Zpacks ‘Solplex’ Flex Tent (free standing) Upgrade

Zpacks Solplex Flex (free standing)
The new ‘Flex’ (free standing) option for the Zpacks ‘Solplex’ shelter. A view of the back side of the shelter, showing the Flex pole system.

Greetings Adventurers,

Zpacks has released their Flex, free-standing pole system, previously only available on their Duplex shelter, for their solo ‘Solplex’ shelter, and is being called the Zpacks Solplex Flex Tent Upgrade.

For a bit of background, the Zpacks Solplex was released on November 12, 2014, if my records are correct.

It currently sits at the #3 spot on my Lightest Fully Enclosed Solo Shelters Comparison chart, which is crazy impressive, only being beaten out by the MLD Patrol and the Zpacks Hexamid.

At 439 grams (15.48 ounces / 0.96 pounds) the Solplex offers the most weather protection of any sub one pound shelter on the market.

The Solplex may have not received the fanfare or love that the larger (two person) Duplex has received, but a growing number of big mileage long distance hikers have been putting a lot of miles on their SolPlex. It has especially, and rather interestingly, found a place within the list of big mileage female hikers (anish, wired, etc) which has been really neat to see happen. It is almost as if it has its own niche within a niche.

Back on February 14, 2015, just a couple months after it was released, I got a Solplex and like with every new tent, the first few nights are tested in my backyard, and not out on the trail. It was during those first few nights when I shot the first videos of the Solplex to hit the internet, and my ‘just how much room is there inside of a solplex?‘ showing a chromedome umbrella has been referenced by many people over the last two+ years.

While I ended up not keeping that shelter, there has been this desire in my heart and mind for the last two years to buy another Solplex, specifically a camo version. I suppose the only reason I have not is because I have been trying to get as many days as I can using the other shelters that I already have, and I suppose the price-point has played a part of that decision too, as I just do not have $600 to $700 dollars to spend on a shelter. Maybe one of these days I will get another Solplex, if my financial situation were to ever change.

Anyway, this article is not about the Solplex itself, but about their new Flex (free standing) upgrade, so let us get into the details of it, eh.

What is the Flex Upgrade?

Simply put, the ‘Flex’ is an upgraded feature that Zpacks offers that allows you to turn the Solplex into a freestanding shelter.

Zpacks is using four 203 cm (80 inch) Easton Carbon Ion poles, super sweet poles. Zpacks does not disclose exactly what diameter of the Ion they are using, but typically, when compared to aluminium poles, the Easton Carbon FX is 25% lighter, the Carbon EVO is 40% lighter, and these Carbon ION are a whopping 56% lighter. Sort of top tier carbon fiber poles. And, of course, the price tag comes along with it, as should be expected. The four poles put together hit the scale at only 283 grams (10 ounces) 227 grams (8.0 oz) – amazing considering that is for 26.7 feet (8.13 m) worth of carbon fiber pole.

Now let us just be clear here, Zpacks takes the same approach to the term “free standing” that companies like MSR take. Basically the stance that says “every shelter should have at least a couple of stakes, even if we call it ‘free-standing’“. Do you have to use a couple of stakes? No, probably not. But in the case of the Solplex, a stake in the front will need to be used to hold out the storm doors if you wish to deploy them. Likewise, a stake on the back panel will give you more room and stability. MSR takes this same approach with some of their shelters, while technically they can free-stand, using two stakes allows you to gain a massive amount of internal liveable area by pulling out fabric that would otherwise just be floating around.

Should You (would i?) Buy The Upgrade?

I would tend to think that if you spend a lot of time setting up on the beach, or in the snow, or in places with super hard packed dirt that it can be really hard to pound stakes into, or like where I live where tree roots are a really big problem, than yes, spending the extra $99 bucks for the Flex upgrade is going to be a brilliant investment.

When I am out on the California Coastal Trail, here in Northern California, and am often faced with no other option than to setup on beach dunes, having the ability to have a freestanding shelter has proven to be really helpful. If I were to buy a Solplex at some point in the future, I would not hesitate to drop the extra hundred to get the Flex poles. That said, the thought of spending $684 dollars on a new (another) tent is exactly why I do not own one.

But as I stated on my popular ‘hexamid vs solplex‘ post over on facebook, “If I were to be hiking one of the big three this year, I would very likely go with … the SolPlex … because it would give me such a wider weather-conditions-use for a minimal amount of bulk/volume pack space.” That holds true today as much as it did when I said it back on April 10, 2014.

10 thoughts on “Zpacks ‘Solplex’ Flex Tent (free standing) Upgrade

  1. While I don’t have the hiking cred of Anish, Wired, or Rockin’, I’ve spent a lot of nights in my Solplex. It lacks the dual doors and space of the Duplex, but it’s a few ounces lighter, packs smaller, has a smaller footprint and I think the smaller surface area takes the wind a bit better. Maybe too tight for a bigger, taller hiker but great for us shorties. Definitely looking into the flex version.

  2. I have the camo version of the Solplex and I love it. When travelling ultralight without excessive kit then once the sleep system is inside there’s not much extra gear to find space for. Works for me.

  3. Just noting, 6′ = 1.83m, 2m = 6′ 7″. Glad the Solplex would fit me (at the former measurement), but like you want to keep that money in my wallet.

  4. Over the past couple of weeks I have used my duplex with the stand alone poles. I have also used them on the Scotland TGO Challenge. They are best used in combination with hiking poles as the flex is very grey and in wind the tent blows around a lot. The issue of needing pegs for the vestibules is major as without pegging them out they flap all over the place. I think the vestibules would be good if zippers added both on the vertical and along the bottom. This would create a side wall when in stand alone and in wind. Even with the added clips the flaps are not great in wind. It is a fantastic tent in non stand alone mode but I am not so happy with the overall stand alone in the wind. I will pop a note to Joe and his team. A I may also try a pole configuration like the mar to create more rigidity. Also not that in stand alone mode on any concrete slab you MUST weigh down the corners or in wind the corners scratch around all night – last night’s experience here in Japan. Tonight will be pegged out in the rain happy in my Duplex!

  5. I won’t lie that I’ve had nights that I envy people with those bombproof heavy Hilleberg tents, but the Solplex has served me well in all sorts of weather and terrain over the last three years. It’s my home:)

  6. Interesting this has finally come to the market. I did notice that for the Solplex, Zpacks says the poles are 8 oz rather than 10 oz, which appears to be for the Duplex. That may make them a bit more attractive to ounce counters.

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