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Reviews > Shelters > Tents > REI Dash 2 tent > Test Report by Ray Estrella
REI dash 2 tent Ray Estrella review test
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.
Manufacturer: Recreational Equipment, Inc. (REI)
Quick & Dirty, Nitty Gritty
I have a new favorite freestanding tent! The REI Dash 2 is said to be REI's lightest tent ever and I believe it. I was totally impressed with everything about this sweet tent except the stakes. Great design and lightweight everything, and then these clunky, heavy hook stakes? Come on guys… Please read on for the details.
The REI Dash 2 Tent (hereafter called the Dash or tent) is the lightest two-person tent that REI has ever offered under their own name. Like another tent of theirs I once wrote about this one again is said to have "REI-exclusive tension-truss architecture".
As a 37 year commercial construction veteran, and now a guy that sells trusses, I still don't understand the "truss" aspect. But the tensioned crossing pole is what I will guess that they are talking about. And it does work.
The Dash uses 8.5 mm DAC Featherlite aluminum poles. The green anodized poles have 16 sections and are shock-corded together in one unit. The sections either go into another pole unit or into hubs. The poles weigh 12.13 oz (344 g) and they fit in the included 0.35 oz (10 g) nylon sack. For those like me that like to carry their poles separately they make a package 2.75 in diameter by 18 in long (7 x 46 cm).
The body of the Dash weighs 15.8 oz (448 g) and is made of 15 denier ripstop nylon that is a translucent grey color. This may be the lightest ripstop I have ever seen that feels to be PU coated (polyurethane) on one side and most likely has a DWR on the other. To be honest it looks and feels almost like silnylon to me. (But I don't think it is as it is taped.) The same material is used for the dark grey floor and fly. (It is used for all the storage sacks too.)
The upper 3/5's of the body is made of dark grey 20 denier mesh to add plenty of ventilation and to help cut weight. The top of the body has heavily reinforced neon green seams running in a rectangle. The rain fly, which is the same color as the body, weighs 11.8 oz (334 g). The fly is cut with catenary curves that may be seen below. This style of cut allows the fly to be tensioned better than traditional flat designs, allowing for a tauter pitch and less flapping in wind. It saves weight too as there is less material used. (It is much more labor intensive though.) The fly is also strategically reinforced along the main seams to allow it to be really cranked down. Holding it up to the light it looks like they are seam taped too to give extra waterproofing with no seam-sealing needed.
The tent came with eight thick aluminum hook stakes that weigh 0.55 oz (15.5 g) each. The stakes are packed in a 0.35 oz (5 g) sack, along with a 0.28 oz (8 g) pole repair sleeve and two guylines with attached tension clips.
All of the parts of the Dash fit into a nylon stuff sack that weighs 0.99 oz (28 g). The stuff sack has the set-up instructions are printed on the outside of the stuff sack which is nice.
Set-up of the Dash is very easy for me as I have been using this style of tent since the first one was introduced. The body is spread out first. I always stake the back first and place it so that the wind (if any) is hitting it. This makes it easier to set up as the wind pushes against the staked end keeping the tent stretched out. It also helps once set up as the Dash tapers sharply toward the foot so this sheds wind when I am using it.
Next the poles are snapped together. The resulting pole structure looks like a tripod with two long poles going to the front of the tent and the long center pole going to the foot end. The poles snap into grommets in the body at floor level. The body attaches to the poles by way of nylon hooks and rotating slide connectors. The fronts of the poles have a definite shoulder bend courtesy of the curved hubs they go into. Down at the foot end the single center spine pole has a crossing pole on top that spreads the body out making more interior room at the end of the tent. Something new for me is the reinforced seams between the shoulders and along the top of the mesh side walls. This is brilliant. It allows the mesh (normally a very weak part of tents) to be tensioned, pulling it taut and making a lot more room than I normally see in this style/pole configuration shelter. What this does is give the Dash much more vertical sides than I saw in the other tents I've used or still have. Nice job REI.
The Dash is accessed by way of a good-sized D-shaped door on each side. Once inside the tent I find three mesh gear pockets, two small ones are at the front near the doors. Another large one is on the top of the tent. The doors may be held open by way of nylon loops and toggles.
The fly slips over the pole structure and attaches inside at the crossing pole by snapping into grommets inside. There are a couple hook-and-loop attachments for the main poles too. The fly is supposed to attach to the poles at the bottom of the Dash with grommets at "the three corners" according to the set-up instructions. But there are grommets only at the two front corners. There is not one at the back. The back only has a pull-out guy as seen in the lower right-middle picture above. REI may need to address the instructions a bit.
The Dash uses great lightweight split-wedge tensioners at the just-mentioned back and at the vestibule pull-outs on the fly. Tensioning at the front corners come by way of nylon sliding buckles. The fly has very large curving doors that may be toggled out of the way too.
OK, enough about the Dash's dashing good looks. Time to get it in the field for some real action. Please come back in a couple months to see how it did in the field. (Hint, I've already been out and it was…)
I have used the REI Dash 2 tent on six backpacking trips so far, all on the North Country Trail (NCT). Three were in the State of North Dakota (ND) where the NCT follows the Sheyenne River and Lake Ashtabula. The picture above is from my first trip along the western shore of Ashtabula, with a storm moving in. The picture below was taken one week later further north-west on the same lake.
The other three were in north central Minnesota (MN) in Paul Bunyan State Forest for two and in White Earth Indian Reservation for the other. All were on or near the NCT. Every trip saw rain at some point in the night, and the White Earth trip had it off and on all day too. It was a cooler than normal summer and temps at night were between 65 and 46 F (18 and 8 C).
Well I have a new favorite when it comes to freestanding solo tents. I really like the Dash 2. It weighs 6 oz (170 g) less than my current "keeper", yet has more flexibility with its two entrances. When the weather changes and wind comes from a different direction than it was when I set it up I can just swap sides to use.
The length is a bit short for my height. When I lay stretched out on my back, on top of a 2.5 in (6 cm) thick air pad, I hit my feet and head on the mesh, as seen above. But since I am a side sleeper this doesn't really bother me much. As far as width, the Dash is perfect for me solo using my Large size 25 in (63 cm) wide pads. I usually keep my pack inside so it works great. I wouldn't want to try to share the Dash with another person though. I did take a picture of my pack in the vestibule just to show that it does fit OK for those that need to have the extra space inside for another person.
Funny story: On my third trip to ND, as soon as I set the tent up a tiny neon green grasshopper jumped onto the lower door zipper. It followed the bright green zipper up and around until it got to the bright neon green zipper pulls. It climbed onto them and sat there for the longest time until I finally had to shoo it away so I could get in the Dash. I took a bunch of pictures of it as it made its trek to the pulls. (Yeah I am easily entertained…;-)
No wear that I can see yet. I use a 36 in (91 cm) wide piece of Tyvek as a footprint to mainly protect the bottom from poison ivy which is sprouting all over the place in MN. It also helps block some of the ground moisture. Now that fall is here and the bugs are gone I'd love to try the Dash in a Fast Fly configuration, but they did not send a true footprint so no go. But back into the field it shall go this coming weekend as I am off to keep hiking the NCT eastward. That is it for this report but please come back in a couple months to see how the Dash 2 fared as the weather turns cold. I will also address the design and my final thoughts about it.
During the final two months of testing I used the Dash on two trips on the NCT in north-central MN, both in Chippewa National Forest. Cool weather had hit and nighttime lows were just above freezing.
Another trip during hunting season was taken on my friend's property north of Halstad MN. This trip also hit 33 F (1 C) for a low and it rained. The picture below is on the bluff overlooking the Red River of the North. A last NCT trip was in White Earth State Forest where I was surprised with 24 F (-4 C) at my camp on Pine Island Lake, seen below. The final (and coldest) trip for the Dash was back at Halstad again where it hit 4 F (-16 C) for a low.
I took the Dash out for five more overnight trips during the final phase of testing. And I came away still enjoying it. While I personally would have a hard time using this as a two-person tent because of my size and the size of my sleeping pads, I love it as a solo freestanding shelter.
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