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REI Co-op Half Dome SL 2+ Tent Review

The REI Co-op Half Dome SL 2+ is one of the absolute best value tents money can buy. This tent is easy to set up, spacious, and made with high-quality materials, yet it costs significantly less than most tents in its class. We think one of the Half Dome’s best assets is its versatility – it’s large enough for car camping and light enough for backpacking trips. We highly recommend this tent for any hiker whose main priority is saving money without sacrificing space and quality.

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PHOTO CREDIT: CASEY HANDLEY (CLEVERHIKER.COM)

Quick Specs

REI Half Dome SL 2+

Price: $349

Weight: 4 lb. 11.5 oz.(including footprint)

Dimensions (LxWxH): 90 x 56 x 42 in.

Other Sizes: 2 & 3-person

Pros

  • Less expensive
  • Very roomy interior
  • More durable than many others
  • Freestanding design is quick/easy to set up
  • Footprint included
  • Great weather protection
  • Versatile
  • Good ventilation
  • Easy to set up

Cons

  • Heavier than some
  • Bulkier than some
PHOTO CREDIT: CASEY HANDLEY (CLEVERHIKER.COM)

Pros

Affordable

Compared to other tents on our Best Backpacking Tents list, the Half Dome is the third most affordable tent. It’s beaten out only by the much heavier REI Trail Hut 2 and the one-person Six Moon Designs Lunar Solo.

Tents that offer a comparable amount of space at a similar weight – like the NEMO Dagger OSMO 2 and Sea to Summit Telos TR2 – tend to cost over $100 more.

Spacious

The interior of the Half Dome 2 feels absolutely massive due to its generous floor dimensions (33.75 square feet total), cross pole that pulls out the headroom at the peak, and dome shape. There’s plenty of room inside for two hikers, their gear, and a dog.

You can even stick two wide/long sleeping pads inside – usually two-person tents will only comfortably accommodate one wide and one regular at max – and you’d still have four extra inches of side to side space and plenty of room left at the foot.

And if you need even more space, the Half Dome is offered in a 3+ size which is 24 inches wider (roomy enough for three wide pads) and two inches taller (for a peak height of 44 in.).

Durable

While the Half Dome is on the heavier side for a backpacking tent, the materials are made to last. The canopy and floor are made with 40d nylon that’s much thicker than the more common 15-20d that’s used for lightweight tents, so you’re far more protected against punctures and rips. 

If you’re particularly hard on gear, you’ll be happy to know that the Half Dome comes with a footprint included which adds even more value to the already great price.

The hardware is also exceptional. The aluminum poles are built by DAC – the industry standard for quality – and they provide an excellent balance of structure and give for strength in high wind. The zippers are smooth, don’t snag, and they can be operated with one hand.

Great weather protection

The Half Dome has a full rainfly, a deep bathtub floor, and sturdy poles that make it bomber in nasty weather.

The stout pole architecture and dome shape make the structure of the Half Dome very sturdy, and the aluminum poles allow for some bending so the tent won’t buckle under heavy wind.

There are also several tie-out tabs on the fly for attaching guy lines to add extra stability in high wind.

PHOTO CREDIT: CASEY HANDLEY (CLEVERHIKER.COM)

Weight is reasonable when split between two hikers

The Half Dome weighs 4 lbs. 11.5 oz. with all of the included components (tent body, rainfly, poles, footprint, stuff sacks, stakes, repair kit), and has a minimum weight of 3 lbs. 15 oz. (tent body, poles, and fly only).

We think the true weight most backpackers will carry on trail sits closer to 4 lbs. 4 oz. since most will want to carry the stakes for solid structure but might opt to leave the footprint behind.

When split between two hikers, that would leave each carrying just over two pounds. Many solo hikers will carry that much weight for a one person tent (or a roomier ultralight two-person tent), so the weight is reasonable when viewed through that lens.

PHOTO CREDIT: CASEY HANDLEY (CLEVERHIKER.COM)

Versatile

We named the Half Dome SL 2+ Best Crossover Tent on both our Best Backpacking Tents list and Best Camping Tents list. It’s light enough for backpacking, but spacious enough to feel luxurious when car camping.

When split between two hikers for backpacking, each will carry just over two pounds. When used for car camping, you can fit the long/wide double Exped Megamat (our number one camping mattress from our Best Camping Mattresses list) inside with room to spare!

Since this one tent can fulfill both needs, it’s a really awesome value.

PHOTO CREDIT: CASEY HANDLEY (CLEVERHIKER.COM)

Good ventilation

The Half Dome has large vents situated above both doors on the rainfly. They’re held open by struts, or they can be closed if rain is blowing sideways. The tent body is constructed with a good amount of mesh to allow air to flow, which helps prevent condensation.

In areas where weather is unpredictable, you can use the fly with the sides rolled up to get a cross-breeze while leaving yourself the option to quickly deploy the fly if rain starts. On clear nights, the double-wall construction allows you to leave the fly off completely for maximum ventilation.

PHOTO CREDIT: CASEY HANDLEY (CLEVERHIKER.COM)

Easy to set up

 The Half Dome is a freestanding design with a symmetrical floor and a color-coded pole system, so it’s quick and easy to set up. You technically don’t need to stake it out, but we usually prefer to since it maximizes the interior space and weather protection. 

The fly is quick to set up as well – all you have to do is throw it over the top, clip it onto the body, and stake out the doors.

PHOTO CREDIT: CASEY HANDLEY (CLEVERHIKER.COM)

Cons

A bit bulky

The packed dimensions of the Half Dome are 7 x 20.5 in., so it’s definitely on the bulkier side for a backpacking tent. To cut down on bulk, we usually like to put the poles in the side pocket of our backpack and secure them with compression straps. Then you can stuff the tent body and fly into the tent bag a bit more efficiently for a smaller package. 

If you’re splitting the Half Dome between two hikers, the bulk won’t be too bad if one hiker takes the tent body and poles and the other takes the fly and stakes.

A bit heavy

The Half Dome is the second heaviest tent on our Best Backpacking Tents list. While we’ve mentioned that the weight isn’t too bad when split between two hikers, those that want the option to use their backpacking tent solo or hikers who don’t plan to divvy up the load may find the Half Dome’s weight to be too much.

We would also point you toward a lighter tent if you plan to cover long distances or you go on strenuous hikes with a lot of elevation gain. The longer and harder you plan to hike, the more weight will matter and the more you should look at getting a lightweight tent.

We generally prefer keeping our backpacks light so we can spend more energy enjoying our hike. But since the Half Dome is significantly cheaper than most lightweight tents, you can use the money saved to go lighter in other areas – like a sleeping pad, backpack, or sleeping bag – to make up for the weight. It’s all about finding a balance.

Bottom Line

The REI Half Dome SL 2+ is genuinely one of the best tent deals available on the market. It’s a great choice for both backpacking and car camping, so you’ll only need to own this one tent for all of your outdoor adventures. While it’s a bit heavier and bulkier than many other two person backpacking tents, it’s still reasonable when split between two hikers. And for many hikers, that monetary savings – along with the Half Dome’s extra roomy dimensions – will more than make up for the bit of extra bulk and weight.

PHOTO CREDIT: CASEY HANDLEY (CLEVERHIKER.COM)