Zpacks Duplex Flex Tent Upgrade
Heading out the door? Read this article on the new Outside+ app available now on iOS devices for members! Download the app.
Duplex Flex Tent Upgrade Product Brand: Zpacks
Weight: 30 oz
The Zpacks Duplex Flex Tent Upgrade may well be the ideal shelter for fastpacking. It’s ultralight (30 oz total, including poles), with weather and bug protection and ample room for two runners. It’s made from semi-transparent Dyneema Composite Fabric and features a distinctive hexagonal shape. DCF was originally used as material for sailboat sails, and is the lightest, strongest and most water resistant fabric out there (it’s completely hydrophobic). It also has a very high strength to weight ratio. DCF makes for expensive shelters, but, you get what you pay for.
The Duplex Flex Tent’s closest cousins are ultralight tents and shelters made by small made-to-order manufacturers. What sets the Zpacks shelters apart is attention to detail and insightful add-ons like crazy lightweight, thin Carbon Ion poles that allow an otherwise trekking pole-reliant setup to become a free-standing tent. Unless you’re expecting severe winds, you can leave your trekking poles at home if you prefer.
The Duplex Flex is easy to erect after you watch this quick two minute youtube video, and further adjustments can be made once the tent is standing that allow for a more secure structure. Neon yellow guylines make it easy to see where the lines are even in dim evening light, and it’s easy to cinch down or unclip the vestibule doors from inside the tent. Each of the two vestibules has room for a full-sized backpack and shoes. There are also two screened doors, so it’s easy for both runners to get in and out without climbing over each other.
It’s remarkable how much space and comfort the Duplex Flex provides given its incredibly light and relatively small packed profile. It takes up half the space in my pack as my old three-person backpacking tent and weighs in at a quarter of the total weight. During a recent trip, the tent sustained moderate wind and rain throughout the day and night without incident, whereas our older and heavier backpacking tent started dripping through after a few hours. If gusts had approached 50mph though, it would’ve been wise to add trekking poles (easily done thanks to the intuitive design) for extra stability. If you do decide to engage trekking poles in the set up, adjust them to about 48 inches in height. During the day of rain, whatever water reached the tent from below the vestibules was thwarted by an eight inch high bathtub style floor, which is made from 1.0 oz/sqyd DCF. According to Zpacks, “this material weight is more than twice as thick as the canopy material and is more resistant to abrasion and punctures. As with all DCF it is easy to patch with tape.”
The only drawback I found during several overnight trips in the backcountry is a slight space penalty. This tent won’t fit on small ledges or on narrow dirt patches between rocks. It functions best with guylines engaged, and so the tent likes to spread out a bit. It occupies the same sized space as most three person backpacking tents.
—Ben Luedke is a trail runner living in the Seattle area, who can be found on any given day in the Issaquah Alps or the Central Cascades. When he’s not out running, he’s often out photographing friends, local races and beautiful landscapes (@CascadeRunner on Instagram).