Hands-on Gear Review
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Pros: Lots of room for its weight, durable, moderately strong, great value
Cons: Heavy for backpacking, hard to get the fly vestibules taut, not enough stakes or guy lines
Best Uses: Mostly car camping and occasional backpacking.
The REI Half Dome 2 Plus wins our Best Buy Award for its extra spacious interior and thoughtful construction - it provides the most bang for your buck. We think it is very livable, with great ventilation and interior storage. The Half Dome 2 Plus has four kick stand-vents, large vestibules, and the whole tent is super comfortable. It stands up well to wet weather, but did not come with enough guy line to keep the fly off of the inner tent, causing some moisture to get in. The Half Dome's stakes are also of very low quality and it did not come with enough for each guy point. These things make the Half Dome more susceptible to bad weather.
If you want something lighter and are willing to pay just a bit more, check out the REI Quarter Dome 2 which weighs under 4 pounds, packs smaller, and is still fairly livable. Check out our complete Best Backpacking Tent Review to see how the Half Dome 2 Plus compares to all 23 other tents we've tested.
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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review
A great value for a car camping tent that can also be brought on occasional short backpacking trips, the Half Dome 2 Plus is super roomy and luxurious. We think this would be a great choice for a new family or a couple with a dog.
Although not as complicated to set up as its lightweight cousin the REI Quarter Dome 2, the Half Dome 2 Plus has a somewhat complicated 3 pole configuration. Once you set it up a few times it will be almost as fast to set up as a two pole design like the Kelty Grand Mesa 2, but it takes some practice. There are two large, bulky hubs that connect all three poles together, one across the top and two down the sides. The poles have color coded ends that match the webbing with grommets at the bottom of the tent body. Once you have the pole ends inserted into the grommets, everything else is pretty standard for set-up.
We like the Half Dome's cord locks on the vestibule doors, but have difficulty getting the vestibule doors guyed out properly. The fly always looks a little floppy and is not as taut as we would like for weather and wind protection.
This where the Half Dome 2 Plus rises above the competition. The 2 Plus model has added an extra 10 inches in length and 4 inches in width over the REI Half Dome 2. We think this is a significant amount of space and allows for much more stuff to fit inside – or just room to spread out your stuff. It has two large roof pockets, two small side pockets, and two large vestibules that give you an extra 20.4 square feet of covered storage space.
The Half Dome 2 Plus has lots of mesh for ventilation, but also nylon panels in areas where there is more tension for reinforced strength, like at the top cross pole point and by the doors. Its four kick-stand vents in the top of the fly keep the air flowing in the tent but the rain out.
As mentioned earlier, the REI Half Dome 2 Plus is difficult to guy out properly. For some reason the vestibule doors never seem to become taut, no matter the angle the doors are staked at. It also does not come with enough guy line for all the guy points, so the fly will touch the inner tent on the ends unless you add your own cord to stake it out. This makes us think that it is less weather resistant than it could be if we could tighten all the guy lines and make the fly smooth and tight. Without any upgraded cord, there will be a lot of flopping of the fly in the wind and condensation from the fly touching the tent body. We also noticed that water tends to pool on the roof of the Half Dome when the kick stand vents are open.
All that being said, it did keep us dry in wet weather, but having the ability to guy it out properly would make us feel more confident having it in high winds and in less than vertical rain storms.
The REI Half Dome 2 Plus is adaptable in that its size allows for more flexibility. You can squeeze 3 small people inside in a pinch, or bring your 6'5" friend along with no problem. There is extra length so if you bring your furry, four-legged friend along, they can sleep at your feet. The Half Dome does have a fast-pitch set-up option, but that requires you to buy a separate footprint. We are not crazy about this set-up, and we talk about the follies of fast-pitching in our Buying Advice Article.
As with the other budget tents in this review, the REI Half Dome 2 Plus has lower quality, polyurethane coated fabrics that are more susceptible to hydrolysis. As long as you dry and store your Half Dome properly, this should not be a problem for the first few years of its life. For the short term, we believe that the Half Dome's materials are relatively durable but heavy, using strong 75 Denier fabric and quality poles.
Weight and Packed Size
Weighing in at a hefty 5lbs 15 oz, the Half Dome 2 Plus is one of the heaviest tents we tested, but we believe that its space-to-weight ratio is better than many of the other tents, including the REI Half Dome 2. Its packed size is also rather bulky, at 7x21 inches. The bulky plastic pole hubs contribute to this large packed size. We personally would not want to carry this item on our backs for extended periods of time. The Mountain Hardwear SuperMega UL has a better space-to-weight ratio and only weighs 2 pounds 9 ounces, but it costs a lot more!.
The REI Half Dome 2 Plus' limitations lie in its poor quality components. The materials make it susceptible to deterioration, especially if it is not stored properly, and the low quality stakes and guy lines (and lack thereof) make it susceptible to bad weather. It is also heavy - partially a result of the aforementioned materials – which makes it less ideal for frequent backpacking trips.
Our tester's favorite application for the Half Dome 2 Plus was on a horse-pack supported trip! We would also recommend it for car camping or any type of camping where you won't have to carry too long or far. The 2 Plus version of the Half Dome provides extra space for tall people, families, pet owners, or pack-rats. The 2 Plus is also great for short backpacking trips - especially if you have one or two friends to help carry the load!
The REI Half Dome 2 Plus is great value and the space-to-weight ratio is even better than the REI Half Dome 2. We think this tent and the Mountainsmith Morrison 2 are the best bang for your buck of all the backpacking tents we tested.
The REI Half Dome 2 Plus is the most luxurious tent in this review with its extra space, plentiful pockets, and great ventilation. It kept us dry in the rain, but would benefit from more guy lines and stakes. We recommend purchasing better quality stakes and additional cord. The Half Dome 2 Plus's value can not be beat, especially when you're looking for a tent that has extra interior room and storage space.
Other Versions and Accessories
The REI Half Dome 2 Plus comes in a standard 2 person size and a 4 person version. You can purchase footprints separately for the Half Dome models for their fast pitch modes. The REI Quarter Dome 2 is REI's lightweight backpacking tent, and shaves about 1.5 pounds from the weight of the Half Dome.
— Jessica Haist
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Most recent review: August 23, 2014
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