REI Co-op Half Dome 4 Plus Review
Our Analysis and Test Results
As far as smaller, four-person family camping tents go, the REI Half Dome 4 Plus may be the tent you're looking for. It's not flashy, it just utilizes its features in the most functional way. For instance, while most dome tents have a solid slant to their walls (it's what makes the dome shape), REI chose to stretch those walls out using accessory poles to make them more vertical, thus giving you more room inside the tent.
We always have to point this out, and the Half Dome 4 Plus is no exception, the stated capacity comes with the assumption that you will be quite cozy at full capacity. While the floor space, at 58.7 square feet is just smaller than the REI Camp Dome 4 (which we also tested), it seems roomier because the poles are designed to expand the walls more vertically, cutting down on the slanted walls you've come to expect in a dome tent.
With a two-hub spider pole spanning the top of the tent from door to door, two longer poles then branch out on either end, rather than crisscrossing like a typical dome tent. What this means is that you end up with a more barn-shaped tent than a standard dome shape. That being said, we would be a little cramped sharing this tent with more than three reasonable-sized adults. Two adults or two adults and a child would be ideal.
With two doors, you should have no problem getting in and out of the Half Dome 4 Plus, regardless of where your camping buddies lay their sleeping bag. The doors also feature dual zippers that meet at the top (and a handy storage pouch sewn into the inside top of the tent to stuff the doors when fully open. This means a 360-degree door that makes taking your bulkier items like sleeping bags and mattress pads in and out of your tent an easy task. Being able to store away the fully opened door also clears up some space and potential clutter should you want to leave a door (or two) open to let an afternoon breeze pass through.
The Half Dome 4 Plus sports mesh siding from about 30% of the way up, all the way to the top, meaning you'll have no problem with fresh air, light breezes, or seeing the stars at night (when you remove the fly).
Storage? Oh, you won't be disappointed. In addition to the door stuff pockets (which can be utilized when the doors are zipped), there's also a good-sized pocket in every corner as well as a compartmentalized strip of pockets across the top with six individual pockets on each side of the tent. Snacks, sunglasses, sunscreen, keys, jewelry, headlamps, wallets, whatever else you need; there are enough pockets for all of them. The cast of Storage Wars will be envious of all the places you have to stash things in this tent.
With the exception of full-on expedition tents that are built to withstand the howling winds and snow squalls of the Himalaya, the Half Dome 4 Plus is about as weather-proof as you're likely to find in a smaller family camping tent.
The extensive fly goes down nearly to the ground around the entire tent and has a nice-sized vestibule outside each door. You could easily keep your shoes and a backpack or two out of the tent, but also out of the elements given the size of the vestibules. Stakes and guy lines ensure that the fly stays taut and water won't pool up anywhere during a true downpour. Some of the larger six-man tents we tested had more luxurious vestibules, some all the way to the point of basically becoming sitting rooms unto themselves, but that also comes in a far larger and bulkier tent, and usually at a notably higher price.
Of course, in any extended rain, it's bound to get a little muggy sitting inside a tent. REI thought of that too. Dual vents on both ends of the tent give heat and humidity a way out and cooler air a way in. As an added bonus, they also make the Half Dome 4 Plus look like an alien space ship.
Ease of Setup
At first glance, the Half Dome 4 Plus is likely to scare you a little. The single, two-hubbed pole and the myriad of hooks do look complicated and daunting, but they're not.
REI has color-coded the poles and the rivets on the tent, so it's easy to figure out which pole end goes where. We just launched right in (do some people read all the instructions?) and had it up in no time.
It's an easy one-person job, but a faster two-person job. All told, one person could have the Half Dome 4 Plus up in roughly five minutes. Like most tents nowadays, it's a pretty simple task of getting the pole ends in and then attaching the plastic hooks that pull the tent out to its full capacity.
The Half Dome 4 Plus comes with the standard cylindrical storage bag, but similarly to the REI Camp Dome 4, REI has given you just a little extra girth, making the packing pretty easy. You shouldn't be huffing and puffing to cram the last few feet of the tent into the bag. We prefer to roll the tent and fly together with the poles in the middle, but folding the tent or just stuffing it like a sleeping bag in a stuff sack went equally easily.
As we also noted with the Camp Dome, at just over seven pounds, you could take this on short overnight backpacking trips too. Hardcore through-hikers will roll their eyes, but for a beginner backpacking trip, where you're not covering 20+ miles a day over months, the Half Dome 4 Plus would provide an enviable amount of comfort and space in the backcountry.
We found the Half Dome 4 Plus to meet our needs durability-wise. The 70-denier nylon floor is thick enough to keep all but the most jagged rocks from poking through, while the 40-denier nylon sides will easily hold their own through the expected pulling and shifting of set-up and takedown.
The only minor thing we noticed was that the black poles that come off the end of the main, two-hub pole were a little thinner than some we tested. That's not to say they were flimsy or wouldn't hold up just fine for a good many years, it just caught our attention as something we could see getting warped with extended use. Of course, the Half Dome 4 Plus, like all REI products, comes with a one-year full-refund guarantee, and beyond that, REI repairs anything that goes wrong at a reasonable rate, so if our slight fears do come to fruition, you'll still be in good hands.
The Half Dome 4 Plus isn't the bargain basement tent you're going to pick up on the cheap. It also doesn't perform like that level of a tent. For the features and small, thoughtful extra you get out of the Half Dome, we think it's worth the price. It's certainly a good value when you compare similar small family tents from the larger manufacturers.
The REI Half Dome 4 Plus is a feature-heavy, dare we say luxury tent and a more modest price than you'd expect.
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