REI QUARTER DOME SL 2 TENT REVIEW
This blog post is sponsored by REI. As always, all opinions and words are my own.
I recently tested out the brand new REI Quarter Dome SL 2 Tent on a recent 5-day packrafting trip in Southern Utah. Released in Spring of 2019, the Quarter Dome SL comes in at a minimal trail weight of 2.8 pounds and is about a pound lighter than their longstanding, ever-so-popular Quarter Dome tent.
I’ve tested a number of ultralight tents over the years, and most come with their compromises. Whether you sacrifice space, forgo double side doors, or have a tent made of thin, weak material in order to save weight, many of the lighter weight tents have their downsides.
I’m not sure about you, but I tend to be hard on my gear, so durability is important. Also with a partner and a dog, we need more space than most ultralight two-man backpacking tents will afford.
With that said, packing as light as possible on our recent packrafting trip was important, so it was the perfect opportunity to put the new REI Quarter Dome SL 2 Tent to the test.
In this blog post, I share my favorite features of this new tent that make it a great addition to any backpacker’s gear closet.
REI Quarter Dome SL 2 Specs
- Minimum Trail Weight: 2 pounds 8 ounces
- Packaged Weight: 2 pounds 14 ounces
- Packed Size: 7 x 20 inches
- Floor Dimensions: 88″ x 52″ at head / 88″ x 42″ at foot (L x W)
- Peak Height: 38″
- Sleeping Capacity: 2
- Best Use: 3 Season Backpacking Tent
- Type: Semi-Free Standing
- Price: $319
How spacious is REI’s Quarter Dome SL 2 Tent?
If you have experience with ultralight tents, you know that many two-man tents tend to be small – more like 1.5 person tents. With a partner and a dog, I pretty much always size up to a 3-man tent. For that reason, I was a little skeptical that we’d all be able to fit comfortably in this ultralight 2-man tent.
In comparing it to other popular 2-man tents under three pounds, the floor dimensions of this tent are actually quite generous and slightly bigger than its more expensive competitors. Neither of us felt cramped, and with the large vestibules on each side of the tent, we were able to store a majority of our gear outside of the tent and still have easy access.
So how did our dog fit? Charlie is a border collie / mini-Aussie mix that weighs about 38 pounds. I was actually surprised that the three of us fit without too much trouble. The tent measures 88″ inches long. I’m 5’5″ (~65 inches), so Charlie was able to sleep at the bottom corner near my feet without cramping my style too much. Of course, a three-man tent is cushier, but with the weight savings, it’s still manageable to get a good night’s sleep with your family (as long as you both aren’t 6 feet tall).
With 38″ inches of peak headspace, we also felt like we had plenty of headroom. There is also a spacious interior pocket on both sides that will easily fit your headlamp and other evening essentials.
Double Doors and Vestibules
For a while, I was using a Mountain Hardwear Ultralight 2-man tent, and it only had one door near our heads. If you had to get up in the middle of the night to pee, it was very difficult to sneak out without disturbing the other person. After a few years with that tent, I decided that two side doors is a must. Not only is it easier to get in and out, you can stay more organized by keeping you and your hiking partner’s gear separate in your own individual vestibules.
One thing I really like about this tent is that you can roll back both the fly door and the tent door for super easy access when you are unpacking your bag and setting up your sleep system.
The big doors and vestibules, combined with the roof vent, allows for great ventilation on warmer evenings.
Setting Up the REI Quarter Dome SL 2 Tent
I set this tent up all by myself in less than 5 minutes on the first try without really reading the instructions. First, there is a single pole system that works off a central hub. The tent poles, clips, and ends are also color coded so you can easily see how to orient the poles.
The thing to know is that this tent is semi-free standing. This means you have to pull tight and stake all of the ends down in order to get the maximum space out of the tent floor. This is also important for stability. You can see from the photo below that the foot end of the tent only has a pole in the center. Personally, I didn’t find this a big deal, especially when reducing the number of poles results in weight savings.
To throw on the fly, all you have to do is match up the doors, and the fly quickly clips into the ends of the tent poles. Then stake out the vestibule doors. It’s super simple, and the fly has pre-installed tension lines so you can snug everything up.
This was the first trip I used the Quarter Dome SL 2 tent, and we were fortunate with little wind and great weather. This allowed us to sleep without the fly and stargaze from bed since the entire tent is mesh.
As it goes with all ultralight tents with that much mesh, you have to be careful not to catch a zipper.
The fly and poles seemed durable and well built. I’m confident this tent will stand the test, but I’ll come back and report once I use it in gnarlier weather. In this case, the included guylines will come in handy.
While REI makes a footprint specific to this tent to protect the bottom, we didn’t use one on this trip, even with our dog. We didn’t experience any pinholes or tearing, but it probably wouldn’t be a bad idea to use a footprint if you don’t mind carrying the extra 6.4 ounces.
The REI Quarter Dome SL 2 backpacking tent is an awesome lightweight option, especially for the price. At $319, it’s in some cases $200 cheaper than the competitors, while coming in very close in weight. Click here to check it out on REI’s website and to read other users’ reviews of the Quarter Dome’s evolution.
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