Zpacks Altaplex Tent Review
Choosing a shelter for a thru-hike is tougher than deciding on any other piece of gear: it’s virtually picking a home for half a year. Zpacks tents have risen to the top of thru hiker popularity, and the Altaplex is one of their unique offerings. Designed for hikers up to 6’6″, it’s one of the most spacious one-person tents on the market. And by keeping the weight under a pound, it’s a competitive option for any weight-conscious backpacker.
Zpacks Altaplex Tent At-a-Glance
Weight: 15.4 ounces
Stakes Required: 6-10
Bathtub Floor Dimensions: 3 x 7.5 feet
Poles Required: 1
Circumstance of Review
I picked this tent up in the midst of my Eastern Continental Trail thru-hike. I switched to it when I entered Southern Alabama in early February and tested it through mid-March up through Erwin, TN (MM 345). A fair number of the nights were spent below freezing, a few were in the rain, and plenty more were around 40 degrees. This was all in the southeast, where conditions are notoriously a bit damp. I used a polycro groundsheet every time I set it up. And finally, I am right at six feet tall.
- Dual Storm Doors – Either door can be opened and pinned back separately. Instead of a zipper to hold them together, there is a central toggle.
- Symmetrical – This feature allows the user to comfortably lay in the tent in either direction.
- Single Pole Setup – The tent sets up with either a single trekking pole or an optional Zpacks Carbon Fiber Staff. The pole needs to be able to be set to somewhere between 56″-60″ (142-152 cm), or Zpacks sells a trekking pole jack.
- Screen Between Floor and Walls
- 8-inch Bathtub Floor
- Tall Rainbow Zipper Entry – The entry door is a full symmetrical arch that can be zipped down to the bathtub floor on both sides. This also allows for easy entry to sleep with the head/feet on either side.
- 8″ x 8″ Internal Mesh Pocket
The Altaplex is a three-season tent built for taller hikers. It’s made to be used with a tall trekking pole, which makes for ample headroom. The DCF material that composes the tent is totally waterproof and extremely lightweight. It can be set up with six stakes, but using the full 10 allows for much more interior space. The trekking pole needs to be able to be set somewhere between 142-152 cm (the included instructions suggest 147). The set of poles I use only has a range up to 135 cm, but that’s only the useable range. I extended them past the “do not use” range and measured them to be 148 cm. This is a significant note of usage for the tent: the user doesn’t have to own extra-large poles. Most commercial poles that go to 135 cm can be extended a fair amount beyond that range.
Obviously, the highlight feature of this tent is its roominess. And to cut right to the chase, it delivers. This is easily the most spacious one-person tent I’ve ever been in. I hiked the AT and the PCT in Gossamer Gear’s The One, and I’ve also tested the DCF version. While the horizontal space in that tent is nice, it was only just long enough for me to spread out, and often I’d end up with a wet foot box on nights with a lot of condensation. Not so with the Altaplex. The bathtub floor is 7.5 feet long, which means that when my 6 feet long sleeping pad is centered, I have 8-9 inches of space on either end. I typically try to sleep with my head pretty close to the tent wall, so I usually have more like an extra foot of space below my feet.
Even width-wise, I find there is more than enough space to spread out my gear a bit. The slant of the non-door wall of the tent means that the center of the tent is pretty close to the door, at least when it comes to sitting up in the tent. This leaves ample floor space on the non-door side to spread out gear, even when using a long/wide sleeping pad. I’ve slept with my pack inside my tent every night I’ve used it, but there is also plenty of vestibule space to store it as well.
The Midnight Pee
Finally, one of the big advantages of a high ceiling means that it’s possible (at least for me) to stand on my knees in the tent. The benefit of this? The midnight pee. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve found that I don’t often make it through the night without needing to pee. It’s a huge pain to fully get out of my quilt, put on shoes, and take a step or two outside my tent, especially when it’s cold. But, since I can take a knee from within this tent, I’m able to pee out the door without even having to fully extricate from my quilt. Of this, I’m quite a fan.
Zpacks Altaplex Pros
- Spacious – I’m a big fan of a spacious 1 person tent. I typically find a 2 person tent to feel like overkill, but I still like having room to not only spread my stuff out but to be able to stretch my legs throughout the night without worrying about getting condensation on my foot box.
- Lightweight – The above wouldn’t be as notable if it didn’t come in a lightweight package. Having a tent that weighs less than a pound is a big deal. Having one that is also very spacious is an even bigger deal.
- Single Pole Setup – I’ve always carried two trekking poles while thru-hiking, but at times I’ve wanted to make the conversion to a single-pole hiker. I’ve never even really been able to consider it because I’ve always taken a tent that required both poles, but having the option is nice. And regardless of whether I make the transition, it’s always possible to break or lose a pole on a hike. It’s nice not to have to rely on having both.
Zpacks Altaplex Cons
- Bulky – It may be a lightweight tent, but it still takes up a good hunk of space. DCF is notorious for not packing down very small, and this extra large 1 person tent comes with extra material, which makes for an even bigger package.
- Expensive – The Altaplex is pretty much as expensive as a one-person tent gets (shell out an extra $50 for the thicker DCF cut if you want to fully pay top dollar).
- Needs 10 Stakes – The website suggests that a six-stake setup is possible. While that is true, using the extra four stakes provides LOTS of additional space on the inside. Carrying 10 stakes for a tent adds a bit of extra weight, and anybody shelling out this much for a tent is probably trying to cut every gram they can.
Zpacks is the king of thru-hiker tents for a reason. They’ve been making reliable products for years at weights that are seriously staggering. The Altaplex is a very solid option in the lineup, for hikers of any size. Taller folks can rejoice in having an ultra-lightweight option, and smaller folks can do the same in enjoying a spacious tent without the palace feel of a two-person tent. It’s expensive, it’s got some bulk to it that might frustrate hikers trying to squeeze everything into a 25-liter pack, but man is this an awesome tent.
Weight: 15.3 ounces
Weight: 17 ounces
MSRP: $73518.7 ounces
*This Zpacks Altaplex was donated for purpose of review
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