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Hands-on Gear Review
REI Half Dome 2 Plus Review
Cons: Heavy for backpacking, hard to get the fly vestibules taut, not enough stakes or guy lines
Bottom line: A luxury tent for a great value.
The REI Half Dome 2 Plus wins our Best Buy Award for its extra spacious interior and thoughtful construction while providing the most bang for your buck. We think it is very comfortable, with great ventilation and interior storage. The Half Dome 2 Plus has four kick-stand vents, large vestibules, and the whole tent is super roomy. It stands up well to wet weather, but did not come with enough guy lines 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 four 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 16 other tents we've tested.
RELATED: Our complete review of backpacking tents
Analysis and Hands-on Test Findings
This contender is a great value for a car camping tent that can also be brought on occasional short backpacking trips, as it is super roomy and luxurious. We think this would be a great choice for a new family, someone who's extra tall, or a couple with a dog.
This where the Half Dome 2 Plus rises above the competition. The 2 Plus model has added an extra 10 inches in length and four inches in width over the standard REI Half Dome 2 and is roomier than the second largest interior of the NEMO Galaxi 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 extra length could be the difference between a tall person's feet touching the end of the tent and getting wet from condensation – or not.
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. We like the extra head room this pole design offers over the REI Passage 2's simple cross pole construction. Its four kick-stand vents in the top of the fly keep the air flowing in the tent but the rain out.
It also comes in several snazzy color selections this year so you can choose if you want bright red, teal or a more subtle earth tone color – we chose teal.
This contender is difficult to guy out properly because it does not come with enough cord for each guy point and its geometry seems slightly off. For some reason the vestibule doors never seemed to become taut, no matter the angle the doors are staked at, and they will flap in the wind. It does 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. The Big Agnes Copper Spur UL2 and Big Agnes Fly Creek HV UL2 both come with all the guy lines you need already attached. 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 said, it did keep us dry in wet weather, though having the ability to guy it out properly would make us feel more confident about having it in high winds and in less than vertical rain storms. The Tarptent Double Rainbow is much less reliable in the wind than the Half Dome. The structural weak point of the Half Dome tents is the plastic hub where all the poles meet. It is extremely difficult to repair a pole if it breaks at that end, or if the plastic piece itself is damaged.
As with the other budget tents in this review, the Half Dome 2 Plus has lower quality, polyurethane coated fabrics that are more susceptible to hydrolysis. As long as you dry and store it 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. The Hilleberg Anjan 2's materials are of much higher quality and will last longer, as will the Copper Spur's.
Weight and Packed Size
Weighing a hefty 5 lbs 15 oz, this award winner is one of the heaviest tents we tested. 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 NEMO Blaze has a better space-to-weight ratio and only weighs 2 pounds 7.7 ounces, but it costs a lot more and has a lot less space to go around.
Ease of Setup
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 three-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 REI Passage 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 setup.
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.
The Half Dome 2 Plus is adaptable in that its size allows for more flexibility. You can squeeze three 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 setup option, but that requires you to buy a separate footprint. We are not crazy about this setup, and we talk about the follies of fast-pitching in our Buying Advice Article.
This tent's 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 stuff too long or far. That said we know people who brought this tent with them on the AT! 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 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 Tarptent Double Rainbow are the best bangs for your buck of all the backpacking tents we tested, which is why it wins one of our Best Buy Awards.
This 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. We give it a Best Buy Award for being a livable, affordable tent.
REI Arete ASL 2
REI Quarter Dome 2
— Jessica Haist
OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews
Most recent review: November 24, 2016
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