up compactly for backpacking

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 / 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
Backpacking Tent Interior
While the interior is 90 inches long, you need to position yourself and your gear carefully to avoid touching the slanted walls

Recommendation

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.

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45 comments

  1. Great review. I’ve struggled with the Plexamid guylines myself . While it’s perfectly usable with some fiddling, it’s not exactly enjoyable when you want a hassle free night.

  2. If weight isn’t the most important thing, how do you pick which shelter to bring? I’m a newbie trying to decide whether to buy this tent. It is expensive.

    • That’s a bigger topic than can be handled in a blog comment. My first consideration is usually the weather (primarily wind/temperatures/rain) and terrain (trees or no trees, steepness, ground conditions) that my tent or shelter need to be able to handle comfortably, as well as livability. Weight is important but not at the cost of being uncomfortable or struggling to erect a shelter when I want to get “inside”, dry and, warm.

      But I’d encourage you not to drop $550 bucks on this shelter if you’re starting out. The Six Moons Lunar Solo is nearly identical in shape, costs $200 and is super easy to set up (for most US-based hiking on established trails). Heck, I’d rather it than the Plexamid any day because it is so hassle free.

      For a more in-depth review of how to choose a UL tent, see this article. It has lots of really useful info and examples.
      https://sectionhiker.com/how-to-choose-an-ultralight-tent-or-shelter-part-2/

    • Shelly, If you’re just starting backpacking, I’d encourage you also to review Phillip’s post on best budget tents: https://sectionhiker.com/sectionhiker-gear-guide/10-best-budget-backpacking-tents-250/ It may take you time to figure out your personal style of backpacking, so you might not want to start by buying the most expensive, fragile and specialized gear. When my daughter started backpacking I gave her an REI Passage tent, which is featured in Phillip’s article. The crossed-poles design makes it super simple to use and strong for the weight. Plus REI has an excellent return policy, which the “cottage” manufacturers can’t match.

    • My two cents, if you want to go utralight, buy this tent, (or the Duplex if you want more room), and give it a try. If you don’t like it, sell on the secondary market. If you take care of your gear, you’ll get most, if not all, of your money back. I bought a Duplex a couple years ago at a 10% discount (when Zpacks was having a sale), used it around a dozen times and then sold it and got back every penny.

  3. Would little loops of shock cord on the guylines help with the push me/pull you problem?

    • In other words, would it make the shelter behave more like a silnylon tent with some stretch? Maybe. But I think its more of a design issue. For example, if you roll back the vestibules, the rear corners of the tent go slack despite that fact that the peak support is decoupled from the vestibules by an independent guyline. That’s a structural issue.

  4. I’m out on the PCT right now. Out here, the Duplex is one of the most common tents, yet the Plexamid has yet to really catch on. I’ve met several hikers with the Plexamid who have ended up with broken ceiling struts, often after less than one week of use. Not sure if this is common, but my admittedly small, unscientific sample (3 tents with broken struts out of 6 Plexamid users) suggests a possible design flaw. Anyone out there have experience with the Plexamid that either supports or refutes my initial findings?
    Please note, I am generally very impressed with Z-packs gear and their company’s commitment to thru-hiking, innovation and US based manufacturing. Not trying to trash the company, just sharing what I’ve seen.

    • Did they break them when they were folding the tent up to pack it?

    • I just had a set break this weekend. When I contacted Zpacks, they said they are replacing them with titanium and will send me a set in about a month after they come in. I wasn’t happy with the fiberglass splinters I got from dealing with them. OUCH!

      • I had this Plexamid tent while thru-hiking the AT this year, and the carbon fiber ceiling struts had to be replaced not once, not twice, but 7 times. I eventually gave up. Zpacks has not updated the material they make them out of (yet), and mine broke repeatedly even when I was not setting up the tent! No matter how carefully I folded up the tent and stored it neatly and flat in my pack, they broke in less than a week, EVERY. Time. It was always back to the post office to receive a new pair, until I finally said “what’s the point?” Without the struts the tent is still usable, just less room inside and more of a tent ceiling that hangs right over your face while you sleep. Definitely not ideal for the price you pay. I’m not clear why Zpacks hasn’t addressed this with a stronger weight material for the struts, or a different design in how they’re inserted and aligned in the tent ceiling itself.

      • They’ve stopped production for quite some time now. It takes time to retool a design and the supply chain for such a significant change. I’m pretty sure they’re working overtime on it since it’s such a huge reputation disaster.

  5. Phil, I’m really impressed by your impartial reviews of the latest raft of DCF tents. You don’t seem suckered into the hype that Zpacks and HMG have been putting out. Keep doing what your doing brother!

  6. Great review!

    Having owned the Duplex, which I sold in order to buy the Plexamid, I share many of your thoughts on this tent. However, the lighter weight and benefits of the Plexamid versus the Duplex make this a better choice (IMHO) for a solo backpacker. First, if you use a long pad, in the Duplex, you have to position it diagonally in order to prevent it from touching the end walls. On the Plexamid, it does not touch. As you say, the end walls taper dramatically, but you can mitigate this by using the pole cups that Zpacks sells ($10 each). This allows you to position the end guylines pointing in an upward angle, which really improves the head/foot space. I see in one of your pics you did this by securing the guy to the fire pit, not a good idea if you plan on building a fire!.

    The only thing you left out is that the Plexamid also comes in a camo color, which improves the durability somewhat in that it has a thicker mylar coating. It’s also good if you want to camp on somebody’s lawn without them knowing it!

  7. Phil, I hope you review the Tarptent Aeon LI soon. It’s comparable to Plexamid but seems to have better ventilation and less staking. For what it’s worth a friend is hiking the PCT with a Plexamid and sent it back in favor of his older Nemo Hornet 2P because of condensation challenges.

    • Aeon Li is probably up next in this years DCF tent series.

      • Looking forward to your Aeon Li review, Phillip. I was wondering if the struts, ventilation and floor space work well, or if the tent suffers from the drawbacks outlined in your review of the HMG Dirigio 2: complicated design which doesn’t actually help much in bad weather. I like the idea of using a single trekking pole, since I’ve broken two poles in one year. But your review of the Plexamid above points out a flaw that may apply to all tents of using stiff Dyneema in an asymmetric design. Maybe I’ll look again at the Duplex, as Steve Babler suggests.

      • I’ve got one in the mail as we speak. I’ll be curious to see how the use of the corner pitchlocks work with Dyneema and wonder if they help break the awkward tension that occurs in the corners. The great value of the pitchlocks in Henry’s other tents is that they raise the walls up off your face and feet when it’s sloped.

  8. Thank you for this review as I’m thinking of buying a Dyneema solo ‘mid tent soon.

    Now I know it will be the new Tarptent AEON Li.

    As Bob P. says it has ventilation and pitching advantages over other Dyneema ‘mid tents. Mainly its carbon fiber (CF) struts give it more UESABLE floor space and the CF ridge pole extends the front roof and protects the door area better in a light rain. And as Bob said, fewer stakes and guy lines are needed as well.

    • Yes, I’m leaning towards purchasing the Aeon Li. But $500+ is a lot of money for me so I’ve been looking forward to in-depth reviews so I don’t have buyers remorse. I used the Nemo Hornet 2P on my AT thru hike last year and it was wonderful for dry weather. But when it rained hard I could count on a soaked tent and water getting into the tent. I’m hopeful the Aeon Li will hold up better in heavy weather.

  9. Ha, just got the Beta version in the mail today, and poof you’ve just posted this review!

  10. Philip, thanks for the great review. What is your favorite double-walled one- or two-person DCF tent so far? Do you like that tent, whichever one it is, more than the Six Moons Designs Lunar Solo? Thanks again!

    • The duplex for the moment. But ask me again after I review the aeon li. I really do like the lunar solo and would probably use it instead of a duplex. I prefer a dark tent not a transparent one.

      • Thanks, Philip. How would the YMG Cirriform in DCF fit into your double-walled one- or two-person DCF tent rankings?

      • A two-person tent with a single front door and vestibule that serves double duty as gear storage is “inconvenient”, no matter what material it’s made with. Take HMG’s Echo II shelter. It’s kind of a pain in the butt to use for two people since it also has just one vestibule in front.,

        As far as a DCF Cirriform, it’s kind of low and cramped compared to a Duplex, Plexamid, or even a Dirigo. Depends what you prefer I guess and what you need terrain and weather wise. It’d be my last choice in many circumstances because it’s not exactly spacious inside (I’ve owned a DW Silnylon Cirriform)

      • Thanks. I should’ve clarified that I was thinking of only the 1P version of the Cirriform. My terrain is generally the Southern Appalachians and all varieties of weather one encounters there.

      • Ask yourself if you like headroom. While the Cirroform is good for pitching in tight spaces, I think the decision will still boil down to interior space preferences.

      • I had a dcf Cirriform. One thing no one talks about is that due to the low ceiling height and small back mesh window (covered by rear of tarp) its a hothouse in warm weather even with doors wide open. Forget it if it rains.

      • DCF tents are microwaves if you try to sit/sleep in them in direct sunlight. I make a point to mentioning this in my dcf reviews because it is most unpleasant.

  11. Regardless of the Plexamids limitations, it’s pretty impressive for a 15 oz tent.

    As of today, Plexamids are temporarily unavailable.

  12. I have not played with a plexamid, but I have been rocking an Altaplex for several years and the I think they are pretty similar. I have squeezed into a bunch of less than stellar spots, pitched low in bad weather and high in hot weather. The only problem I ever had was sliding downhill one time and pushing the bathtub floor past the fly…bad idea. There is definitely some nuance to it but it is not at all tedious. A little practice and you will be fine

  13. Too many tie outs, footprint too large. Aeon is more my style. Never could pull the trigger on the Plexamid. Bought Aeon as soon as I saw it last February.

  14. The ceiling strut on my new Plexamid broke the fourth time I deployed it. The first 3 times I set it up on the front lawn for test runs. Imagine my disappointment of spending $579 and having a failure the first time I set it up on a real world backpacking trip. I am currently waiting to hear back from Zpacks.

  15. Heather-lee Ollington

    I recently purchased a Plexamid in the camp colour and I’ve just come back from a 9 days hike with it – different camp every night.
    I love it !
    I had a few very awkward and uneven spots to camp in as I was hiking through rainforest country, had a couple of very hot nights and then 2 nights of torrential rain – stayed totally dry !
    I found it pretty easy to pitch although yes you have to fiddle a bit to get the lines right but by the end of my trip I was pretty fast getting it right.
    I love the room in it – plenty for me & my pack and easy to sit up & pack up when raining. I found the ‘vestibule’ worked well for me too for cooking in the rain.
    Usually single wall tents don’t do very well here in Australia, but I have high hopes for this one.
    Next week I’ll be trying it out on the south coast of Tasmania where we get some nasty winds & storms …
    My only question is how durable it’s gonna be ??

  16. I had two independent failures of my Plexamid – both were ceiling related. 1st the grosgrain loops that secure the carbon ceiling stays began to separate from the ceiling – leading to eventual tears in the material. This affected the pitch of the ceiling portion and would have eventually led to a tent failure… I sent it back to ZPacks and they fixed it for free with a reinforced Z stitch. But it took nearly two months to get it back – what good is your fancy sports car if it’s always in the shop being worked on?

    2nd failure was less dramatic and didn’t really affect my ability to use it: one ceiling strut broke in half during pitching the tent. Mind you there’s no way this can be user error because the guyouts were barely tight and I used ZPacks’ own 48″ carbon tent pole rather than a height adjusted trekking pole. Luckily there is really no major downside to removing both roof struts and pitching without them — you might need to use 2-3 more stakes to guyout every spot to keep the walls taut. And you lose a tiny bit of headroom. But it packs down smaller without them and, well, now there’s nothing else to snap – it effectively is similar to carrying a tarp now.

    I received two new ceiling struts for free in the mail about 5 days after I first emailed them. In all cases the customer service has been top notch. I have yet to install the new struts. Note that these new struts do not appear to be carbon fiber — they aren’t black. They’re oilve colored, like the rest of the tent. They look like some kind of composite though – I don’t think fiberglass, but something else similar to carbon fiber. Maybe these will hold up.

    I am left scratching my head wondering what the heck went wrong in the design process, after reading so many other accounts of issues with the tent ceiling in the Plexamid.

  17. I used my ZPacks Plexamid tent for approximately 30 nights this summer. On the positive side is the low weight and good floor space allowing my backpack to be in the tent next to me for easy access. The external size is less than the Duplex which allows you to take small camp spots. I did not find the condensation to be an issue but camp location is key to that and this might not be a good solution for all conditions. I found pitching the tent to be quite easy even with the 10 guys lines. Recommend taking three wider stakes for front locations since those get more side load but the Sherpa hook stake work just find for the other location even in pretty loose dirt. I did have several problems. First being the Dyneema fabric for the vestibule flap got caught in the inner mesh door zipper and could not be freed without a small tear in the fabric but that was easy to fix with the supplied repair material.Open the zipper requires both hands – one on the zipper and the other to prevent the mesh from being over stressed. The second problem was the vestibule door two ponged hook broken at the connection to the fabric loop. The metal thickness in the cross piece attaching to the fabric it too thin. Unfortunately that happen first night on JMT and had to resort to a knot for the connection to the broken hook The hook was replaced by ZPacks at no charge. The third problem was more critical. The crisscrossed composite rods in the roof broken while I was shaking the condensation off the tent. That resulted in two punctures to the tent when the broken and went through. ZPacks did not replace those and even failed to respond to several emails on that and I couldn’t find any phone number for them so I could follow up on the emails. I ended up ordering replacement rods from Amazon (these are commonly available and used for RC airplanes). First I tried to replace with what have been reported as carbon fiber rods at exact same diameter but those were too stiff and would have broken or ripped out the attachments if installed. I ended up getting fiberglass rod stock black in color that did seem to be a exact match for what ZPacks used and those installed easily and work great and now I have extras in case they break again.

    So overall I think the crisscrossed composite rods in the roof are too easily broken and many other have reported same problems. You also need to be pretty gentle when pitching and using the tent but I can live with that for the weight savings. I also think think ZPacks needs to make it easier to contact them so you can talk to a real person.

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