REI Quarter Dome SL 2 Review
This REI Quarter Dome SL 2 review features a three-season, two-person, two-door, dual-vestibule, mesh inner, semi-freestanding tent. It weighs 47 oz (1522 g) and retails for $319.
- Very good value (quality, performance, and weight) for the money
- Light enough for solo use, resulting in a very roomy dual-entrance/dual-vestibule solo shelter.
Where to Buy:
For further context about this design, please refer to Ryan Jordan’s review of the REI Quarter Dome SL 1, the one-person model of the tent reviewed in this article.
In this article, I’ll walk you through what the REI Quarter Dome SL 2 has to offer by way of features and specs as well as the quality of materials and build. Plus, I’ll throw in my two cents about what I like about the tent and what its strengths (and limitations) are for someone like me.
Now…who is someone like me? I’ve gotten into camping over the last six or so years and have gone from car camping to walk-in tent sites, and then progressed to a couple of solo trips and multi-day hikes. I’m looking for a tent that is light, durable, affordable, and fits both myself and my daughter (age 6), who is excited to join me on my adventures.
Features and Specifications
- Vertical sidewalls and trapezoidal floor plan
- Color-coded hub-and-pole assembly
- V-shaped horizontal space-expander poles
- Dual-entry fly and canopy
- Dual stake-out vestibules
- Fly roof-vent for airflow and condensation control
- Four guyout loops on the fly and one rainfly rollback loop on each of the two doors
- Four interior pockets: two at the corners and two on ceiling
- Two hang loops in the ceiling for organization
- Reflective stake loops and guylines
- Fly/footprint minimalist pitch option lets you leave the tent at home and use the fly, poles, and footprint (sold separately) as a lightweight shelter
- Includes a stuff sack, stakes, guylines, and tighteners, as well as a pole-repair tube, a pole bag, and a stake bag
- Rainfly: 15.3 oz (435 g)
- Tent Body: 15.5 oz (441 g)
- Pole-set Sack: 11.1 oz (314 g)
- Pole Set: 10.5 oz (298 g)
- Stuff Sack: 0.6 oz (16 g)
- Stake Sack (10 stakes, 3 guylines, 1 pole repair): 5.2 oz (150 g)
- (1) Stake: 0.4 oz (11 g)
- (10) Stakes: 3.9 oz (112 g)
- (3) Guylines: 0.6 oz (18 g)
- (1) Pole Repair: .4 oz (11 g)
- (1) Stuff Sack: 1.2 oz (35 g)
- Footprint: 6.4 oz (182 g)
- Packaged Weights
- Minimalist (rainfly, poles, footprint, 5 stakes, no sacks): 2 lbs 2.2 oz (970 g)
- Fair Weather (tent body, poles, 5 stakes, footprint, sacks): 1 lb 13.8oz (845 g)
- Inclement Weather (fly, poles, canopy, footprint, 10 stakes, guylines): 3 lbs 5.7 ounces (1522 g)
- Packed Size (L x Diameter): 20 in x 5.5 (51 cm x 13.97 cm)
- Floor Dimensions (L x W head/foot): 88 in x 52/42 in (224 cm x 132/107 cm)
- Floor Area: 28.7 ft² (9 m²)
- Vestibule Area: 21.5 ft2
- Peak Height: 38 in (97 cm)
- Pole Material: Aluminum
- Canopy: Nylon
- Floor: Ripstop nylon
- Rainfly: Ripstop nylon
I’ve mainly used one-person tents during my backpacking travels here in the southeast US and over the last couple of trips have decided I want to upgrade to a two-person tent. My reasoning was that I wanted more interior space for both gear and people.
- Gear space: I occasionally suffer from back pain when sleeping on the ground, so I wanted the option to use an overall larger (thicker, wider) sleeping pad while still having a spacious feel inside my shelter.
- More people: My daughter, age six, is wanting to come with me on some of my backpacking adventures. I wanted a shelter that could accommodate us both without adding too much weight since I will be hauling both our gear.
I was also looking for a reasonably-priced tent that was equally at home in the backcountry and frontcountry. I don’t need a top-of-the line Dyneema shelter – I just wanted something functional, reasonable, simple, and spacious.
Description of Field Testing
I tested the REI Quarter Dome SL 2 on several multi-day trips in Georgia as well as walk-in tent sites at a local state park. All of the trips occurred in the summer months in both dry and wet conditions. I used a standard-sized rectangular inflatable sleeping pad and a mummy sleeping bag. I also used a standard inflatable twin air mattress for one trip with my daughter to a walk-in campsite at Chattahoochee Bend State Park.
My performance analysis of the REI Quarter Dome SL 2 will consist of:
- Ventilation and Condensation Management
- Space & Storage
All the seams are tight with double-stitching and there are no loose threads or unraveling parts. The mesh has no scrapes, runs, or tears. I will say, upon my initial contact with the ripstop nylon that makes up the rain fly and floor portions of this tent, I was skeptical; however, after using the tent and playing with the materials, it’s definitely tougher than I surmised it would be*.
*Editor’s Note: REI does not provide the denier of the fabrics used in this shelter.
The tent stakes are light as well – they weigh in at 11 grams each. They are made with high quality and lightweight DAC aluminum. Upon handling them, it seems as if squeezing them too hard will result in the deflection of the material, but they are just as tough as any of the heavier stakes you’d find at a sporting goods store. Even driving them into the rocky ground here in southwest Atlanta didn’t damage them at all.
The guylines and cordage are all fluorescent orange with reflective strips woven throughout. They are easy to see in the underbrush and reflect well during the night.
When rolled up in its stuff sack (with all components), The Quarter Dome SL 2 measures about 20 in long (51 cm) and 5½ in (14 cm) in diameter – weighing in just shy of three pounds. I have the Gossamer Gear Mariposa 60L pack, and the Quarter Dome SL 2 fits under the top lid or in the front mesh pocket. The components separate easily for group carry.
If you wanted to try and go as light as possible, the fair-weather option is to leave the tent at home and only bring the mesh canopy, pole set, and stakes. That will weigh in at only 29.8 oz (845 g). Granted, that is still heavier than most of the high-end ultralight two-person options on the market today – particularly single-wall DCF models. But it is on the lighter end of similarly designed double-wall, two-person, hub-and-pole supported structures (see our two tables in the Compared To…” section)
One of the neat features of the REI Quarter Dome SL 2 is the Fast Fly option. Unfortunately, you’ll need to purchase the additional footprint for this. I did not test this feature, since (at this point) I don’t have the additional footprint. But I like this shelter enough to consider purchasing it for the added set-up flexibility it offers.
For instance; if you’re in inclement weather, you can layout the footprint, connect the pole set to the footprint, and connect the rainfly. That will allow you to set up the tent inside the fly, allowing you to keep the tent itself dry (see Ryan’s video of the SL 1 starting at 12:04 to see how this is done). Aside from inclement weather, this is a nice setup if it’s a nice night and you just want some basic (non-bug) protection.
I’m a fan of the mostly mesh construction. In southwest Atlanta, I tested the Quarter Dome SL 2 in mid-September with afternoon temperatures reaching 95 F (35 C) and overnight lows hitting 75 F (24 C) in high humidity. Mesh is a must for airflow. Of course, whenever the rainfly is up around the tent, the mesh airflow is defeated. There is a 5 in (13 cm) vent at the top of the rainfly that will allow some airflow to continue, but it’s not much.
I have not experienced any major condensation inside the tent, but also, I did not test this tent outside the summer season. In conditions likely to form condensation the Quarter Dome SL 2 will most certainly suffer from it. But the double-wall mesh design should keep you dry for the most part.
It was muggy in the tent with the rainfly on, but that is expected with the combination of the rainfly and hot weather. Still, ventilation is not this shelter’s strong suit.
Space & Storage
The Quarter Dome SL 2 can fit two people, but it’s a bit snug (in my opinion) for two large adults. I believe that two smaller people or one larger and one smaller would be fine. I’m 5’11” (180 cm) and weigh about 160 lbs (73 kg). I have plenty of room to move or stash extra gear I want inside, especially at the head and foot of the shelter. Widthwise, you have 52 in (132 cm) at the head and only 42 in (106 cm) at the foot of the tent. Which is plenty of space for a single adult my size, but I think it would be a bit too snug for two adults my size.
The ceiling of the tent is 38 in (97 cm) at its peak height. While sitting up in the tent, my head did not brush the top of the tent. I had room to move and rearrange my gear and change without touching any of the sidewall mesh or ceiling.
There were also four pockets inside the tent to stow additional gear. There are two at the head of the tent in the corners by the door and two overhead. Both pockets at the head of the tent held all the gear I would need at arms reach throughout the night. The ceiling pockets were convenient to place a headlamp, as is shown in the picture above. I wouldn’t want to put too much weight in the overhead pockets to prevent any additional stress on seams.
In addition to the pockets, there are two stake-out vestibules at each door when the fly is in place. You get plenty of space to place your pack, shoes, or any additional gear you may have for each person. As you can see from the photo (above), my 60L pack fits easily with room to spare.
As I stated above, I was looking for something I could use with myself and my small daughter – or something that would be equally at home car camping with an air mattress as it would be in the backcountry with a sleeping pad. This tent met those space requirements. I was even able to fit a standard twin air mattress inside the Quarter Dome SL 2 and still had a few inches of space at the base of the tent.
While the SL 2 kept me snug and dry during gentle summer showers, I did not have the opportunity to test it in a serious storm. Thus I can’t speak to its ability to weather serious gales. I would imagine that the fly would be difficult to attach to the hub-and-pole frame during high winds (a common problem with this class of shelter). For more on the storm resistance of this design, see Ryan Jordan’s review of the REI Quarter Dome SL1. Because we don’t have enough experience in stormy weather with the REI Quarter Dome SL 2, we won’t be assigning a product review rating to it.
Product Strengths and Limitations
- One of the lighter shelters in its class (and the lightest in our first comparison table)
- Quality construction
- Flexible set-up options
- Spacious (but not huge) interior – perfect for camping with children or a big dog
- Large enough for extra-large sleeping pad (makes for a luxurious, if heavy, solo shelter)
- Good value when compared to the competition
- Heavy compared to more expensive high-end cottage-industry designs (the heaviest shelter in our second comparison table)
- Won’t fit two large people comfortably
- Somewhat bulky when packed
In the first table, I compared the REI Co-op Quarter Dome SL 2 to three other two-person, hub-and-pole supported, double-wall, two-door, side-entry, dual-vestibule three-season shelters.
|Shelter||REI Quarter Dome SL 2||MSR Hubba Hubba NX 2||Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL 2||NEMO Dragonfly
|Weight (interior, fly, pole-set, guylines, tighteners stakes)||47 oz (1332 g)||62 oz (1758 g)||49 oz (1389 g)||48.2 oz (1336 g)|
|Materials||Ripstop nylon, mesh, aluminum||15d mesh, 15d ripstop nylon, 20d ripstop nylon, 30d ripstop nylon, Easton syclone||Patterned double ripstop nylon, mesh,DAC Featherlite NFL and NSL||10d ripstop nylon, 20d ripstop nylon, 15d ripstop nylon,Aluminum DAC Featherlite|
|Footprint Dimensions (l x w head/foot)||88 in x 52/42 in (224 cm x 132/102 cm)||84 in x 50 in (213 cm x 127 cm)||88 in x 52/42 in (224 cm x 132/102 cm)||88 in x 50/45 in (224 cm x 127/114 cm)|
|Floor Area||28.7 ft² (9 m²)||29 ft² (9 m²)||29 ft² (9 m²)||29 ft² (9 m²)|
|Vestibule Area (total combined)||21.5 ft² (7 m²)||17.5 ft² (5 m²)||18 ft² (5 m²)||20 ft² (6 m²)|
|Apex||38 in (97 cm)||39 in (99 in)||40 in (102 cm)||40 in (102 cm)|
|Packed Size (length x diameter)||20 in x 7 in (51 cm x 18 cm)||18 in x 6 in (46 cm x 15 cm)||19.5 in x 4 in (50 cm x 11 cm)||19.5 in x 4 in (50 cm x 11 cm)|
|Special Features||V-shaped horizontal space expander pole||Horizontal space expander pole||Four-way hub design||Horizontal space expander pole|
While the Quarter Dome SL 2 is a little less spacious inside than some of its competition, it holds its own in the weight department – it’s the lightest shelter in this table. The materials might be perceived as slightly less premium (i.e., they lack the marketing cred of trademarked fabric brand names) but the build quality is comparable. The vestibule area of the Quarter Dome SL 2 is the largest in our range of compared products.
The MSR Hubba Hubba NX 2 may be the best choice in this table for inclement weather – there’s more solid fabric on the lower part of the inner tent for wind resistance and blowing snow. The Nemo Dragonfly 2 offers the least amount of interior volume. The REI Quarter Dome SL 2 offers the most mesh, and thus, the best ventilation for summer conditions.
In the second table, I compare the SL 2 to two popular two-person, dual-entrance, dual-vestibule, side-entry trekking pole supported shelters – the Zpacks Duplex and the Tarptent Stratospire 2.
|Shelter||REI Quarter Dome SL 2||ZPacks Duplex||Tarptent Stratospire 2|
|Weight (interior, fly, pole-set, guylines, tighteners||47 oz (1332 g) (including stakes)||19.4 oz (550 g) (excluding stakes)||44 oz (1247 g) (including stakes)|
|Materials||Ripstop nylon, mesh, aluminum||.51 oz/sqyd Dyneema Composite Fabric, 1.0 oz/sqyd Dyneema Composite Fabric, mesh||Silicon-coated 30d nylon, mesh|
|Footprint Dimensions (l x w head/foot)||88 in x 52/42 in (224 cm x 132/102 cm)||90 in x 45 in (229 cm x 114 cm)||86 in x 52 in (218 cm x 132 cm)|
|Floor Area||28.7 ft² (9 m²)||28.1 ft²(9 m²)||31 ft²(9 m²)|
|Vestibule Area (total combined)||21.5 ft² (7 m²)||Area not provided - depth of 20.75 in (55 cm) on each side||Area not provided depth of 33 in (84 cm) on each side|
|Apex||38 in (97 cm)||48 in (122 cm)||50 in (127 cm)|
|Packed Size||20 in x 7 in (51 cm x 18 cm)||13 in x 7 in (33 cm x 18 cm)||16 in x 5 in x 5 in (41 cm x 18 cm x 18 cm)|
|Special Features||V-shaped horizontal space expander pole||DCF construction - no seam sealing or groundsheet required||PitchLoc corners for expanded living space, double wall, interior can set up independently of fly|
Here we see how the REI Quarter Dome SL 2 fares when compared to cottage industry design and materials. The Duplex is constructed of DCF fabric and is supported by trekking poles – thus it is 28 oz (794 g) lighter than the Quarter Dome SL 2. These factors combine to make the Duplex one of the more popular two-person shelters in the ultralight world. But DCF comes at a cost – a $600 shelter is likely out of the question for a backpacker seriously considering the Quarter Dome SL 2.
The Tarptent Stratospire 2, by contrast, is much closer in price to the Quarter Dome SL 2 at $359. It sports a double-wall, trekking pole-supported design, and is only 3 oz (85 g) lighter than the Quarter Dome SL 2. It is considerably more spacious – its headroom, livable area, and vestibules are all larger than what the Quarter Dome SL 2 can offer. One advantage of the SL 2 over the Stratospire 2 is that the geodesic pole structure of the SL 2 will stabilize fabrics better and make it a more wind-worthy alternative than the Stratospire 2. This is discussed in more detail in Ryan’s review of the smaller REI Quarter Dome SL 1.
It’s worth noting that a 26 oz (737 g) DCF version of the Stratospire 2 is available (the Tarptent Stratospire Li), which is a closer direct competitor to the ZPacks Duplex.
So overall, I like the REI Quarter Dome SL 2. It met all my criteria for what I was looking for in a tent. It’s not the lightest option in the two-person market, but it is one of the lightest options in its price class.
I was looking for something comfortable, stable, relatively inexpensive, and easy to set-up – while remaining spacious enough to fit me, my daughter, and an extra-large sleeping pad. The Quarter Dome SL 2 met those criteria.
The mostly-mesh interior is great to ensure good breathability (with the fly off) during the hot summer months of Georgia, where I primarily do my backpacking. With the fly on, it’s going to get muggy in the summer and have some condensation in the shoulder-seasons. Finally, the shelter was light enough for me to carry comfortably – it’s one of the lightest shelters available in the silnylon, hub-and-pole, two-person class.
I also like the fast fly feature, for use in setting up the tent either in inclement weather (fly first) or on nice nights where just some basic shelter is needed. That does require the purchase of the footprint ($49.99 on REI.com), but I believe the cost is worth the value of those additional options.
I’d recommend the REI Quarter Dome SL 2 for backpackers looking for an all-around comfortable backcountry shelter that blends reasonable price and reasonable performance.
Where to Buy
- Are double-wall semi-freestanding tents your thing? Check out Andrew’s review of the Big Agnes Fly Creek HV1 Carbon here.
- Ryan’s REI Quarter Dome SL 1 Review
Updated November 7, 2019
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