If weight is a low concern, the Half Dome is by far the most comfortable tent for the money. It has a spacious interior and very thoughtful design. It's comfortable and has excellent ventilation and interior storage. It has four kick-stand vents at the top, two large vestibules, and is incredibly roomy for two. It stood 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 2 Plus' stakes are low quality (although this is a $10 fix) and the tent did not come with enough for each guy point, which made it more susceptible to bad weather.
REI Half Dome 2 Plus Review
Cons: Heavy for backpacking, hard to get the fly vestibules taut, not enough stakes or guy lines
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Our Analysis and Test Results
In 2018, REI updated the Half Dome 2 Plus. Its trail weight is now 3 ounces lighter, and its peak height is 2 inches taller. The trade-off is a 4-inch reduction in the length of the tent, from 96" to 92". Subsequently, the floor square footage was reduced by about 6% (2 sq. ft.). Click on the photo below to compare the specs of the 2017 model (left) with the 2018 model (right). The main review below reflects our assessment of the 2017 model and shows photos of that model.
Below you can see the 2018 model on the left and the 2017 model on the right. One notable difference is the vestibule configuration. In the 2017 model, the vestibule flapped in the wind. The 2018 model was designed to address this with a 2nd guy point on the vestibule, which offers greater stability.
Even with the 2018 changes, the Half Dome 2 Plus is still roomy and luxurious, making it an excellent choice as a car camping tent. This would also be a good option for an occasional backpacker (and a friend), someone who's extra tall, or a couple with a small child or pet.
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.
On comfort, 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 in this metric. The 2 Plus model adds an extra 4 inches in length and width over the standard (and we believe discontinued) REI Half Dome 2 and is roomier than the tent with the second largest interior, the NEMO Galaxi 2.
Its considerable interior space allows for much more stuff to fit inside, and room to spread it all out. 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 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.
REI managed to increase the convenience of the two side doors. They are configured at a wider angle at the top, which ultimately makes for a larger opening.
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 include 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 from antique moss, blue heaven, kabocha orange, or light spirulina — we opted for the stealthier antique moss.
Ease of Setup
Although the three-pole construction looks complicated at first, we found it to be intuitive and, after a bit of practice, relatively easy and quick to set up, earning an 8 out of 10. It's almost as fast to get together as a two-pole design like the NEMO Galaxi 2. Two hubs connect all three poles, one across the top and two down the sides. They 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.
The three poles are now color-coded to match the clips that are meant to attach to them, eliminating any confusion during set up. REI also switched from a basic hook connector to a snapping clip.
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 rain and wind protection, the same problem we had with The North Face Triarch.
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 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.
Though the fly touches the inner tent on the head and foot ends unless it is staked out, but it does have two stakeout points on both vestibules, which provide more stability in heavy wind. Guy lines come included, but the Big Agnes Copper Spur UL2 comes with all the guy lines you need already attached. We also noticed that water tends to pool on the roof of the Half Dome when the kickstand vents are open.
This tent kept us dry in wet weather. The metal pole hubs are a little chunky, but sturdy as well. The Tarptent Double Rainbow is much less reliable in the wind than the Half Dome. 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, though it does come at a price. Less expensive options with a higher level of weather resistance include the Big Agnes Copper Spur HV, Big Agnes Rattlesnake SL2 mtnGLO, and the Marmot Catalyst 2.
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 degrade with repeated use. However, 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 $229, 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 sturdy 70 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. 5 oz., this award winner is one of the heaviest tents we tested. The only heavier tent was the NEMO Galaxi 2 at 5 lbs. 8 oz., and the Alps Mountaineering Lynx-2 at 5 lbs., 13 oz. The lightest tents in our review were the Tarptent Double Rainbow and Big Agnes Fly Creek HV.
The Half Dome 2 Plus dropped a few ounces off its packed weight. The savings comes from shortening the overall length of the tent, and replacing some 40D ripstop nylon with additional, lighter 20D mesh in key places, like the top of the canopy and along the bottom of the doors.
The Half Dome 2 Plus is bulky, at 7" x 20.5". We would not want to carry this one on our backs for extended periods of time, but splitting it up with another person for shorter backpacking trips would be fairly reasonable, and it comes with a budget price tag.
If you're looking for tents that pack small, the Big Agnes Fly Creek HV and the Hilleberg Anjan GT pack to 6" x 19", the Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL 2 to 4" x 19.5", and the Tarptent Double Rainbox to 4" x 18" - 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 20.5").
Our testers' 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 outdoor adventure that doesn't require you to carry gear for too long or too far. That said, we know people who bring this one 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. 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 excellent ventilation. It did keep 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't 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, Jess McGlothlin, and Ben Applebaum-Bauch