BackpackGearTest
  Home Guest - Not logged in 

Reviews > Shelters > Tents > REI Arete 2 tent > Test Report by Brian Hartman

REI ARETE ASL 2 TENT
TEST SERIES BY BRIAN HARTMAN
LONG-TERM REPORT
March 15, 2012

CLICK HERE TO SKIP TO THE FIELD REPORT
CLICK HERE TO SKIP TO THE LONG-TERM REPORT

TESTER INFORMATION

NAME: Brian Hartman
EMAIL: bhart1426ATyahooDOT com
AGE: 44
LOCATION: Westfield, Indiana
GENDER: M
HEIGHT: 5' 9" (1.75 m)
WEIGHT: 145 lb (65.80 kg)

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.


INITIAL REPORT

PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS

IMAGE 1
REI Arete ASL 2 with rainfly


Manufacturer: REI
IMAGE 2
Tent footprint

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

Other details:
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.

INITIAL IMPRESSIONS

IMAGE 3 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 items:

- Tent body and rainfly
- 3 main poles and 1 vent pole
- 1 pole-repair tube
- 8 aluminum stakes with small storage sack
- 4 guylines with tighteners
- 1 pole sack
- 1 main compression stuff sack

IMAGE 4
webbing strap with grommets


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).






IMAGE 5 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.

IMAGE 6IMAGE 7IMAGE 8

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.
IMAGE 9
Corner pockets
IMAGE 10
Roof pockets


















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 below (paraphrased):

- Prevent mildew growth by drying the tent thoroughly before storage. Heat damages the coatings so avoid storing the tent in hot trunks.
- A pole-repair tube is included and can be used to temporarily repair a pole that has broken in the field. Tape the broken pole first and then slide the tube over the broken section before taping again.
- Hand-wash the tent using a sponge and mild, nondetergent soap to remove dirt and debris from the rain fly and floor of the tent. Kerosene can be used to remove pitch or grease.
- Zippers can be coated with a silicone lubricant as needed to prevent jamming and keep them sliding freely. Pole ferrules can also be coated with silicone lubricant to allow them to engage more easily.
- Fold poles at the center, rather than section by section to prevent unnecessary stress on the shockcords.

TRYING IT OUT

IMAGE 11IMAGE 12 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.

I really like the easy setup of this tent and am looking forward to trying out the speed pitching option which allows the tent and rainfly to be semi-permanently attached for a quick setup that protects the canopy from precipitation.

SUMMARY

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 this tent.

This concludes my Initial Report for the REI Arete ASL 2 tent. I will post a Field Report in approximately two months. Please check back then for further information.


FIELD REPORT

FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

IMAGE 1 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.

When I first read about the speed pitching feature, I was really excited. It's a great idea in concept and has two practical benefits: 1) faster setup and tear down and 2) it prevents the tent body from getting wet when it is pitched in rain. After my first trip, I left the rain fly secured to the tent body so I could speed pitch the tent my next time out. However, I was not successful in speed pitching the tent on my next outing as I simply couldn't erect the main poles without the help of someone holding up the tent in the middle.

REI did a great job designing the inside of the Arete 2. The floor space is laid out efficiently and the high angled walls and 40 in (102 cm) ceiling create ample sitting room. For solo use the Arete 2 provided plenty of room. While backpacking alone, I kept all my gear in the tent with me and still had enough room to maneuver around inside. My gear typically included my backpack with supplies, an open cell sleeping pad, and a 20 F (-6 C) sleeping bag. While in the tent, I could easily unpack and arrange my supplies, get dressed, and stretch out while sleeping. My teenage son and I slept together in the Arete 2 one weekend and it was tight but not unmanageable. The tent is designed with additional room at the shoulder area for two people to sleep side by side with their heads towards the door of the tent. With two sleeping bags laid out, most of the floor space was taken up but there were still numerous mesh pockets to store items off the floor. The storage pockets came in handy for stashing my watch and glasses while the gear loop provided a great place to hang my lantern. I also really liked that the pocket on the front of the tent could be used to stash the door when it was opened. Although there was only one door on the tent, I did not find it a problem when two people were sharing the tent.

IMAGE 2 Although the vestibule provided additional room to leave some items outside while still protected from the weather, it was not very large and any items placed there prevented entry and exit from the tent. After bringing my boots and backpack into the vestibule there wasn't much room for anything else unless I wanted to step on it while trying to get into and out of the tent. In this regard, having two people in the tent was a problem because most of the gear had to go in the vestibule. This made getting into and out of the tent quite difficult. Because the vestibule was narrow and the roof was fairly low I did not attempt to cook in it.

During my testing, the Arete 2 had no major issues with condensation despite the fact that it used nylon fabric instead of mesh for the tent walls. The ceiling vents allowed moist air to exit the tent and the front door had a mesh interior that could be opened to allow air into the tent. I noticed a thin layer of ice crystals inside the tent one brisk morning but I actually expected it to be more noticeable.

So far I only encountered one day of heavy rain but during this time I did not notice any leaks in the tent floor or rain fly. REI wisely incorporated sealed seams, a bath tub floor and double wall design into this tent for proven reliability. I no longer worry about my sleeping bag touching the tent walls as everything has stayed completely dry. The day it rained, water beaded up nicely on the rain fly and it stayed taut despite the downpour.

The Arete 2 has performed very well so far in terms of durability. The tent hasn't seen heavy snow but it has been subjected to heavy winds, driving rain and below freezing temperatures. The tent's three pole design stood up well in heavy winds and showed no signs of giving in. In addition, the tent floor was subjected to sticks and other pointed objects that were hidden under leaves and snow with no ill effects. The tent fabric showed no signs of wear or damage and the zippers continued to work smoothly. The tent poles and tent stakes have also fared well except for two stakes that bent in the frozen ground. Because the tent has not experienced a major snow fall so I can't speculate at this point on how it would handle the load but I do expect there would be some snow accumulation due to the relatively large flat spot on top of the tent.

SUMMARY

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 weather.

This concludes my Field Report for the REI Arete ASL 2 tent. Please check back in two months for my Long Term Report and further test results.


LONG-TERM REPORT

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).

1. My first trip was to Mound State Park in Indiana. Daytime temperatures during this two night backpacking trip approached 66 F (19 C) while nighttime temperatures dropped to 48 F (9 C). The weather both days was mostly cloudy with light winds and intermittent showers. The terrain was hilly and trails were muddy but I was able to pitch the tent both nights on relatively flat, dry ground. I hiked 11 miles (17 km) over the course of this trip. Elevations ranged from 550 ft (168 m) to 730 ft (223 m).

2. My second trip was near the town of Oldenburg in southeastern Indiana. During this two night outing I hiked mostly off-trail through woods and farmland several miles outside of town. I covered 9.5 miles (15.28 km) across moderately hilly terrain while temperatures ranged from 72 F (22 C) to 55 F (13 C). I pitched the tent in flat, wooded areas both nights.

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.

Performance: The Arete did a great job of keeping me warm and dry on all of my backpacking trips. The nylon tent body retained my body heat while letting moisture escape through the roof vents so that condensation was never a problem. On the coldest nights I felt much warmer than when using my three season tent which has a mesh tent body. During my testing, I almost always left the roof vents open, and never had a problem with a wet sleeping bag in the morning. In addition to staying warm, the Arete stayed completely dry in wet conditions. There were no leaks in the tent and I found that the few times my sleeping bag touched the tent walls, I never experienced water penetration.

Durability: I had no problems or excessive wear issues with the tent body, rainfly, poles, zippers, or any other components during this test period. The tent withstood heavy winds and rain with no issues whatsoever thanks to its rugged three pole design and full nylon body. Unfortunately, this was a mild winter and so I could not comment on the Arete's ability to handle a heavy snowfall or extreme winter temperatures.

Setup: I had no major problems setting up the tent during this test period. As mentioned in my Field Report, the tent fabric eventually seemed to loosen up and that made it easier to pitch the tent. The only pole that continued to give me problems was the ventilation pole which remained difficult to install and remove barehanded and nearly impossible to do with gloves on. I found that if I applied enough force to the pole to bend it upward in the middle I could eventually secure or remove it. Despite my concern that I might break this short pole by all the stress I put on it, so far it has held up well. One other area where I struggled was with the speed pitching option. After two more attempts using this feature, I finally gave up as it simply wasn't saving me any time and actually made pitching the tent more difficult without a second set of hands to help out.

Space: The Arete provided plenty of space while camping solo but remained just adequate when used as a two person tent. This was mainly due to the limited floor and vestibule space that was available for gear when two people were sharing the tent. Obviously this would not be as big of a problem in summer as in winter when more backpacking gear and supplies are typically brought along on trips. When sharing the tent with a sleeping partner, we found it difficult to fit two pair of boots and backpacks in the vestibule area and still have room to get into and out of the tent. On the plus side, there seemed to be adequate shoulder room inside the tent for two average sized adults lying side by side.

SUMMARY

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.

This concludes my long term report and this test series. I would like to thank REI and BackpackGearTest.org for the opportunity to test the this tent.

This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1. Copyright 2012. All rights reserved.

Read more reviews of REI gear
Read more gear reviews by Brian Hartman

Reviews > Shelters > Tents > REI Arete 2 tent > Test Report by Brian Hartman



Product tested and reviewed in each Formal Test Report has been provided free of charge by the manufacturer to BackpackGearTest.org. Upon completion of the Test Series the writer is permitted to keep the product. Owner Reviews are based on product owned by the reviewer personally unless otherwise noted.

If you are an avid backpacker, we are always looking for enthusiastic, quality reviewers. Apply here to be a gear tester.


All material on this site is the exclusive property of BackpackGearTest.org.
BackpackGearTest software copyright David Anderson