Zpacks Offset Trio Review: A Stellar 3-Person UL Shelter?

Five backpackers in an ultralight Zpacks Offset Trio as snow falls in the forest
Reviewing the Zpacks Offset Trio

Zpacks’ ultralight tents have long reigned supreme in the backpacking shelter world. But rather than resting on their laurels, the good folks at Zpacks have continued to raise the bar with their recently released Offset Duo and, now, the three-person Offset Trio, which I was recently able to test out and review.

The Duo already boasted an impressive interior space due to asymmetrical peaks and a carbon fiber pole at the tent’s foot. The Trio is even roomier, with a second pole above the head and increased bathtub dimensions — all while weighing less than 1.5 pounds.

Finding a backpacking shelter that strikes a solid balance between comfort, weight, and function can be tough, but the Offset Trio pulls it off. Let’s get to know this new ultralight shelter in detail and find out if it’s the right tent for you.

Zpacks Offset Trio Tent Review

Green three-person ultralight backpacking shelter

Price: $869 MSRP – Check Current Price on Zpacks
Weight: 22.9 oz / 650 g
Floor Dimensions: 94” x 66”/60”
Capacity: 3-Person
Pros: Incredible space-to-weight ratio; extra vertical space at both head and foot; easy to pitch; provides excellent weather protection
Cons: Condensation can be an issue; stakes aren’t included; expensive
Cu’s Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars  4.5 of 5 stars
Two-Person Model: Offset Duo

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I took the Offset Trio on a recent backpacking trip in the Sierra Nevadas, which turned into a winter-weather test because of an early-season snowstorm. Though I had some concerns once I heard the forecast, the tent blocked winds and shed snow all weekend.

Equally noteworthy, the Trio also lived up to its billing as a three-person shelter. Like most backpackers, I’ve fallen prey to overly generous tent capacity estimates. But my partner, friend, and I all fit inside comfortably, with room for our packs stashed at our feet.

If you’re looking at the photos and wondering just how this thing comes together, you’re not alone. But after skimming the directions and attempting my first pitch, I was surprised to find that the Offset Trio’s asymmetrical design is far more intuitive than it looks.

It may not resemble exactly the sleek shelter that most backpackers have come to expect (in fact, it resembles a large spider). But really, who cares what the Trio looks like from the outside? You’d be hard-pressed to find a more spacious ultralight tent anywhere else.

Features

Blue ultralight hiking shelter with a zipper and slightly transparent DCF material
The Offset Trio is full of ultralight-forward features

Though stunningly lightweight (more on that later), the Offset Trio doesn’t skimp on function. The interior is made of a fine, bug-proof mesh, and to further block pests, two L-shaped, zippered doors swing into place after you get inside.

The Trio’s functionality even extends to the floor, which features a 6-inch-tall bathtub made of extra-thick DCF to resist abrasions. The canopy also overhangs the bathtub by 3 inches, keeping you high and dry during wet weather with the help of interior guylines.

As for other bells and whistles, two mesh gear pockets, perfect for storing headlamps and small electronics, are below each door. Above, loops near the tent’s two peaks allow you to attach a Zpacks Gear Nest or hang a clothesline for drying out wet gear.

Weight

This isn’t my first rodeo with a DCF shelter, so I had an idea of what to expect weight-wise from the Offset Trio. But I was still thoroughly impressed by the tent’s 22.9 ounces (not including the two 1-ounce carbon fiber poles, which can be replaced by trekking poles).

I’m wary of adding extra weight to my pack because of my chronic lumbar issues, but I could barely feel the Trio on my back. In other words, if I can carry this tent (along with all of my other ultralight gear) without straining myself, the same will likely hold true for most other hikers.

I will say, though, that the Trio does take up quite a bit of volume inside a backpack. Even when tightly rolled, the tent doesn’t get much smaller than 12 inches in length by 7 inches in diameter (462 cubic inches). So, plan your pack space accordingly.

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Capacity

Open view of a three-person backpacking shelter with three sleeping pads laid out across the floor
Three backpackers can sleep comfortably inside the Offset Trio

Three-person tents are often best for two hikers, but the Offset Trio’s uber-generous space won’t disappoint for three. My partner, a friend, and I all slept well, even with two packs at our feet. However, I can see that three larger side-by-side sleeping pads might be a snug fit — measure before you buy.

On that note, Zpacks claims you can fit four sleeping pads inside, which, frankly, I’m skeptical about. But thanks to its elevated ceiling, the Offset Trio easily fits four to five people sitting up, offering great potential as an emergency shelter.

Material

The Dyneema composite fabric of the Offset Trio delivers everything backpackers expect, including natural waterproofing and abrasion resistance. Zpacks also uses bio-based DCF, a nice touch that helps reduce the carbon footprint involved in the tents’ creation.

DCF does have its drawbacks, though. The fabric is inherently translucent, but the Offset Trio seems especially so. I could see right into the tent during the day, and even moonlight sometimes felt too bright at night.

As for precipitation, rain sounds like a light drumbeat when hitting a DCF canopy, and the Offset Trio is no exception. But if you happen to find the sound comforting, this could be a plus. If not, invest in a nice set of earplugs and you’ll stay cozy and comfortable inside no matter what’s coming down.

Weather Resistance

Snow accumulating on a Zpacks Offset Trio backpacking tent at night
The Offset Trio performs well in wind, snow, and rain (even if you don’t have the perfect pitch)

While Zpacks doesn’t advertise the Offset Trio as a four-season tent, believe me when I say it can handle some rough weather. We slept in it through a snowstorm and a night of high winds, neither of which caused any issues.

The tent comes fully seam-sealed and taped, so you won’t need to waterproof anything before heading out. That includes the zippers on the storm doors, which means your boots and any other gear in the vestibules will stay dry.

You can use magnetic toggles to hold those storm doors open on summer hikes, but having those doors as a wind block is essential for cold nights. Aside from a slight breeze felt by the two people closest to the doors, the Offset Trio kept all of us warm.

However, this brings me to the tent’s biggest issue: condensation. Three people breathing all night created plenty of condensation, which dripped directly onto us and our gear, primarily close to the doors where the ceiling hangs slightly lower.

The tent’s peak and bathtub vents, as with most DCF tents, leave something to be desired in this area. Fine-tuning the pitch and/or sleeping with one or more of the storm doors rolled up should help create better ventilation and help reduce condensation, both of which I plan to tweaking during my next outing.

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Getting the Perfect Pitch

Blue ultralight backpacking tent pitched in a campsite
Dialing in your pitch will maximize the usefulness of your tent

The Offset Trio’s eight guylines and asymmetrical design may look a little intimidating, and the required stakes aren’t included with the kit. Don’t worry, though — once you have those in hand, pitching the tent is a breeze.

You’ll need a large tent site, but that’s to be expected for a three-person shelter. On the bright side, the Trio is very forgiving of uneven ground or an imperfect pitch. Just make sure to double-check where you want the head of the tent before staking out the corners.

Once positioned correctly, the trekking pole setup provides rock-solid stability, possibly the most of any Zpacks tent thus far. Fabric cups below the doors add an extra point of contact with your poles, ensuring the floor won’t blow around in the wind.

Since the trekking poles are slightly offset from the doors, you don’t have to contort yourself around the poles to get in and out. But if you do bump into them on entry or exit, rest assured they won’t go anywhere.

When it comes time to pack up, you’ll have no problems tearing down and folding the Offset Trio. Unlike many backpacking tents, this one actually fits (gasp!) into its provided stuff sack. The carbon fiber poles stow away in a small sling, preventing punctures to the DCF.

Price

Besides ranking as one of the most spacious ultralight tents on the market, at $869 the Offset Trio is also one of the priciest. But before you clutch your pearls, take into account exactly how much it offers.

To me, a three-person tent with gear pockets, bug netting, and a floor while still weighing well under 2 pounds is nothing short of a design miracle. Compare that against other shelters that weigh similarly but cut back on comfort, and the Offset Trio easily comes out on top.

I think tall hikers and those who regularly backpack in groups would benefit the most from taking the plunge with the Trio. Others may want to stick to the slightly smaller Triplex, the three-person edition of Zpacks’ beloved Duplex.

Final Thoughts

Up-close shot of the Zpacks Offset Trio ultralight backpacking tent on a bank of snow
The Zpacks Offset Trio is among the best three-person ultralight backpacking shelters on the market

Overall, the Offset Trio is a compelling addition to Zpacks’ tent lineup. The innovative design will vastly improve your backpacking experience without adding any unnecessary ounces. Plus, it lives up to the brand’s famously high standards of craftsmanship.

The Offset Trio is Zpacks’ flagship three-person tent. Yes, it will lighten both your pack and your wallet, but I haven’t seen anything else that matches it as a spacious and weatherproof ultralight shelter. Its excellent design and build quality will keep you dry and comfy for many backcountry nights to come. So ask yourself — what’s that level of peace of mind worth to you?

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Last Updated on March 19, 2024

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Cu Fleshman

Cu Fleshman is a writer, editor, and hiker originally from the backwoods of South Carolina. She now resides in Southern California where she hikes, backpacks, and always has an eye out for her next adventure.

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