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Reviews > Shelters > Tents > REI Arete 2 tent > Test Report by Brian Hartman
REI ARETE ASL 2 TENT
I have been hiking and camping for over 20 years and enjoy backpacking solo and with my kids in Scouting. I especially enjoy fall and winter backpacking and camping. My backpack and gear are older and weigh 40+ lbs (18 kg). This has limited the distances I have been able to cover while hiking. My goal over the next several years is to replace my existing clothing and gear with more suitable and lighter weight alternatives.
PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS
Year of Manufacture: 2011
Manufacturer's Website: http://www.rei.com/
MSRP: US $299
Listed Weight: 5 lb 14 oz (2.67 kg)
Measured Weight: 6 lb (2.70 kg)
Color: Lichen / Liquid Orange
Two person 3-4 season backpacking tent.
Floor dimensions: 88 x 60 inches (224 x 152 cm)
Floor area: 32.5 square feet (3.02 meter squared)
Vestibule area: 8 square feet (0.74 meter squared)
Peak Height: 40 inches (102 cm)
Number of Doors: 1
Number of Poles: 3 + 1 vent
Pole Material: Aluminum DAC Featherlite NSL
Pole Diameter: 9.6/9.0 millimeters (3.8/3.5 inches)
Canopy Fabric:: Ripstop nylon/mesh
Floor Fabric: Coated nylon taffeta
Rainfly Fabric: Coated ripstop nylon
Packed Size: 6 x 20 inches (15.2 x 50.8 cm)
As described on REI's website, "the Arete ASL (All Season Light) 2 tent fills the gap between the limited seasonality of ultra light tents and the robustness of 4-season tents." In practical terms, the Arete 2 is a three pole, double-wall, extended dome tent with a compact footprint and a single front vestibule and door.
The tent arrived in excellent condition and when I opened the shipping box my
initial reaction was excitement as I saw the compact size of the stuff sack,
measuring only 6 x 20 inches (15.2 x 50.8 cm). I was also struck by its light
weight which is usually not something I associate with 4-season tents. Almost
immediately thereafter, my attention was drawn to the compression straps on the
outside of the stuff sack and the setup instructions and list of contents which
REI had posted there as well. Needless to say, my initial impressions were
positive and I was looking forward to opening things up. As I removed
everything from the stuff sack, the list of contents included the following
Materials and Construction: As I began setting up the tent in my family room, I took the opportunity to review the construction of the Arete 2 and was happy to see excellent workmanship throughout the tent. All of the stitching was precise with no loose threads. Vital seams were meticulously sealed and all of the zippers worked perfectly. In my opinion, just as poor workmanship can be a warning sign of upcoming trouble, good workmanship is often the sign of a well-made product which will last for years. The tent body is constructed of ripstop nylon while the floor consists of a coated nylon taffeta. The tent floor has a hybrid design that combines sealed seams with a bathtub style floor that wraps eight inches (20 cm) up the sides of tent to keep water outside. As noted on REI's website, an optional floor saver is available to help reduce wear and tear on the tent floor. In fact, I use a floor saver on my eight man tent and it has without a doubt prolonged the life of that tent. Moving on, the rainfly is made of a siliconized 30-denier ripstop nylon with "no-wick" welded construction at the guy-out points, pole wraps and zippers. The rainfly also has tape-sealed seams for additional waterproofness. When the rainfly is attached, it creates a vestibule at the front of the tent with dimensions of 24 x 30 inches (61 x 76 cm).
The tent frame consists of three lightweight, collapsible DAC aluminum poles. The tent poles are color coded for easy assembly. The two main poles slide into dead-end pole sleeves for quick setup. The other ends of the two main poles attach to grommets located in webbing straps on the front corners of the tent. By incorporating a third pole into their design, REI has created a tent with steep and straight walls as well as a high ceiling for more usable space than would be possible in a two pole tent. The third pole stretches the sides of the tent to create additional room in the front of the tent at the head and shoulder area. In addition, adding the third pole to the structure seems to add a lot of strength and rigidity to the tent. To the left is a photo of the tent with the rain cover off to show how the tent poles are arranged.
Eight aluminum stakes are provided with the tent. Since this is probably the minimum necessary to secure the tent in gusty weather, I will likely add more stakes so that I can utilize the extra guy-lines that were supplied in the stake bag.
The Arete 2 has a single mesh door with a zippered nylon panel that can be used in conjunction with the two ceiling vents to allow air flow inside the tent to reduce condensation. The ceiling vents are fully adjustable from inside the tent and can help create additional cross-flow ventilation. The following three photos show a) the vent pole which opens the outside vent flaps, b) the vent hole as seen from outside the tent, and c) the ceiling vents as seen from inside the tent. Because the vents are zippered on the inside, I can reach my hand through them to seal off the opening in the rainfly while still inside the tent. This will come in useful when it starts raining sideways in the middle of the night.
The Arete 2 has multiple storage options for keeping essential items handy including two corner pockets, two roof pockets and a door pocket that can also be used to hold the door out of the way. There are also several hang loops inside the tent for securing additional items. The mesh corner pockets are located adjacent to the door and opposite of each other on either side of the tent. The corner pockets are 5.5 x 16 inches (14 cm x 40 cm) while the roof pockets are 6 x 7 inches (15 cm x 18 cm). They provide plenty of room for a flashlight, glasses, GPS and any other items that may want to be kept off the tent floor.
READING THE INSTRUCTIONS
As mentioned earlier, the setup
instructions are printed on a piece of fabric which is sewn to the main stuff
sack. The instructions describe how to pitch the tent and rainfly in twelve
easy steps. Three small drawings provide additional details. The pitching
instructions are well-written and straightforward. Similar to other dome-style
tents, the Arete 2 tent body can be staked down before erecting the poles and
pitching the tent. This is very helpful in windy conditions that would
otherwise make pitching the tent quite difficult. A small hang tag was attached
to the outside of the main stuff sack that briefly mentioned DAC, who is the
manufacturer of the aluminum poles for this tent. Finally, a single instruction
sheet was tucked in the stake bag; on it were printed tent maintenance
instructions and a few helpful hints. A few noteworthy points are detailed
TRYING IT OUT
It was quite breezy the day I set up the Arete 2, so being able to stake the
tent out ahead of time made things much easier. The two main poles were easy to
assemble and slide into the continuous pole sleeves. I then inserted the tip of
each pole into the outermost grommet in the webbing tabs that are located in the
front tent corners. At this point, roughly 4 minutes into my setup, the tent
was freestanding. The next step was to secure the silver pole into the grommets
in the webbing tabs on either side of the tent. This was easily completed.
Next, I connected the strap above the tent door to the black attachment point at
the peak of the silver pole and then worked my way down either side of the tent
hooking the clips to the pole. Finally, I laid the rain fly over the tent and
clipped it at each corner. I used the last two stakes to secure the front
vestibule. My overall setup time was approximately eight minutes. I can probably
reduce this by a minute or so as I become more familiar with the tent.
The REI Arete 2 ASL tent is
distinctly lightweight for a 4 season tent and yet from my initial testing it
appears to be very well-built and quite sturdy! Notwithstanding its lightweight
design, REI has managed to include a lot of nice features with this tent like
the storage pockets, respectably sized vestibule and full nylon body
construction. I am looking forward to the next four months of backpacking with
FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS
During the past two months I used the Arete 2 on three trips for a total of 6 nights. My first trip was an over-night backpacking trip to the Charles Deem Wilderness in the Hoosier National Forest just outside of Bloomington, Indiana. The elevation was 750 ft (228 m) and temperatures ranged from 39 to 50 F (4 to 10 C). I stayed mainly on established trails during this 9.8 mile (15.8 km) hike due to muddy conditions although I ventured off-trail to explore around my campsite in the evening. The wind was gusty during this trip and skies were generally overcast. My second trip was a three day trip to Devil's River in Manitowoc, Wisconsin. This rail trail was 14.2 miles (22 km) long as it wound through farmlands, prairies and wetlands. Temperatures were in the upper 20's to low 30's F (-2 to 3 C) and there were intermittent flurries. My third trip was a three day backpacking trip to Brown County State Park. Elevation was 780 ft (238 m) and temperatures ranged from a high of 34 F (1 C) during the day to 22 F (-5 C) at night. I shared the tent with my son on this trip.
PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD
During my past two months of
testing, the REI Arete ASL 2 tent was fairly quick to pitch. Once I found a
good method for installing the main poles, the tent was straight forward and
relatively easy to set up in both windy conditions and in the dark. Most nights
I could pitch the tent within seven minutes. When my son and I camped together
we were able to set up the tent in just under five minutes. Of course, with all
tents that have continuous pole sleeves, the Arete 2 can be challenging for one
person to set up. The reason is that the two main poles carry the weight of the
entire tent body while it's being raised. Consequently, it was hard to exert
enough force on the pole ends to bend them upward without some help. It was
also challenging to get the poles into their grommets because the tent body was
constructed slightly smaller than necessary to allow for fabric stretch. I
found the easiest way to pitch this tent was to flip it on its side while
pushing on the main poles. This seemed to work better because I was no longer
fighting the weight of the tent body while trying to bend the poles. Once I
secured the first pole in its grommet, completing the rest of the tent was easy.
Well, sort of. After two months of use I still have trouble installing the
vent pole as it requires a lot of force to snap it in place. Unfortunately
getting the poles in place usually required me to remove my gloves for extra
grip. Not something I looked forward to in winter. In regards to tear down of
the tent, it was straight forward and somewhat quicker than assembly. I really
like that the tent stuff sack is generously sized. Not once did I have to
reroll the tent to squeeze it into the stuff sack. In addition, the compression
straps allowed me to compact it enough to easily fit in my backpack.
The REI Arete ASL 2 tent has
performed very well during the past couple of months. It is lightweight, easy
to set up and has enough floor space for two people with plenty of headroom.
The vestibule is not huge but it provides adequate storage for essential gear.
The tent's three pole design and ripstop nylon body offer strength and rigidity
in windy conditions and I have had no problems with condensation thanks to the
ceiling vents. So far this tent appears to be well suited for winter
LONG-TERM TEST LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS
During the past two months I used
the REI Arete ASL 2 tent on two backpacking trips totaling four nights. The
weather during this time period was mild with daytime highs just over 70 F (21
C) and lows in the upper 40's F (9 C).
PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD
The Arete ASL 2 performed very
well during the past two months of testing. During this time it was durable,
relatively easy to set up despite a few annoyances, and provided satisfactory
accommodations for a sleeping partner for two nights.
The REI Arete ASL 2 is well
constructed and quite sturdy with its three pole design. It is a great
lightweight alternative to heavier four season tents for moderate winter
conditions. It has performed very well during this test period and has earned a
top spot among my backpacking equipment.
Read more reviews of REI gear
Read more gear reviews by Brian Hartman
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