Gear Review: REI Half Dome 2 Tent


My beloved Mountainsmith Celestial Tent finally bit the dust (RIP) I ended up doing a lot of research before investing in our Tent Home 2.0. When I purchased my first tent I had only been camping a handful of times and backpacking wasn't even on my radar, so I didn't have a lot of specific things I needed my tent to do - it just happened to be on sale for a good price from The Clymb and had lots of good reviews. Now, though, I'm much pickier. I wanted a two person, three-season tent, light enough for backpacking but hearty enough to withstand some light snow and heavy winds during early spring/late fall adventures. I also wanted a tent with plenty of pockets on all sides for things I wanted close at hand and a strap for a carabiner to hang my favorite solar-powered lantern from the top. I also wanted to keep things relatively affordable - after all, I am about to start grad school.

After more than a few hours spent researching online and trips to REI, I landed on the REI Half Dome 2 Tent. Clocking in at $199, this tent had everything I was looking for - and then some.

PRO'S

1. Organization

The pockets at the head and foot of each side - and two large ceiling pockets - are more than enough to keep my headlamp, glasses, phone, book, knife, flask, water bottle, hat, gloves, stuff sacks, and anything else we need organized, and it goes a long way to keeping our tent calm that my partner and I don't have to share pockets like in our last tent.

2. Airflow & Stability

We haven't weathered a big storm in this tent yet, but we have endured some strong winds and some light rain and in all cases, it's held up super well. There are a few additional places where the rain fly secures to the tent in the REI Half Dome 2 than in my old Mountainsmith Celestial which I think really help as well. The rain fly secures to the top of the frame through two grommets, on all four corners through velcro that goes around the tent poles, and with 6 stakes (all 4 corners plus the two vestibles on the long sides). I also really appreciate the four pop-up air vents at the top since, as with every other tent I've slept in, this guy can get pretty steamy when in direct morning sunlight.

3. Set-up & Take-down

I love how easy this guy is to set up. On my last camping trip my partner was in charge of making the fire and I was in charge of setting up the tent - and I was done, rain fly, stakes and all before he had finished building the base of his fire. Oh, and I was doing half of the set-up one handed while enjoying a nice Crux Pilsner - photo evidence of my victory is below.

CON'S

1. Packaging

This is a bit nit-picky, but I sometimes find myself frustrated with this tent when packing it up. The bag could easily fit two tents yet I nearly always find myself unhappy with how it packs back up and it always seems bulkier than it should be. This is a super minor issue, and really only bothers me significantly when I'm trying to fit it into my backpacking pack. Because of that bulk issue I often end up strapping the tent to the bottom of my pack but then the length of the tent stuff sack becomes an issue and I sometimes find it hitting brush on the sides of the trail, making it sound like I am an ungainly bear crashing through the trail.

2. Vestibules

One of the main differences between this tent and my old one is the space in the vestibules. Unfortunately, they're much smaller on the REI Half Dome 2 Tent and really only suitable for a pair of hiking boots or two on each side, not a full pack. With my old tent I used to sleep with my pack under the vestibule which was handy especially when it was raining. With this tent you'll have to share your foot space with your pack if it's raining or snowing, which is pretty doable for me since I'm 5'6", but I imagine would be pretty cramped for anyone much taller. Even with the pack not encroaching too much on my space it makes a difference sitting at the foot of the tent since the tent is about the length of my sleeping pad and the pack has to sit just right to not disrupt my pad.

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