Weight: 1 lb. 3.4 ounces. (Tent with men’s linen and bag); 1 pound 5 ounces. (with pins and use of trekking poles for support); 1 pound 14.6 ounces. (Self-sufficient flexible kit with spike)
Ground: 1.0 oz/sqyd (Dyneema)
Capacity: 1P, 2P, 3P What we want: Incredibly light, yet durable and waterproof.
What we don’t do: In strong winds it is expensive and draughty.
See Zpacks duplex
The Zpacks Duplex is built especially for serious tourists and walkers and is one of the lightest and best built tents on the market. To test its limits, we took the Duplex Flex – a completely stand-alone upgrade to a basic backpack model in the early winter conditions of Vancouver’s North Shore Mountains and nearby Manning Park. She had to deal with cold temperatures and strong winds, and although the tent was quite exposed to draughts, she withstood the bad weather and the irregularities in handling the tent with confidence. Below we discuss the weight and size of the duplex, weather protection, durability, ease of use and interior, storage and much more. To see how it stands up to the competition, read our article about the best backpack tents.
Package weight and dimensions
Given Zpacks’ attention to minimalism, it’s no wonder that the Duplex tent is extremely light and foldable. With a weight of 1 pound 5 ounce (with poles and using two tie rods for support) and 1 pound 14.6 ounce with poles and the self-supporting flexible kit (the version we tested here), it is one of the few two-person tents on the market that can carry less than 2 pounds. The Duplex Flex easily adapts to other ultra-light post models, such as the Great Agnes Wall UL2 Tiger (2 pounds 3 ounces) and the Tarptent Double Rainbow (2 pounds 7.8 ounces), while providing a useful interior for comparison. The new Dirigo 2 Hyperlite weighs 1 pound 12 ounces, while some of the latest versions of Big Agnes Carbon are lighter, including the Fly Creek HV Carbon (1 pound 2 ounces) and the Tiger Wall Carbon (1 pound 6 ounces). However, the two Big Agnes tents have much thinner fabrics on the ground and the rain flies over them, which greatly increases their vulnerability.
The size of the package often depends on the weight, and the Duplex Flex is about the size of a small sleeping bag (there was room for 7 x 13 inch spare parts). Even with the addition of the tent pegs the whole thing was easy to set up: The tent body was carefully rolled into the bag and the carbon poles were folded upright to about 17 inches, which fit well with my tutu. Anyway, it was one of the simplest tents we’ve ever used.
Despite its thin fabric and single-walled hybrid construction, Zpack’s Duplex is surprisingly weatherproof. The first night of our work in the tent we had to deal with early winter conditions with moderate winds and temperatures far below freezing. We had to pitch our tent in about 5 centimeters of snow, but we were impressed that it was still comfortable enough to cope with the weather without any problems. The tent made no perceptible noise in the wind, the vestibules and corners did not shake and the tarpaulin, which hangs about 10 to 15 cm above the bottom of the bathtub, provided wonderful protection against the rain. I even deliberately left the bag with the clothes for the night in a light rainstorm (it is made of the same Dyneema composite fabric as the tent itself), and everything inside remained completely dry.
Nevertheless, the duplex had some minor defects that could be expected under these circumstances. Thanks to fine materials and a lot of nets at the base, the tent was quite windy at night. We also noticed a small accumulation of condensation on the tent ceiling, but this is not surprising given the low temperatures (Celsius). With this in mind, we would have felt comfortable on most spring, summer and autumn trips, and we now consider the Duplex to be our best ultralight choice for quick and easy walks in three seasons. However, we wouldn’t want to use this tent in case of strong winds, heavy rain or cold winters in the Pacific Northwest, and we wouldn’t want to do it without poles or bending in less than ideal conditions (more information about the tent setup below).
Dyneema’s composite fabric, often used in sailing boats and praised for its legendary power for weight, is a real phenomenon. The best way to convey the power of the Dyneema is to show the work of the tent on the first night of our trip, when we had to pitch it on a few inches of snow. The next morning I woke up with a sharp object in my thigh and looked down to see that part of the snow had melted at night, exposing a large pointed stump under my pillow. Surprisingly, the stump did not penetrate the fine tissue of the floor, although I lay on it for hours and turned around. After many more expansions, we are pleased to announce that the tent and all its components, including the ultra small and thin metal rings that hold the tent poles at each corner, show no signs of wear and tear (Bonus: The duplex is supplied with a replacement seam tape if necessary).
There is no lack of ventilation in the Duplex thanks to the free use of grilles. The two perforated walls are made entirely of gauze, each end has a 15 cm long strip of gauze that runs over the top of the bathroom floor. On rainy or warm days, you can stretch the door curtain by letting air flow through the entire tent, or you can cover it for extra weather protection. All this indicates that, despite the storm doors, there was a noticeable draught in the duplex, in the cooler and windier conditions we encountered. Although it is an excellent option for hiking or summer walks, it is certainly not designed to withstand extreme winds.
Vitality and indoor space
With an ultralight backpack tent, the Duplex is spacious. It is 28 square meters smaller than the Hyperlite Dirigo 2 and 32.5 square meters, but the Zpacks have two side-by-side hibernation zones with free space. It’s important to mention that thanks to the generous height of the 48-inch tent, we could sit upright and didn’t feel restricted. Given the impressive size of the headgear and the resulting volume of the interior, it was very comfortable to spend time in the tent without suffering from claustrophobia. And just so we’re clear: It’s no small thing for an ultra-light tent. Compared to other models such as the Tarptent Double Rainbow (head height 42 inch), the Big Agnes Fly Creek HV UL2 (40 inch) and the Nemo Hornet 2P (39 inch) the Duplex seemed much roomier. For those looking for even more freedom of movement, Zpacks offers a triple version called Triplex, although this tent is only available in a pole version.
As mentioned above, we opted for the Duplex freestanding Flex Kit ($125 extra), which contains four carbon ion tent poles that form the independent system of the Flex Kit. These poles also lift the sides outwards, creating more interior space. Without updating, the standard duplex is based on marking sticks – you have to follow all angles and make an A-frame with the stick. However, with the Flex option the tent was much more comfortable for two people and we think the tent is really worth the weight and cost of the extra headroom and structural stability.
For an ultra-light tent, the Duplex offers a considerable number of internal and external storage options. First of all, we appreciate the fact that there are two doors and vestibules in the tent, which eliminates the problem of crawling together in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom. Although these halls were not unusually large, they were large enough (each 20.75 inches deep) to accommodate two backpacks and our hiking boots. Inside the tent there are two small foldable bags (8 x 8 inches) at each end for small objects such as headlights, maps, mobile phones or GPS devices.
The Duplex can be set up with the Flex-Kit as an independent tent or supported by two guide poles and up to eight pegs. We decided to do all this by using separating wires to guard the corners and apse of the tent, but also by using flexible poles and adding follow bars (which were adjusted up to 48 inches for an optimal fit) in the middle of each door, which resulted in considerable structural stiffness. Don’t forget that you can tilt it up or down, depending on the space you prefer.
As with all tents it is always advisable to practice with duplex assembly before trying it out on the spot (watching the step-by-step video beforehand made the first attempt much easier). We felt that attaching each entrance door to the surveillance line was the most difficult, especially to get in and out of the tent with one hand. Each door in the vestibule has a small ring at the bottom, which means that each man’s double-sided hook has to be passed in a very elaborate way. But as soon as we discovered the peculiarity of the tent, the duplex was easy to use and remove, especially because there were no footprints or loose rainflies.
Additional capacity: Plexamide and plywood complex
We tested the duplex for two persons, but Zpacks also makes versions for one person (Plexamid) and three persons (Triplex). Unfortunately the Flex Upgrade is only available for the double model, and we prefer this stand-alone unit over a pole tent because of its versatility. Otherwise, all the tents look remarkably alike. None of them are cheap – plexamide costs $549 and plywood $699, but they all have two doors and a Dyneema design that makes them so durable.
What we want in
- Weighing less than a kilo with the Flex kit upgrade, Zpacks Duplex is one of the lightest self-supporting tents on the market.
- Despite its ultra-light focus, Dyneema fabric is extremely durable and offers reliable protection against the elements.
- Compared to other tents in its weight class, the tent has a surprisingly high peak height and therefore offers a good amount of free space.
What we don’t do is.
- Dyneema tents are expensive, and duplex tents cost $599 on their own or $724 with the Flex kit.
- Significant draught in strong winds due to liberal use of the network.
- It may initially be difficult to implement, especially when compared to other independent options.
From the point of view of competitors, one of the most important new products for 2019 was the Hyperlite Mountain Gear Dirigo 2. Both tents have a similar Dyneema design, single wall hybrid construction and trekking pole installation, but Hyperlite weighs 12 oz – 8.6 oz more than Zpacks on 1 lb. In addition, the upgrade of the flexkit makes the 1-pound 14.6-ounce packages self-contained, and the price is still $71 less than Dirigo. On the flip-up top, the hyperlite is larger in relation to the floor surface (it really has a lower height from the top), has a slightly thicker bottom and is easier to install. It’s close by, and both are ultralight tents from leading Dyneema, but we make a small nod to the zpacks.
Big Agnes has been a leader in the production of ultra-light tents for years and has launched two very interesting Dyneema models in 2019: Fly Creek carbon and Tiger Wall carbon. Both are incredibly light – 1 pound of 2 ounces and 1 pound of 6 ounces respectively, but Fly Creek has a more uncompromising design with a single door and a sharp interior. The Tiger Wall has two doors, which increases comfort for two backpacks, but both Big Agnes tents use ultra-thin Dyneema material (0.51 oz/m²) for the tent floors, which makes us fear for durability. Since Fly Creek carbon and Tiger Wall carbon are more expensive than Z-Packs, we take the extra power and lower cost of the Duplex, not to mention its long-standing reputation.
Finally, Tarptent’s Double Rainbow is a very good bridge between performance and availability. Definitely spacious with a 30.5 square metre interior and a peak height of 42 inches, it’s light enough to weigh 2 pounds of 7.8 ounces, standing alone with poles for walking, and surprisingly strong and weatherproof. Perhaps most importantly, the Double Rainbow costs only $299, making it much more cost-effective than anything made with Dyneema. We understand the Dyneema draw, and it’s hard to beat the Z-Packs in terms of power-to-weight ratio, but the Tarptent is a good option for hundreds of dollars less.
Editor’s note: Normally we offer a real-time price comparison chart from our leisure equipment magazines, but the duplex is sold exclusively by Zpacks. Here you can visit the Duplex page and purchase an optional freestanding flexkit.
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