Product review

10 Jun, 2020

Zpacks Solplex

Tested by: Russ

Cost (w/ camo print):

GBP

Weight:

g

Nights used:

Nights

Times replaced:

Replacements

Watch first look video

Watch the setup video

Review

The Zpacks Solplex tent has been my primary tent for 2 years now and I’ve taken it on some wet and wild trips. It’s been travelling around South East Asia with me and I’ll continue to use it for many nights to come. But is it worth spending so much of your hard-earned cash on the Solplex while there are much cheaper options out there?

 

Why the Zpacks Solplex?

I purchased my Zpacks Solplex after using my 1.5kg OEX Phoxx 1 for a couple of years and I knew I wanted a tent that was much lighter. I was happy with the size of the Phoxx 1 when all setup, but packed down it was a beast with the long aluminium poles, a heavy nylon fly and a super thick groundsheet. At the time of purchase, the Zpacks Solplex was the lightest one-person tent on the market while being more spacious and packable than the Phoxx 1. For these reasons and after reading some reviews I took the plunge, brushed off my dusty wallet and never looked back.

 

Where have you taken it?

I’ve used this tent to complete the South Downs Way, countless overnighters in Snowdonia, the Lake District and in Scotland and I used it on the Welsh 3,000s. I’ve Had it pitched in all kinds of weather and most recently I used it for over 200 miles on the Pacific Crest Trail on some pretty cold and windy nights.

 

Build and quality

Zpacks did what I consider to be a fantastic job of stitching together this very thin Dyneema Composite Fabric to create a very strong, light-weight solution to a backpacking tent suitable for a thru-hike or two. When it arrived new it was wonderfully packed and the attention to detail is outstanding. The seam tape is very neatly integrated and the bug mesh, while delicate has been carefully stitched.

 

Any wear and tear?

Over time the only wear and tear is the seam tape close to the pole cups is starting to detach from the tarp on the outside. This can be easily replaced and I’d expect it after two years, 70 nights and after the amount of wind I’ve put it through. For such a lightweight tent I’m surprised how it’s held up. The only damage on the entire tent is where I foolishly inserted a carbon pole into the rear pole cup and failed to notice that the mesh was caught over the top of the pole. Upon entry to the Solplex I sat down and thus, punched a hole straight through the bug mesh (see gallery). The DCF tape came in handy and no bugs have gotten through. I was gutted though!

Apart from that, there’s no damage to the DCF. The bathtub floor has no abrasion underneath, the tarp, stitching and guylines are still as they should be. I do advise that you purchase a Polycryo Window Protecting kit from Amazon. Cut it to size by trimming around your sleeping pad/mattress with about 6 inches of margin and it will greatly increase the longevity of the floor, especially if you’ll be sleeping on rough surfaces.

 

How roomy is it?

I’m 5’7″ and there’s just enough room inside to have both myself and my gear out of the rain. The vestibule is large enough for a wet pack and to use a stove in, but only do so at your own risk. The headroom is okay, although if you slide down in the night and your head or feet start touching the walls, condensation will get you wet. Sitting up under the apex there’s plenty of headroom. I wouldn’t recommend getting a tent this size if you’re over 6”3″ as you’ll struggle for space.

 

What’s there not to like?

The only feature of the Zpacks Solplex and other tents in this class is the rainbow door. When fully opened it flaps down on the floor getting wet, dirty, abrased and in the way. On other tents like my Taprtent Stratospire 2, the doors are D-shaped and can be tied out of the way using a small tie-out above the door.

 

How did it do in storms?

I’ve used the Zpacks Solplex in some 40mph gusts at relatively exposed campsites and it’s held up fine as long as I’ve had a solid pitch. Those stakes need to be firmly stuck in the ground and the guylines very tight. While the DCF is strong, it’s not very flexible so expect to have some noisy and flappy nights in high winds. The better the pitch, the less flappy it’ll be. I also used the Zpacks carbon fibre poles specifically made for this tent. They’re fine, but if you’re hit by strong winds and the ground you’ve pitched on is soft, the carbon poles will drive into the ground and the tarp will be flapping in your face very quickly. After switching to using my trekking poles, I’ve never had this problem.

Over time, the seam tape has started to become loose around the pole cups on both apexes causing some very minor leaks in torrential rain. But in lighter storms or persistent drizzle, the leaks don’t occur. In high winds, definitely pitch the tarp closer to the ground so the wind doesn’t drive rain through the tent. To avoid most of this, I advise finding more sheltered campsites out of the wind where possible and plan ahead. Above all, the Solplex kept me very dry and out of the elements in some pretty bad conditions. Keep in mind, this is a 3-season tent.

 

Packability

One of the best attributes of the Zpacks Solplex is how packable it is. When packing down, I fold it twice along the horizontal and then roll it into a sausage, then roll the sausage up tightly and it packs down smaller than my head. If it’s soaking wet, it’s easy to just stuff into the front pocket of my backpack, or hang it on the shock cord to dry while walking.

 

Value for money

While the Zpacks Solplex is an expensive tent when sat next to say a Lanshan 1 or OEX Phoxx 1, it’s an order of magnitude lighter and far more packable while also keeping you just as dry. Buying a tent in this class will set you back some money, but it’s an investment that will cut at least a kilogram off your base weight, save tonnes of space in your backpack and help you crush more miles. If you’re serious about long-distance hiking and you’re typically travelling alone, it’s worth every penny.

Gallery

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Overview

  • Durability 40% 40%
  • Stability 60% 60%
  • Packability 100% 100%
  • Headroom 50% 50%
  • Value for money 50% 50%

BPros

  • Ultralightweight
  • Ultra-strong
  • Excellent quality
  • Packs down super small

CCons

  • Setup takes practice
  • Not sold anymore
  • Expensive

Specs

Price (no longer available):

From £440.40 at zpacks.com

Weight:

From 439g (15.5oz)

Sleeps:

1 person

Pitch time:

5 – 8 minutes

Seasons:

3

Design:

Trekking pole

Tarp:

18.99gsm (0.67 oz/sqyd) Camo DCF

Inner:

Bug mesh

Ground sheet:

Dyneema Composite Fabric

Poles:

2x trekking poles

Pegs:

6 – 8

Vestibules:

1

Doors:

1

Inner dimensions (h, w, l):

122cm x 76cm x 230cm

Hydrostatic Head:

20,000mm

Features

  • Sets up with 2 trekking poles
  • Fully enclosed
  • Fine bug mesh screen
  • Single-walled
  • Rainbow zipper
  • Solid DCF bathtub floor
  • Integrated gear pocket
  • Integrated guylines with lineloc
  • DCF tape included

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