REI ARETE ASL 2 TENT
TEST SERIES BY MARK THOMPSON
April 02, 2012
CLICK HERE TO SKIP TO THE FIELD REPORT
CLICK HERE TO SKIP TO THE LONG-TERM REPORT
markthompson 242 at gmail dot com
Parker, Colorado, USA
6' 0" (2.10 m)
190 lb (86.20 kg)
Outdoor adventures started for me at an early age, my passions have grown to include backpacking, rock climbing, hiking, hunting, fishing, canoeing, cycling, skiing and snowshoeing. Most of my adventures presently take place in Colorado's amazing Rocky Mountains. For trail hikes, my pack typically weighs 15 lbs/7 kg (summer/fall), 25 lbs/11 kg (winter/spring) and trail speed ranges from 2.5 - 4 mph (4 - 6 km/h) depending on elevation gain. For backpack trips, my pack weighs 40 - 45 lbs (18 - 20 kg) and my trail speed drops to 1.5 - 3.0 mph (2 - 5 km/h).
PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS
Year of Manufacture: 2011
Manufacturer's Website: http://www.rei.com
MSRP: US $299.00
Listed Weight: 5 lb 14 oz (2.7 kg)
Measured Weight: 5 lb 13 oz (2.6 kg)
Photo courtesy of REI
Photo courtesy of REI
Photo courtesy of REI
Other details (from REI):
3 - 4-season, 2-person freestanding tent
Floor dimensions: 88 x 60 inches (224 x 152 cm)
Floor area: 32.5 square feet
Vestibule area: 9.1 square feet
Interior max height: 40 inches (102 cm)
Number of doors: 1
Number of poles: 3 + 1 vent
Pole type: Aluminum DAC Featherlite NSL
Pole diameter: 9.6/9.0 mm
Canopy material: Ripstop nylon/mesh
Floor materials: Coated nylon taffeta
Rain fly material: Coated ripstop nylon
Packed dimensions: 6 x 20 inches
I did note some differences in the floor dimensions:
Center line length: 85" (216 cm)
Width at head: 53" (135 cm)
Width at shoulders: 58.5" (149 cm)
I also noted that the maximum interior height was slightly larger than specified at 41" (104 cm)
I was fairly excited when the tent arrived, thinking, "Cool, I get to test a new all-season tent and it arrived just in time for winter." My last all-season tent (although this may sound silly) was a wonderful piece that my mother had made from a kit in the mid 70's (thanks again Mom!). It was an awesome piece that served me well and stood up to years of use and abuse. It finally met its end when I woke up soaking wet to find that the floor was no longer water proof and that repairs would cost more than a new tent. I can only imagine how many nights I spent in that tent.
READING THE INSTRUCTIONS
As any good mountaineer would do, I decided to set up the tent at home. Since I live on the 3rd floor of a condominium complex, I decided that the living room floor would just have to do! At first I had some difficulty in figuring out how to set up the tent (okay, I am an engineer and we don't need directions, well, most of the time). Fortunately, the clear and easy-to-follow directions are sewn right on the compression stuff sack. I would venture a guess that the instructions may not be super easy for a first timer, but the folks at REI are more than happy to demonstrate any product to novice or expert alike.
The instructions recommend the purchase of a foot print, which I will do as I hope to get years of use from this tent and, based upon the experience with my last 4-season tent (which lasted 30 years) using a foot print or ground cloth does wonders for extending the life of the tent floor. The bottom statement is one of my favorite attributes of REI. I haven't had the need to call or visit REI regarding this item, but as a frequent customer I can attest to REI's commitment to this promise - every time, no hassle, regardless of why an item is being returned!
TRYING IT OUT
Inside the compression sack, I found that everything was there! I really hate it when I get something new and there is a piece missing; no disappointment here. The shelter system includes the main tent, rain fly, 3 primary poles, 1 short pole for the fly vents, a pole repair tube, 8 stakes, 4 guy cords with adjusters, a bag for the poles, one for the stakes and a large compression bag. The large compression bag is equipped with a carry handle and set up instructions are printed on a water and wear resistant material that is sewn on the outside.
As I began setting up the tent, I started to realize how well the tent was designed and how many features were packed in!
Two of the primary poles are "full-length" and stretch diagonally across the length of the tent inside full-length pole sleeves. The poles are color coded - the black end goes in first and there is a note sewn near one of the sleeves that says "INSERT THIS POLE FIRST." At first, this may seem odd, but since the poles cross in the middle it is easier to insert them in order, so, there is a method to the madness. The pole sleeves "dead end" so there is no need to run around and clip in then run back around and tension the pole! The other end of the pole narrows and is inserted into a grommet. The narrow end of the pole is plenty long enough to ensure a secure fit and once assembled provides a nice taught tent. These also serve a attaching points for the rain fly. On the top side of the sleeves are strips of velcro which line up with their mates on the fly. The third primary pole is shorter and serves to keep the floor stretched taught and provide support for the vestibule. This pole is attached with clips in lieu of a sleeve.
An added benefit to the velcro strips is that the fly can be left on the tent during assembly, disassembly and packing. This is a huge benefit when having to set up or take down during inclement conditions as it reduces the time to accomplish these tasks and helps keep the tent dry!
The pockets are mesh (same as the material used for the ventilation) and have an elastic piece in the top seam providing flexibility and improved utilization.
As with most backpacking tents, the door is equipped with a tie to keep the door open for periods of frequent access.
The rain fly attaches in the back with two clips and adjusting webbing, along the top with velcro, in the front at two grommets (same ones used on the long poles) and then out front with stakes and adjustable guy cords. Although I didn't note it on the picture, the orange material covering the zipper has a stiff backing which keeps the cover securely in place. My 3-season 2-person tent has two doors which is really nice from the perspective that my tent mate and I are not crawling over each other, but the drawback is having two smaller vestibules. I expect that the large vestibule provided with the single entry will serve me well in the winter months that lay ahead.
My initial impressions are, "Wow, what an awesome tent!" I can't wait to get this out in the mountains and put it through the paces! I haven't found any "cons" yet, so here are the "pros:"
- properly marketed as filling "the gap between the limited seasonality of ultralight tents and the robustness of 4-season tents"
- packed with features:
- large vestibule (not as big as an expedition tent, but larger than ultralights)
- great size and feature to weight ratio
- secure fitting fly
- good ventilation features
- awesome pockets (so many tents have them hang from the seam between the canopy and the tub - the problem with this is the stuff in the pockets hangs below the loft of a sleeping back and I end up digging for things. This tent has them above the tub and has lots of them!
- easy access with wide opening doors
- velcro that holds the fly in place also allows the tent and fly to remain attached when taken down
I recognize that I haven't spent but 5 minutes inside the tent and only have set it up in my condo, but everything I see gives me the feeling that this will perform above and beyond expectations!
FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS
Since receiving the REI Arete 2 tent test, I have ventured out into the mountains on three backpacking trips and one car-camping trip. All of the trips have been within the colorful State of Colorado, all in winter conditions and all without liquid precipitation. Also, I experienced very little wind during these adventures. The lack of rain and wind are personally pleasing to me (I really dislike both) but the absence of each leaves out the ability to test the tent in those conditions. Below are the particular trips where weather and environmental conditions provided the most opportunity and placed the greatest demand on the tent:
Location: Lost Creek Wilderness
Date: 2 - 3 Dec 2011
Elevation: 8,500 - 10,000 ft (2,591 - 3,048 m)
Product usage inclusive: one night
Weather: cold! 4 to 14 deg F (-16 to -10 deg C) and snowing - approximately 8 in (20 cm) in 9 hours
Location: Rocky Mountain National Park - Two Rivers Lake
Date: 24 - 25 Dec 2011
Elevation: 8,500 - 10,700 ft (2,591 - 3,261 m)
Product usage inclusive: one night
Weather: clear and cold 4 to 26 deg F ( -16 to -3 deg C)
PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD
Setting up the tent is fairly straight forward and can be readily performed by one person. The manufacturer advertises that the rain fly can remain attached to the tent during set up and take down. I did not find this to be practical as the rain fly must be pulled approximately one-third of the way off to gain access for the removal of the 3rd main tent pole. I simply found it easier to remove the fly completely. I also noticed that the floor of the tent did not become taut with all three main poles in place. The 3rd pole seemed to over-power the two diagonal poles preventing the rear two thirds of the tent from being out-stretched.
The tent is advertised as "free standing" which is accurate, however, to effectively utilize the rain fly, no less than 5 ground attaching points must be utilized (two in front, one on each side and one in the rear). The tent is advertised as an "All-Season" tent, however, the included stakes are undeniably useful in only two or three seasons. During one trip I used rocks and "deadmans" for tie downs as the ground was frozen solid and the stakes were simply no match for the hard soil, and in another I used a tree limb and my trekking poles (I suppose I should have learned after the first trip and bought a set of snow stakes).
I found on one trip that the design of the tent creates a near flat spot on top which allows for the accumulation of snow. The 4th tent pole did a sound job of keeping the vents open, but the area between the top of the 3rd pole and the 4th lacks sufficient slope to cause snow to slide off the fly. The poles seemed sufficiently strong to withstand this weight but it did cause the fly to come in contact with the tent.
On each of the trips I have taken thus far, I have used the tent solo. The inside of the tent is small, but commensurate with the overall weight of the tent. Surely, I would want to be very comfortable in close quarters with any tent mate when sharing the Arete 2! I would not want to carry extra weight for a larger tent, so I am quite happy with its size to weight ratio.
Even being solo, I have noticed a significant amount of condensation accumulation on the inside of the tent. At first I attributed this to my improper vent settings but I obtained similar results with the top vents being wide open. My verdict here is that I have used the tent in such cold temperatures (with little to no wind) that the condensation is freezing on the inside of the tent too rapidly for all of the water vapor to escape and that any tent would have the same effect. The pic here shows a fair amount of condensation on the under-side of the rain fly (which is where it is supposed to accumulate) but I found that I had nearly as much on the inside of the tent as there was on the fly.
The large front vestibule has certainly been a pleasure. On the right (as viewed from inside the tent) there is a handy pocket which I used to stuff the "front door" in when at its fully unzipped condition. This pocket is miles ahead of the normal tie and clasp found on other tents! Although expressly not recommended, I did on one occasion cook inside the vestibule, with the front door securely tucked into the pocket. The design of the door is such that when fully open, there is no material vertically above the vestibule so heat and gases can readily escape. Again, this isn't a recommended practice, but something I did against the manufacturer's warning. For me, this worked very well.
The wide opening of the front door made it easy for me to get in and out of the tent. I did notice, however, that since I was solo, it was easier for me to get in and out of the tent with my feet at the door instead of having my head at the door. I would simply unzip the doors, turn around, sit down, close the front door (the zippered door on the fly, enclosing the vestibule) and proceed to take off my boots. Then I would simply slide back, close the door on the tent. This made it so I didn't have to do the sit and turn around maneuver. Obviously this wouldn't work with two people as the tent is wide at the door then widens for shoulder space and then significantly narrows in the rear.
The REI Arete ASL 2 has performed well, but honestly, has not fully met my expectations. The tent is well made and packed with features but falls a little short in a couple key areas. As mentioned above, I have not had the opportunity to test the tent in rain or wind so at this point, I am unable to comment on how it will perform in these weather conditions.
- sturdy and well made
- well designed ventilation
- useful pockets in key locations, including pocket for the "front door"
- good size to weight ratio
- the design intent of keeping the fly on the tent during set up and take down is awesome, but it doesn't work well
- the tent accumulates snow on top between the 3rd and 4th poles
- the included stakes are not "all season"
- the fly requires 5 ground attaching points
LONG-TERM TEST LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS
During the Long Term Test reporting period, I have taken three additional backpacking trips, bringing the total for the test to six backpacking trips and one car camping trip with the REI Arete 2. The weather this winter has been one of extremes with the snow and cold arriving early and, surprisingly enough, leaving early. The two trips that provided the most opportunity to test the Arete 2 were:
Location: Berthoud Pass
Date: 11 - 12 February 2012
Elevation: 11,200 ft (3,414 m)
Product usage inclusive: one night
Weather: clear and cold, low of 7 deg F (-14 deg C)
Location: Pike National Forest
Date: 23 - 24 March 2012
Elevation: 7,600 ft (2,316 m)
Product usage inclusive: one night
Weather: clear, low of 24 deg F (-4 deg C)
PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD
The tent continued to perform as described during the Field Test portion of this series but I was able to find some differing conditions in which to put the tent through its paces. While backpacking in the vicinity of Berthoud Pass, I shared the tent with another person who was a little smaller than I (appx 5' 10"/178 cm and weighing 155 lbs/70 kg). We were with a group preparing for upcoming climbs and set up the tent on top of 36 inches (91 cm) of snow and built snow walls to protect our site. We were certainly cozy inside the tent, but even with our limited familiarity, this did not pose a problem. The large number of interior pockets were wonderful, and certainly helped keep the inside clutter free. Even with the vents wide open, we did notice a fair amount of frozen condensation inside the tent after a normal night's sleep.
While backpacking in Pike National Forest, the weather was wonderful and allowed me to test the tent without the rain fly. Even though it was March (normally the snowiest month of the year in Colorado), the recent warm weather has enticed the bugs to come out of winter hiding. The Arete's zipper system worked wonderfully, allowing a lot of ventilation while keeping the bugs out where they belong.
I am unsure of the cause for the limited ventilation that I experienced previously, but assume it must be related to either the rain fly or the extreme cold.
After another few months of testing, my summary and likes/dislikes have changed in a few areas. I still wish that the tent was easy to set up with the fly attached, this would be such a great feature, especially in wetter climates and for the summer afternoon rain showers in Colorado. The ventilation system is well designed, but does require some help from "Mother Nature" to effectively dissipate condensation. Although it may accumulate more condensation than other tents I have used, the Arete is superior when the snow falls. The Arete's 4th pole keeps enough open ventilation for breathing even with the bottom edge of the rain fly covered by snow (yes, I have had a tent and a situation that caused me to awake during the night due to insufficient oxygen). I suppose that mother-nature has been kind to me as she has not tried to blow me and the tent off the mountains this winter.
This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1.
Copyright 2012. All rights reserved.
- Sturdy and well made
- Well designed ventilation for snowy/snowing winter conditions
- Useful pockets in key locations, including pocket for the "front door"
- Good size-to-weight ratio
- The design intent of keeping the fly on the tent during set up and take down is awesome, but it doesn't work well
- The ventilation does need some air movement outside to effectively dissipate condensation
- The tent accumulates snow on tope between the 3rd and 4th poles
- The included stakes are not "all season"
I would like to extend a sincere thank you to REI and BackpackGearTest.org for affording me the opportunity to test the Arete ASL 2, as well as a special thank you to REI for their awesome customer support!
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