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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.