Hands-on Gear Review

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.
By: Ian Nicholson ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Jul 18, 2018
Price:  $399 List  |  $399.00 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
72
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#12 of 19
  • Weight - 27% 7
  • Livability - 18% 7
  • Weather/Storm Resistance - 25% 7
  • Ease of Set-up - 10% 9
  • Durability - 10% 7
  • Versatility - 10% 7
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  • 2
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  • 5
Best Buy Award

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 it is $200-$400 less than many similarly designed tents.

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.


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Our Analysis and Test Results

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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 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. We preferred the design on the MSR Remote 2, whereby you can place all the poles into position and then attach the plastic pole clips to support the poles from the bottom up. Pole sleeves do have an advantage though, as they help support the poles in a storm. Lastly, the final short pole used to hold the two awnings open over the top vents can be a bit challenging to unclip, particularly with cold hands.

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 REI 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. Even when pitched perfectly, this tent isn't as bomber in lousy weather as other similar weight models like the MSR Remote 2, Black Diamond Fitzroy, or The North Face Mountain 25. We would say this tent is more robust than the Black Diamond FirstLight, ALPS Mountaineering Tasmanian 2, Black Diamond Ahwahnee or the Black Diamond HiLight.

Weight and packed size


At 5 lbs. 5 oz for just the body of the tent, the fly, and poles, and 5 lbs 14 oz packed weight meaning everything you'd likely take on an overnight trip such as stakes, pole bag, guylines, etc., the REI 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 7 lbs. 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. Also for being a lighter model, the Arete features pretty respectable headroom and is more comfortable to sit in than its comparably priced but heavier competition, the ALPS Mountaineering Tasmanian 2.

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. Here are our durability ratings for all of the 4 season tents in this review.


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. Its 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 breathed better and handled condensation better than the MSR Remote or the Mountain Hardwear Trango 2 and proved far better than all the single wall models. 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.

Best Applications


The Arete ASL 2 is the perfect tent for more moderate mountaineering. It's an excellent choice for summer-time climbs of Mt. Rainier, Mt. Shasta or Mt. Baker. We also think it works well for winter camping near-or-below treeline or above if conditions aren't too gnarly. This tent is also reasonable enough from a weight perspective and offers enough venting options and breathability that it can be used on the occasional three-season backpacking or kayak camping trips.

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 Antartica, Denali, or even Mt. Rainier in winter unless we knew we had a spell of very stable weather.

Value


At $399, the REI Arete ASL 2 is a fantastic value simply for the fact that 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. Simply look at this model compared to the MSR Remote 2 ($800), its less than half the price!!! The Remote is a little burlier and sports a much larger vestibule, but its actually heavier and as we mentioned the Arete is fine for the trips most people will use it for, like Mt. Rainier and below treeline winter camping adventures.

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 did have some solid competition, primarily the ALPS Mountaineering Tasmanian 2. While the Tasmanian performed okay, for the most part, we liked the Arete ASL better. The Arete is lighter, offers better headroom and stood up better to moderate and strong winds. If you like the Arete ASL but wish it was a little lighter, or want an option for summertime alpine climbing and multi-day ski tours, check out our Best Buy for single wall tents, The North Face Assault 2.

Ian Nicholson

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Most recent review: July 18, 2018
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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:  
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 (3.0)
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