Best Ultralight 3 Person Tent? | Zpacks Triplex Review

It is rare in backcountry hunting to be able to literally cut POUNDS from your pack without significant sacrifices to comfort. Enter this Zpacks Triplex review. The Zpacks Triplex Tent is a true ultralight 3 person tent that packs up so small you will hardly know it is in your pack. Now, taking a step back, my story starts in early September.

Opening day of the 2022 Colorado archery season, I found myself and a couple buddies six miles from the trailhead and within 150 yards of a huge herd of elk, including multiple bugling bulls. Exactly what I had been dreaming about since the end of the 2021 season. With no realistic way to close the distance in wide open terrain above timberline, we opted to play it safe thinking we would have the remote basin to ourselves. We had hauled in five days worth of food and gear to just under 12,000 feet in elevation and planned to wait out the elk for a better opportunity expecting them to be in early season “predictable” patterns.

Zpacks Triplex review - best ultralight 3 person tent?

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As the day moved along, the elk eluded us, but I began to ponder the potential reality of “what if” one of us had tagged out opening morning. We had spent nearly five hours hiking into this area, losing an arrow and breaking two trekking poles along the way. My pack was pushing 50 pounds and suffering through 2,000+ feet of elevation gain, deadfall, and every imaginable snag had me contemplating any and every possible way to lighten up my pack for multi-day backpacking trips.

Zpacks Triplex review - best ultralight 3 person tent?

Several years ago, I bought some “ultralight” backpacking gear from a well-known brand in the industry. My “3P” tent weighed in at 56 oz and my “0 degree” bag weighed 51 oz. For several years this setup was my go-to for September archery as the tent was comfortable for two people and the bag kept me warm to around 25-30 degrees. I had not spent much time researching other options and just assumed that 100+ oz is what was required for a decent shelter and a comfortable down sleeping bag.

Zpacks was founded in 2004 and quickly made a name for themselves in the ultralight world. Over the past 10 months, I have had the opportunity to test out the Zpacks Triplex Tent and the Zpacks 20-degree Zip Around Sleeping Bag. Needless to say, I was stoked at the idea of lightening my pack by almost 2 pounds by switching up my bag and tent. Check out my review of the 20-degree zip around bag. I was equally excited to put the Zpacks Triplex Tent to the test. Let’s dive into the details.

The Testing – Zpacks Triplex Review

During my time testing for this Zpacks Triplex review, I used the Zpacks Triplex Tent in a wide range of situations, from backyard camping with kids, to early summer scouting/fishing trips in the Colorado high country, to backpack archery elk hunts. In total I spent about 13 nights in the Triplex Tent from February through November of 2023. Temperatures ranged from as low as 18 degrees all the way up to almost 80 degrees.

The Specs – Zpacks Triplex Review

Zpacks Triplex review - best ultralight 3 person tent?

As I mentioned, I was extremely excited to lighten up my pack and the Zpacks Triplex Tent played a big part in helping me accomplish this with an astonishing weight of 21.6 oz. The Triplex tent is a “3P” which further enabled me to cut weight by sharing it with my hunting partner on backcountry trips and allowing him to carry other gear we could both use. I found that for two grown men the Triplex is just about perfect. Three would be doable if you are not using a long/wide pad but it would be snug with no room inside the tent for extra gear.

Interior Space – Zpacks Triplex:

Zpacks Triplex review - best ultralight 3 person tent?

In my testing for this Zpacks Triplex review, I found the interior of the shelter had plenty of room to store extra gear with two people. If you opted to fit three in this shelter, it would be a bit tight shoulder-to-shoulder and gear storage would be minimal and only at your head and feet. My personal preference is to always size up one person more than I plan to have in the shelter as I have broad shoulders and enjoy the extra space.

I am 6’4″ and use a long/wide pad, so it is not uncommon for me to need to size up since my pad and bag are larger to start with. One of the downsides to being taller is that most pads long enough for me are also typically wider, which takes up potential space in an ultralight tent. I have found that this usually requires me to subtract one from the advertised capacity of just about every ultralight tent out there.

Interior Dimensions – Zpacks Triplex:

  • Peak height: 48″
  • Floor width: 60″
  • Floor length: 7.5 feet
  • Floor Area: 37.5 square feet
  • Zipper entry height: 36″

Being 6’4”, I have made the mistake before of not looking at the overall length of the shelters I choose. It is not very enjoyable having your head and feet touching the top and bottom of the tent all night and dealing with the associated condensation from breathing.

With that in mind, I was curious if the stated floor length of 7.5 feet was “real” with its usable space, and on this Zpacks shelter, it absolutely is! I was pleasantly surprised that my long/wide Exped Ultra pad fit with ease and plenty of room to spare on the top and bottom for gear storage. This may be a small thing, but for bigger/taller folks, the extra space is something I very much appreciate. The peak height of 48” was also spot on and comes in very helpful when you need to sit upright in the tent.

Exterior Dimensions – Zpacks Triplex:

  • Peak height: 48″
  • Ridgeline width: 68″
  • Width including vestibules: 108″
  • Vestibule Depth from floor: 24″
  • Length: 100″

Packed Dimensions – Zpacks Triplex:

The Zpacks Triplex Tent rolls up to a packed size of 7″ in diameter by 12″ tall and a total of 462 cubic inches, while the stuff sack size is 8″ diameter by 13″ tall (20.3 cm x 33 cm). The stuff sack is intentionally designed to be loose for ease of packing the tent in the bag and squeezing down in your backpack. The loose design came in extremely handy, especially when packing the tent solo. I have used other tents where the stuff sack is a bit of a chore to get the tent in if it is not packed perfectly so I really enjoyed this feature.

Non-Freestanding – Single Wall – Zpacks Triplex Review

Zpacks Triplex review - best ultralight 3 person tent?

One big differences for me in switching to this shelter was the single wall design. In the past, I have only used double wall shelters. Based on my past experience with hot tents in late season, I was interested to see if the weight savings was enough to overcome the potential condensation issues that often plague single wall shelters.

The answer for me was a resounding “yes”. Sleeping in this tent in temperatures well below freezing, I did notice very minor condensation accumulating and freezing directly above where I was breathing. When temps were chilly, but above freezing, the condensation was very minor even with two grown men in the tent. I could run my hand over it and it would be slightly damp but no dripping down the sidewalls or anything close to that. I found that ventilating the tent even a little at night made a big difference with minimizing condensation.

Zpacks Triplex review - best ultralight 3 person tent?

The design of this tent with the bathtub floor and gaps near the base help tremendously in keeping air flowing and condensation at bay. I would consider the Triplex tent a three season shelter as blowing snow might be problematic given the design.

Materials – Zpacks Triplex Review

Zpacks Triplex review - best ultralight 3 person tent?

Dyneema is the first ever bio-based ultra-high molecular weight polyethylene (HMPE) fiber – and it is just flat out cool. It is made in the USA and sourced from renewable, bio-based feedstock. I opted for the white Triplex tent which is made from the 0.55 oz/sq yd Standard Dyneema® Composite Fabric. This is Zpacks’ default material with a very high tensile strength. It is built to handle just about anything mother nature can throw at you. Here are the specs of the 0.55 oz/sq yd Standard Dyneema Fabric:

  • Tensile Strength: 63 lb/in
  • Puncture Strength: 1.8 lb
  • Water Resistance: 15,000 mm H₂O

Ease Of Setup – Zpacks Triplex Review

Zpacks Triplex review - best ultralight 3 person tent?

The Zpacks Triplex tent has a bit of a unique design with the trekking pole setup option and two vestibules/entrances. Having previously used a shelter with only one entrance, I am now a BIG fan of the double entrance. Using single entrance shelters often had me tripping over my hunting partner while getting in and out.

The Triplex Tent comes with pre-cut guy lines with linelocs already sown in place which are very handy. This shelter, more than most, took me a few practice runs to get the ideal pitch figured out. My first few attempts, I cinched down the four corners too tight resulting in a bit of a “sag” or U shape in the peak of the shelter which reduces head space when sitting. Like anything, with a bit more practice on the setup/takedown I was able to get the shape to hold much better.

Zpacks Triplex review - best ultralight 3 person tent?

The key I found was that after staking the four corners (do not overstretch them) and then inserting either the Zpacks Carbon Fiber Poles or your own trekking poles, you can move forward with the remaining stakes (four more at a minimum or up to eight additional stakes for windy conditions). This is definitely a shelter I would recommend some backyard practice to get comfortable with before heading into the backcountry. Dyneema does have a bit of “crinkle” sound to it, so I recommend dialing in the pitch in windy conditions to ensure no flaps are blowing around.

No Zipper Design – Zpacks Triplex Review

Zpacks Triplex review - best ultralight 3 person tent?

Another unique feature to Zpacks tents is their toggle clips that securely hold the vestibule “doors” in place. You also have the added option of securing the mid-section of the door with an elastic loop.

Zpacks Triplex review - best ultralight 3 person tent?

Want to ensure you do not have any condensation at night? You can roll the doors open and use another elastic loop/tie down on the sidewall of the tent to have full ventilation.

Zpacks Triplex review - best ultralight 3 person tent?

This was my first experience with this type of setup and I enjoyed NOT hearing my hunting partner fiddling with multiple zippers at night to answer the call of nature. I found the vestibules to be the perfect size to store my Exo Mountain Gear pack and boots in to make sure they did not get exposed to frost or overnight dew. The no zipper design is certainly different than what I was used to, but it really grew on me as I got more comfortable with using the shelter.

Mesh Screen / Doors – Zpacks Triplex Review

Zpacks Triplex review - best ultralight 3 person tent?

One of my complaints with floorless shelters I have tested in early season is the bugs. Call me what you will, but I prefer fully-enclosed shelters to keep out unwanted visitors. The mesh screens on the Zpacks Triplex Tent offer easy access in and out. I found that, due to the structure of the tent being a tiny bit loose, the zippers into the tent are difficult to operate with one hand. This very well may have been due to user error with the setup/pitch needing further adjustment. I did not have any snagging issues and the mesh is very durable.

Zpacks Triplex review - best ultralight 3 person tent?

Another thing to note is the location of the poles on the center of each side of the tent. It did not bother me at all, but I did have to be a little bit careful getting in and out to make sure I was not adding unnecessary tension to the poles by leaning on them or accidentally bumping them. Ultralight comes with a bit of give and take, and this is one give I will gladly accept for the weight savings. Of course, using trekking poles, you would be more likely to pull a stake loose or tear the tent than break a pole, but the Zpacks Carbon Fiber Tent Poles are not as sturdy as a trekking pole.

Build Quality – Zpacks Triplex Review

Zpacks Triplex review - best ultralight 3 person tent?

On my first backcountry outing with the Zpacks Triplex tent, we experienced a good old fashioned Colorado windstorm. The weatherman predicted the front should finish blowing through by nightfall of the day we packed in six miles to an alpine lake. In true meteorologist fashion, they were “slightly” off and the wind raged on all night and into the next day. Gusts were well north of 50 mph at times, and the Triplex tent took it like a champ with no ripping, tearing, or damage to speak of.

I was thoroughly impressed at its durability and the tensile strength was on full display. In case of an issue, Zpacks offers a two-year limited warranty against product failure caused by manufacturing, material, and design defects. I have not had a reason to use it yet, but I always appreciate it when a company stands behind their product.

Privacy – Zpacks Triplex Review

Zpacks Triplex review - best ultralight 3 person tent?

The lighter colors Zpacks offers are “semitransparent.” With the white shelter I chose, you can definitely see silhouettes inside the shelter, and it does not block that much light. For most backpackers and hunters, this is a non-issue as you are not typically sleeping in much past daybreak. This feature is something to be aware of, though, when choosing the color shade of Zpacks shelter for your preferences.

Price Tag – Zpacks Triplex Review

Ultralight does come with a price – in this case, the Zpacks Triplex Tent currently runs $769.00-$799.00 depending on which color you choose. While it is a hefty price tag, I view the Zpacks Triplex Tent as something of an investment in a shelter I plan to use for many years to come in the backcountry.

What I liked – Zpacks Triplex Review

There is certainly a lot to like about the Zpacks Triplex Tent. It truly stands out in the ultralight category and has found a permanent place in my pack. I was blown away at how spacious this shelter is horizontally and vertically. I loved the ability to keep additional items inside the tent as needed. The weight savings is significant compared to most 3P shelters and Dyneema fabric is incredibly durable. I got to see it firsthand in extreme conditions.

  • Extremely spacious, even for tall people
  • Easy to sit upright with a peak height of 48”
  • Truly “ultralight” at 21.6 oz for a 3P shelter
  • High quality materials and extremely durable

What I Disliked – Zpacks Triplex Review

Overall, the Zpacks Triplex Tent is flat out awesome. I had to work at it a bit to come up with anything that could be improved. That said, the Zpacks Triplex Tent is not the easiest tent to set up. For me, this is a non-issue as ease of setup takes a giant back seat compared to the weight saved from other shelters I have used. The zippers also required a bit of getting used to. If I did not get the tension on the tent just right during setup, the zippers required the use of two hands to open/close.

  • Getting the perfect pitch takes a bit of practice
  • Screen door zippers required two hands to operate

Conclusion – Zpacks Triplex Review

My experience testing out the Zpacks Triplex tent has been nothing short of fantastic. I am fully sold on this shelter and the value it adds (and the ounces it removes from my pack). My older “ultralight” tent has officially been relegated to back-up duty and will likely only be used by my kids on family camping trips.

If you are in the market for upgrading your shelter, check out Zpacks wide variety of shelter offerings. While you are at it, take a look at the Zpacks ultralight sleeping bags and quilts and do what I did – double down on lightening your pack while truly upgrading your sleep system.

It is abundantly clear that the folks at Zpacks spend plenty of time in the backcountry and developed a line of shelters that are difficult to match in the ultralight world.

Check Out Zpacks Triplex Tent

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