The world's most in-depth and scientific reviews of outdoor gear

ZPacks Duplex Flex Upgrade Review

Ample space and exceptional performance in all metrics makes this our favorite ultralight shelter.
The Zpacks Duplex is composed of DCF fabric  offering great weather protection and durability.
Editors' Choice Award
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Price:  $600 List
Pros:  Amazingly light, four-sided weather protection, ample space for two, double doors
Cons:  Expensive, doesn’t include necessary stakes
Manufacturer:   ZPacks
By Matt Bento ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  Oct 29, 2019
  • Share this article:
Our Editors independently research, test, and rate the best products. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Learn more
81
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#1 of 19
  • Livability - 30% 9
  • Weight - 25% 7
  • Weather Resistance - 25% 9
  • Adaptability - 10% 7
  • Ease of Set-Up - 10% 7

Our Verdict

The ZPacks Duplex Flex Upgrade crushes the competition when looking for the creature comforts of a regular tent packed into an ultralight construction. With a sewn-in bug protector and waterproof bathtub floor, this tarp tent offers the lowest possible weight for a fully enclosed tent at just 21 ounces! Its single wall and bathtub floor use Dyneema Composite Fiber (DCF), which is lightweight, tear-resistant, naturally waterproof, with easy fixing. Although the initial investment is quite steep, you won't be let down with this absolutely amazing marvel that man has created. Standing out as a stellar overall shelter suited for the simple weekend trip to hiking the longest trails in the world, it'll keep the weight off your back.


Compare to Similar Products

 
Awards Editors' Choice Award Top Pick Award Top Pick Award  Top Pick Award 
Price $600 List$700 List$715.00 at Backcountry
Compare at 2 sellers
$300 List$535 List
Overall Score Sort Icon
100
0
81
100
0
80
100
0
76
100
0
75
100
0
74
Star Rating
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Pros Amazingly light, four-sided weather protection, ample space for two, double doorsGreat weather protection, lightweight, adaptableDCF construction is lightweight and waterproof, super spacious, four season useRoomy, easy to setup, fully enclosed, affordableUnder a pound, bombproof dyneema construction, ultralight stakes included
Cons Expensive, doesn’t include necessary stakesExpensiveRequires lashing two poles together for setup, very expensive, no floor or bug protection built inHeavier, design not quite as wind stable as double vestibule optionsExpensive, single pole set-up takes a little practice
Bottom Line Ample space and exceptional performance in all metrics makes this our favorite ultralight shelter.This is the shelter you want when waiting out a storm.A super high-quality and spacious single wall pyramid with a high price tag to match its quality.An affordable fully enclosed single person shelter that we love.Our favorite ultralight shelter for strictly solo adventures.
Rating Categories ZPacks Duplex Flex Upgrade Tarptent StratoSpire Li UltaMid 2 Gossamer Gear The One Tarptent Aeon Li
Livability (30%)
10
0
9
10
0
10
10
0
9
10
0
9
10
0
8
Weight (25%)
10
0
7
10
0
6
10
0
4
10
0
7
10
0
9
Weather Resistance (25%)
10
0
9
10
0
10
10
0
9
10
0
7
10
0
7
Adaptability (10%)
10
0
7
10
0
4
10
0
8
10
0
6
10
0
4
Ease Of Set Up (10%)
10
0
7
10
0
6
10
0
8
10
0
7
10
0
6
Specs ZPacks Duplex Flex... Tarptent... UltaMid 2 Gossamer Gear The... Tarptent Aeon Li
Type Single wall tent w/ sewn in bug mesh and floor Single wall tent w/ removable floor and bug netting Floorless Pyramid Single wall tent w/ sewn in bug mesh and floor Single wall tent w/ sewn in bug mesh and floor
Weight with all components 1.8 lbs 1.60 lbs 2.32 lbs 1.68 lbs 1.09 lbs
Measured Weight of All Included Shelter Parts Total: 1 lb. 5 oz Tent: 19.7 oz, Guy lines and clips: 1.2 oz, Stuff sack: .3 oz. (Flex upgrade: 11oz) Total: 1 lb.10 oz, Floor and bug net: 11.5 oz, Fly: 14.1 oz Mid: 1 lb. 7.7 oz. (bug insert with floor = 22 oz, bug insert w/o floor = 13.4 oz.) Total: 1 lb. 6 oz., Tent: 1 lb. 5.1 oz., Extra tie outs: 0.5 oz., Stuff sack: 0.4 oz., Optional aluminum poles: 5.7 oz. Total: 1 lb. 1 oz., Tent with Bathtub floor and bug net: 15.8 oz., Stakes: 1.7 oz.
Stakes Included? No Yes No No Yes
Poles Needed for Set-up? Yes w/o flex kit
No w/ flex kit
Yes Yes, unless suspended from the peak Yes Yes
Capacity 2 person 2 person 2 person 1 person 1 person
Max Floor Dimensions (inches) 45" x 90" 86" x 45" 83" x 107" 88" x 34" 88" x 30"
Peak Height (inches) 48" 45" 64" 46" 47"
Fabric .51 oz/sqyd DCF Fabric Dyneema Composite Fabrics DCF8 Dyneema Composite Fabrics 7D high tenacity nylon-blended sil/pu coating Dyneema Composite Fabrics
Packed Size (inches) 7" x 13" 16" x 4" 8.5" x 6" x 5.5" 6" x 9" 14" x 4"
Floor Area 28.13 sq ft 26.88 sq ft 63 sq ft 19.55 sq ft 18.3 sq ft
Doors 2 2 1 1 1
Interior Pockets 2 2 0 1 1
Number of Poles 4 2 trekking poles 2 trekking poles 2 trekking poles 1 trekking pole
Number of Tie Outs 8 8 8 10 7
1-person version? No No No Yes Yes

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Flex Upgrade
This season, we tested out the Duplex Flex Upgrade. The Flex gives you the option of having a free-standing version of the Duplex that is easier to set up on surfaces that are impossible to stake and allows you to set the tent up without trekking poles. It adds 11 oz to the whole package. It's a nice option if you're on a river trip or camping on soft sand or granite slabs. We feel the four flex pole set up makes this tent more adaptable, though most of our testers say they'd go with the lighter weight trekking pole set up, so our metrics reflect the Duplex without the Flex pole option.

The Duplex tent is a tarp style single-wall tent that sets up as an A-frame with two adjustable trekking poles serving as support at each end. What sets it apart from other tarps is that it includes sewn-in mesh bug netting as well as a highly durable DCF bathtub style floor. Covering the door at each end of the open A-frame is a zippered mesh door and vestibule fly, so that not only can this tent be accessed from each side, but it also has four-sided wind and rain protection, something not available on your standard tarp. In addition, its interior is incredibly spacious, easily fitting two people and their sleeping pads. It's our Editors' Choice winner for its excellent combination of features that sets it above the competition.

Performance Comparison



Livability


Livability represents how comfortable a tent is to hang out in. Compared to the competition, this is one of the most livable tents we have had the pleasure of reviewing, helping to earn its high place as our Editors' Choice winner.


Interior space in this tent is one of the things we immediately noticed, especially after spending nights in much smaller models.

Tom laying on one side of the tent while the authors sleeping bag is on the other. Obvious is how much side-by-side space there is in this tent  as well as how airy and open feeling it can be if not enclosed. Also check out the amount of head room he has  ensuring he is not crammed into the tent material at either head or foot.
Tom laying on one side of the tent while the authors sleeping bag is on the other. Obvious is how much side-by-side space there is in this tent, as well as how airy and open feeling it can be if not enclosed. Also check out the amount of head room he has, ensuring he is not crammed into the tent material at either head or foot.

It comfortably fits two people and is tall enough to sit up comfortably, without having a center pole that prevents one from effectively utilizing the area with the best headroom.

Tom (5'11") shown sitting up in the center of the tent. The adjustable poles are set to 122cm  the recommended height from the maker  and he easily has a foot of clearance above him. One doesn't feel crammed into this spacious tent at all.
Tom (5'11") shown sitting up in the center of the tent. The adjustable poles are set to 122cm, the recommended height from the maker, and he easily has a foot of clearance above him. One doesn't feel crammed into this spacious tent at all.

The bug protection is a huge bonus, eliminating the need to purchase and add on some other sort of system, such as a detachable net or bivy sack. We also love how the design of the overhanging eaves with a horizontal bug net underneath allows proper ventilation and an optimal method for managing condensation. As the vapor builds up along the walls, it can run down and drip through the bug mesh to the outside of the tent, rather than merely running onto the floor. The combination of ventilating mesh on all sides almost makes it feel like a double-wall tent.

In this photo we can see the grey DCF bathtub floor  as well as the mesh bug netting under the overhanging eave of the blue DCF tarp material. Personal storage pockets are sewn in place on each side of the tent  and this clip on cord helps keep the floor optimally adjusted.
In this photo we can see the grey DCF bathtub floor, as well as the mesh bug netting under the overhanging eave of the blue DCF tarp material. Personal storage pockets are sewn in place on each side of the tent, and this clip on cord helps keep the floor optimally adjusted.

Lastly, who can argue with double doors? The rainbow zipper on each door allows the whole wall to be opened up, so you don't need to crawl through a tiny opening to get in or out. With two people, each has their own door, making nighttime exits drama free while allows for easier gear management within each vestibule. Bonus!

Double doors allows for easy access and exit by each person  and helps one appreciate the views that one came for  like these of the sandstone cliffs and Dolores River near the Paradox Valley of Colorado. All four flaps of the vestibules easily roll up and tuck away as shown.
Double doors allows for easy access and exit by each person, and helps one appreciate the views that one came for, like these of the sandstone cliffs and Dolores River near the Paradox Valley of Colorado. All four flaps of the vestibules easily roll up and tuck away as shown.

Weight


This tent weighs in at 1 pound 5.2 ounces or 21.2 ounces; this includes the weight of the tent as well as the bug netting and bathtub floor, which are attached and cannot be detached, as well as the stuff sack. This weight also includes the eight guy-out lines which come pre-cut and in place with line locks (one on each corner, one for each of the poles at the eaves of the tent, and two as extra guy-outs in the middle for bad weather). What it does not include is the six stakes that are needed to set it up on a soft surface (minimum), or eight if you also use the two extra guy out points, as well as the weight of trekking poles or optional tent poles if you choose to purchase them.


While many other tents advertise a low weight, they forget to mention that there is no floor or bug netting, or tent pegs that go with the tent. As a result, this measurement is left out in the metrics. As a result, this earns a relatively high weight score, even though there are lighter contenders with lower "advertised" weights. With these comparisons in mind, it is evident that the Duplex is extremely light considering that amount of built-in protection.

This tent is very light for all the included components. It also packs down into roughly the size of a football.
This tent is very light for all the included components. It also packs down into roughly the size of a football.

Weather Resistance


Weather resistance is a strong point, which protects from foul weather better than most other options out there.


The primary protective overhead sheet of fabric is a lightweight Dyneema Composite Fiber (DCF) that does an excellent job of sheltering one from a downpour. The DCF fiber is naturally waterproof, so unlike DWR coatings or laminates, the waterproofness cannot wear off. It also does not absorb any water, so it doesn't stretch and sag when it gets wet like nylon tent flies. The shape of the tarp is a cat cut, so the tips of the poles on each end of the eaves are higher than the middle. This design makes it easier to tension the tarp so that it is tight on all sides, thereby keeping it from flapping in the wind.

The edges of the tent extend six inches out beyond the boundaries of the interior bathtub floor, giving an excellent protective eave on all sides that do well in a hard or driving downpour. We love how the bathtub floor, also made of a stronger DCF material, is included with this tarp. The sides of this floor rise eight inches above the ground — an ideal height for protecting against splashback — and also offering peace of mind as a protective layer against water or mud in heavy storms.

The twin vestibules do not have zippers and are instead made of overlapping fabric that fastens in the middle with a simple button and loop enclosure. Dual vestibules offer great four sided weather protection.
The twin vestibules do not have zippers and are instead made of overlapping fabric that fastens in the middle with a simple button and loop enclosure. Dual vestibules offer great four sided weather protection.

Like all A-frame pitched tarps, this one has openings on either side. These vestibules are overlapping flaps of DCF that close using a unique hooking system and don't have the added weight of a zipper, or the inherent ability to wear out and get stuck. When it is nice out, these flaps easily roll back, affording excellent ventilation and views, as well as convenient in and out access. As long as your stakeout points are secure, this tent is stable in high winds. That said, it's still drafty inside, much like a single wall pyramid tent where the fly doesn't reach the ground. It also has two extra guy-out points, with a cord attached, in the middle of each side of the tarp for nights with heavy weather. Overall, we found this to be one of the best ultralight tents we tested for weather protection.

The hooks that hold the bottom of the two vestibule flaps in place are easy to open and close. The tautness of hte vestibule is also easily adjusted with the line lock shown here.
The hooks that hold the bottom of the two vestibule flaps in place are easy to open and close. The tautness of hte vestibule is also easily adjusted with the line lock shown here.

Adaptability


Adaptability is the one metric where this award winner suffers, as the design is fixed.


The design is non-freestanding, meaning it needs to be staked and guyed out in at least six different directions to stay standing and weatherproof. Terrain choice for setup becomes a critical component of how well this tent performs. Ground surfaces like sand, snow, hard rock, or very shallow soil each present their challenges, most of which are precluded by using large rocks (if present), or by burying deadmen, instead of stabbing stakes into the ground.

We tested the flex pole version of the duplex and found set up just easy, but feel the tent is less bomber in high winds when not tensioned against the two trekking poles. The freestanding flex upgrade is excellent for river trips where you're not likely to bring trekking poles and may often be camping in the sand. Additionally, this tarp can only set up one way, and so is not as adaptable as a standard tarp, which can pitch in a myriad of different patterns.

Sand can present a problem if the tension or wind rips the stakes out  although adding rocks over the stakes can help.
Sand can present a problem if the tension or wind rips the stakes out, although adding rocks over the stakes can help.

Another component of this tent is that it requires two adjustable trekking poles for setup.


To combat this limitation, Zpacks sells tent poles that perfectly fit the Duplex, at an additional cost and an extra of five ounces of weight combined.


Ease of Set-up


Setting up the Duplex is not as intuitive or as easily managed by one person as a freestanding tent that includes poles.


However, with a little practice, and given that there isn't a howling wind, this tent can quickly pitch alone. The crux comes in correctly locating the stake placements, which takes a few setups to get the hang of. It can also be frustrating to keep one trekking pole standing upright in place without letting it fall over as you run around and stake out the corners on the opposite side. We found that we often needed to adjust a stake or two after the tent was standing to ensure tautness all around.

For the flex upgrade, the set-up process is similar, except you install the poles and adjust them until they're in the proper symmetrical configuration before staking the tent down. We found the flex version a little easier to set up. In short, setting up this tent takes a bit of practice, and one should read the instructions provided by Zpacks and conduct a few trial runs at home before staring down an impending thunderstorm out in the wild.

Setting this tent up alone takes a bit of practice as the stake locations are not intuitive. With practice it can easily be done alone quite quickly. We find that we often need to fiddle with stake locations or tensions after setup to dial it in each night.
Setting this tent up alone takes a bit of practice as the stake locations are not intuitive. With practice it can easily be done alone quite quickly. We find that we often need to fiddle with stake locations or tensions after setup to dial it in each night.

Value


The Duplex will cost you a pretty penny plus a little extra if you prefer the flex upgrade, making it a super expensive shelter. Add in the cost of stakes, which are not included but are necessary, and you have a pretty pricey purchase. Despite the high cost, as our favorite ultralight tent. Anybody that is considering a super bomber 2-person shelter should consider throwing down on the investment. It is ideal for both wet and dry climates, with or without bugs. A perfect option if you need a little extra space when sharing it with another, or an amazing one-personal palace. Our thoughts? We'd throw down because it's worth the investment.

With its variety of options for ventilation and weather protection  this tent makes a great choice for hot desert camping or when the weather turns nasty.
With its variety of options for ventilation and weather protection, this tent makes a great choice for hot desert camping or when the weather turns nasty.

Conclusion


The Zpacks Duplex is our Editors' Choice Award winner and includes all of the important things an amazing ultralight shelter should have. It offers low weight, great weather protection, a comfortable living space, and included bug protection. While it is expensive, the materials are quality, and the made-to-order craftsmanship is worth the expense. This tent is a fantastic option for long thru-hikes or short overnight backpacking trips, as it utilizes adjustable trekking poles for support, and can be customized for other uses or to be completely freestanding. With lots of major advantages and only minimal drawbacks, this tent quickly endeared itself to all who used it.

Testing our Editors' Choice Award winning Zpacks Duplex in the lower reaches of the Dark Canyon in the newly created Bears Ears National Monument  Utah.
Testing our Editors' Choice Award winning Zpacks Duplex in the lower reaches of the Dark Canyon in the newly created Bears Ears National Monument, Utah.

How To Get It


All Zpacks equipment must be ordered directly from the manufacturer, where it is made to order. Allow a few weeks minimum for your product to arrive, and consider contacting Zpacks ahead of time for advice on waiting times. Order your tent and other Zpacks products at Zpacks.com.


Matt Bento