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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.
Winning our Best Buy Award for its extra spacious interior and thoughtful construction while providing the most bang for your buck, may we introduce the Half Dome 2 Plus from REI. We think it is very comfortable and has 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 low quality and the tent did not come with enough for each guy point. These things make the Half Dome more susceptible to bad weather.
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Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
This contender is a great value for splitting up with one other person while hitting the trails, or as a car camping tent, as it is super roomy and luxurious. We think this would be a great choice for a new family, an occasional backpacker, someone who's extra tall, or a couple with a dog.
The REI Half Dome 2 Plus scored high in several of our performance metrics while maintaining an affordable price tag, earning it one of our Best Buy awards.
This where the Half Dome 2 Plus rises above the competition; in fact, it was the only contender in our lineup that scored a perfect 10 out of 10 for comfort. 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 Half Dome 2 Plus offers the roomiest interior of all the tents we reviewed at 38.1 square feet, and the vestibules add an additional 10.2 square feet of space. The extra space does come at a weight penalty.
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 headroom this pole design offers over the Eureka Midori 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. Other top scorers in the comfort metric includes the NEMO Dagger 2, Big Agnes Rattlesnake SL2 mtnGLO, The North Face Triarch 2, and NEMO Galaxi 2, with the cheapest tent in the review at $160, the Alps Mountaineering Lynx-2, taking home an 8 out of 10.
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.
Ease of Setup
Although the three-pole construction looks complicated at first, we found it be intuitive and, after a bit of practice, quite easy and quick, earning a 9 out of 10 - the highest score in the review. Once you set it up once it will be almost as fast to set up as a two-pole design like the NEMO Galaxi 2. 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.
Set up is intuitive and we found that we enjoyed putting it together, especially after a long day. It was the only tent in our review to score a 9 out of 10 for ease of set-up. The pole easily clicks into place (into the grommet).
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 same problem we had with The North Face Triarch. The Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2, NEMO Dagger 2, Big Agnes Rattlesnake SL2 mtnGLO, MSR Hubba Hubba NX, NEMO Galaxi 2, and the Eureka Midori were all high scorers for having the capability to be set up easily.
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.
The Half Dome 2 Plus fared pretty well in our Weather Resistance category, as noted in the chart below.
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 what angle the doors were staked at, and they flapped 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 comes 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 kickstand 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. Our testing found that the Hilleberg Anjan 2 GT, complete with an extended vestibule, was the most weather resistant tent in our review, earning the only perfect 10 out of 10 in this metric (which comes at a price). Lower priced options with a higher level of weather resistance includes the Big Agnes Copper Spur HV, Big Agnes Rattlesnake SL2 mtnGLO, Marmot Catalyst 2, and the Half Dome Plus.
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. If you like what this tent is about, at $219, you can buy a second Half Dome Plus for around the price of one of the higher scoring tents (or three for the price of the Anjan GT).
The Half Dome's materials are relatively durable but heavy, using strong 75 Denier fabric and quality poles. The Hilleberg Anjan 2 GT's materials are of much higher quality and will last longer, as will the Big Agnes Copper Spur, Big Agnes Rattlesnake SL2 mtnGLO, NEMO Galaxi 2, and **Marmot Catalyst 2*.
Weight and Packed Size
Weighing a hefty 5 lbs. 7 oz., this award winner is one of the heaviest tents we tested. The only heavier tent was the NEMO Galaxi 2 at 5 pounds 8 ounces and the Alps Mountaineering Lynx-2 at 5 pounds 13 ounces. The lightest tents in our review were the Tarptent Double Rainbow and Big Agnes Fly Creek HV.
The Half Dome 2 Plus' packed size is also rather bulky, at 7 x 21 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, but splitting it up with one other person is a cheap solution that allows you to have a comfortable backpacking tent on the trail. Split up among two people, the 5 pounds 7 ounces becomes more manageable and has a budget price tag.
If you're looking for tents that pack small, the Big Agnes Fly Creek HV packs to 6" x 19", the Hilleberg Anjan GT packs to 19" x 6", the Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL 2 to 19.5" x 4", and the Tarptent Double Rainbow to 18" x 4'' - the smallest in our review.
This is a sizable difference when pack room is at a premium on backcountry trips (versus the Half Dome's 7 x 21").
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 a great value and the space-to-weight ratio is even better than the REI Half Dome 2. We think this tent and the Sierra Designs Clip Flashlight 2 are the best bangs for your buck of all the backpacking tents we tested, which is why they both win 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.
— Jessica Haist and Jess McGlothlin
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