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Reviews > Shelters > Tents > REI Arete 2 tent > Test Report by Ray Estrella


Not the real label


INITIAL REPORT - November 27, 2011
FIELD REPORT - January 24, 2012
LONG TERM REPORT - March 27, 2012

TESTER INFORMATION

NAME: Raymond Estrella
EMAIL: rayestrellaAThotmailDOTcom
AGE: 51
LOCATION: North Western Minnesota, USA
GENDER: M
HEIGHT: 6' 3" (1.91 m)
WEIGHT: 215 lb (97.50 kg)

I've been backpacking for over 30 years, all over California, Minnesota, and many western states. I hike year-round in all weather, and average 500+ miles (800+ km) per year. I make a point of using lightweight gear, and smaller volume packs. Doubting I can ever be truly ultralight, I try to be as light as I can yet still be comfortable. I start early and hike hard so as to enjoy the afternoons exploring/chilling. I usually take a freestanding tent and enjoy hot evening meals. If not hiking solo I am usually with my brother-in-law Dave or my twin children.


INITIAL REPORT

The Product

Manufacturer: Recreational Equipment, Inc. (REI)
Web site: www.rei.com
Product: Arete ASL tent
Year manufactured: 2011
MSRP: $299.95 US
Size: 2-person
Packaged weight (complete) listed: 5 lb 14 oz (2.66 kg)
Actual weight: 5 lb 15 oz (2.69 kg)
Interior height listed: 40 in (102 cm)
Length listed: 88 in (224 cm)
Width listed: 60 in (152 cm)
Floor space listed (tent & vestibules): 32.5 + 9.1 sq ft (3 + 0.85 sq m)
Packed size listed: 6 x 20 in (15 x 51 cm)

Product Description

The REI Arete ASL (All Season Light) Tent (hereafter called the Arete or tent) is a light-weight four season tent that the manufacture says "fills the gap between the limited seasonality of ultralight tents and the robustness of 4-season tents". It is the lightest weight 2-person, 4-season tent in their line. As a nod to its 4-season use it is named (Arête) after the thin knife-like ridge that is found between two glaciers that have worn their own valleys right next to each other. Here is a picture of the separate components that come with the Arete.

Parts


The body of the Arete weighs 34.3 oz (972 g) and is made of white 40D ripstop nylon, with two 20D nylon no-see-um mesh "windows" on the top of the canopy. The hybrid bathtub floor and lower walls are made of 70D nylon taffeta with a PU 1500mm coating.

The very colorful rain fly (white, orange, and green, I feel like it's Ray and the Amazing Technicolor Dream Tent…), which weighs 27.1 oz (768 g), is made of 30D ripstop nylon with a 1500mm PU/silicone coating.

The Arete uses 9.5/9 mm multi-diameter orange anodized DAC Featherlight NSL Combi poles as the main crossing support. The poles have a standard notched peg at one end and a nylon ball at the other. (The poles are thicker at the end with the ball.) There is also a silver anodized crossing pole for added strength, side-wall roominess, and to support the front of the fly. A last tiny little pole is used at the top of the tent to support the Dual AirLift rainfly vents. The poles weigh 24 oz (680 g). They fit in the included 0.7 oz (20 g) nylon sack.

The tent came with eight thick aluminum hook stakes that weigh 0.49 oz (14 g) each. The stakes are packed in a 0.35 oz (10 g) sack, along with a pole repair sleeve and two guylines with attached tension clips. One note about these stakes: while they look quite beefy, they are not that strong. Last winter I tried using them with REI's Quarter Dome 2 on just-freezing terrain only to watch them bend. As the ground is already frozen hard now here in northern Minnesota I will not wreck these ones, but will instead use something else until we get enough snow to switch to snow stakes.

All of the parts of the Arete fit into a nylon stuff sack that weighs 2.5 oz (70 g). The stuff sack is made with a wide tapered shape to make stuffing it easier. The set-up instructions are printed on the outside of the stuff sack, which is nice. What is not so nice, at least for these old eyes, is printing them in black type on a dark grey background. It is hard to decipher in good light for me. They may want to rethink this as winter is not that conducive to good lighting in the first place, in my experience. Here is a shot of the Arete packed and ready to go.

Stuffed


Set-up of the Arete is pretty straight forward. The body is laid out and the orange crossing poles are threaded through the same-colored Dead End pole sleeves. The poles, ball end first, need to be started at the front of the tent because the other end has the sleeves closed, hence the name. Looking at the front (door) of the Arete the left pole should be threaded through the sleeve first. REI has placed a notice to this effect at the end of the sleeve. (Being a guy I totally ignored it and started from the other side first. It makes it a bit more difficult…) Placing the free pole ends into the ground-level grommets stands the tent up. The forward angling, silver side crossing pole attaches just off-center at the bottom of the body and has an angled hub at mid-point which brings the pole to a point above the door. The body of the Arete attaches to this pole by way of pole-clips. Now the Arete can be anchored with stakes or snow anchors. Something of note are the ten sections of hook-and-loop "loop" material spaced along the outside of the pole sleeves. (More about them later.)

Arete inner


The Arete's inner is accessed by a single large front-placed circular door. The door can be almost completely unzipped. The door has a mesh window in the upper section that is opened by means of a zipper from inside the tent. Besides giving a view to the outside (if the vestibule is open) it can also be used to help vent the tent. Once inside the Arete I find four mesh gear pockets, two up high on the sides at the front and two at the same end but lower. Another mesh pocket is right next to the door where the zipper stops. This pocket can be used to store the door out of the way or just used for extra gear storage. At the top of the tent are two curving zippers that when opened expose the mesh windows/vents. The mesh has zippers too, allowing them to be completely opened.

Fly


The fly of the Arete attaches to the body with quick-clip buckles at the foot (Dead End) of the tent and with grommets in straps at the other pole-end locations. On the inside of the fly are ten sections of hook-and-loop "hook" material that correspond to the sections on the pole sleeves. Attaching all the sections gives the fly more strength by not allowing slipping during windy conditions. It also allows the tent inner and fly to be set-up as a combined unit in what they call Speed Pitch mode by keeping the hook-and-loop stuck together and leaving the buckles attached at the foot. I attached all the hook-and-loop sections as I plan to try it in speed pitch mode next time I take it out and found that the two sections closest to the bottom front of the tent will not line up. While all the rest fit perfectly these two miss by a couple of inches (5 cm).

At the top of the fly are the Dual AirLift rainfly vents. The vents have zippers that can be operated from outside or from the inside. This is why the mesh sections inside open up. Here is a shot of a vent and window.

Vents


It may be obvious that I have already had the Arete in the field. How did it do? Well, let me tell you all about it. In two months when the Field Report is due. ;-)


FIELD REPORT

Quick & Dirty, Nitty Gritty

The Arete easily lives up to its 4-season billing with the wimpy winter we are having so far in northern Minnesota. The solid inner tent keeps some warmth inside and keeps all the spindrift out. Condensation handling is great. My only complaint so far is that I wish it did not use pole sleeves. Please read on for the details.

Field Data

For this phase of testing I have used the Arete 4 nights, all in northern Minnesota. One was a stealth camping trip on the Red River east of Moorhead, where the pictures in the Initial Report were taken. The low was 15 F (-9 C).

Next it went to Chippewa National Forest for two hikes, one to Hovde Lake where it got down to -1 F (-18 C) and saw a little scattering of snow. The next week I was in the same area but went to an unnamed lake further east. This trip saw more snow but warmer temps with a low of 10 F (-12 C).

After a very strange spike in the temps that saw what little snow we had disappear I took the Arete to a primitive canoeist's camp site on the Red River north of Hendrum, although I camped on the river bank to be protected somewhat from the high winds that were in front of an oncoming storm. The low was 4 F (-16 C) and while there was a bit of snow blowing around above I had nothing down where I was camped. Here is a shot of the Arete at this location.

Frozen Red River

Observations

The REI Arete ASL has performed quite admirably so far for me. I have not gotten to use it in any severe winter conditions yet, just because we have been experiencing a very weird winter with snowfall of just 4 in (10 cm) to date and periods of warming that saw it hit as high as 50 F (10 C), melting off what little we got.

For two of the trips I left the fly hooked to the inner to try it in the speed-pitch mode. I struggled a bit the first time, having problems with the poles not being seated properly, and parts of the tent were catching on each other making me wrestle with it. Quite frankly it was just a case of me trying to rush as I was cold. The next week I took it slow and it went a lot smoother. One important thing I found was that I need to make sure that the ball end of the main poles is firmly seated all the way into the end of the sleeve. If it is not once I start bending it the pole will not slide forward and I will be unable to get the free end into its grommet. (Live and learn…)

Even though I got it figured out I decided to stop using the speed-pitch mode because it makes it harder to attach the free end when wearing fleece gloves, which are pretty much all I use any more. Even when trying to grip the poles with only the inner going up it is very hard to get it set, with both pieces it is almost impossible for me. I was forced to take one glove off to set up the tent which is not fun when it is 10 F (-12 C). Plus as I carried the poles on the side of my pack they were the same temperature as the air. I would love to see this tent with clips for the poles instead of sleeves, like REI uses on their very nice Quarter Dome tent.

I love the solid nylon walls of the inner. They breathe well enough that I did not get any condensation on the one time I kept the vents closed because of high winds. Plus it is nice to not have to sweep spindrift snow out of my tent.

The vents are very nice. I haven't needed to open them both up fully but just put them about half open each to try to get a draw through the tent. One thing I am not crazy about is the pole used to support them. It too is very hard to get in place with gloves on. I look at it each time I use the tent and wonder why a simple strut was not used to hold the vent open instead. That would allow the vent/awning to be closed in high winds. As it is that awning is easily grabbed by winds from the side. I make sure to pitch the Arete with its back to the wind to alleviate this concern.

So far all my use has been solo. I bring my backpack and all my gear inside and have plenty of room. While most times I used a quilt, on one trip I took a big -20 F (-30 C) sleeping bag and the Arete's length was fine for it.

One of the little things is probably my favorite. I love the door and the way it completely opens and stores out of the way. That makes it so nice when getting everything situated.

Frozen Hovde Lake


I was able to use the Arete's stakes at the site on the Red River as the ground was still thawed, but had to use a different type on the trips in Chippewa National forest. At Hovde Lake (seen above) I was able to get a bit of penetration but just a week later I could barely get even my hardest chisel-point stakes in as can be seen in the picture below. I would love to see REI use a harder, stronger stake for this tent.

Well that is it for this report. As I write this a Pacific storm is on its way to our area bringing a bunch of snow. So hopefully I will have some better winter conditions to talk about next time. Please come back in a couple months to see how it all turns out.

Another frozen Lake


LONG-TERM REPORT

Field Data

My son did one snow camping night last spring and wanted to sleep out at a lower temperature this year so I set the Arete up outside our living room window so my daughter (who has no desire to sleep in the snow) could see us. The low temperature was -8 F (-22 C) with the humidity at 51%.

Then I went for another overnighter at the campsite on the Red River of the North near Hendrum, this time hauling the gear sled. Temps ranged from 15 down to -5 F (-9 to -21 C) with winds at 20 mph (32 km/h) and gusts to 30 mph (48 km/h).

Next I spent three days near the border of Canada at Bronson Lake State Park outside the aptly named town of Bronson Lake. I spent one night on the banks of the South Fork Two Rivers and the next on the shores of- you guessed it, Bronson Lake. ;-) This sled-packing trip saw scattered light snow and temps ranging from 20 to -2 F (-7 to -19 C). There was a pretty cold wind blowing at 15 mph (24 km/h) the first day.

Lastly I took it on a long road trip that saw one night of camping at Bemidji State Park, three days sled-packing in Voyageurs National Park's center section out of the Kabetogama Lake Visitor Center, and three days sled-packing in the northern section of the Park out of the Rainy Lake Visitor Center. Low temps during the course of the trips ranged from -1 F to 30 F (-18 to -1 C).

Observations

I got a total of nine nights in the Arete and was able to see it in some more varied weather conditions. My son spent the night in what turned out to be the lowest temps of the winter as far as my Arete use has seen. As we did not have any gear but headlamps there was plenty of room for the two of us. Below (left) is a shot of the tent with our two pads inside. I had him on an Exped DownMat 9 and I was on a regular size NeoAir X-Therm. I used a -20 F (-29 C) bag and put him in one of my -40 bags. Once the bags were in they covered the entire floor of the tent. I took this shot of Raymond (right) as we turned in for the night. In a sleeping bag he looks just like me. ;-)

Ray testing with Dad


The night we spent turned out to see the most condensation yet for the Arete. As there was no snow forecast I did not use the fly. There was a gentle wind blowing that was noticeable through the material of the inner tent and I figured that would just help things out. But when I woke up at 4:00 AM I found the entire inside coated with shining jewels of frozen condensation, not just at the end that are heads were positioned, but the entire tent.

All the other trips have seen great condensation handling. My first night in the center of Voyageurs National Park saw me get clobbered by a good-sized storm. It started dropping shortly after I turned in and was accompanied by stiff winds. I was forced to close the vent on the side the wind was hitting. The temps went up as the storm intensified and the snow was wet and heavy. I knocked the snow off the top and sides each time I woke up during the night. Here is a shot taken on Cutover Island at 3:00 AM after about 4 in (10 cm) had fallen. By the time I got up it was at 6 in (15 cm) and it was still falling as I struck camp.

Let it snow ,let it snow, let it snow


While I expected to see heavy condensation (and did when I took that picture) I just played with the vents and utilized the door/window to increase air movement and was treated to a much drier tent when I got up at 6:30 AM. Unfortunately I collected quite a lot of snow on/in it while breaking down. By the time that section of my trip was done the Arete (and almost all my other gear) needed to be dried out in a motel room before reloading for the next area.

I have to say that I have gotten better at setting it up with each pitching of the Arete. I can get the poles assembled, inserted and the tent up in just a few minutes now, even with gloves on and punching my boots through deep snow as I walk around the tent. Removing the pole ends from the grommets is still a hard chore with gloves on. The little crossing pole still gives me trouble, but it would be much easier if only the loops near the grommets were big enough to get my gloved finger through so as to give me something to pull against. I highly suggest REI think hard about making this easy change. Here is a shot setting the Arete up at my camp on Cranberry Bay on Rainy Lake.

Setting up at Cranberry Bay


I had at least lightly falling snow every day in Voyageurs National Park (it is actually snowing in the shot above) so I always used the fly too. The second leg of my trip was much colder so the snow was light and what humidity was in the air froze out before giving me trouble in the tent. I saw just a bit of condensation frost near my head each night, but no major build up. In fact my quilt got wetter than the sides of the Arete did. Have I mentioned how much I like the solid breathable nylon?

I did have one scare. The snowshoes I used have separate crampons that can be used alone with my boots, which then snap into the snowshoes. Once I stamped out a tent pad, a path to where my stove will be used, and privy area I removed the snowshoes but kept the crampons on the boots the entire time. While breaking down the Arete I realized that it was stuck and then it made it to my tiny brain that I was stepping on it with the crampons. I checked it out right then and again a couple days later in the motel room and am happy to report that the floor was tough enough (and most likely the snow underfoot was soft enough) to not end up with any holes, not even a scratch. Yay!

Altogether I am pretty impressed with the Arete ASL. It is a lot of tent for the money and has proven to work in some gnarly weather. A couple of minor changes could make this a truly sweet winter tent in my opinion. I would like to thank REI and BackpackGearTest.org for allowing me to participate in the test of it. I leave with a shot of it on the bank of the South Fork Two Rivers

only one river at Two Rivers, why?

This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1.5 Copyright 2012. All rights reserved.

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