The Best Value in a 2-Person Backpacking Tent — the REI Half Dome 2

The REI Half Dome 2 tent has become a staple of many backpackers’ equipment (as well as car campers) for a reason:  you can’t get a better budget tent.  For the price of $189, the REI Half Dome 2 tent is an outstanding value.

I’ve owned an REI Half Dome tent since the early 90s and I still use it occasionally.  It has not ripped, leaked, or otherwise failed.  REI has continued to improve this tent since they first brought it out and 2013 saw more improvements.

Backpacker magazine has not only made the REI Half Dome 2 tent an “Editor’s Choice” in years past; they have also given it the “Editor’s Choice Gold Award” because it has been such a reliable, well-made piece of equipment for so long.  Every year they designate this 2-person tent as a “Killer Value.”

The REI Half Dome 2 tent is a top-rated, budget backpacking tent for 3-season use.  It costs under $200 from REI and should be one of the tents you consider when shopping for a high-quality backpacking tent.

The REI Half Dome Tent has been improved for 2013. This 3-season tent has received Backpacker magazine’s “Editor’s Choice Gold Award.” Click for more info at REI.

If your camping equipment budget calls for a good backpacking tent that costs under $200, the REI Half Dome 2 is an excellent choice.

The testers at Backpacker reviewed the improvements made by REI in the 2013 version of the tent.  They particularly liked the increased ventilation (two additional fly vents and more space between tent and fly).  Improvements were also made to the zippers of the inner doors.  And the tent is now available in an unobtrusive green color for those who want to camp without calling attention to their campsite.

Other than that, the Half Dome 2 retains its outstanding design and features:

  • 31.8 square feet of floor space — enough for two six-footers and gear
  • 40-inch peak height provides ample headroom
  • Setup is straightforward using color-coded poles and pole clips
  • Stability in winds is excellent
  • Waterproof floor, with sealed seams
  • The tent has multiple interior pockets for storing gear, including roof pockets and hang loops

The REI Half Dome 2 is a sturdy, 3-season tent with many thoughtful design features.  Its freestanding design is easy to live with and, though it isn’t the lightest 2-person backpacking tent (5 lbs. 2 oz.), it is the best 2-person tent available when considering value — that is, performance to price.  And, of course, it comes with REI’s 100% satisfaction guarantee.

If you’ve explored REI’s website much, then you know that their customers tend to be some of the pickiest reviewers of products that you’ll find online.  If you go to the Half Dome 2 page, you’ll see 35 customer reviews for this tent (as this is written).  Every review except one is 5 stars or 4 stars (the lone exception is 3 stars).  This tent is generally highly-appreciated by those who use it, especially those who are new to backpacking (and that is another good use for this tent — buy it if you’re just starting out and don’t want to break the bank with the priciest gear).

Two caveats regarding the Half Dome 2 tent…  The stakes that come with the tent are not especially sturdy.  Consider adding more robust stakes.  Also, some people found the length of the guy lines included with the tent to be on the skimpy side (for example, the guys at  The solution is to get some extra cord for guy lines — try BlueWater 3mm NiteLine Utility Cord (which is also stronger).  You’ll have plenty of money left over to buy some stronger stakes and additional guy lines because you’ll save a bunch when you buy the Half Dome 2.

Click here to see complete specifications, customer reviews, and to purchase the REI Half Dome 2 tent from REI.

Among 2-person backpacking tents, the REI Half Dome 2 tent is probably the best tent when it comes to the amount of performance for the price.

New for 2013, the REI Half Dome 2 is now available with a green rainfly.


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