Best Backpacking Tents: REI Co-op Half Dome SL 2+ - Gear Hacker

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REI Co-op Half Dome SL 2+ Review: Best Frontcountry Tent of 2021

Best Frontcountry Tent of 2021

  • Comfort 100% 100%
  • Ease of Setup 80% 80%
  • Weatherproofing 70% 70%
  • Durability 80% 80%

Price: $279

Weight: 5lb 5oz (2.41kg)

Number of Doors: 2

Tent Floor Space: 35sqft

Vestibules: 2 (11.25 + 11.25sqft)

Number of Poles: 1 DAC Featherlite NFL Aluminum – Hubbed

What We Like: So Much Room for Activities!

What We Don’t: Weight

Built for the comfort forward hiker, the REI Half Dome SL 2+ boasts 35sqft of interior space with two large vestibules. The SL edition has shaved a pound off the previous Half Dome models while still maintaining comfort and livability. The interior storage compartments coupled with 42in of headroom help to create quite a home away from home. It’s not perfect for ultralight hikers, but it’s great for rainy areas where living in a tent is more important than shaving a few extra pounds. The Half Dome SL 2+ will get people out camping. At the end of the day, that is something we strive to get people doing, so this tent is our Best Frontcountry Tent of 2021. You can definitely carry it into the backcountry, but it is built for comfort before weight, which we don’t mind one bit.

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See Our Best Backpacking Tent Review 2021 HERE!

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  • Comfort 90% 90%
  • Ease of Setup 80% 80%
  • Weatherproofing 80% 80%
  • Durability 70% 70%

Pros

Extremely Roomy for Weight

Cons

Durability of Poles

Weight: 3lbs 2oz (1.41kg)

Number of Doors: 2

Tent Floor Space: 29sqft

Vestibules: 2 (10 + 10sqft)

Number of Poles: 1 Hubbed Aluminum DAC Featherlite NFL

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  • Comfort 90% 90%
  • Ease of Setup 90% 90%
  • Weatherproofing 80% 80%
  • Durability 70% 70%

Pros

Interior Pockets and Features, Overall Space

Cons

Price and Double Zipper Doors

Weight: 3lbs 2oz (1.41kg)

Number of Doors: 2

Tent Floor Space: 29sqft

Vestibules: 2 (9 + 9sqft)

Number of Poles: 2 DAC NFL Aluminum

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  • Comfort 90% 90%
  • Ease of Setup 80% 80%
  • Weatherproofing 80% 80%
  • Durability 80% 80%

Pros

Living Space, Price

Cons

Weight

Weight: 5lbs 15oz (2.69kg)

Number of Doors: 2

Tent Floor Space: 31.7sqft

Vestibules: 2 (8.5 + 8.5 sqft)

Number of Poles: 3

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  • Comfort 80% 80%
  • Ease of Setup 70% 70%
  • Weatherproofing 100% 100%
  • Durability 90% 90%

Pros

Weatherproofing and Easy Setup

Cons

Not a Freestanding Tent and Pricey

Weight: 4lbs 10oz (2.1kg)

Number of Doors: 1

Tent Floor Space: 28sqft

Vestibules: 1 (27sqft)

Number of Poles: 3

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Pros

Lightweight Livability

Cons

Zipper Design of the Doors and Fly

Weight: 2lbs 8oz (1.13kg)

Number of Doors: 2

Tent Floor Space: 28sqft

Vestibules: 2 (8 + 8sqft)

Number of Poles: 1 - Hubbed DAC Featherlite

Best Backpacking Tents: REI Co-op Half Dome SL 2+ - Gear Hacker

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  • Comfort 100% 100%
  • Ease of Setup 80% 80%
  • Weatherproofing 70% 70%
  • Durability 80% 80%

Pros

So Much Room for Activities!

Cons

Weight

Weight: 5lb 5oz (2.41kg)

Number of Doors: 2

Tent Floor Space: 35sqft

Vestibules: 2 (11.25 + 11.25sqft)

Number of Poles: 1 DAC Featherlite NFL Aluminum - Hubbed

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  • Comfort 80% 80%
  • Ease of Setup 70% 70%
  • Weatherproofing 70% 70%
  • Durability 80% 80%

Pros

Interior Space

Cons

Awkward-fitting Fly

Weight: 5lbs 4oz (2.38kg)

Number of Doors: 2

Tent Floor Space: 32sqft

Vestibules: 2 (9.5 + 6.5sqft)

Number of Poles: 3 - HD Velocity 7000 Series Aluminum

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  • Comfort 80% 80%
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  • Durability 80% 80%

Pros

Weatherproofing Material and Design

Cons

Price and Vestibule Sizing

Weight: 3lbs 14oz (1.75kg)

Number of Doors: 2

Tent Floor Space: 29sqft

Vestibules: 2 (8.75 + 8.75sqft)

Number of Poles: 1 Hubbed Easton Syclone

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  • Comfort 80% 80%
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  • Durability 70% 70%

Pros

Superlight Weight While Remaining Comfortable

Cons

Durability is a Concern, Lightweight Poles

Weight: 2lbs 6oz (1.08kg)

Number of Doors: 2

Tent Floor Space: 27.5sqft

Vestibules: 2 (7.1 + 7.1sqft)

Number of Poles: 1 Hubbed Aluminum DAC Featherlite NFL

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  • Comfort 70% 70%
  • Ease of Setup 80% 80%
  • Weatherproofing 80% 80%
  • Durability 90% 90%

Pros

4-Season Construction with All Season Versatility

Cons

Venting for Warmer Nights

Weight: 4lbs 1oz (1.84kg)

Number of Doors: 2

Tent Floor Space: 29sqft

Vestibules: 2 (8.75 + 8.75sqft)

Number of Poles: 2

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  • Ease of Setup 80% 80%
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Pros

Easy Setup

Cons

The Fly Needs Some Work

Weight: 4lbs 13oz (2.18kg)

Number of Doors: 2

Tent Floor Space: 28sqft

Vestibules: 2 (8.9 + 8.9sqft)

Number of Poles: 3

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Pros

Interior Space, Divvy Stuff Sack

Cons

Price, Rainfly Coverage

Weight: 3lbs 14oz (1.75kg)

Number of Doors: 2

Tent Floor Space: 31.3sqft

Vestibules: 2 (11.4 + 11.4sqft)

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REI has improved its tent offerings with the new Half Dome SL 2+. This two-person tent is a full pound lighter than its previous iteration while still boasting that extra room to move and live. At $279, it is $80 more expensive than the REI Trail Hut, but the Half Dome SL 2+ comes with excellent features to set it apart. The REI Half Dome SL is also available as a 3+ person tent (at around $330), so there is an option if you are looking for more space. With improved features and solid weatherproofing, the REI Half Dome SL 2+ is our Best Frontcountry Tent of 2021.

Best Backpacking Tents: REI Co-op Half Dome SL 2+ - Gear Hacker

Comfort

The category where the REI tents separate themselves from the more trail- and lightweight-specific tents is livability. Out of all of the tents on our list, the Half Dome SL 2+—at 35sqft—comes with three more square feet of interior space than the closest competitor (the Marmot Tungsten 2 at 32sqft). Let us tell you, three extra square feet can make a difference. The tent itself is 92x56in (7’8”x4’8”), which is a very healthy amount of space to spread out and enjoy a night in the outdoors.

 

Using a combination of pre-bent tent poles and REI Exclusive tension-truss architecture, the walls are able to stand more vertically, creating generous space with plenty of headroom. In fact, the Half Dome SL 2+ is tied with a few other tents coming in at second for headroom with 42in of head swaying space. The Kelty Dirt Motel 2 takes the win with 42.5in, just a touch more room for listening to heavy metal and doing some head bashing.

 

Best Backpacking Tents: REI Co-op Half Dome SL 2+ - Gear Hacker

Throughout the interior of the tent, you’ll find pockets for your smaller valuables to be stored off the ground. You’ll even find a pocket on the roof of the tent, so if you have an excellent vision you can store a book in there and read while laying down (although turning the page will be tricky). At the top of the tent interior, there are hang loops that can be used to create a clothesline or to hang a lantern to illuminate the cavernous living space that you are occupying.

 

The REI Half Dome SL 2+ also has two very large vestibules—22.5sqft of combined space—creating a garage for your gear. Only the NEMO Dagger 2 with 22.8sqft of combined space has more vestibule area, but this is a slight win that shouldn’t mean too much because the Dagger has four fewer square feet of internal space. The vestibule doors can be pitched open using trekking poles to create a shaded entrance that will be perfect for cooking or for just getting some extra ventilation on a clear, warm night.

 

Best Backpacking Tents: REI Co-op Half Dome SL 2+ - Gear Hacker

Ease of Setup

REI has advanced their pole systems for the Half Dome compared to the Trail Hut. With the Half Dome, you get one hubbed pole set. This allows for a much easier setup by a single camper and easier takedown. There are fewer moving pieces and fewer items to misplace. The tent comes with 8 stakes as well to help solidify the Half Dome in case of wind and to spread the guy lines out to keep everything nicely ventilated. Using the traditional dome shape is also easier for newer campers to understand and set up. The poles and pole snaps on the tent are color-coordinated in order to create an even more streamlined setup process.

 

Best Backpacking Tents: REI Co-op Half Dome SL 2+ - Gear Hacker

Weatherproofing

The REI Half Dome SL 2+ fairs very well in this category considering its overall size. Larger tents end up dealing with more wind, but the rainfly has trapezoidal stake points to deal with wind much better than a single stake point. The rainfly is 30-denier nylon, which is admittedly thinner than previous models, but this helps to save on weight. It still does an excellent job of blocking wind and rain. The floor fabric is a 40D taffeta nylon, which is very robust and will keep the water at bay even if it does pool underneath the tent. The floor material wraps up to the doors of the tent, which are 8 inches off the ground, so there is no concern of low-flying rain sneaking in either.

 

Best Backpacking Tents: REI Co-op Half Dome SL 2+ - Gear Hacker
The top half of the tent is a 20D nylon mesh that is bluesign® approved. At the top of the fly, there are two closable ceiling vents that allow heat to escape and to reduce interior moisture from building up while waiting out a midsummer storm.  
Best Backpacking Tents: REI Co-op Half Dome SL 2+ - Gear Hacker

Durability

Like the Trail Hut, REI has included a footprint with the Half Dome. This will help keep the floor of your tent from directly sitting on the ground, improving its overall lifespan. Pro Tip: it’s easier and cheaper to replace a footprint than an entire tent.

 

The tent itself is made with 30 to 40D nylon throughout as well as the 20D nylon mesh, so everything is quite durable on its own. The shape of the fly will help to keep the wind from hitting any of the sides too hard and allow the poles to distribute the wind impacts. Like with all tents, if treated properly, the REI Half Dome SL 2+ should stand the test of time and could even be passed down to your children.

 

Best Backpacking Tents: REI Co-op Half Dome SL 2+ - Gear Hacker

Weight

REI has shaved a pound off the previous Half Dome 2 to create the Half Dome SL 2+. For those that are new to the outdoor world, companies find it “rad” to abbreviate the descriptors and then add them to the product name so it sounds more extreme. In this case, the SL stands for SuperLight, and at 5lb 5oz (2.41kg), the Half Dome is certainly not “superlight” by any means. That said, for the amount of space and features attached to this number, it is still a pretty reasonable number.

 

The Bottom Line

While not the lightest of the tents, the REI Half Dome SL 2+ is the most spacious and easiest to live in of our review. If you are headed to an area that you know can dish out some serious weather, leaving you stuck in your tent for some time, this is the tent you want to be stuck in. There’s room enough for two people to comfortably sit up, and the vestibules are easily large enough to store gear and cook in. When I think of this tent, I start to imagine setting up some furniture inside and where I might install a bathroom. While it is $80 more expensive than the REI Trail Hut 2, it is the more capable and comfortable of the two tents, and that makes it a more worthwhile expense in our humble opinion. This added cost and performance has made it the Best Frontcountry Tent of 2021 in our eyes.

 

Best Backpacking Tents: REI Co-op Half Dome SL 2+ - Gear Hacker

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We participate in affiliate programs to help us fund Gear Hacker. Some of the links in this website are affiliate links, which means that if you purchase a product using our link, we will earn a small commission. Don’t worry! This comes at no additional cost to you, and we will never base our reviews on whether or not we earn a commission off of a product. With that said, if you find our review helpful and decide to purchase an item we review, we would be very appreciative if you use our links to do so. It will help us bring you more awesome content in the future!