Recently I was in the market for a new 3 season tent. I had several criteria in mind that it had to meet. I wanted to potentially use it for backpacking so size and weight were important considerations. Also, I was looking for a tent that would be easy to set up even in the dark with just a flashlight. Finally, I needed a tent that featured vestibules that I could use to store gear. Looking for a model that would meet these criteria for under $300, I consulted several people who suggested that I should check out the REI Half Dome 2 Plus tent.
The Half Dome 2 Plus tent has been in production for a few years now. It weighs in at just under 5 pounds (4 lbs. 14 oz.) and packs down to a very manageable 7 by 20.5 inches. The main body of the tent is well vented on all sides. The poles attach to the top and corners with simple but durable plastic clips. The rain fly then stretches over the top and uses grommets to secure it underneath the poles at each of the 4 corners. The tent space is 35.8 square feet. It features several stash pockets, several loops from the ceiling to hang lights, and 4 ceiling vents that can increase airflow. Two doors are on the tent, and each door features a 22.5 sq ft. vestibule. The vestibules are open on the bottom. The tent retails for $230 and features an optional footprint that goes underneath it to help protect against wear and keep you dry. The footprint is another $35 and adds 9 ounces to the overall weight.
The tent is very easy to assemble. I have seen some YouTube videos where people seem perplexed about how to assemble it, but I had no such trouble. The pole is all one piece with hubs. You simply secure all the pole sections together, clip on the main tent, and put the corners of the pole under the grommets on the tent corners. The rain fly snaps down after that. This tent has an awesome amount of ventilation and plenty of windows. I loved the 4 top vents which allow you to get some air even if it’s raining. It is pretty spacious for one person, easily accommodating a sleeping bag and hiking pack with ample floor space left over. Two adult sleeping bags would just about fill the whole space side by side. It may be a bit small for 2 people, but the two vestibules would still give you a pretty good amount of storage.
The tent is easy to get in and out of with a zipper system that doesn’t feel cheap. The pockets on the inside are also a plus in a smaller tent. I use the pockets on the ceiling to store wet socks to air-dry overnight, and the pockets on the floor are perfect for storing a book and cell phone when I sleep.
The Not So Good
It would be nice if the tent included the footprint at no additional cost, but that is a small complaint. However, the footprint does not cover the ground under the vestibules. This may be able to be remedied by purchasing a larger footprint though I’m not sure how easy it would be to attach to the poles. Without a floor in the rain, the vestibules can get pretty muddy, which makes them not the best place to store important gear.
Speaking of rain, the tent will keep you fairly dry. The vestibule creates kind of a double entrance so that rain is less likely to get in the tent every time you enter or exit. However, the floor of the tent does get fairly damp after a couple of days of heavy rain. Any mild rain should be no match for the tent, but if you are camping in a wet environment, it may not be the best choice. The floor of the tent and footprint are thin ripstop, and I suspect micro-abrasions from rocks underneath may allow water to enter. When I used the tent, there were no noticeable rips or tears after a week on a rocky campsite, but I’d use caution and use soft ground if possible.
I am overall happy with the Half Dome 2 Plus as my first real backpacking tent purchase. For a one-person summer tent, it is fantastic. You will stay cool with the adequate ventilation on all but the hottest nights. This increased ventilation does mean that you will need to switch to a 4 season tent as soon as the temperatures drop below 40 degrees. There is just too much airflow from the outside in. For 2 people, the tent may get a bit cramped, but it would work. It packs easily and fits into my 4000 cu. inch pack with no issues. For $230 there is a lot to like, though frequent users may want something a bit more durable and the ultralight crowd will likely find it too heavy at 5 pounds.
As the weather warms up I look forward to hitting the trails and spending some more time camping in my REI Half Dome 2 Plus tent.