Sunday, February 23, 2020

Gear Review: REI Quarter Dome SL2

Quarter Dome SL2 on the Olympic Coast.

The Dirt:
REI Quarter Dome SL2

What is it? 2 Person Semi Free-standing Ultralight Backpacking Tent

Comes with: Tent, fly, stuff-sacks, stakes, extra guylines

Materials: Ripstop Nylon

Size: 88 x 52/42 inches. 32 inches peak height.

Minimum Trail Weight: 2 lbs. 8 oz.

REI has finally fielded a true contender in the ultralight semi-freestanding tent market. The Quarter Dome SL2 is an excellent lightweight 2-person option with a more wallet friendly price tag. It may be 5 ounces heavier than a Big Agnes Tiger Wall 2, but it's also fifty dollars less. That's the niche the Quarter Dome SL2 really fits. A bit heavier than comparable tents in its class, but less expensive and even a little roomier. In fact compared to the NEMO Hornet 2, the Quarter Dome SL2 is 3 inches longer and boasts more square footage in both the tent and the area covered by the vestibule.

Comparisons aside, the Quarter Dome SL2 is easy to pitch with its single hubbed pole set. Like other tents in its class, it can only pitch one way, with the pole contacting the ground in the back center of the foot. As long as the foot is staked out properly the result is a quick and sturdy pitch. The rainfly has ample vestibule room and pitches nice and taut. With the great forest green color it looks like it belongs in the woods. 

Stake out the foot. 

Tapered tents are the norm in this class but sometimes space can be so limited that calling a tent a "2-Man" is an exaggeration. Not so with the Quarter Dome SL2. It had plenty of room for several backpacking trips with my wife. With our packs stored under either side of the vestibule, it felt roomier than any ultralight tents we've used in the past. So much so that one beach-side camp morning we lazed in bed watching the waves and felt perfectly comfortable just hanging out.

The tent performed superbly in high coastal winds at Olympic National Park as well as all day downpours in Quinault Rain forest. In fact, in three separate Olympic Peninsula trips over the last year, in many days and nights of heavy rain I stayed totally dry inside, whether from rain or condensation. My only real gripe is that water tends to collect above the fly door and entering and exiting the tent in wet conditions will cause water to run from the roof through the mesh door into your tent. Not a huge deal as long as your in and out of your tent quickly, but after days of rain it can become annoying. 

In Quinault rain forest.
Overall this is a solid 2-person ultralight tent, especially for the price. I would recommend it to anyone who typically shares a tent and wants to lighten their load. Especially if you don't want to pay an arm and a leg. With REI member dividends fast approaching (along with a 20% off coupon) the potential for a great deal in time for Spring is high. If you primarily backpack in extremely wet environments, you might look elsewhere unless you like water splashing on your head every time you open the door.