Monday, 29 September 2014

Quick review - zPacks Solplex

The zPacks Solplex is a single walled lightweight shelter designed and made in the USA.  I have spent 16 nights so far in mine, so this is more of an initial review rather than a long term review.  I took this shelter straight out on my trip, no practice, no checking, I DO NOT recommend this for any piece of gear and it is rather foolhardy.

The shelter is quick and easy to erect.  I bought carbon poles from zPacks rather than use my trekking poles, this was partly due to knowing that I had no time to test and practice getting the heights correct.  It took some of the guesswork out.

The tent gets its strength from 4 key anchor points and these do need to be pretty strong. On my first night using the tent I struggled at first because the ground wouldn’t hold the pegs.  It was very dry and the soil just crumbled, more than once a peg pinged out of the ground when the tension was applied.  A few well-placed rocks solved that issue!

The peg ‘pinging’ issue happened a few times, even using Clam-Cleat Tornados.   Choose your pegs wisely.   I’d take 4 strong/reliable stakes, with 4 lightweight ones (I used MSR Carbon pegs for the other tie outs). 

Most nights were dry (and fairly cold) but I did have rain twice.  Once was a few showers and the other was heavy rain and hail.  The shelter did as it was supposed to and kept me dry.  During the heavy rain a good sized puddle formed around the tent but the deep bath tub did its job and I stayed dry.  The high sides (for ventilation) do mean that during heavy rain you can get a little splash back against the mesh inner.  Heavy rain with hard bare dirt leads to a decent sized splash, on home (grassy) soil I don’t think this will be as great an issue.

Apart from the 2 nights of rain I slept with the door open and had no condensation issues.  The only times I got condensation was during the rain, when the door was fully shut.

It’s not the biggest of shelters, so while there is enough room for a full sized Exped Synmat, don’t expect acres of space.  I did wonder how I’d cope with more rain (packing bag, changing clothes, cooking, etc, inside the tent) and I think I would have struggled.  I’m not the most flexible of campers!

Overall, I like the Solplex.  Lightweight, waterproof, midgeproof and pretty idiot proof.  I’ll use it in the UK during Spring/Summer with no qualms.  If the weather looks wet, I might take the MLD Duomid for the extra space (especially to cook in).

(I had an issue with one corner of the shelter, I couldn’t get it tight.  It didn’t affect the performance, just gave a little less room and didn’t look right.  A quick email after my trip to Joe at zPacks resulted in Joe suggesting  it might have been sewn wrong.  Joe sent out a replacement straight away.  Excellent customer service. However, this is why you should ALWAYS test/check gear before using it!)

Note – I paid for this item with my own cash.


  1. Great to see a review as I've just got the Duplex - partly because of the space issue you mention.

  2. So how are you going with the space issue width-wise? I too am not that flexible and it looks really tight (I'm 5 6" so length/height would be okay). Can you get all/most of your gear in the tent? If you were to buy it over again would you go for the Altoplex? How did it go long term? Thanks for a great review...Tanya

  3. Its been great in the long term, though I really haven't used it as much as I'd like, but still no issues in the long term.

    Depending on the weather I generally leave my rucksack in the porch (if it rains it will get wet) as its tight inside. With a full size exped there was about 6-9 ish inches to one side for storage internally. In bad weather its cosy when i bring everything in. For the weight increase I'd be tempted by the Altoplex. I had no problems with the height or length of the solplex, but for a bit more room in the width I'd be tempted.

    1. Thank you Andy for the PCT plans are firming up, but I still haven't actually been able to bring myself pull the trigger on the's that width problem!

    2. Thank you Andy for the PCT plans are firming up, but I still haven't actually been able to bring myself pull the trigger on the's that width problem!

  4. Thanks for the review and updated comments. I am tossing back and forward on the Solplex or the Altaplex. I have pretty much discounted the other options.

    My only concern is the packed size as I will use this mainly bikepacking. Do you have any thoughts on its packed size?