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REI Quarter Dome T2 Tent Review

There's a lot of bang for the buck in this roomy, lightweight, double-wall tent!

Overall Rating: Above Average

This rating has been awarded for the forward thinking design, structural strength, excellent ventilation, and spacious interior of the Quarter Dome T2. REI's Pacific Northwest heritage is evident in the strong materials and high levels of water-proofing, though these same materials add to the weight. While it does a very good job in shoulder season winter conditions, the low mesh walls do let in spindrift when the wind is blowing strongly.

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by Ray Estrella |

Introduction

With the 3.8-pound Quarter Dome, REI did some thinking outside of the box, or rather outside of the tent, to come up with an interesting pole design that cuts weight while increasing interior space. The result is one of the lightest and roomiest two-person tents they have ever sold under their own name. I found that it is quite strong as well, shrugging off high winds and precipitation. Its low retail price makes this fine tent an even more attractive, providing a lot of bang-for-the-buck in the lightweight double-wall category.

REI Quarter Dome T2 Tent Review - 1
The REI Quarter Dome T2 - seen here overlooking the frozen Buffalo River - is the company’s lightest two-person double-wall tent. The 3.8-pound three-season tent will handle moderate winter weather quite well.

Specifications

Year/Manufacturer/Model 2009 REI Quarter Dome T2 Two-Person Tent
Style Three-season, two-person, double-wall tent.
Fabrics Body: Nylon mesh
Floor and Fly: Coated ripstop nylon
Poles and Stakes Poles: 3x 9mm DAC Featherlite NSL poles all attached by DAC hubs, total weight 15.3 oz (434 g)
Stakes: 8x 6.8 in (17 cm), 0.5 oz (14 g) round aluminum shepherd’s hook stakes, total weight 4 oz (113 g)
Dimensions
v(Length, Width, Inside Height)
Listed: 84, 51, 40 inches (213, 130, 101 cm)
BPL Measured: 84, 48, 40 inches (213, 122, 101 cm)
Packed Size 7.5 x 20 in (19 x 51 cm)
Total Weight Listed Weight: 4.13 lb (1.87 kg)
BPL Measured:
4.34 lb (1.97 kg)
Trail Weight 3.8 lb (1.72 kg) with two stakes
Protected Area Floor Area: 28 ft2 (2.6 m2)
Vestibule Area:
13.4 ft2 (1.24 m2)
Protected Area/Trail Weight Ratio 10.9 ft2/lb (2.23 m2/kg)
MSRP US $269.00
Options Footprint: $26.50, ~13 oz (369 g)
Website http://www.REI.com

REI Quarter Dome T2 Tent Review - 2
When the weather is nice, the Quarter Dome can be pitched with the fly off to view your surroundings. As I knew that this camp on the summit of 11,500-ft Mt. San Gorgonio would get windy as the sun fell, I added the fly later. John Muir’s favorite southern California mountain, San Jacinto, is seen across the valley.

Design and Features

The REI Quarter Dome T2 is a complete redesign of the company’s Quarter Dome UL tent, and from where this guy writes, it was a success. Utilizing DAC poles and swivel hubs, they came up with a smart design called "Tension Truss" architecture that gives structural integrity while adding headroom. It also keeps the sides steeper to give more move-around room in the tent.

REI Quarter Dome T2 Tent Review - 3
The Quarter Dome comes with stuff sacks for everything and enough thick aluminum stakes to secure all points and still have a couple extra for guy lines. While it looks bulky packed from the factory, carrying the poles separately will allow the rest of the tent to compress, taking up much less space than seen here.

A fellow BackpackingLight member and friend of mine said she can’t stand poles that are all connected like the Seedhouse SL2 she saw me using in Yosemite. Well, L, you really won’t care for this one. The Quarter Dome uses twenty-four sections of shock-corded aluminum and two swivel hubs to make three poles. The longest pole (silver) runs at an angle from one corner to the other, where it plugs into grommets in color-coded silver straps. The two shorter orange poles start at their own orange corner locations and curve across the silver pole to end at a grommet above each of the doors. The length of orange pole that goes past the silver one creates a cantilevered truss, hence the name so familiar to those of us in the construction industry.

Once the poles are in place, the mesh walled inside tent attaches with clips, a welcome departure from the pole sleeves in the old version. The fly has attachment points at the ends of the truss poles and adjustable straps at the corners to give a strong, tight pitch. The two vestibules are formed by pulling the fly away from the doors and securing with a single stake at each one.

While the walls of the inner have been changed to full mesh (compared to the partial solid nylon of the old model), REI wisely left solid material on the very top of the Quarter Dome T2. This keeps condensation from dripping from the fly to the mesh and raining down as mist.

REI Quarter Dome T2 Tent Review - 4
Views of the Quarter Dome. Top left: the orange poles form the Tension Truss that terminates above the door. Top right: the effect of the truss is seen as it pulls the side walls more vertical. While not as wide as REI claims, there is still plenty of room for two pads. Bottom: front and side views of the fly in place.

One of my favorite things about the Quarter Dome is its teardrop-shaped doors. As they have full double zippers, the doors can be completely tucked away into a small mesh pocket above each one. More pockets for gear storage may be found lower at each corner inside the tent.

On each side of the fly a good sized vent provides extra air movement. The vents have tethered struts to hold them open and can be adjusted from inside the tent without the need to open the vestibule doors.

The Quarter Dome comes with a large stuff sack that has a carrying strap and two compression straps. It weighs 2.6 oz (74 g). It also comes with a 0.6-oz (17-g) pole sack and a 0.4-oz (11-g) stake sack.

REI did not send a footprint with the tent, but the 23.9-oz (678-g) fly and 15.3-oz (434-g) poles can be used with one to cut the weight of your shelter if bugs are not a concern. As the only weight I can find for a footprint says “about 13 oz” and the inner weighs just 20.8 oz (590 g), it is only a savings of 7.8 oz (221 g).

REI Quarter Dome T2 Tent Review - 5
The devil’s in the details. Top: All points that stake down are adjustable after the fact to provide a taut pitch. The large vents can be opened or closed from inside the tent if you’ve got long monkey arms like me. Well, it works for normal arms too. Bottom: Gear storage pockets are in each corner, but the two above the doors may be used to tuck the open door out of the way.

Performance

I got to use the Quarter Dome in the mountains of California and quite a bit in northwestern Minnesota. Once I set it up a couple of times, I got used to the poles. The color coding helps. Over half of my trips with it were in temps at or below freezing, and I am happy to say that it is easy to set up with gloves on.

The pole design works as well as REI says, giving the Quarter Dome a lot more room to move around in than most tents of the same dimensions. I was able to sit up with plenty of clearance. Being 6' 3” (1.91 m) tall, I found that the length was fine when using my quilt, but once I had the big winter bags inside they hit both ends of the tent. REI addresses this with a T2 Plus version that is longer; of course, it weighs more too.

The heavy-duty aluminum stakes that REI provides worked great in both the rocky terrain of California’s mountains and the clay of Minnesota, though they sat down and said “no way” once the ground froze. While trying to stake down the Quarter Dome in Minnesota’s Buffalo River State Park in November, they not only would not go in more than a half inch, they bent! A month later after a spell of temps down to -29 F (-34 C), I had to substitute six hardened steel screwdrivers to set it up in anticipation of a snow storm that I wanted to ride out in it. (Yeah, we testers are weird...)

Speaking of storms, the Quarter Dome did an excellent job of weathering them. The symmetrical shape lends itself well to shedding wind. There are really no flat areas for the wind to catch.

The wind does blow snow and sand inside the tent through the mesh walls. This occurred when I was in just 4 to 6 inches (10-15 cm) of snow, and I was a bit concerned the night I spent in the storm. I needn’t have worried, as the falling snow slid down the sides and eventually blocked the openings at the bottom of the tent, though that killed a lot of my air movement as far as ventilation went. As it was 0 F (-18 C), I did not need the wind-chill - I mean, air movement - that much. I had no problems with condensation inside the tent proper except for the area of my bag around my face and my balaclava, but the next morning the entire inside of the fly was coated with ice crystals. The humidity was at 74% in the morning when I split.

That was the only condensation I experienced in the Quarter Dome, as the two vents work very well. Opening the bottom of the vestibule door lets you add draw during inclement weather while still keeping the inner dry. There are two loops at the bottom of the fly on the sides that will allow the fly to be pulled out further to do the same thing.

REI Quarter Dome T2 Tent Review - 6
Top Left: the large vents help keep the Quarter Dome dry inside, even in humid camp sites like this one next to the Buffalo River. Top right: The Quarter Dome earned its winter wings during this storm. Bottom: my size long -20 F sleeping bag hits both ends of the tent.

Assessment

I came away quite impressed with the REI Quarter Dome. I found the design to be brilliant. It really works! It has plenty of room for two people and the steep sides add to the comfort. If it was as wide as they say it is supposed to be it would be even better. No matter how I pulled the corners out I could never get more than 48 inches (122 cm) from side to side.

While not the lightest tent in its category, its strength overcomes much of the weight penalty. I would not hesitate to take the Quarter Dome on any trip that I thought bad weather was possible. One thing I learned was to get the poles all put together before taking the body out during bad weather. I had snow go into the tent as I was setting it up, which is not so bad as I can shake it out before staking it down. However, setting up during a downpour will result in a wet floor inside no matter what. Better to lessen the exposure as much as possible.

I am a fan of setting up mesh walled tents without the fly to be able to feel more in touch with nature, without nature being able to touch (or bite) me back. I also spend so much time at rocky camp sites that a free-standing tent is almost imperative. The Quarter Dome shines for both scenarios.

One thing that I was sad to see go away was the partial-height solid walls of the Quarter Dome UL. I think that the new version would benefit from even the bottom third being lightweight breathable nylon, which would block much of the blown in debris. Plus, a lot of newer fabrics are as light as the mesh or near to it.

The Quarter Dome has been durable as far as I can see. The floor is still in good shape after the abrasive rock in the mountains, and the fly is in good shape through all the weather woes of windy, stormy Minnesota.

Dare to Compare

In terms of comparisons, I believe that the Quarter Dome’s closest competitors that share the same design attributes are the MSR Hubba Hubba HP, and the Sierra Designs Lightning XT. I also threw in Big Sky’s Revolution for another choice in the same category. The Quarter Dome comes in at a lower weight than the Hubba Hubba and Lightning, but it sacrifices both interior and vestibule space to do so. The Revolution really beats it in all space and weight comparisons, but the heftier fabrics used in the Quarter Dome should handle prolonged bad weather better. The ventilation of the Quarter Dome is as good as I have seen, although the Revolution and Hubba Hubba HP are no slouches in that regard. The Quarter Dome represents a better value in price.

Manufacturer and Model REI Quarter Dome T2 Big Sky Intl Revolution 2P w/porch MSR Hubba Hubba HP Sierra Designs Lightning XT
Manufacturer Trail
Weight* lb (kg)
3.75 (1.7) 3.19 (1.45) 3.69 lb (1.67 kg) 3.93 (1.78)
Backpacking Light
Trail Weight** lb (kg)
3.8 (1.72) 3.41 (1.55) 3.9 (1.77) 3.98 (1.81)
Fabrics Floor coated ripstop nylon
Fly coated ripstop nylon
Body nylon mesh
Floor/fly 30D 1.3 oz/yd2 (44 g/m2) silnylon
Summer interior no-see-um mesh
Floor 40D nylon 66, 10,000mm PU
Fly 20D 1000mm PU/silicone coated nylon
Body 20D nylon 66 & 20D polyester mesh
Floor 70D 3000mm PU/silicone coated nylon
Fly 40D 1500mm PU/silicone coated nylon
Body 20D nylon mesh
Poles DAC Featherlite NSL pole system with two hubs Two lightweight aluminum poles DAC Featherlite NSL pole system with two hubs & short crossing pole DAC Featherlite NSL pole system with two swivel hubs
Dimensions***
L x W x H in (cm)
84 x 48 x 40
(213 x 122 x 101)
84 x 56/46 x 42 (213 x 142/117 x 107) 84 x 50 x 42 (213 x 127 x 107) 83 x 52 x 40 (211 x 132 x 102)
Floor area ft2(m2) 28 (2.6) 32.7 (3.04) 29 (2.7) 30 (2.79)
Number of Vestibules
& Area ft2(m2)
Two, 13.4 (1.24) Two, 16.6 (1.54) Two, 17.5 (1.6) Two, 21 (1.95)
Floor Area/Trail
weight ratio****
ft2/lb (m2/kg)
7.37 (1.51) 9.59 (1.96) 7.44 (1.53) 7.54 (1.54)
Protected Area/Trail
weight ratio*****
ft2/lb (m2/kg)
10.9 (2.23) 14.45 (2.95) 11.9 (2.43) 12.81 (2.46)
Cost US$ 269 360 450 289

Notes:

*Manufacturer Trail Weight: This is the minimum weight as listed by the manufacturer. Different companies may include different components in this weight.

**Backpacking Light Trail Weight: This is the weight of tent, rain fly, poles, and stakes needed for basic setup. It does not include stuff sacks, extra guylines, extra stakes, or repair kit.

***Dimensions: maximum Length x maximum Width x maximum Height (LxWxH). In the case of oddly-shaped floor, a double measurement is given for head and foot (H/F). The numbers are as verified by BPL and may differ from the manufacturer's stated dimensions.

****Floor Area/Trail Weight ratio: This is the floor area divided by the trail weight.

*****Protected Area/Trail Weight ratio: This is the floor area plus vestibule area divided by the trail weight.

What's Good

  • Structurally sound
  • Plenty of room for two people
  • Lots of interior space
  • Good value for the price

What's Not So Good

  • Stakes are soft and bend easily
  • Mesh walls let in blowing sand and snow
Disclosure: The manufacturer provided this product to the author and/or Backpacking Light at no charge, and it is owned by the author/BPL. The author/Backpacking Light has no obligation to review this product to the manufacturer under the terms of this agreement.

Citation

"REI Quarter Dome T2 Tent Review," by Ray Estrella. BackpackingLight.com (ISSN 1537-0364).
http://backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/rei_quarter_dome_t2_tent_review.html, 2010-02-16 00:00:00-07.

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REI Quarter Dome T2 Tent Review
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Brendan McAdams
(bwmcadams) - F
20% off on 04/11/2010 08:26:58 MDT Print View

Walked into REI to pickup some other gear this weekend and noticed they're running a "Members get 20% off any one full priced item" (http://www.rei.com/promotions/member-rewards-coupon.html).

Had my eye on this tent for a while (the BPL review helped), and with my dividend managed to snag it for nothing out of pocket, plus the $20 for the fly.

Elisa Umpierre
(eliump) - MLife

Locale: Midwest
Dry Set Up Ability on 10/09/2010 17:03:15 MDT Print View

I own the Quarter Dome T2 and was initially concerned that if arriving at camp while it was raining, all the mesh that makes up the tent's body would make for wet sleeping quarters. Well, no need to worry. The T2 can quite easily be set up by first pitching the fly and then the tent's body. With the fly set up just crawl beneath it, pull out the tent's body and set it up all under the cover of the fly. This worked very well. So far, I love this tent.