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Reviews > Shelters > Tents > REI Half Dome 2 tent 2013 > Test Report by Kerri Larkin
REI Half Dome 2 Tent
TEST SERIES BY KERRI LARKIN
The REI Half Dome 2 is, as the name suggests, a two person tent of the dome variety. It is marketed as a lightweight three season tent. Mine arrived simply packed in its stuff sack - no box. It's a fairly compact package for a two person tent. The stuff sack has the assembly instructions printed on it and a few simple pictures of how things snap together. There's also a tag on the outside of the package proudly announcing the tent's poles are constructed from DAC alloy, and the anodizing coat uses 'Green' technology so less water is used in manufacture and less toxic waste is produced. Nice. From research I did for another project, I understand that DAC poles are the bees-knees when it comes to quality, and durability. The stuff sack has a built-in carry handle and two compression straps to cinch down the whole package.
Opening the drawstring cord at the end of the pack allowed me to tip the contents on to the floor. There were two smaller stuff sacks - one for the poles and one for the pegs and guys - a square folded fly sheet, and the tent wrapped around it all to form a neat bundle.
I inspected all the components and found no loose threads on the fly or tent, and all sewing looks to be of a high standard. The poles all fit together precisely and easily. The only thing which appeared loose is a small pin which sits in the 'V' block which holds one of the two long poles in place. It pushed out when I inserted the pole in the hole in the 'V' block, but I noticed it's attached to the shock cording which holds the poles together so it can't fall out or get lost. I pushed it back in place with no problem, but I'll monitor this during the test.
The flooring of the test appears to be simple ripstop polyester and is perhaps a little on the thin side for my liking, but there's always a compromise between strength and weight. That said, I was surprised at how little the tent itself weighed. Although REI recommends purchasing the optional 'footprint' to go under the tent for added protection, I'll be interested to see how the floor survives without it. This optional footprint can be paired with the rain fly to make a minimalist shelter by leaving the tent at home. From what I've seen so far, if good warm weather is expected, I'd be tempted to leave the fly at home and simply use the tent itself and save even more weight as the poles clip to the base of the tent body making a self-supporting bug-free room.
No instructions were included other than those on the stuff sack. What's printed is quite small and I certainly needed my reading glasses to make sense of it. Being a visual learner, I confess I found these instructions a bit daunting, and the three small illustrations didn't really help me understand what they were referring to until I'd already put the tent up once. There are six steps for erecting the tent, and six steps for the rainfly. There are two additional tips; one for adjustments to the fly, and one about adding guy lines in windy weather. The three illustrations are an overview of pole assembly, how to attach the fly, and how to use the vestibule cleat lock. Again, none of this made much sense to me initially as I've not used a tent of this type before.
I'm pleased to say, though, that working through putting the tent up for the first time, these instructions did indeed make sense.
One thing that surprised me after using lots of cottage industry tents is that the Half Dome 2 is fully seam sealed: all the seams are already taped. What a blessing that is - it saves messing around with silicone and solvents and means a beginner doesn't get wet just because they didn't know what to do. Thanks REI.
Wow! I'm really glad there were those printed instructions as it took me a while to figure out how this tent goes together. Although I could see the general form it had to take as soon as I lay the tent body on the floor, the pole arrangement confounded me for a while. After reading the instruction steps a few times, it finally clicked in my head. It turns out it's actually very easy to put this puppy together. Having done it once, I don't expect there will be a need to refer to the instructions again, but at least they will be right there on my stuff sack if I do need them, rather than filed away at home. Put simply, the poles all slot together to look something like a person doing a star-jump. The four ends (arms and legs if you will) are place in to the grommets on the four tent corners. The pole structure is then pretty much self-supporting. The bug netting of the tent body is then simply clipped to the poles and to the cross member which separates the two poles at the tent peak. This creates a pretty sturdy structure, even without the fly attached, and I would be happy to camp in the tent in this form on hot summer nights when no rain was expected.
I was really pleased with the obvious quality of this tent and the thought that has gone into its design. Little things like the shape of the cleats that hold the doors open, the vestibule cleat lock, the roof pockets in the tent body, and the fabulous vents show why this is one of the tents REI say is so popular. So let's step through the tent...
With the fly on, opening the zipper (which is under a hook-and-loop fastened flap to minimize rain ingress) reveals a lovely large vestibule which is certainly big enough to store a pack, to cook in, or to sleep a dog. There's a duplicate vestibule on the other side. The main body of the tent is accessed through a 'J' shaped zip (again, duplicated on the other side) which opens wide enough to make entering the tent a breeze. What a joy to have a tent which won't require me to clamber over the other occupant, or be clambered over, for those nocturnal nature calls.
Once inside, there's more than enough room to sit up comfortably thanks to the 40" (1 m) roof height, and ample space to lay flat. Given I'm only 5'9" (1.75 m) there was no worries about touching either end of the tent as the listed measurements are 88" (2.2 m) by 52" (1.3 m). Given that I'm fairly broad, the width does seem a little squishy for two people of my size and may require sleeping with heads at opposite ends. I'll report back on this as my testing progresses.
Over my head are two mesh pockets which would hold keys, a phone, flashlight and assorted sundries. One of those LED tent lights would also fit nicely in the pockets. There are also four small pockets - one at each corner. Surprisingly, unlike many small tents I've owned, there's no claustrophobic feeling in this tent. Perhaps that's because of the high ceiling. It may also be due to the light colour of the fly. I selected the burnt orange and white version figuring the white would reflect heat away from the tent. The bright colours will also make it easy to find the tent in the dark.
The nylon floor is slippery, so on any kind of slope I could see myself jammed up against one end to the tent in the morning. A few silicone beads across the floor should sort that out. The floor design is a 'bathtub' style, meaning the waterproof floor extends a little way up the walls to give some storm and runoff protection.
One of the things I love about this tent is the ventilation flaps, two on each side, which are such a simple design I'm surprised more makers don't include them. They can be closed down for inclement weather, but opened wide to allow heat to escape the tent or cooling breezes to enter. These vents are held open and closed by an ingenious hook-and-loop system. I do have concerns about their letting heavy, driving rain in to the tent though, especially if the wind shifts during a downpour. This is something I will be paying close attention to during the testing phase. That said, being able to vent a tent is ideal for most Australian conditions. Although it's unlikely this tent will see much, if any, snow use, it may well see plenty of storms, wind and rain.
Another nifty feature I've not encountered before is the vestibule cleat lock. This is a very simple system for adjusting the stake out points on the vestibule. It comes as a pre-threaded guy line which has a clip attached to the vestibule. The guy line is run out as far as needed and then pegged. Once pegged the guy line can be adjusted by pulling on the line then locking it in to a small slot on the clip. Simple but ingenious. I'd love to purchase more of these cleats to replace every guy line I own on every piece of equipment!
Although I haven't pulled everything tight or staked the tent out fully yet, I can see a lot of potential with this tent and can't wait to do my first overnighter in it. Speaking of staking the tent out, extra pegs would be needed to fully stake the tent body and the fly correctly. The six included stakes are used to peg down the tent body corners and vestibule. So, although guy lines are included to hold the fly in strong winds, another six pegs would be needed to fully anchor this tent in strong winds.
The REI Half Dome 2 tent is a great looking dome tent with some very innovative features. It appears easy to erect, has ample space for two inside and offers plenty of storage in the vestibules.
That concludes my Initial Report on the REI Half Dome 2 tent. I'd like to thank both REI and BackpackGearTest.org for the opportunity to test this item. Please check back in around two months for my Field Report.
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