Zpacks Duplex Zip Review
The Zpacks Duplex is an ultralight Dyneema Cuben Fiber (DCF) tent that has long been the darling of the thru-hiking world thanks to its waterproofness, minimal weight penalty, and gigantic interior dimensions. But the original Duplex notably lacked zippers on the storm doors, instead favoring an overlapping design to seal out bad weather.
The zippers were, presumably, a sacrifice in the name of weight savings. And since legions of thru-hikers continue to swear by the Duplex even after thousands of miles, I guess the zipperless design must work.
But I like my tent doors to have zippers, dad burn it! Luckily for me, the new Zpacks Duplex Zip just came out, and it’s exactly what it sounds like. The Duplex Zip is basically the same Duplex you know and love but with waterproof zippers, magnetized door toggles, and peak vents on both storm doors. It weighs two ounces more than the original and costs an additional $30. Is it worth the extra weight and money?
Zpacks Duplex Zip At a Glance
Weight: 20.4 oz
Floor Area: 28.1 sq ft
Circumstances of Review
I received the tent in mid-April and have taken it on multiple backpacking trips on the New Jersey section of the Appalachian Trail and in Virginia’s Shenandoah National Park. During this time, it was made to withstand rain, wind, stifling humidity, and a surprising number of caterpillars. I used eight to nine stakes to set up the tent and protected the bottom with a sheet of Tyvek.
Ultralight and ultra-spacious, the traditional Duplex has long been one of the most popular tents among US thru-hikers. And it’s not only for hardcore ultralight hikers: this tent is a great choice for anyone who aspires to keep their pack weight down without sacrificing comfort. Regardless of your pack weight ambitions (or lack thereof), it’s a quality tent.
The Duplex Zip is also relatively beginner-friendly: yes, it takes time to truly master the pitch, but even backpacking newbs will be able to get this shelter into a passable tent-like shape with minimal practice.
Original Duplex vs. Duplex Zip
The Duplex Zip literally just came out this spring. Here’s everything that’s new with the Zip compared to the original Duplex:
- Zippable Storm Doors:Unlike the original Duplex, the Duplex Zip now features waterproof zippers for the storm doors on both sides of the tent.
- Peak Vents: Similarly, the Zip has peak vents on both sides, enhancing ventilation compared to the original.
- Magnetic Door Toggles: Magnetized straps can be used to roll back all four storm doors.
These upgrades do come at a price. The new Duplex Zip costs $700 and weighs 20.4 ounces, whereas the original costs $670 and weighs 18.5 oz.
Zpacks Duplex Zip Features
Where the original Duplex had two smooth, unbroken peaks, the Duplex Zip introduces small, hooded vents at both peaks to promote air circulation. Hot air rises, so ventilation near the top of the tent (rather than all concentrated around the bottom) is crucial to minimize condensation and stuffy air inside your shelter.
The vents consist of mesh cutouts with a shaped DCF hood to keep the rain out. Tensioning the guyline that supports the trekking poles and both storm doors automatically gives structure to the peak vents, so you don’t need to do anything special to set them up. You do need to be careful to have your storm doors and corner stakes tensioned correctly, or the vent can collapse on itself a bit.
Fully Taped Seams
The Duplex Zip comes with fully taped (not sealed) seams and bonded tie-outs. That means your tent is field-ready out of the box. Many brands either charge extra to waterproof the seams for you or just don’t offer seam sealing at all, so this is a nice perk from Zpacks.
DCF: it’s super strong, ultralight, and inherently waterproof. And (at least when new) it won’t stretch out and sag overnight the way silnylon tents tend to. The tent canopy can be made with 0.55 or 0.75 oz/sqyd DCF (0.75 is stronger and is available in the blue and orange colors). Meanwhile, the floor is made with even thicker 1 oz/sqyd DCF, making it more abrasion and puncture resistant.
Each storm door seals with a waterproof zipper. The zippers don’t require storm flaps to protect them from rain since they’re waterproof (or at least highly water-resistant), which cuts weight and minimizes the snagging issues that are so prominent on other tents.
They’re one-way zippers, so you don’t have the ability to create extra ventilation near the top of the storm doors. Waterproof zippers can be a bit stiffer and harder to work than regular zips as well. The difference is somewhat noticable but hasn’t been enough of a problem to cause any concern for me.
8-Inch Bathtub Floor
The tent features a tall bathtub, and the canopy overhangs it by several inches to keep rain from seeping in from above or splashing in from below. The two components are connected by a ring of fine mesh.
If you have the tent set up well, the mesh helps promote airflow even when the storm doors are sealed shut. You do have to be careful that your feet don’t push the bathtub out from under the overlapping canopy, exposing the interior to bad weather.
Zpacks Duplex Zip Pros
Coming from a two-person Big Agnes Tiger Wall (38 ounces with stakes and ground cover), the Duplex Zip at 20.4 ounces is a godsend for my partner and me. It’s so light that even a solo hiker could justify the weight penalty to have a really luxurious shelter.
I use a DIY groundsheet with mine because it’s a $700 tent and I’d like to make sure it lasts a while, despite the extra few ounces. That said, the bathtub floor is very durable and Zpacks and many loyal users insist that you can use it without one. This makes it even lighter than many conventional tents that do need a groundsheet. If you’re like me and want some added protection, Zpacks also sells a UL footprint that weighs only three ounces.
It should be noted that the reported weight of the tent does not include stakes, and you need a whopping eight of them to set the tent up properly. Even with an extra 2.8 ounces of MSR Mini Ground Hogs (not even the lightest option available), the tent is still remarkably light.
Ventilation That Actually Works
I slept in this tent on some unbelievably humid, rainy nights and had no condensation issues. I sealed the tent up tight on several occasions to push the envelope with the condensation, to no avail.
The walls were bone-dry every morning when I woke up, and the worst I experienced was some droplets that accumulated on the mesh door on one side. Based on my previous experience with single-wall tents, I fully expected to have woken up with a wet footbox or a full-on mini rainstorm inside my tent from condensation at least a few times by now.
I can hardly credit external conditions or my own camping prowess with this. I didn’t work particularly hard to choose anti-condensation campsites, and conditions (again, U N B E L I E V A B L Y humid, rainy, and stagnant) were often not conducive to evaporation. So I’m left to assume that the tent’s large volume, ample mesh lining the bathtub floor, and the new peak vents are responsible.
I’m not gullible enough to believe condensation won’t ever be an issue in this tent just because it has two little peak vents now, but I’m still impressed by the bar the Duplex Zip has set so far.
So much space! I shared this tent with my partner, and we both had plenty of room to sit up, stretch, and organize our gear. Many hikers use the Duplex as a solo shelter, which would be so luxurious it kind of blows my mind a little bit.
I often find trekking pole tents a bit cramped. Even though they have a lot of floor space, the roof slopes so steeply that you can really only sit up if your head is perfectly aligned with the peak/ridgeline. That’s not true with the Duplex. It’s so dang long (7.5 feet) that the usable sitting-up space in the middle is more than adequate for most people. For especially tall hikers, the DupleXL might be a better choice.
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Easy To Set Up
The Duplex Zip is surprisingly easy to pitch for a nonfreestanding tent. Don’t get me wrong—setting it up perfectly is tricky. Striking that perfect balance between all the stakes so that nothing is too tight or bunched up in some weird and mysterious way is something I’m still trying to get the hang of myself.
But I was able to set it up—albeit imperfectly—on my first try, and I felt good enough about how the tent looked to snap a few pictures for this review. My pitch has gotten better every time since.
Setup requires a minimum of eight stakes. However, you could probably use up to 10 if you wanted to get fancy with the guyouts.
Many people dislike the translucent nature of the ultralight DCF fabric this tent is made with. Yes, people can sort of see inside the tent, so you do lose some privacy.
It’s very blurry, though, and you’d have to be pretty close to the tent and in good light to get even a fuzzy view of the inside. Check out the featured image of this post to get a sense of what the view is like from the outside. Can you even tell there’s a human being in there?
On the other hand, I quite like being able to lay back inside the tent and look up at the trees or the clouds or whatever from the comfort of my quilt. You don’t get that a lot with single-wall tents. I think the see-through nature of the tent is kind of cool.
Zpacks Duplex Zip Cons
The “Rainbow” Doors
The interior mesh door design on the Duplex Zip, a carryover from the original Duplex, is probably the tent’s least popular feature. The door is essentially a semicircle shape that hinges at the bottom so that the mesh lays on the ground when the door is open.
The mesh is bound to get damaged when it’s laying on the ground like that. I always find myself inadvertently stepping on it when crawling in and out. I suppose learning to avoid trodding on the door is all part of my journey to Duplex mastery, but still. There has to be a better way.
And the mesh itself seems pretty delicate. Zpacks uses an ultralight no-see-um mesh that weighs roughly a third less than standard insect netting. It does a good job keeping bugs of all sizes out, but I’ve already noticed several small snags and pulls in it. It tends to catch on seemingly innocuous things, like a short thread end sticking out of a minor seam elsewhere on the tent.
Despite these minor injuries, the mesh is still fully functional. But given that I haven’t had the tent for that long and have been trying to baby it, I hate to see it already getting beat up.
And my final door-related beef: the tent pole in the middle means you can only functionally use half of the door’s area to get in and out at any given time. The intention is that either end of the tent can be the head, but it just doesn’t work for me.
I love a tent with some good pockets, but I wish Zpacks had offset them to one side instead of placing them dead in the middle of the door. Where they’re positioned, any weight inside the pockets pulls the door down and puts tension on the top of the zipper, making it difficult to open and close the doors. This cannot be good for the long-term health of the zipper seams either.
The Vestibules (They’re Deceptively Small)
They look so big, but functionally, they only provide just enough space for your carefully-placed pack and a pair of shoes on either side. Granted, that’s about all most of us need the vestibule to fit anyway. Just know that the palatial internal dimensions of the Duplex do not translate to lots of space in your vestibules.
In fairness, this tent is absolutely gigantic and made almost completely of DCF, a very expensive material. But it’s still a $700 tent. You get a lot for your money, but that price tag will undoubtedly be prohibitive for many hikers.
I wish the doors were different, but I’m otherwise in love with this tent. It’s lightweight, luxuriously roomy, and surprisingly easy to set up. It withstood rain and wind admirably during my testing. And even on the humid Appalachian Trail, it did a great job managing condensation.
The Duplex Zip will definitely be accompanying me on all my backcountry adventures this year and for the foreseeable future. At $700, replacing it would admittedly be painful, so I’ll do all I can to take care of the tent and squeeze as many miles out of it as humanly possible.
- MSRP: $679
- Weight: 19.6oz
- Fabric: DCF
- MSRP: $699
- Weight: 24oz
- Fabric: DCF
- MSRP: $799
- Weight: 28.7oz
- Fabric: DCF
The Zpacks Duplex Zip was donated for purpose of review.
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