Zpacks Altaplex Review | Average Hiker
Zpacks Altaplex Review
This Zpacks Altaplex review is a result of retirement. Over the past 10 years my Hexamid Shelter (see above) by Zpacks has provided 1,000's of reliable miles, but it is time for semi-retirement. I've decided to upgrade to the Altaplex because the Hexamid was such a great shelter, and I know Zpacks has quality products. I want a shelter with more room, and the Altaplex appears to meet that requirement.
This past year I purchased a Big Agnes Copper Spur Platinum UL 2P to use on my Colorado Trail Hike. I wanted something with more room and less condensation. I'm a big fan of Big Agnes tents, and while the tent did meet those two requirements, it was more fragile than I would like for a long distance hike.
My Shelter Requirements
My Shelter Requirements for long distance hiking remain the same.
- Light Weight – Light weight is important on long distance hikes, but not as much for section hikes. I don't usually take a lot of time off when I hike long distances, so to combat fatigue I try to reduce weight.
- Ease of Set-Up – I usually hike up until dusk, and I want to be able to set up quickly before dark. Setting up quickly in bad weather is also important. Not only was the Hexamid quick, but it stays dryer than a double walled shelter when setting up.
- Reduced Condensation – I'm hoping the higher peak will allow better air flow in the Altaplex, and reduce the condensation, even from just breathing at night.
ZPacks Altaplex Review – Quick Specifications
- 15.5 ounces
- Weight includes guy lines, linelocs, taped seams, and a stuff sack. Repair tape is included with the tent.
- Peak height: 56″-58″ (147 cm)
- Width at center: 48″ (122 cm)
- Width including vestibules: 69″ (175 cm)
- Vestibule space: 20.75″ (53 cm)
- Length: 100″ (254 cm)
- Peak height: 56″-58″ (147 cm)
- Floor width: 36″ (91 cm)
- Floor length: 7.5 feet (2.3 meters)
- Zipper entry height: 36″ (91 cm)
- 6″ diameter by 12″ tall (15 cm x 30.5 cm) / 340 cubic inches (5.6L)
A Note on Tent Stakes
One note on tent stakes (not included with this tarp tent), and what has worked for me. Zpacks has several styles of tent stakes, and I've used them all. If purchasing tent stakes, I get the “6.5 Red Tough Titanium Tent Stake.” It is a little larger than the 6.0 size, and works well in rocky ground.
I can't tell you how many times I've had to fight hard packed ground in established sites, or rocky ground almost everywhere I've hiked. These stakes are TOUGH, and often slide in between the rocks. They also have the red tops, reducing the loss of tent stakes in grassy or over grown tent sites.
My last hike on the Arizona Trail resulted in 3 lost stakes. Steel grey is hard to see at dusk and on brushy ground.
Zpack Altaplex Review – First Glance
Out of the box, my Altaplex looked almost identical to my Hexamid. The new Altaplex was “Green Opaque” though. I had decided I needed a splash of color! Weight was also a noticeable difference! Kidding – I honestly thought the Altaplex was lighter when I compared it to my Hexamid, but the Altaplex was 15.5 ounces and the Hexamid was 13 ounces. I would take those two ounces if it gave me the room I needed.
Altaplex Easy To Set Up/Pack Up
Some people find the Zpack shelters more difficult to set up fast, but I never have. Like any other tent, I have to practice a couple of times, but after that – easy peasy. I was pleased to see that the Altaplex sets up as easily as the Hexamid, maybe even a little more easily.
One thing I like about the tarp-tents is the ease of setting them up in the rain. I lay it out with the top up, pop in the hiking pole, and up it goes. The interior is easy to keep dry when setting up these shelters.
The lines are pre-cut and both the lines and locs are already installed, which is nice. I did notice that the line Zpacks uses is about three times the thickness of what I use on my Hexamid, so if you want to shave a couple of grams then use some smaller line. What Zpacks uses on the Altaplex is definitely over kill. My Hexamid has held up to some brutal winds with no problems, and much thinner tie out lines.
The Zpacks label for the Altaplex is on the front corner, so I did not have to search for the front of the tarp-tent. It was easy to start with the correct corner and work from that point.
I also noted the zippers all had small neon ties on them. This makes it much easier to find the zippers in dim light – another nice to have.
Altaplex Pack Up
Although the Altaplex uses a thinner material than my Hexamid (.55 oz/sqyd Dyneema® Composite Fabric), I could really tell no difference. It was still the same tough fabric that required I use no footprint with my Hexamid. I have used an air mattress for thousands of miles with the Hexamid, and never once needed a footprint.
Because of the lighter fabric, one advantage of the Altaplex is that it is easier to pack it up. I was able to more easily fold the tent up and roll it into a tighter bundle. I had to stuff my Hexamid into the pocket of my ULA Ohm, but I could roll up my Altaplex and more easily slide it into the net pocket on the outside of the Ohm.
Zpacks Altaplex Review -Comfort/Convenience
Besides being roomy, the Altaplex has several conveniences. As far as roominess is concerned, it definitely has the Hexamid beat. The length and height of the tent make it easy to lay down and sit up without touching the walls with my down jacket (finally!). I will probably still put my rain jacket over the foot of my down sleeping bag/quilt, but I do this in most every tent or tarp that has a single wall. I'll always be paranoid about getting my Down wet!
In addition to the length and height, the width makes this a very comfortable shelter for one person. There is plenty of room to store your gear either be side yourself or down at the bottom of the tent.
A big plus for me is the vestibule, or storm doors, on the Altaplex. I did not not have this on the Hexamid. The Hexamid had a built in vestibule that was a lot of fun to squeeze under, especially when it was muddy or wet. The Altaplex has two storm doors that are easily tied up when not in use. They also have a pre-tied line and attachment to easily secure one, or both of the doors when in use.
The vestibule is roomy, but I bring all my gear inside. Animals have eaten my gear and stolen my socks in the past, so nothing stays outside anymore. The hiking pole is now outside the tent, and I am probably the ONLY person that prefers it inside the netting, as it was in my Hexamid. I often cook under the vestibule when it is raining, and the pole is a little bit of a hindrance. I imagine I will be able to work around it though.
The Altaplex has an interior pouch! No more fumbling around in the dark for my headlamp, phone, knife, etc. The little things always get me excited. I'll just have to make sure I don't cram so much in the pouch that I'm digging around searching for things that are buried.
Also, note the repair tape in the pouch. Zpacks includes this with the Altaplex. I left mine in the pouch, otherwise it will get lost among all my other “stuff” in my equipment room.
Zpacks Altaplex Review – Materials/Construction
The Altaplex uses a thinner DCF material than my Hexamid, but I notice almost no difference. It is still thick enough to provide floor protection, and although still opaque with a splash of green color, there will be no peeping Tom's around this shelter! Pouring a bucket of water on the fabric, I was also pleased to see that like the Hexamid it is waterproof.
The 8 inch tall bathtub floor is held up by adjustable lines around the inside of the tarp tent. These are easy to adjust, and set at optimal locations, attached to the tarp. The floor itself is thick enough to provide protection for my sleeping pad. This has always been one of the things I like about these shelters.
The overhang of the tarp was really nice to see. It was very wide and would provide solid protection during heavy rains, preventing water from running or splashing into the Altaplex.
Zpack Altaplex Review – Final Thoughts
I'm pretty excited about the Altaplex. There have been definite upgrades since I purchased my Hexamid. I don't know when I'll be back out hiking again, but my hope is the Colorado and Arizona Trails in the fall, going SOBO. The virus looks like it will dictate how that plays out right now.
The Altaplex is a well thought out shelter. Conveniences like the increased tarp overhang, storm doors, pouch, pre-cut ties outs, zipper ties, etc., are great to have in a 15.5 ounce shelter.
The only potential hesitations for me will be wind. This shelter is definitely taller than the Hexamid, so I look forward to seeing how it handles in windy and stormy conditions. The only other thing is my trekking pole. It is too short, so I will either have to get an extension or purchase new poles. My poles are pretty beat up, so it may be time to purchase another piece of gear!
Zpack Altaplex Review – Post Hike
The Altaplex has now been on two multi-day backpacking trips, and I have nothing but positive feedback to provide. The tarp-tent has definitely met expectations.
The cut of the Altaplex, while similar to my Hexamid, has been improved. The Altaplex is faster to set up with a tight pitch, and definitely has more room than the Hexamid. There is plenty of space for me and all my gear inside the shelter. On my last hike in Colorado I had my pole handles eaten and my socks stolen, so everything now goes inside.
Zpacks calls for a hiking pole that extends to 56″. I use Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork poles and they extend up to 51″. Extending them past their usable length, I get about 53″ out of them with no issues, but will be ordering the pole jack from Zpack so I can lift the shelter a little higher.
I will update this post after my next long distance hike in August, when the shelter has been used in adverse conditions.