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REI Arete ASL 2 Review

A solid 4-season shelter at an excellent price. Great for summertime mountaineering or winter camping near treeline
rei arete asl 2 4 season tent review
Credit: REI
Best Buy Award
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Price:  $449 List | $449.00 at REI
Pros:  Lightweight for a double wall tent, inexpensive, versatile, easy set-up, interior fabric handles condensation well, and longer-than-average dimensions make this a better option for taller people
Cons:  Tiny vestibule, one of the weakest 3(.5)-pole designs in our review, only one door
Manufacturer:   REI
By Ian Nicholson ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Nov 11, 2022
Our Editors independently research, test, and rate the best products. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Learn more
70
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#8 of 14
  • Weight - 27% 6.0
  • Weather/Storm Resistance - 25% 7.0
  • Livability - 18% 7.0
  • Ease of Set-up - 10% 9.0
  • Durability - 10% 7.0
  • Versatility - 10% 8.0

Our Verdict

With its combination of strength, weight, and versatility, the REI Arete ASL is the best four-season model you can buy for the money. While not a true expedition tent for extreme environments, it's an excellent choice for the majority of summer-time mountaineering objectives on peaks like Mt. Rainier, multiday ski touring, and winter camping near-and-below treeline. It's only OK in moderate-to-strong winds and heavy snow. Its lightweight and versatile design are more spacious than similarly designed models.

Compare to Similar Products

 
rei arete asl 2 4 season tent review
This Product
REI Arete ASL 2
Awards Best Buy Award Editors' Choice Award Top Pick Award  Top Pick Award 
Price $449 List
$449.00 at REI
$660 List
$659.95 at Amazon
$626 List
$625.95 at Amazon
$500 List
$337.46 at Backcountry
$450 List
$449.95 at Amazon
Overall Score Sort Icon
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Pros Lightweight for a double wall tent, inexpensive, versatile, easy set-up, interior fabric handles condensation well, and longer-than-average dimensions make this a better option for taller peopleVersatile, lightweight, double wall design works far better in rain than single wall models, handles condensation well, big vestibules, easy to pitchBomber, light and compact, small footprint lets it be pitched anywhereLightweight, extremely compact, tons of ventilation, big side door, decent headroom for a bivy-tentCrazy lightweight, most packable in our review, fits anywhere two people could lay down, features bug netting
Cons Tiny vestibule, one of the weakest 3(.5)-pole designs in our review, only one doorIsn't as strong as other 4-season models, offers a good but not excellent packed sizeNo bug netting, not very breathable, only 24 square feet of interior spaceLeast storm resistant model in our review, fabric isn't waterproof, just so-so in moderate windsNot waterproof, not as strong as many other options we tested, small interior living space
Bottom Line A solid 4-season shelter at an excellent price. Great for summertime mountaineering or winter camping near treelineThe ski and summer mountaineering focused design perfect for almost any trip you can dream upPerfect for trips where weight and packed volume are at a premiumOne of the best bivy-style tents for fair weather trips near and below treeline camping where its huge mesh door lets air circulate without letting the bugs inA fantastic bivy tent for alpine climbing or multi-day ski touring, as long as the weather is decent
Rating Categories REI Arete ASL 2 MSR Access 2 MSR Advance Pro Black Diamond HiLight Black Diamond First...
Weight (27%)
6.0
8.0
10.0
10.0
10.0
Weather/Storm Resistance (25%)
7.0
7.0
7.0
3.0
3.0
Livability (18%)
7.0
7.0
3.0
7.0
7.0
Ease of Set-up (10%)
9.0
9.0
10.0
6.0
6.0
Durability (10%)
7.0
7.0
8.0
5.0
5.0
Versatility (10%)
8.0
9.0
3.0
6.0
4.0
Specs REI Arete ASL 2 MSR Access 2 MSR Advance Pro Black Diamond HiLight Black Diamond First...
Minimum Weight (only tent, fly & poles) 5.75 lbs 3.80 lbs 2.88 lbs 3.75lbs 2.8 lbs
Floor Dimensions 88 x 57/60/44 in 84 x 50 in 82" x 42 in 82 x 50 x 42 x 40 in 82 x 48 x 42
Peak Height 43 in 42 in 44 in 40 in 41 in
Measured Weight, with tent, stakes, guylines, pole bag 6.25 lbs 4.1 lbs 3.22 lbs 4 lbs 3.15 lbs
Type Double Wall Double Wall Single Wall Single Wall Single Wall
Packed Size 6 x 6 x 20 in 18 x 6 in 6 x 18 in 6 x 9 in 6 x 9 in
Floor Area 32.9 sq ft 29 sq ft 24 sq ft 27.3 sq ft 27.3 sq ft
Vestibule Area 8.7 sq ft 17.5 sq ft 0 sq ft N/A N/A
Number of Doors 1 2 1 1 1
Number of Poles 4 2 1 3 2
Pole Diameter 9.3 mm 9.3 mm 8 mm 8 mm
Number of Pockets Side: 2 Ceiling: 2 Side: 2 Ceiling: 0 Side: 2 Ceiling: 0 Side: 2 Ceiling: 0 Side: 2 Ceiling: 0
Pole Material Aluminum Easton Syclone Easton Syclone Aluminum Aluminum
Rainfly Fabric Nylon ripstop 20D nylon ripstop 20D ripstop nylon 2 ply breathable 1000mm NanoShield NanoShield
Floor Fabric Nylon taffeta 30D nylon ripstop 30D ripstop nylon 3000mm Durashield polyurethane & DWR 70-denier polyester 70-denier polyester

Our Analysis and Test Results

Hands-On Review of the Arete 2


The REI Arete ASL won our Best Buy award for unbeatable value. No model can match its versatility, weight, and performance for the price. It competes well with several models that are double the price. It provided enough weather protection for most people's needs at a respectable enough weight. Taller users will appreciate the longer dimensions.

rei arete asl 2 4 season tent review - after extensive testing, we think the arete asl is the best 4 season...
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.
Credit: Ian Nicholson

Ease of Set-Up


The Arete ASL 2 is among the easiest models to set up, as long as it's not too windy. Set up starts with two poles that cross in an "X" shape with pole sleeves that are closed off on the non-door end. The poles have a blunt tip on one side that threads into the pole sleeve leading to the closed end of the sleeve.


A 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 has the potential to act like a sail.

rei arete asl 2 4 season tent review - the arete was one of the easiest models to pitch, particularly among...
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
Credit: Ian Nicholson

This model features a half length pole secured with clips. This pole makes the tent feel much bigger inside by pulling out the side walls and creating more headroom. This .5-length pole also reduced the size of the "flat" area on the top of the tent, significantly reducing snow loading on the top of the tent.

rei arete asl 2 4 season tent review - one end of the pole sleeves is a blunt-ended, closed off pole sleeve...
One end of the pole sleeves is a blunt-ended, closed off pole sleeve allowing the poles to lock themselves into place. The other side is a normal grommet-style clip closure.
Credit: Ian Nicholson

Weather and Storm Resistance


The Arete ASL 2 offers good storm worthiness but isn't as storm worthy as the more expedition-focused models in our review. After our testing, we think the Arete is strong enough for most four-season use in the lower-48 and southern Canadian ranges and is fine for milder expedition use, such as the Corderra Blanca in Peru or Corderra Real in Bolivia. But we wouldn't take this tent up Denali or up to super-high elevations in Nepal or Pakistan.


The Arete is slightly taller than tents with a similar design, like the Hilleberg Jannu; thus, it takes more of the brunt from high winds. This model's newer 3.5 pole design sheds snow better than the previous model because it reduces the size of the "flat" area on the top of the tent. This model's relatively high profile and shape make it okay in moderate winds but slightly below average overall and not the tent we'd want if we were planning a trip to more extreme 4-season conditions but adequate for most mountain ranges in the contiguous United States. We used this tent in several savage Pacific Northwest Atmospheric river events and were impressed by how dry it kept us despite heavy rainfall.

Weight and Packed Size


At 5 pounds 10 ounces for just the body of the tent, the fly, and poles, and 6 pounds 5 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 respectable from a weight perspective.


While not as burly as most other three-pole design tents in our review, it is one of the lighter double-wall models. Only the Mountain Hardwear Outpost II (packaged Weight 5 lbs. 15 oz), the MSR Access 2 (4 pounds 1 oz), and the Sierra Designs Convert 2 (5 lbs 10 oz) are lighter. It is just light enough for overnight ski and summer mountaineering trips, where weight is more important than weather resistance.

From a packed-size perspective, this model was right smack in the middle of the pack. Overall, it proved to be less packable than most single-wall tests, save for a few larger models like the Black Diamon Ahwahnee, but more packable than most double-wall models.

rei arete asl 2 4 season tent review - the arete has 33.5 square feet of floor space. this is average for...
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.
Credit: Ian Nicholson

Livability and Comfort


Sporting 33 square feet of interior floor space, the Arete ASL was slightly above average overall for its comfort and livability. It's comparable to similar-weight 4-season models like the Mountain Hardwear Outpost 2 or the Black Diamond Ahwahnee. It wasn't nearly as spacious as more expedited-focused models like the Mountain Hardwear Trango 2 or The North Face Mountain 25, but it isn't way off.


It has slightly above the interior room. Our taller testers appreciated the longer length. It's not much wider than two average-width pads, but it fits most users up to 6'4". Few other 4-season models can claim that.

It has great headroom because of its third crossing pole and the half-length pole, which hold more of the tent "open" around the ceiling. These poles pull out on the walls making it "feel" bigger and easier to avoid touching when damp.

rei arete asl 2 4 season tent review - the arete offers three vents in its fly covered with small awnings...
The Arete offers three vents in its fly covered with small awnings to allow the occupants keep the air moving even in wet conditions. The awnings are propped open with small stiffened pieces of fabric
Credit: Ian Nicholson

Zippered mesh vents open to the fly. A short pole creates awnings for the vents so they can be left open in the rain or snow (if it's not too windy).

rei arete asl 2 4 season tent review - showing the smaller third vent that is built into the fly on the...
Showing the smaller third vent that is built into the fly on the back of the tent.
Credit: Ian Nicholson

Durability


The Arete ASL has a relatively sturdy design, but it doesn't hold up to the elements as well as others. The materials on the Arete aren't quite as resistant to UV as some of the more expedition-focused models. It's durable for what it's intended, but its fly won't handle 3+ weeks pitched on a glacier very well. The poles are fine but not burly.


Adaptability and Versatility


Despite only one door, the Arete is one of the more versatile tents in our review. It adapts to a wide range of conditions.


It's light enough that you could use it for general-purpose backpacking but strong enough for most applications that you would consider bringing a 4 season tent for like summer-time mountaineering, snow camping, or multiday ski touring.

rei arete asl 2 4 season tent review - the arete features a huge zip mesh panel on the top of the tent that...
The Arete features a HUGE zip mesh panel on the top of the tent that lines up with the vents on. the outside that helps manage moisture and assists in keeping this tent cool in warmer, more 3-season conditions.
Credit: Ian Nicholson

A favorite feature is how the entire roof area zips open to reveal a mesh roof. This allows great condensation management. We used it on several kayak camping trips where the campsites had high winds. Occasional driving rain and moist coastal air were extremely demanding on our tent's ability to handle moisture build-up. Additionally, this model features two small vents on its rain fly to help air pass through.

rei arete asl 2 4 season tent review - highlighting arete's 3.5 pole design. the three full-length poles...
Highlighting Arete's 3.5 pole design. The three full-length poles create strength and respectable space but the third half-length pole located in the middle of the tent significantly increases the headroom and the livability of this tent.
Credit: Ian Nicholson

While its modestly sized dimensions offer good comfort, it isn't roomy enough, or is its vestibule big enough to be a true expedition tent? It would be fine for trips to places like Patagonia's Torres del Paine or the Yukon's Cirque of the Unclimbables, where you can walk around even in Inclement Weather, but it wouldn't be our first choice for the Ruth Gorge (at least with two people). 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.

rei arete asl 2 4 season tent review - while not a full-on expedition tent the arete offers reasonable...
While not a full-on expedition tent the Arete offers reasonable strenth for most people for the types of trips most people are going to be going on. Perfect for summertime mountaineering and multiday ski tours in the lower 48 and southern Canada while offering excellent 3-season capabilities and performance in the rain.
Credit: Ian Nicholson

Should You Buy the REI Arete ASL 2


Suppose versatility is key; your trips are generally in the Lower 48 and Southern Canadian Ranges mountains. In that case, this model is great partially if finding the best tent for the money is a critical factor. While there are better tents, no model packs as much performance and versatility for the price as this one, and it is easily the best all-around 4-season tent you could buy for the money. While not a true expedition tent, it provides respectable storm protection, top-tier versatility, and a roomy interior. Taller folks will also appreciate this model's longer-than-average length and decent headroom that performed well in moderate to strong winds. This model performed among the best for folks looking to use their tent for more traditional backpacking trips or kayak camping, where moisture management is key. This tent isn't the best for truly weight-focused trips, and many more packable, lower-weight options exist.

What other 4-season tent should you should consider besides the REI Arete ASL 2


The MSR Access 2 and Mountain Hardwear Outpost 2 are The Arete ASL 2 closest competition. These models all perform pretty closely, with the Access notably lighter and more packable but offering less internal space and headroom. The Outpost is similar in liveable space but is nearly a pound lighter. Why would you choose this tent over those? Well, it is close to both of them in performance but several hundred dollars less. As stated above, the ASL 2 is an incredible value for the level of functionality and versatility it provides. If you want something more expedition worthy, we'd recommend the Mountain Hardwear Trango 2 or a lighter expedition tent; then, we'd go with the Black Diamond Eldorado. If you want a far lighter and more compact model but still offer some versatility, we'd recommend The North Face Assualt FUTURELIGHT.

rei arete asl 2 4 season tent review - the arete asl is our outdoorgearlab best buy winner, as we felt it...
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 $450
Credit: Ian Nicholson

rei arete asl 2 4 season tent review - while not a true expedition tent the arete offers enough four-season...
While not a true expedition tent the Arete offers enough four-season protection for most users with excellent versatility at a very good price.
Credit: Ian Nicholson

Ian Nicholson
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