I welcomed the chance to review the Zpacks Triplex ultralight backpacking tent. Its versatile trekking pole setup and Dyneema Composite Fabric (DCF) make it one of the lightest, thinnest, and most reliable tents for staying dry and out of the elements.
Here’s my in-depth look at its features, specifications, setup, and its upsides and downsides. I’ve included lots of photos as the next best thing to having you set up camp yourself.
But is it the right tent for you?
Let’s dive in.
Zpacks Triplex Backpacking Tent Review
|Price: $779 MSRP – Check Current Price on Zpacks|
|Weight: 24.0 oz|
|Floor Dimensions: 90″ x 60″|
|Pros: Extremely lightweight, very roomy, DCF is better than silpoly or silnylon, fits horizontally into most packs|
|Cons: Expensive, setup can be tough, can get noisy in the wind|
|Alex’s Rating: 4.7 of 5 stars|
|Two-Person Model: Duplex|
|One-Person Model: Plex Solo|
Let’s start this review by considering the numbers — 779, 22, and 3.
Those three numbers define my Triplex ultralight tent. After reading many reviews of ultralight tents over the years, every other metric pales in comparison. Let me explain.
The big number here is the MSRP: $779. The middle number is the weight: 22 ounces. The small number is the sleeping capacity: 3-person. And if you’ve read this far without blacking out from sticker shock, you obviously know the value of cutting your pack’s base weight. My kind of person!
That 3-person rating is subjective. When I camp, it’s usually with my partner or one other backpacking buddy, and we always feel comfy and uncrowded in the Triplex. Yes, it will definitely handle three people, but might feel snug after, say, several days of rainy weather camping. Two people is the sweet spot.
That $779 price tag is harder to swallow, but it reflects the higher cost of Dyneema, the lightest waterproof fabric out there, with a minimum hydrostatic rating of 15,000 mm. Even though it’s practically see-through, a properly-pitched Dyneema tent will keep you dry in any downpour. To me, that’s worth it.
Then there’s the 22 ounce (615 gram) weight of this 3-person tent, by far the lightest of its kind on the market. Use lightweight tent pegs and your existing trekking poles, and the Triplex can contribute significantly to keeping your pack’s base weight below 10 pounds. Your joints will thank you later.
Trekking Pole Setup
The Triplex cuts a lot of weight by using your existing trekking poles instead of fixed poles. You gain flexibility in your setup, but that also means it’s wise to practice pitching the tent in a park or backyard before hitting the trail. Practice makes perfect.
Because adjustable trekking poles let you raise or lower the peak height, you can choose to let more or less air into the tent. For stormy nights, you can minimize humidity buildup by limiting airflow, and on hot nights you can maximize the airflow for better cooling.
Dyneema Composite Fabric
The Triplex is made with Dyneema Composite Fabric (DCF) that’s 20 times stronger than steel by weight, so it’s highly puncture- and tear-resistant. It feels like a thin but ultra-sturdy grocery bag, and it’s totally waterproof. No need for tent footprint protection; just smooth out your tent site before you pitch.
DCF is also a bit slippery, so try to pitch the Triplex on level ground to avoid sleeping pad ‘creep.’ During one stormy night on a downhill slope, my partner’s and my sleeping pads slowly migrated and bumped into the bug netting and got a bit damp from rain splashing. A layer of sil-nylon under the pads could help stop the creep in the future.
The Triplex goes up fly-first, which means the inside won’t get wet if you set it up in the rain. And its heavier-duty Dyneema bathtub floor with sealed seams will keep the water out, even if it puddles around outside the tent.
Double Storm Doors
I love having two doors, each with a vestibule. I mostly camp with one other person in the Triplex, so we can both enter and exit without disturbing the other. The easy access, large windows, and roomy interior make for a much better camping experience.
Weight & Packed Size
This tent is incredibly light; I’ve had rain flies that were heavier! You can barely feel its weight in your pack, and on several steep climbs, I definitely noticed my reduced pack weight and was able to take fewer breaks.
DCF is very thin and, thus, not super bulky, packing into a 7.6-liter sack that fits horizontally in my backpack. My previous sil-poly tent could only fit vertically in my Osprey Exos 48 backpack. When it comes to packing gear, I definitely prefer layers rather than columns.
Ease of Setup
Dyneema doesn’t stretch, which is why some people find the setup a bit finicky. Search on YouTube for the various techniques people use. At first, I found myself making multiple adjustments to the corner stakes to get it square. Now, I’m more relaxed and focused on a simpler taut pitch. Again, practice makes perfect.
On the plus side, because Dyneema doesn’t stretch, it also doesn’t sag the way sil-poly can when wet. Once you get a DCF tent adjusted, it’s unlikely to need further tweaking. My remaining challenges relate to unknotting and stowing my guylines, an issue I can’t blame on anyone but me.
Noise & Transparency
Dyneema Composite Fiber is incredibly strong, thin, and light, which makes it perfect for ultralight backpacking. But those qualities also make it noisy and a perfect drumhead — as in, “WTF, that sound is about as restful as a sharp crack of thunder!”
All brands and models of Dyneema tents have this issue. When the wind picks up and starts to whip the tent fabric around, you’ll hear it loud & clear. And when the raindrops get big and fast, you’ll also hear their drumbeat overhead. Some people can sleep right through it, but others… not so much.
Then there’s the fact that DCF is so thin that it’s translucent when backlit. For example, when you’re changing clothes in your tent at night while your lantern is blazing away nearby. You may cast shadows on the tent walls in ways you weren’t expecting. Just sayin’.
Silhouettes don’t bother me; it’s easy enough to dim your lantern when needed. But I did sleep fitfully during very windy and rainy nights, due to the inherent noisiness of DCF. It’s been a well-known issue since 1992, when the America’s Cup sailing race was won by a yacht with noisy sails made of Cuben Fiber, the original brand name of DCF.
Noise aside, the primary purpose of a tent is to keep you dry and protected. ZPacks’ Triplex ultralightweight tent earns top marks here because it’s totally waterproof and windproof, with storm doors that will protect you from the worst trail conditions.
Once I solved my previously-mentioned issue with sleeping pad ‘creep,’ I never again worried about getting wet in the Triplex. Being the lightest weight and most waterproof tent on the market is why it’s topped so many review lists over the years.
Floor Dimensions & Capacity
For the two-person camping I usually do, the Triplex is palatial. Yet at 60″ wide by 90″ long by 48″ high, it’s also a bona fide three-person tent. But for couple camping, we love fitting all of our stuff alongside our 20-inch sleeping pads, with our packs safely parked in the dual vestibules.
Initially, I was worried about not having enough headroom with the slanted walls, but I soon found I could easily sit and move around. And because I didn’t have to touch the walls, I avoided getting wet from condensation.
I’m 5′ 11″, and when lying down on a 3-inch sleeping pad with a very puffy 10-degree quilt, neither my head nor toes touched the sides of the tent. I also had ample space for ditty bag essentials by my side and could use a pillow without any issues.
The Triplex currently sells for $779. That won’t win any ‘wallet-friendly’ awards, but you’re getting a well-designed tent made from the strongest, lightest, and most waterproof materials. To build your own knock-off, you’d pay $20-$25 per half-yard from retail DCF suppliers.
It’s a small irony that you’re paying more to get less — much less weight, a mere 22 oz (615 gm) in your pack. Hard to notice at the trailhead, perhaps, but obvious after hours on the trail. I sure noticed, and the more I commit to ultralight, the more I enjoy my treks.
What I Love About the Triplex
- The weight, or rather, the delightful lack thereof
- The water-shedding miracle of Dyneema Composite Fabric (DCF) — a quick shake and it’s dry
- The roomy interior to share with others; a luxury for two and comfy for three
- The tent fits horizontally in your pack, for better organization
- Ample airflow through the tent, great for all seasons
- Quick-adjust Line-locs are much better than hitch knots
- Fly-first setups keep the rain out and the floor dry
What I’d Change About the Triplex
- The DCF can get a bit noisy in high winds; bring some earplugs
- The floor is a bit slippery, so pads may slowly slide downhill in the night
- Setup requires practice, but preferably not in a storm; try it in the backyard first
Final Thoughts: Reviewing the Zpacks Triplex UL Tent
The Zpacks Triplex tops so many backpacking tent reviews because it’s a trifecta of ideal size, weight, and Dyneema waterproof perfection. As an ultralight three-person model, it has few peers, competing mostly with ultralight tents from mostly US-based cottage brands. It has ruled the roost for years.
Sure, I wish DCF wasn’t so expensive or noisy in the wind, but it’s the best ultralight material out there. There are always tradeoffs. But when I consider the weight I save by using trekking poles and the tent’s fly-first, fully enclosed setup in the rain, I’m very satisfied.
I hope this Zpacks Triplex review has made your decision-making process a little easier. As with all backpacking gear, look for proven designs and top-quality materials. Zpacks has nailed both of those with the Triplex, so invest in a classic and enjoy warm & dry nights on the trail.
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Last Updated on October 14, 2023