This is the first of a couple reviews of new backpacking gear I have acquired in the past year or so.
Last April, I researched new backpacking tents for both me and for my Scout Troop 15. The objective for the Troop was the best tent to get the Troop started with self-supported backpacking, while my objective was size and weight reduction.
A bit of history. The tent I have been backpacking with for the past seven years is a No Limits Sunlight Peak 2-person tent. It served me well, but has experienced three pole failures in the past two years. That tent is also 5.5 lbs. I gave $50 for it on sale, so it’s done well.
After looking at more than 30 tents in the 2- to 3-person range, I settled on the REI Quarter Dome 2 (QD2) for my tent. The QD2 was $300, and I had a 20% off coupon for being an REI member, so that dropped the price to $240. Since we had no REI store in the state at the time, and it was over $50, I got free shipping and no sales tax, both good things.
I have had the tent out on something like seven camps since I bought it, including a pair of weekend backpacking trips, and two week-long backpacking trips (Grand Canyon and Weminuche Wilderness, CO). I’ve also had the tent on a 10-day trip to Colorado where we camped a number of places. To summarize, only one minor issue.
That issue first. When I was on that the Colorado backpacking trip, we had several instances of significant rain (rain in Colorado in the summer, who would have thought? 🙂 ). When it started pouring, I hid in the tent to work a Sudoko or take a nap, or both. After the rain, I noticed a little bit of water that had worked through the bathtub part of the tent near the head. It didn’t hardly trickle. I took a photo of it, and when I got back home I spot sprayed Scotchguard on it, and haven’t noticed any issues.
There was a lesson learned from this: There is a guyline on the part of the fly that pulls the fly out from the tent maybe 10 inches. If I had staked that out, I probably would not have noticed the issue to begin with, since the water that worked its way in was water that splashed up off the ground and under that part of the fly (it was heavy rain and small hail).
Some positive details. This tent shaved (no, cut!) 2.5 lbs off my pack weight. That’s great in itself. I’ve seen no wear on it.
One thing I find a little unclear: this tent can be used as an ultralight shelter (fly, poles, an stakes only), if you don’t worry about bugs or snakes crawling on you. That saves you probably another pound and some bulk. I have been laying the tent body out and putting the poles through grommets at the corners of the tent, then laying the fly out on the tent, and placing the similar grommets on the fly underneath the tent corner grommets. It’s a little hard to do (or undo) with gloves. Then I would stake the tent down.
This last trip, Ian and I put the tent up, then staked it down using the fabric anchors “downstream” of the grommets, then hooked the fly grommets to the stakes. The fly grommet anchor has an adjustable length. One advantage of this is that before, small parts of the tent bathtub were exposed. With the modified setup (which may be the actual way to set it up; I can’t find clear instructions online), the fly extends out another couple inches and completely covers the corners and front (foot) of the tent. I didn’t have any stress issues with the fly zippers, either. If you have to go completely freestanding, you probably have to do with both fly and tent grommets on the poles.
Speaking of Ian, he is 6 ft 4 in, and I am 6 ft 2 in. We shared this tent on the recent Grand Canyon five day, and both of us fit in it just fine. You could get your outer layers off and piled down by your feet, and still have about 8 in of room for your head. Now, it’s not palatial, but we only had a couple instances of elbow-to-back on the trip I think that if we had chosen to, we could have easily left the tent behind and gone ultralight, which would have provided another foot or more of space for each of us to the side, and another 8 in head to toe. I would want to use a Tyvek footprint if I did that to keep our gear off the ground.
This tent has plenty of ventilation; it’s unusual for me to find condensation. The vestibules have plenty of space.
My assessment of this tent is that it is wonderful. I can get either of my sleeping bags (20F or 5F) into the bottom compartment of my pack, and still get every bit of the fly, stakes, and tent in there (the poles go inside the main compartment of the pack as they are slightly too long for the bottom compartment), and still have some room for other stuff.
Good job, REI.