Backpacking Tent In Use Testing Zpacks Offset Duo Ultralight Tent review

Zpacks Offset Duo Review

A Tier-1 Trekking Pole Shelter & The Most Spacious 2P Zpacks Tent To-Date

The Zpacks Offset Duo Tent is the best and most spacious 2P Zpacks brand tent to-date, and one of the very best trekking pole supported tents on the entire market. Offset Duo builds on the success of Zpacks’ flagship Duplex design by increasing its length, width, and headroom, adding vents, zippered storm doors, L-shaped inner doors, magnetic roll-ups, a 32″ end strut, and ingeniously offsetting its trekking pole placement towards the head-end to maximize ceiling space directly above where users sit up. (shop now)

You may also be interested in our 3P Zpacks Offset Trio Review, and 1P Zpacks Offset Solo review. Compare Zpacks Offset Duo to more great options in our guide to the best backpacking tents , or our guide for how to choose a Zpacks Tent. Add a Zpacks Gear storage nest and pick up a pair of Zpack’s excellent carbon fiber trekking poles.

  • Price: $799
  • Weight: 1 lb, 3.7 oz
  • Material: Dyneema
  • Interior: 31.4 ft² | Vestibules: 12.5 ft² | Total Area/Pound: 35.7 ft²
  • Peak Height: 48″ | Width: 50″ tapering to 44″ | Length: 94″
  • Pros: Ultralight. Spacious interior. Excellent headroom. Best-in-class materials. Durable floor. Vents. Magnetic door roll-ups. Sturdy in wind.
  • Cons: Very expensive. Not freestanding. Small vestibules. Head-end storm door cannot be rolled up.

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side view of offset duo

Testing For the Zpacks Offset Duo Review

For our Zpacks Offset Duo Review, Zpacks sent a sample and Jaeger tested it on a seven-night backpacking trip in the Uncompahgre Wilderness of Colorado’s San Juan Mountains. During the trip, the tent handled alpine weather of all types with aplomb, including 30 mph wind gusts, hail, and rain, as well as cold and warm nights (good for testing ventilation). No matter what the mountains threw at us, the Offset Duo was up to the task and our reviewer stayed dry and safe. He loved the tent!

head wall side

Construction & Features

To understand the Zpacks Offset Duo, begin by picturing their flagship Duplex Tent as a baseline from which to build off. That is, an ultralight non-freestanding, completely bug-proof, single-walled, well-ventilated, trekking pole-supported shelter made with Dyneema Composite Fabric.

vents on the offset duo

Then apply the Duplex Zip upgrade package – that is, peak vents plus zippered storm doors with magnetic roll ups. Then make it 4″ longer and 5″ wider to help users spread out, and accommodate tall hikers or wider sleeping pads. Finally, bump the placement of the trekking poles towards the head such that its peak sits at ~40% of the distance from the headend, rather than centered at 50%.

This is beneficial because it creates additional ceiling space directly above where users actually sit up, and steepens the headwall to decrease the likelihood of brushing against it while in the process of sitting up. A tie off point centered on the outer headwall creates convexity that further increase headroom and prevents sag.

head wall view after a rain shower

By offsetting the trekking poles to make a steeper headwall, the natural consequence is a shorter and less steep foot-end ceiling. However, the Zpacks Offset Duo mitigates this issue with a final stroke of genius – the foot-end strut. A 32″, one ounce, collapsible carbon fiber pole is provided for solo use, but can (and should) be replaced by a third trekking pole when used by two backpackers.

close up on end strut with reinforced tie out

The pole is not counted in the list-weight. A reinforced tie off point connects to this strut to lift up the foot end ceiling which creates convexity, prevents sagging, and offers more than adequate vertical space to store a backpack and prevent your sleeping bag/quilt’s footbox from brushing into the ceiling  and reduces the likelihood of contact with condensation.

Carbon Fiber End Strut in its sling

Unlike all other Zpacks tents, which have rainbow shaped zipper-entry bug mesh inner-doors, the Offset Duo has an L-shape. This is beneficial in that it drapes down and holds its shape, even when fully unzipped, which helps prevent mosquitoes from drifting inside when you enter/exit. Directly on on the inside bottom of each door are mesh pockets to store critical items like a headlamp. Another added advantage is that it reduces the pressure on the zippers. When two campers fill up a duplex and max out the interior space, it creates a pull on the bathtub side walls that tugs at the zipper and has potential to damage the teeth over time. Not so with the Offset Duo door.

side view door open

A 6″ tall bathtub floor made out of burly DCF  with 3″ of ceiling overhang on the edges keeps rain out. Internal adjusters can open and close the mesh overhang to reduce draftiness and prevent splash back in heavy rain. Attached to the bathtub floor are trekking pole connection flaps (see above – spot that Challenge Ultra) that keep the floor from blowing around in the wind.

Close up on trekking pole flap

Using the Zpacks Offset Duo Tent

Unlike the rest of the Zpacks tents family, the Offset Duo is not symmetrical in length or width. As such, you must always choose which is the head end of the tent pad before pitching. This is not difficult, but be sure to note which side is uphill and which is downhill before setting up.

inside view of the zpacks offset duo

Most campers use a 72″ long sleeping pad, which leaves an additional 22″ of space at the foot-end of the tent for gear storage. Because the Offset Duo has small vestibules (more on that later), we recommend storing your backpack and excess gear at your feet, (unless it’s wet). And of course, when used solo, there is so much room that you can basically store anything anywhere.

view of headwall from interior

Setting up the Zpacks Offset Duo is simple. First, stake out the corners with slack. Starting with your trekking poles shortened, place them into the flaps and then raise them up to the desired height (Zpacks recommends 122cm) so that they nest in the reinforced cups. Next, stake out the vestibules. Then rearrange and retention the corners to ensure everything is pulled at the correct angle. Finally, stake out the end strut and head-end guy-line.

view of footend from inside tent

In general, single-walled tents suffer from condensation, as no mesh exists in between ceiling and camper to buffer against brushing a ceiling with condensation on it. Zpacks tents in particular are airy and well-ventilated, but that does not excuse users from condensation management best practices. Whenever possible, we recommend sleeping with at least one door open to increase air flow. Open both doors on a warm, calm night. Sleep with both doors closed if it is stormy, and/or cold and dry.

Stowed in its storage bag

Like all Zpacks Tents, packing up the Offset Duo is easy peasy. Fold it in half width-wise twice. Then, place the end strut into its sling and use it as the center from which to roll up the entire tent. From that point, it should easily fit into the loose and user-friendly Dyneema storage bag.

Zpacks Offset Duo with one door open

What Could Be Better? (only a few minor details)

Zpacks Offset Duo Vestibules Are Small

While the Zpacks Offset Duo has an incredibly spacious interior, it also has some of the smallest vestibules we’ve tested at 6.25 sq ft per side. What’s more, about half of that vestibule space – the section running directly in front of the mesh doors (60% of the tent) – is particularly narrow and non-conducive to gear storage as it interferes with entry/exit and just isn’t large enough. Based on our testing, we would primarily recommend using the vestibule for storing shoes, or in the event that you need to keep wet gear on the outside. However, at least some part of most backpacks will stick out of the bottom of the vestibule and continue to get wet in moderate to heavy rain.

What’s more, if you were to store your pack in the short side vestibule, it can be difficult to access while sitting upright at the head end of the tent. Because the head end of the tent has no access to door, you have to reach around the pole and backwards to collect your pack or items stored on the head end side of the vestibule.

While that might sound unappealing, the interior of the Offset Duo is so long, wide, and spacious, that the vestibules are hardly needed for gear storage. It is quite easy to place a backpack at your feet. Even if the vestibules were bigger, they would be unlikely to see much use other than as storm doors and privacy. That said, it would be nice to have the option.

Storm Door Open/Close

This is a really, really minor pet peeve, but the placement of the trekking pole can kind of get in the way of reaching from the inside to unzip the outer storm doors for the purpose of exiting. What’s more, the concave shape of the storm doors often makes upward unzipping from inside a two part movement with a transition point about halfway. The lower half of the zipper can easily be unzipped with one hand, but once you have unzipped halfway, the storm door loses its taught-ness and you may have to pull the bottom of the door taught with your off hand while unzipping the upper half with your main hand. Again though, we reiterate that this is extremely minor and unimportant to the overall usability and evaluation of the tent, it hardly effects the user experience, and we are merely pointing it out for the sake of thoroughness.

Tapered Foot End

We have our speculations about why Zpacks chose to taper the footend. True, it likely saves an ounce or two of weight, which adds up to as much as 10% of the tent’s total weight. That’s quite nice and definitely matters! It also might or might not add wind resistance or somehow be necessary in order to create a taught pitch in conjunction with the end strut.

While the Offset Duo Tent is noted as accepting wide tapered sleeping pads, most wide sleeping pads are not tapered. While our preferred top pick NeoAir XLite NXT is tapered and the wide version would fit because it is also tapered, a majority of wide sleeping pads would overlap at the foot end if both campers used one. This includes wide versions of top sleeping pads from brands like Sea To Summit, NEMO, and Big Agnes. If you and your partner both use wide rectangular sleeping pads, we would recommend the Triplex or Triplex Zip over the Offset Duo.

Zpacks Offset Duo Price

For $799, the Zpacks Offset Duo is one of, if not the most expensive ultralight trekking pole shelter in its peer group of tier 1 top performers. There’s no question as to its quality and the tent is so excellent that it’s still a good investment. However, $799 is simply a lot of money.

Despite All That

While we might have a few quibbles here and there, the bottom line is that this tent is long, wide, high-ceilinged, comfortable, sturdy, and very ultralight. The excellence of the chassis completely outweighs any of the minor downsides highlighted above.

side view of zpacks offset duo tent

Key Differences Vs Other 2P Zpacks Tents

All of the 2P Zpacks tents have unique pros and cons compared to the rest. Learn more in our guide to choosing Zpacks Tents. But in general, the Offset Duo is the widest and most expensive, and also has the best headroom.

  • Offset Duo Compared to Duplex
    • Offset peak, 4″ longer, 5″ wider, 1.2 oz heavier, end strut, L-shaped inner-door instead of rainbow-shaped, zippered storm door instead of toggles, magnetic roll-ups instead of toggles, smaller vestibule, costs $130 more
  • Offset Duo Compared to Duplex Zip
    • Offset peak, 4″ longer, 5″ wider, 0.7 oz lighter, end strut, L-shaped inner-door instead of rainbow-shaped, smaller vestibule, costs $100 more
  • Offset Duo Compared to DupleXL
    • Offset peak, 2″ shorter, 6″ wider, 1.1 oz lighter, taller end strut, L-shaped inner-door instead of rainbow-shaped, zippered storm door instead of toggles, smaller vestibule, magnetic roll-ups instead of toggles, costs $80 more
  • Offset Duo Compared to DupleXL Zip
    • Offset peak, 2″ shorter, 6″ wider, 1.9 oz lighter, taller end strut, L-shaped inner-door instead of rainbow-shaped, costs $50 more

Zpacks Offset Duo Review Verdict

Our Zpacks Offset Duo review verdict is in: we absolutely love this tent. It is both longer and wider than most competitors, yet still weighs less than 20 oz. The offset peak offers maximum headroom where it’s needed most and the innovative end strut is a feature we hope to see more of in the future. Aside from the price, our only quibble is that the vestibules are slightly too small. Nonetheless, this is our pick for best overall 2P Zpacks tent currently in production, and one of the very best tier-1 performance ultralight shelters money can buy.

Testing Zpacks Offset Duo Tent for review


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