REI Half Dome 2 Plus Review
Cons: Heavy for backpacking, hard to get the fly vestibules taut, not enough stakes or guy lines
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Half Dome 2 Plus is roomy, making it an excellent choice for car camping. This would also be a good option for the backpacker (and their friend) who takes a couple of short trips each season, a couple with a small child or pet, or people who just like to sprawl. It scores highly in several of our performance metrics while maintaining an affordable price tag.
On comfort, the Half Dome 2 Plus rises above the competition. Its considerable interior space allows for much more stuff to fit inside, and room to spread it all out. Its 92" length and 56" width are both several inches more than most other models offer. It has two large roof pockets, two side pockets, and two large vestibules that give you an extra 22.5 square feet of covered storage space. There are also gear loops in case you want to hang a lantern overhead at night to read or play cards. There is plenty of room here for any gear that you would want to keep easily accessible both inside and outside of the tent.
The extra length makes a significant difference for tall people when it comes to minimizing contact between sleeping bag and the ends of a wet tent. The peak height is also extremely generous for a two-person. The pole architecture and steep side walls facilitate this giant's dream. At 44" inches, it is no problem for two six-foot campers to sit up at the same time without either person running short on shoulder or head room. We would prefer D-shaped doors, but the two teardrop doors make entering and exiting the tent a breeze. Being able to stow them in the canopy pockets out of the way is an added bonus.
The Half Dome 2 Plus has lots of mesh for ventilation. If we are being honest, the nylon privacy panels around the base don't come up quite enough to do much of anything. Its four kick-stand vents in the top of the fly keep the air flowing in the tent, but the rain stays out.
Ease of Setup
Although the three-pole construction looks complicated at first, we found it to be intuitive and relatively easy and quick to set up. Two hubs at the top connect all three poles, one across the top and two down the sides in an H configuration. The cross pole and its hooks are also color-coded so that you know where to clip what. Once you have the pole ends inserted into the corner grommets, everything else is pretty standard for setup.
We also like the cord locks on the vestibule doors. This tent also 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. One bummer is that for some reason, this tent does not come with enough stakes. There are eight included, so by the time you use one at each of the four tent corners, and two on each vestibule door, there aren't any more to use on the head and foot ends of the fly to pull it away from the tent body.
The Half Dome 2 Plus fares pretty well in this metric. The trapezoidal vestibules provide more stability in heavy wind and cause far less flapping than ones with just one stake point. Guy lines come included as well. The 40D nylon fly is a substantial thickness. The vestibules can sometimes sag, and while we didn't experience precipitation dripping through any seams while entering and exiting the tent in the rain, we felt like we were flicking a fair bit of water around when we zipped and unzipped the doors.
By and large, this tent kept us dry in wet weather. However, by virtue of how large and relatively flat the upper canopy is, water sometimes pools on the roof of the Half Dome 2 Plus when the kickstand vents are open. We really like how low to the ground the fly can be tensioned, but it also isn't uniform. The vestibules are much lower than the head and foot ends of the fly, meaning that splashback is greater in those areas. We do really appreciate the versatility of the fly. It can be tied back in a variety of configurations that allows you to balance weather protection and ventilation, depending on how hard it is raining or how cold it is.
As with the other budget tents in this review, the Half Dome 2 Plus has lower quality, polyurethane-coated fabrics. These types of tents are susceptible to degradation when they are exposed to sunlight and/or moisture for extended periods of time, so care during long term storage is critical for this tent's longevity.
The materials of the Half Dome 2 Plus are relatively durable but heavy, using sturdy fabric and quality poles. The 70D floor is incredibly thick compared to other models in this review.
Weight & Packed Size
Weighing a hefty 5 pounds 5 ounces, this award winner is one of the heaviest tents we tested. Anecdotally we have heard of people taking it on long hauls, but if you are looking for a lightweight shelter, this isn't it.
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, but splitting it up with another person for shorter backpacking trips would be fairly reasonable, and it comes with a budget price tag. We would also strongly consider this model for adventures where gear weight is much less of a concern, like canoeing, kayaking, or even bike touring.
The Half Dome 2 Plus is a great value, and it's an inexpensive tent that surpasses expectations. As long as you know what you are getting into in terms of the weight commitment, we think you will want to take this model out again and again.
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.
— Ben Applebaum-Bauch
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