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REI Arete ASL 2 Review

A solid 4-season shelter at an excellent price as long as you don't push it too hard, great for summer-time mountaineering or winter camping near tree line but not a great option for expedition use.
Best Buy Award
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Price:  $399 List | $278.99 at REI
Pros:  Lightweight for a double wall tent, inexpensive, easy set-up, interior fabric handles condensation well, longer-than-average dimensions make this a better option for taller people
Cons:  Vestibule is tiny, fine for most four-season applications but one of the least bomber 3-pole designs in our review, only one door
Manufacturer:   REI
By Ian Nicholson ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Jul 18, 2018
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69
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#14 of 20
  • Weight - 27% 6
  • Weather/Storm Resistance - 25% 7
  • Livability - 18% 7
  • Ease of Set-up - 10% 9
  • Durability - 10% 7
  • Versatility - 10% 7

Our Verdict

The REI Arete ASL is our Best Buy winner for being the best bang-for-the-buck for 4 season tent. While it scored okay overall, we think its the best four-season model you can buy for the least money. While it will work for a variety of four-season applications, it isn't a go-anywhere, do-anything shelter as it doesn't provide the top-notch storm protection required in the world's most extreme environments. It is excellent for summer-time mountaineering on peaks like Mt. Rainier and winter camping near-and-below treeline, but it doesn't fare as well in moderate-to-strong winds as several other models in our review. However, it is reasonably lightweight, moderately spacious, and is cheaper than others in our fleet.

2018 Updates to the Arete 2
REI gave our Best Buy winner a makeover this year. The new tent is pictured above, and you can get the complete scoop on the changes below.


Compare to Similar Products

 
This Product
REI Arete ASL 2
Awards Best Buy Award Editors' Choice Award Top Pick Award Top Pick Award  
Price $278.99 at REI$699.95 at Amazon
Compare at 2 sellers
$990 List$449.96 at Backcountry
Compare at 3 sellers
$524.96 at Backcountry
Compare at 2 sellers
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Pros Lightweight for a double wall tent, inexpensive, easy set-up, interior fabric handles condensation well, longer-than-average dimensions make this a better option for taller peopleBomber, great durability, compact footprint, lighter than average weight, fantastic overall balance of strength, weight, and livability, best two pole model to get rained or stormed on in, ample guy pointsStormworthy, highly resistant to snow loading, pitches quick from outside, great ventilation, multiple setup configurationsVersatile, lightweight, double wall design works far better in rain than single wall models, handles condensation well, big vestibules, easy to pitchIncluded removable vestibule, ventilation system, innovative anchor point, robust, external poles clips are quick and easy to set up
Cons Vestibule is tiny, fine for most four-season applications but one of the least bomber 3-pole designs in our review, only one doorPoor ventilation, slightly tricky setup, insufficient guylines includedZippers are small and slightly harder to grab, less headroom than other modelsIsn't as strong as other 4-season models, offers a good but not excellent packed sizeHeavy, ventilation system is sweet but the canopy fabric itself is not as breathable as other models, okay internal dimensions, average price
Bottom Line A solid 4-season shelter at an excellent price as long as you don't push it too hard, great for summer-time mountaineering or winter camping near tree line but not a great option for expedition use.All-around uses are this model's forte, but it's still robust enough for when the weather turns gnar.Built for the worst conditions but still light and packable enough to consider for summer mountaineering.This ski and summer mountaineering focused design isn't quite burly enough for full on expedition use but is perfect for any other trip you can dream up.A solid, lightweight model that offers more versatility than a majority of other 2-pole bivy-style shelters.
Rating Categories REI Arete ASL 2 Black Diamond Eldorado Hilleberg Jannu MSR Access 2 Nemo Tenshi
Weight (27%)
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5
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8
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8
Weather Storm Resistance (25%)
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7
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7
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8
Livability (18%)
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6
Ease Of Set Up (10%)
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9
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9
Durability (10%)
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7
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9
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7
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7
Versatility (10%)
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6
Specs REI Arete ASL 2 Black Diamond... Hilleberg Jannu MSR Access 2 Nemo Tenshi
Minimum Weight (only tent & poles) 5.31 lbs 4.5 lbs 6.17 lbs 3.80 lbs 3.9 lbs (no vestibule)
Floor Dimensions (inches) 88" x 60 in. 87" x 51 in. 93" x 57 in. 84 x 50 in. 85.1 x 48.1in
Peak Height (inches) 40 in. 43 in. 40 in. 42 in. 42.6 in
Measured Weight (tent, stakes, guylines, pole bag) 5.87 lbs 4.9 lbs 6.87 lbs 4.1 lbs 5.88 lbs
Type Double Wall Single Wall Double Wall Double Wall Single Wall
Packed Size (inches) 6" x 20 in. 7" x 19 in. 6" x 20 in. 18 x 6 in 16.2 x 9.1in
Floor Area (sq ft.) 32.5 sq. ft. 31 sq. ft. 34.5 sq. ft. 29 sq ft. 28.4 sq ft
Vestibule Area (sq ft.) 9.1 sq. ft. 9 sq. ft. (optional) 13 sq. ft. 17.5 sq. ft. 10.5 sq ft
Space-Weight Ratio (inches) 0.35 in. 0.38 in. 0.31 in.
Number of Doors 1 1 1 2 1
Number of Poles 4 2 3 2 3
Pole Diameter (mm) 9 mm 8 mm 9 mm 9.3 8.84 mm
Number of Pockets Side: 2 Ceiling: 0 Side: 4 Ceiling: 0 Side: 4 Ceiling: 0 Side: 2 Ceiling: 0 Side: 2 Ceiling: 1
Pole Material DAC Featherlite NSL aluminum Easton Aluminum 7075-E9 DAC Featherlite NSL Green Easton Syclone aluminum DAC Featherlite
Rainfly Fabric Coated ripstop nylon 3 layer ToddTex Kerlon 1200 20D nylon ripstop
Floor Fabric Coated nylon taffeta Unknown 70D PU coated nylon 30D nylon ripstop 40D OSMO waterproof/breathable nylon ripstop

Our Analysis and Test Results

Updated Arete 2


REI totally overhauled the Arete 2 for 2018, gracing it with a host of fresh updates in the interest of improving livability, increasing ventilation, and providing easier setup. See the newest Arete 2 on the left, followed by its predecessor on the right.

  • Increased Head Room — The width and height of the door side of the tent have been increased, and the overall peak height of the tent is now 43" vs. the previous 40".
  • Pole Added — An additional half-length pole has been added with the intent of decreasing the potential of water pooling on the top of the fly.
  • Increased Ventilation — The new Arete has several modifications with the goal of increasing ventilation. There is increased mesh in the door window, as well as an added small vent at the foot end of the tent. There is also increased mesh in the ceiling of the canopy, which is designed to be able to be unzipped to expose more mesh. All of these features give you the option to customize your ventilation options as you see fit. The finish on the solid panel fabric also a has higher air permeability than before.
  • Ease of Setup — REI has employed color coding for the pole sleeves for making setup less complicated. The stakeouts on the corners of the tent and the vestibule are also sized so that you can use skis or splitboards to stake the tent out in the snow.
  • Price Increase — With these updates, the Arete has gone up $40 in price, from $359 to $399. This still qualifies as a great bargain for a 4 season tent, as it is still one of the most inexpensive shelters in our review, and many four-season tents cost twice (or even three times!) as much.

Since we have yet to test the new Arete 2 at OutdoorGearLab, the following refers to our experiences with the previous version.

Hands-On Review of the Arete 2


The REI Arete ASL won our Best Buy award for an unbeatable value. While not a particularly high performer compared to several of the models in our review, the Arete ASL has enough weather protection for most people's needs at a respectable enough weight. It is even on the lighter side of all the double-wall models in our review, and taller users will appreciate the longer dimensions.

After extensive testing  we think the Arete ASL is the best 4 season tent for those on a budget. While not a particularly high-performer compared to several of the models in our review  the Arete ASL has enough weather protection for most people's needs at a respectable weight.
After extensive testing, we think the Arete ASL is the best 4 season tent for those on a budget. While not a particularly high-performer compared to several of the models in our review, the Arete ASL has enough weather protection for most people's needs at a respectable weight.

Ease of Set-Up


The Arete ASL 2 is among the easiest models to set up, at least as long as it's not too windy.


It has two poles that cross in an "X" shape with pole sleeves on one end. The sleeve is closed off at the far-end, and the poles have a blunt tip on one side that is designed to be threaded into the sleeve and held in that position. This design worked well and was easy-to-set-up.

The Arete was one of the easiest models to pitch  particularly among those models using pole sleeves as opposed to clips  which are more user-friendly. To set this tent you simply insert the blunt end of the pole (shown here) into the pole sleeve  and it runs into the end  no clipping required. The third pole uses pole clips.
The Arete was one of the easiest models to pitch, particularly among those models using pole sleeves as opposed to clips, which are more user-friendly. To set this tent you simply insert the blunt end of the pole (shown here) into the pole sleeve, and it runs into the end, no clipping required. The third pole uses pole clips.

The third pole is attached via clips and is also easy to install. The only issue we had with the set-up was in high winds. If you have one pole already in place in a sleeve and it is windy, the body of the tent will act like a sail.

Showing the ends of the pole sleeves where the blunt-ended poles lock themselves into place. The blunt ends of the poles are black  while the rest of the pole is gold.
Showing the ends of the pole sleeves where the blunt-ended poles lock themselves into place. The blunt ends of the poles are black, while the rest of the pole is gold.

Weather and Storm Resistance


The Arete ASL 2 is no doubt a storm-worthy tent, but not as storm-worthy as several other models in our review.


After our testing, we think the Arete works well for most four-season use in the lower-48 and southern Canadian ranges and certainly fine for milder expedition use such as the Corderra Blanca in Peru or the Ruth Gorge in Alaska. But we wouldn't take this tent up Denali or up to super-high elevation in Nepal or Pakistan.

To help bolster its weather resiliency  the Arete has Velcro flaps on the inside of its fly and opposing Velcro on the body of the tent on the pole sleeves. The idea is to create an even more positive connection between the fly and the body  similar to what the Mountain Hardwear Trango 2 does with plastic clips. When pitching the tent the Velcro would catch on things prematurely  which was annoying  but once lined up properly it worked well.
To help bolster its weather resiliency, the Arete has Velcro flaps on the inside of its fly and opposing Velcro on the body of the tent on the pole sleeves. The idea is to create an even more positive connection between the fly and the body, similar to what the Mountain Hardwear Trango 2 does with plastic clips. When pitching the tent the Velcro would catch on things prematurely, which was annoying, but once lined up properly it worked well.

The Arete is slightly taller than tents with a similar design, like the Hilleberg Jannu, and thus it takes more of the brunt from high winds. The short 2.5-foot pole that creates the awnings for the vents is also a mini sail, and in powerful gusts, it would flex the tent significantly.

Weight and packed size


At 5 pounds 5 ounces for just the body of the tent, the fly, and poles, and 5 pounds 14 ounces packed weight meaning everything you'd likely take on an overnight trip such as stakes, pole bag, guylines, etc., the Arete ASL 2 is pretty darn respectable from a weight perspective.


While not as burly as most of the other three pole design tents in our review, it is the lightest among double wall models. The packed weight of the Hilleberg Jannu and the MSR Remote 2 is close to seven pounds. This is because the Arete ASL 2 doesn't have a hooped/pole-supported vestibule, only has one door, and doesn't have a bunch of reinforcements to guyline attachments or other high-stress places.

The Arete has 33.5 square feet of floor space. This is average for the double wall models in our review  and above average among single wall models. While not much wider than two sleeping pads  it does run on the long side  enough to fit most users up to 6'4"  which is more than most other 4 season tents.
The Arete has 33.5 square feet of floor space. This is average for the double wall models in our review, and above average among single wall models. While not much wider than two sleeping pads, it does run on the long side, enough to fit most users up to 6'4", which is more than most other 4 season tents.

Livability and Comfort


Sporting 33.5 square feet of interior floor space, the Arete ASL felt pretty average compared to most other similar weight 4 season models.


The one thing that's worth noting is that this tent runs on the long side. It's not much wider than two average width pads but certainly fits most users up to 6'4", which is more than most other 4-season models can say.

The Arete has a fourth short pole that creates two awnings. These awnings cover two vents that you can zip shut in windier conditions. This was great for managing condensation but is one of the reasons this model doesn't do as well in more extreme conditions.
The Arete has a fourth short pole that creates two awnings. These awnings cover two vents that you can zip shut in windier conditions. This was great for managing condensation but is one of the reasons this model doesn't do as well in more extreme conditions.

For ventilation is has two zippered accessed mesh or open vents that open through to the fly. The Arete ASL has a short pole that creates awnings for the vents, allowing them to be left open in the rain or snow so long as it's not too windy.

Another view of the interior of the Arete ASL 2. You can see there isn't much room between the sleeping pads  but this tent does offer plenty of length.
Another view of the interior of the Arete ASL 2. You can see there isn't much room between the sleeping pads, but this tent does offer plenty of length.

Durability


We gave this tent an average score for durability.


The Arete ASL has a relatively sturdy design, but it's not executed as well as some of the other models that use a very similar design, like the Hilleberg Jannu, which is stronger and more resilient. The poles on the Arete are not as robust, and there aren't as many guy points to anchor and support the poles.

Adaptability and Versatility


Despite only one door, we think the Arete is one of the more versatile tents in our review.


It's light enough that you could use it for summertime mountaineering or other three-season adventures. It's strong enough for a majority of applications that you would consider bringing a 4 season tent for, except for regions with the most extreme weather.

Besides the two top vents  the Arete has a 3/4 sized mesh screen that can be used to help minimize condensation and increase air flow.
Besides the two top vents, the Arete has a 3/4 sized mesh screen that can be used to help minimize condensation and increase air flow.

The interior fabric breathes and handles condensation well. The two small vents on top certainly helped, and while there's only a single small door, the mesh panel makes the best use of the space. You can leave the door nearly fully open even on rainy days as the vestibule protects it well.

A view of the Arete without its fly on. You can see its vents and pole sleeves in orange  along with its third pole that uses clips on the left side of the photo.
A view of the Arete without its fly on. You can see its vents and pole sleeves in orange, along with its third pole that uses clips on the left side of the photo.

While its moderate dimensions mean it's not the most comfortable expedition then, it would be fine for trips into Alaska's Ruth Gorge or base camping in Patagonia's Torres del Paine. Heck, we'd even feel good about taking this model on more moderate expedition climbing trip to places like Bolivia Condoriri Corderra Real or the Yukon's Cirque of the Unclimbables. We wouldn't want to take this tent to places where we know the weather can get severe. For example, this isn't the tent to take up Mt. Vinson in Antarctica, Denali, or even Mt. Rainier in winter unless we knew we had a spell of very stable weather.

Value


The Arete ASL 2 is a fantastic value simply for the fact that it is quite functional and lightweight for a 4 season tent. It works well for the type of mountaineering and winter camping that most people will use it for at half the price of many others.

The Arete ASL is our OutdoorGearLab Best Buy winner  as we felt it was the best all-around 4-season shelter you could buy for $360.
The Arete ASL is our OutdoorGearLab Best Buy winner, as we felt it was the best all-around 4-season shelter you could buy for $360.

Conclusion


The REI Arete ASL 2 won our Best Buy award for being the best all-around 4 season tent you could buy for the money. It provides decent headroom and stands up well to moderate winds.


Ian Nicholson