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The REI Co-op Quarter Dome 2 Tent is an excellent ultralight freestanding backpacking tent — and it’s one of the best overall backpacking tents available for most backpackers. REI has redesigned the Quarter Dome series with a roomier architecture and lightweight materials.
To give us a closer look, REI sent us a review unit, which our gear testers promptly took backpacking in the Eagle Cap Wilderness Area in Oregon. We’ve since put it to use a couple more times, and here is what we’ve learned.
REI Co-op Quarter Dome 2 Tent Review: Specs
The REI Co-op Quarter Dome 2 Tent is one of REI’s own high-end backpacking tents. The minimum trail weight comes in at just 3 lbs. 5 oz. The length is 88 inches x 52 inches wide at the head, tapering to 42 inches at the foot. The aluminum pole system creates nearly vertical walls, giving the Quarter Dome a roomier feel over tents with more traditional sloping wall angles. In fact, REI’s redesign gained 28 percent more head and shoulder room and 23 percent more foot box room over its previous design. The interior peak height is a comfortable 42 inches.
The floor uses a 20-denier ripstop nylon material, which is ultralight but not particularly tough. The lightweight fly is a 15-denier ripstop nylon. Most every tent in this weight class uses similarly lightweight materials. If the REI Co-op Quarter Dome 2 Tent is your first backpacking tent under 4 pounds, you might be shocked at how thin the material feels. Don’t worry about it. The weight savings is worth it unless you’re really hard on your gear.
As a comparison, the also excellent REI Co-op Half Dome 2 Tent uses a 70-denier floor with a 40-denier fly . . . but it has a 4 lbs. 9 oz. minimum trail weight, which is 1 lb. 4 oz. heavier than the Quarter Dome’s minimum trail weight. No matter which tent we take backpacking, we usually pack a bit of GearAid Tenacious Tape for in-the-field repairs for tents, rain jackets and down jackets — but we haven’t used any with the Quarter Dome. (If you’re going backpacking in thorny or sharp-rock areas, you might want to pack along a footprint to help protect the floor.)
The whole tent packs down to 7 x 18.5 inches.
REI Co-op Quarter Dome 2 Tent Review: Setup and Usage
When you open up the REI Co-op Quarter Dome 2 Tent, you might have a moment of head-scratching the first time you pull out the connected pole system — all the poles are connected by shock cord through a couple of hubs. However, once you choose a hub and start connecting poles to it, it all rapidly starts coming together and makes sense.
The corner poles are color coded. The orange poles fit into the orange corners of the tent base (foot end) while the blue poles fit into the blue corners of the head end.
The fly goes over the top, of course, and if you pay attention to the color-coded webbing at the corners, you’ll get it oriented right the first time.
It’s surprisingly easy.
Color-coded hub pole system.
Poles are color-coded to the base of each corner.
Small zippers, easy pulls.
Strong and stable pole system.
The new dual-stake fly system requires two stakes to work as REI intended, but the result is worth it: The vestibules are 60 percent larger than the prior version, which gives you plenty of room to stow your pack and boots out of the rain. Plus, we appreciate the large doors and vestibule zipper orientation because it makes it a bit easier for larger backpackers to enter and exit the tent.
Our tent didn’t come with a stake for every possible stake point on the tent and fly. We’re not sure if this is planned or an accident, but you can stake the fly with just one stake and it still works well enough for most weather situations. Or you can remove a stake from a corner or two on the base of the tent and use them for the fly cords. If you attach the fly to the poles with the built-in wraps and stake down the fly, the Quarter Dome Tent will be sturdy overall.
One feature we particularly liked was the reflective guylines — they show up bright in your headlamp at night so you won’t trip over them.
Inside, REI placed plenty of gear pockets. A roof vent in the fly helps with airflow and REI added a zippered access point in the mesh to let you adjust the vent from the inside of the tent.
The zippers, cords and clips are all small and ultralight, but they work well. No complaints.
REI Co-op Quarter Dome 2 Tent Review: Sizing
The REI Co-op Quarter Dome 2 Tent is sized for two backpackers if your two backpackers are average sized people. We find it a bit small for two bigger guys, but it’s survivable. Of course, most every “2-person” backpacking tent is pretty small for two bigger guys, which is why we most often go with the 3-person version when we’re sharing tents. When we get socked in with a day of rain, we always appreciate the extra space.
In terms of the space, the REI Co-op Quarter Dome 2 Tent’s two large doors and two vestibules do make sharing a tent with a buddy much easier. The vestibules give you more room for gear storage while the two doors make it easier to enter and exit without disturbing a sleeping partner — and this is why we tend to almost always recommend backpacking tents with two doors and vestibules.
Where the REI Co-op Quarter Dome 2 Tent really shines is where the quality and design match up with the price point. If you’re looking at a high-end freestanding tent, you might be tempted to push for a tent that shaves a few more ounces than the Quarter Dome — that’s not a terrible plan, but we like to spread our gear budgets around, usually skipping the absolute lightest (and usually most expensive) gear in favor of choosing great gear at a price point that also lets us upgrade another item. This strategy, it turns out, fits the space where REI-branded gear truly excels. For instance, to upgrade our overall backpacking experience, we might choose the Quarter Dome tent in addition to an ultralight backpacking sleeping pad . . . and spend less than the full price of an even lighter tent. The same principle applies to backpacking sleeping bags or packs.
Update: REI has created a new ultralight version of this already ultralight tent — the REI Co-op Quarter Dome SL 2. It’s approximately the same size as the regular Quarter Dome 2, but it weighs 13 oz. less and (surprisingly) costs $30 less than the Quarter Dome 2. Any downsides? The peak height is 4″ shorter and the foot area has a more staked out design rather than being fully supported by poles.
All-in-all, the REI Co-op Quarter Dome 2 Tent is an excellent ultralight backpacking tent. At just over three pounds, it has a competitive overall design, solid construction and comes in at a great price point that gives it a superior price-to-value ratio over many other backpacking tents. Highly recommended.