Zpacks Free Zip tent in the forest

Zpacks Free Zip 2P Review

A new contender for best two person ultralight freestanding tent

Well folks, we might just have ourselves a new best-in-class freestanding ultralight tent in the Zpacks Free Zip 2P; no other option offers the same degree of low weight, storm-worthiness, and frestanding-ness. Compared to other top models in the fully freestanding 2p capacity class, the Zpacks Free Zip is significantly lighter weight; has a taller ceiling; is built with durable 100%, waterproof and sag-proof Dyneema; above average headroom; and is much sturdier in wind. On the flip side, it’s much more expensive; has a slightly smaller interior area, and has much smaller vestibules. Shop now.

All said and done, the 31.6 oz Zpacks Free Zip is a very compelling ultralight performance option in a category previously dominated by lightweight-not-ultralight tents. We’re stoked to see UL Cottage Industry brands combining DCF and single-wall construction to innovate and optimize within the freestanding category.

  • Price: $899
  • Weight: 31.6 oz
  • Interior Area: 26.3
  • Vestibule Area: 8.0 ft² (estimate)
  • Area/Pound: 13.3 ft²
  • Height: 43 in
  • Fly Material: Dyneema
  • Potential Add-ons: Groundsheet, Gear Nest, Bonus interior Pocket
  • Pros: Ultralight & freestanding. Much lighter than its peers. Very sturdy in high wind. Very steep end walls prevent condensation contact. Good headroom. Best-in-class materials are durable and don’t sag when wet. Symmetrical. Peak vents and magnetic toggles. Made in USA.
  • Cons: Tendency to scrunch up when not staked or loaded. Very expensive. Slightly smaller than average interior area. Much smaller than average vestibules. Single wall condensation. Smudgy tent poles.

Compare to more great options in our guide to the Best Backpacking Tents. Read reviews of our favorite non-freestanding tents, the Zpacks Offset Solo, Duo, and Trio.

When purchasing through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no additional cost to you. Here’s why you can trust us. Now back to Zpacks Free Zip Review.

side view

Construction & Features

The most notable design element on the Zpacks Free Zip is its double X pole configuration, one X on each end. Most freestanding domes utilize a single X, but we see how the double X is more wind resistant, and creates steeper head/end walls. Zpacks even claims its the most wind-worthy in their entire lineup! The poles are made with 6.3mm Easton carbon fiber, very strong and light, and fold down small. Only issue so far is that their powder coating smudges on finger contact.

This is the only true freestanding tent in the Zpacks line, a tuned and optimized version of its predecessor – the Free Duo – and a big upgrade over the Duplex Freestanding Flex Kit, which converts a Duplex classic into freestanding mode for pitching onto hard surfaces and sand.

Like all of the rest of the Zpacks tents, Free Zip is made with Dyneema fabric, .5 or .75 for the canopy, and burly 1.0 for the floor. The .75 is shown in this review and is slightly more opaque, durable, and waterproof. We love Dyneema tents, and find them to be best-in-class, lightweight, extremely sag resistant, and incredibly durable and long lasting compared to ripstop nylon or poly of similar weight per square yard. Dyneema has an exceptional tear-strength, and is waterproof without any coatings.

The biggest performance downside is its overall small floor plan. We have to assume they made it as big as possible while still keeping it under 2 lbs, but sticking hard to that weight cap. Its interior area of 26.3 sq ft is a bit lower than the industry standard 28 sq ft for an average sized 2p tent. It is 1″ narrower and 3″ shorter then Duplex Classic. It is 6″ narrower and 8″ shorter than the Offset Duo, the largest and most luxurious 2p Zpacks tent.

However, the steeper-than-average end walls and taller-than-average ceiling make it feel bigger than it is, and compensate for the loss of square footage. However again, this is a single walled tent, so you have to stay mindful of not brushing against condensation. This in turn makes it feel a bit smaller than a double wall of the same interior volume.

And then there’s the vestibules, with a total combined estimated area of ~8 sq ft (our best guess based on line drawing geometry), roughly half the size of lightweight double walled freestanding tents. This makes them large enough to be viable for storing shoes, but it may be difficult to store a pack and shoes under it without something sticking out or it pushing inward against the mesh wall, or sacrificing the ability to use it as an entry/exit point,. These are some of the very smallest vestibules we’ve ever seen.

Moving on from size, we conclude with the features. The Free Zip has lots of great livability features, including peak vents, magnetic storm door roll ups, included repair kit, two interior pockets, backup zipper sliders, bath tub floor risers, and independent DCF stuff sacks for the poles and tent body.

looking into zpacks free zip 2p
mesh doors open
a sleeping pad in the zpacks free zip 2p tent
sitting inside the zpacks free zip

Who Should Choose the Zpacks Free Zip 2P?

  • You require a freestanding tent for pitching onto rock, sand, wooden tent-pads, etc
  • You prioritize wind-resistance-to-weight ratio
  • You dislike non-freestanding tents, and have yet to find a good ultralight freestanding solution
  • You already own a top-tier ultralight non-freestanding tent like the Zpacks Offset Duo, and want this for your quiver
  • You prioritize max performance over value
  • You are hiking solo, and/or do not intend to use it with two larger/taller bodies, which might feel cramped

Where Should You Take It?

  • International trips, which are more likely to have man-made hard-surface tent pads
  • Notoriously windy regions, like Patagonia
  • Desert slick rock, sand, and beaches where trekking pole shelters are difficult to pitch
  • Challenging trips where the weight savings are important compared to a traditional light-not-ultralight freestanding tent
Zpacks Free Zip 2P
double x pole crossing
Measurements

Zpacks Free Zip Against Mainstream Brand Competition

The below table illustrates how Free Zip stacks up against competition from two mainstream brands. As you can see, it is lighter weight, taller, and has better wind resistance, but also more expensive, slightly smaller, and with much smaller vestibules.

Mobile users rotate device for full width table view

Tent Setup Price Weight Interior area Vestibules Height
Performance in Strong Wind(1-5)
Zpacks Free Zip Freestanding 899 31.6 26.3 8.0 43 Great
Big Agnes Copper Spur Freestanding 530 43.0 29 18.0 40 Good
Nemo DragonFly Freestanding 500 42.0 29 20.0 39 Good
Big Agnes Tiger Wall Semi-Free 450 35 28 16 39 Okay
Nemo Hornet Semi-Free 430 33 27.5 14.2 39 Okay
exaggerated scrunching problem

The Scrunching Problem

The above photo illustrates an exaggeratedly scrunched position

Most freestanding tents use a crossbar pole configuration, which forms an X over the center of the ceiling and pushes all four corners outwards. This naturally encourages the tent to spread out and pulls the floor reasonably taut without staking.

But the Zpacks Free Zip is different. The double X-pole configuration, one X per half, exerts width-pressure, pushing the floor outwards to the sides on both end walls. But the double-x bars exert no pressure to keep the floor taut lengthwise. This results in a natural tendency for the tent to scrunch up, becoming shorter and taller unless something prevents the corners from drifting.

Luckily, the scrunching problem is not a big issue, and very easily remedied. Once you have pitched the tent, it is still recommended to stake out all four corners. This immediately solves the problem, prevents scrunching, and ensures the pitch will be as spacious and taut as possible.

The biggest downside is that part of the reason to choose a freestanding tent is that you are expecting to encounter surfaces that do not allow staking. That’s still okay, because once you and all of your gear are inside the tent, it will significantly reduce the scrunching, albeit not entirely. It can always be remedied.

Again, we don’t view this as a major issue, or detractor from its overall functionality, but it is a slight hit to user friendliness.

zpacks free zip in orange

Zpacks Free Zip 2P Review Verdict

No matter how you prioritize  different performance levers, Zpacks Free Zip is worth considering from an I-want-nothing-less-than-the-very-best perspective. It is 25-50% lighter than its competitors, has the highest wind-resistance-to-weight ratio, is made with best in-class-materials, and offers above average headroom.

However, it’s also very expensive, has a smaller-than-average interior, and the smallest vestibules in its class. Our take is that Free Zip juice is worth the squeeze; this is a great tent to have in your quiver; and it will get lots of use and perform excellently.

testing for Zpacks Free Zip Tent review