Be honest for a second. What are you looking for from your outdoor adventure?
Do you want to dive deep into the depths of the wilderness, journeying down unforged paths like a tiny forest-Columbus? Or do you just want to hang out with a couple of good friends around a cozy campfire adventure with a couple of friends, a bottle of whiskey and a bunch of smores?
Depending on the day of the week, I want one or the other or both.
Let me tell you: finding one tent that fulfills all my outdoor ambitions is nigh impossible.
Yet, I may have stumbled across exactly that: the REI Co-Op Quarter Dome 2.
Tent Buying Considerations: The “Six S” Method
Instead of purchasing any random tent, let’s go over the Six “S’s” that you should be considering a tent that will meet your camping expectations: size, season, setup, security, storage, and $$.
No matter what they tell you, size matters. To a degree.
If you are hoping to spend a lot of time inside your shelter, you’ll want to make sure that there is a large enough floor area AND ceiling height. Instead of thinking of the tent in terms of a two-dimensional surface (like the size of the footprint), think of it in terms of a livable, three-dimensional space.
Be careful not to overlook the packed size and weight. If you plan on conquering backcountry trails, you’ll want to ensure that your shelter packs down small enough to fit in your backpack, and that the weight doesn’t hinder your ability to hike.
Most tents either come with a 3-season or 4-season rating, which relates to each shelter’s weatherability.
As the names would suggest, the 3-season shelters provide sufficient safety against the wind and rain during the spring, summer, and fall, typically through a double-walled system that includes a mesh canopy and waterproof rainfly. For 4-season shelters, they are suitable throughout the year and can withstand the weight of a sudden snowstorm yet are usually bulkier and sacrifice ventilation for warmth.
I don't own any winter tents, since during blistering cold conditions, I’d rather be staying in a warm Four Season hotel as opposed to a warm 4-season shelter. Not because I don’t like to venture into the snow, but because it can sometimes be nearly impossible to pitch a tent in freezing temperatures and howling winds.
Many tents available today are of the freestanding variety, meaning the pole structure maintains the shape without any added support.
Although, you should be careful, since some shelters are marketed as freestanding, yet still require proper guy lines and tie off points to ensure stability.
When it comes to the actual pitching of the tent, you may have a difficult time setting it up at first, but you shouldn’t worry. Every shelter’s setup is different from the last, and each requires practice in order to properly pitch. Perhaps you may want to practice pitching your tent in the backyard, or at the park, so that you aren’t fumbling around with the soaking wet instructions in the outdoors.
The feeling of security is important, even in your tent.
Your tent should protect you (and your gear) not only from the elements, but other campers and wilderness creatures as well. We can measure security through the reliability and durability of your tent.
Nowadays, most camping shelter fabrics are composed of a combination of polyester (strong yet heavy), nylon (lightweight yet thin), and other proprietary blends of polymeric materials, with a thin waterproof coating (typically polyurethane). Apart from the fabric itself, it’s important to consider the material of the pole system (usually lightweight aluminum or fiberglass) to ensure that it won’t collapse in the wind or split overtime.
Every tent has different capabilities when it comes to organizing your stuff, but some typical features you may want to keep an eye out for include a gear loft, mesh storage pockets, corner pockets (for easy access while sleeping), door pockets, light pockets, and my most important storage buying consideration: a vestibule.
Whether a tent comes with one or two of these vestibules, I find them necessary to store any muddy and sweaty gear, instead of making the interior of the shelter dirty. Plus, it gives me a breezeway/parlor to change clothes in and hang out rather than being confined to the walls of the tent. If all the other features meet my requirements, and there is a more than enough storage, I’m always willing to shell out a little extra…
Although it’s difficult not to take each product’s cost at face value, you should attempt to consider the numerical price tag as your last resort.
While there is indeed a correlation between price and performance, it’s not exactly a straight line. Think about what affordability means to you, and your budget, but try not to make the price an end-all-be-all deciding factor when purchasing the shelter of your dreams.
Trust me, you won’t regret it!
Whether you’re a car camping king (or queen), backpacking buff, or weekend wilderness warrior, the REI Co-Op Quarter Dome 2 may be your best tent option to enjoy the outdoors. This spacious, 3-season, lightweight shelter will provide you with ample weather protection and stability in most outdoor conditions.
Unlike its “big brother,” the Half Dome 2 Plus, the Quarter Dome 2 has more of a tapered shape which saves on overall weight at the cost of some headroom.
REI constantly improves their products based on camper feedback. The 2017 updated Quarter Dome 2 added 28% more headroom, 23% more foot area to stretch out, 60% more vestibule room to store your gear, and streamlined tent access with larger doors.
Oh yeah, it now comes in different color options too. After all that redesign, and it still only resulted in an additional 3 oz. to the overall weight. Mighty impressive, if you ask me.
As always though, there are a few downsides: the low-density ripstop nylon seems flimsy and some of the hardware (zippers, guylines, stakes, etc.) are not constructed of the highest-quality material. Still, with a tried and trusted brand like REI, you’ll be able to easily reach customer service if any issues arise.
All in all, the Quarter Dome 2 is a stellar, versatile option for anyone hoping to achieve their camping dreams.
Size: Ample Interior Room With Near-Vertical Sidewalls
As previously mentioned, REI has designed its newest version of the Quarter Dome 2 to maximize livable space.
The 28.7 sqft of floor area may seem small compared to other 2-person tents, but the near-vertical sidewalls allow for an ample amount of usable volume so that you and your partner have the option to simply chillax within the spacious interior. And if you are feeling cramped, you can always unzip the two large, D-shaped mesh doors and stretch out into the vestibules.
Even more impressive, than the already decent interior volume, is that it comes without sacrificing too much weight. Sure, it's not the lightest of all the shelters on the market, but at a packed weight of 3 lbs. 12 oz. (and a packed size of 18.5” x 7”), you should have no trouble storing it in your backpack on long hikes, or simply tucking it away in your trunk.
Season: Double-Walled Shelter With Excellent 3-Season Protection
REI has outdone themselves with the Quarter Dome’s top-notch 3-season protection.
The unique reinforced hubbed-pole structure allows for superb stability in the toughest of winds, although the tie downs and stakes are not the best quality. If you are expecting intense gusts at the campsite, I would suggest investing in high-end set of tent stakes.
Apart from its above-average stability, the Quarter Dome 2 will keep you dry, both inside and out. The full-coverage, polyurethane-coated rain fly guards against water from entering the tent from above, while the ⅓ nylon walls and waterproof bathtub floor prevent water from entering below.
Plus, the top ⅔ of the canopy is mesh, and in combination with the two side doors and multiple vents, you should have plenty of ventilation to prevent condensation from forming on the underside of the rain fly.
Setup: Easy Color-Coded Pitch, But You May Struggle At First
So, you rushed out last minute to grab a tent and didn’t have time to practice pitching it in the backyard.
Well, with the REI Co-op Quarter Dome 2, you’ll have no problem assembling the tent on the first try with easy-to-follow features like a color-coded pole system and rain fly buckles. Okay, maybe you’ll look a little silly on your first few attempts, but you’ll eventually be a able to single-handedly (literally) pitch this tent in no time.
Unlike many of it’s semi-freestanding competitors (who utilize a simple Y-shaped pole structure) REI has added a few extra secure points to ensure that your tent is stable. The crossbar on the roof not only creates near-vertical sidewalls, but allows the Quarter Dome to transfer some of the force to the fabric itself, rather than relying on the pole structure alone. Also, the star-shaped design at the footbox gives the tent a sturdy, solid base.
Although, one downfall of the hubbed pole system is that it is shockcorded together in one piece, so it may be difficult to actually assemble it together or tightly pack it up.
But hey, look on the bright side, you won’t lose any little pieces since they are all tied together.
Security: Thin Materials Lead to Questionable Durability
The pole structure of the Quarter Dome 2 is stable and light thanks to the use of aluminum poles, rather than the less-durable fiberglass materials that come with many cheaper tents.
Still, you’ll want to be careful when pitching the tent because aluminum fatigues over time, and it can be hard to recapture the proper structure if it gets bent too far.
Apart from the poles, when it comes to the long lasting durability of the fabric, the REI Co-op Quarter Dome falls short… or should I say thin. The combination of 10D, 15D and 30D nylon may be ideal for cutting down weight, but since the material is so delicate, it is prone to rips and tears.
I would suggest being extremely cautious with this tent: ensure there are no sharp rocks on the ground, be careful entering/exiting the shelter, and as I always say, save your floor by purchasing a footprint!
Storage: Dual Vestibules and Several Interior Pockets
The REI Co-op Quarter Dome 2 is truly made for two people.
The two large side doors and two 10+ sq. ft. vestibules will give you ample storage to keep your dirty away from the clean living space. Although, you’ll want to be careful with the zippers on these doors, since they can be finicky and get caught in the fabric, just like when you are trying to zip up a worn out jacket.
Built into the interior, there are three large pockets built in the ceiling of the canopy. But, who wants to do sit-ups in the middle of the night, reaching for your precious phone?
Well, that’s why REI has incorporated two corner pockets in the head of the tent so that you don’t have to get out of your sleeping bag to get your stuff.
Jeez, this company thinks of everything!
$349: Affordable Compared to Many Competitors
It’s going to cost you a lot more than a quarter to own the Quarter Dome 2, but don’t let the price tag scare you. Instead of crossing this tent off your “wish list,” you should understand where exactly your $350 is going.
You spend it for outdoor memories with your loved ones and the opportunity to connect with nature.
Cheesy? Maybe. But the cost of a Quarter Dome 2 is reasonable compared to many of its competitors. Add in REI’s world-renowned craftsmanship, and you’ve got a moderately priced tent that will have you yearning to head back into the wild.
If you are a new to In Case Of Camping, you’ll be happy to know that we don’t just provide you with one review and call it quits; that wouldn’t be fair.
On top of our in-depth analysis, we always try to ask other campers about their experience as well to help you with your tent research.
I was a tiny bit afraid I wouldn't be able to quickly set it up on my own, but the directions were handy and the poles (collapsible, uber-light) and fixtures were fairly intuitive. I had it up in 15 minutes, maybe less. It's super light and I love the side doors!
I bought this tent two years ago and have loved everything about it. It's light, free-standing, roomy and easy to set up. However, after just ten uses the rain fly zipper broke!
Lightweight tent for backpacking with ample space for two medium sized people. Packs smaller than most other tents we've tried.
3 lbs 12 oz
2 lbs 4 oz
3 lbs 10 oz
2 lbs 5 oz
Sure, you may like some of the features of the Quarter Dome 2 - the great weather protection, the unique pole structure, the ample interior space - but you may be put off by the difficult set up, or perhaps the price.
In any case, let’s look into three alternative options that you may want to consider while saving up for your next (or first) tent.
One of the lightest semi-freestanding tents on the market, the Big Agnes Fly Creek HV UL2 (pictured here with mtnGLO lighting technology) is a great option for any outdoor adventurer.
This 2 ¼ lb. shelter can be pitched near the warm campfire, or packed into your backpack before you hit the trail.
The Fly Creek’s ripstop nylon material is extremely waterproof, but very thin, which may be a cause for concern when it comes to long term durability. Also, since Big Agnes designed there shelter to strictly lighten the load, the tapered, Y-shape structure may cause the interior to feel a little tight. Still, there should be plenty of room to stretch out if you put all your gear outside the tent, under the 8 sq. ft. vestibule.
All in all, every aspect of this tent has been designed to lower the overall weight, but will still allow for adequate protection from the elements.
Check out our full review of the Big Agnes Fly Creek 2 here.
If you are looking for a lighter shelter, yet don’t want to shell out a bunch of dough, then you should consider the Kelty Horizon 2.
Even though it's a bit heavier than its competitors at 3 lbs. 10 oz., the Horizon 2 still provides sufficient protection in normal weather with durable 40D nylon rain fly. If you are expecting any harsh conditions, then you may feel unsafe as the structure can be somewhat flimsy.
One feature that truly sets the Horizon 2 apart is the combination single- and double-wall structure. The fly itself is actually sewn into the canopy, allowing for an easy set-up with the hubbed-poles which actually leaves them exposed on the outside of the tent. An immediate downside to this is the resulting lack of ventilation, which may cause condensation to form, soaking you from the inside.
Apart from the price, Kelty has provided its loyal customers with several impressive features including: a dual-zipper vestibule, a convenient packed size, wall pockets, and fully taped seams.
The Nemo Hornet 2P has a similar overall shape to the REI Co-op Quarter Dome 2, but is technically semi freestanding since it utilizes a Y-shaped pole structure.
Due to the architecture, the side walls are more slanted so the interior may feel cramped, but there is still plenty of available head room.
By far, the biggest selling point of the Hornet 2P is its overall weight. At 2 lbs. 5 oz., Nemo has created a shelter that will take a load of your back. Although, as you can imagine with most lighter shelters, overall protection is a major issue. Yet Nemo somehow managed to construct a safe, stable shelter for all outdoor enthusiasts. The bottom fabric on the canopy walls is high enough to protect you from any backsplash while the mesh on the top half provides adequate ventilation (but it could be improved in the future).
With a simple setup, high-quality ripstop nylon, ample storage, and a lifetime warranty, you’ll have the versatility to camp wherever the road takes you with the Nemo Hornet 2P.
The REI Co-Op Quarter Dome 2 is a sufficient option for ALL 3-season campers.
The ample amount of usable interior volume, excellent weather capability, and large storage area will provide you, and your camping buddy, with a hassle-free outdoor experience (considering you’ve practiced pitching it beforehand). Enjoy the lightweight versatility of the Quarter Dome 2 as you keep your outdoor aspirations free of boundaries.
As I always like to say my fellow outdoor enthusiasts: camp on!
Jay toes the line between hiking enthusiast and vagabond as he treks across the world, soaking in it’s natural wonders. When he’s not exploring the trail, he writes articles to help guide others through their outdoor conquests.