REI Half Dome Tent
My 2-person REI Half-Dome backpacking tent is coming up on 17 years of service in my outdoor adventures. It has been my camping companion for every solo adventure and quite a few 2-person outings. It survives a 16-year marriage — in fact, it was one of the items I added to our wedding registry, along with a pair of Thermarest self-inflating sleeping pads (or a modern version), the pinnacle of sleep-comfort technology at the time.
Now partnered with a Husqvarna Svartpilen 401 motorcycle, following my divorce, the Half-Dome tent has been put back into service at a nicely accelerating clip. My two daughters slept in the tent a month ago, while I slept next to them, half under the stars and half under the wide footprint of the expansive rainfly. The weekend after that, I strapped the tent to the pillion seat of the motor bike, loaded up the well-made, waterproof and inexpensive VUZ Saddlebags with a new lightweight sleeping bag, much smaller, modern inflatable sleeping pad, a first-aid kit, a change of clothes and a few other survival items, like water and food, and hit the road for the mountains surrounding Los Angeles.
The tent has been set up in every type of terrain, from soft dirt, to hard-pack surface with sharp rocks, to forest floors covered with sharp twigs and pine cones — and yet to have a hole, tear, or rip in the floor or walls. A lot of that has to do with careful selection and clearing of the tent location and use of the REI footprint ground cover, but I recall setting up a brand new tent from Walmart or Big 5 during a Girl Scout outing and ripped a tear in one of the pole sleeves on its first setup.
Tent Pitching and Striking
To that point, the Half Dome has no pole sleeves — it has pole clips. Pitching the tent takes hardly any time at all. The hardest part of breaking it down is folding the fly narrow enough to fit the length of the tri-folded tent for roll-up. But the bag it comes with is spacious and even if you do a lousy job, it still fits. Try that with a tent from Dick’s. That said, I get plenty of camping and outdoor gear from Walmart and other sporting good departments, but if it’s something you will rely on and want it to last, you simply have to compare competitive products to, if not make your final purchase from, the curated selections from REI.
I live in the LA Basin now, so rain is an exciting anomaly, so I can’t say the 17-year old Half Dome is still waterproof, but I have no reason to believe it’s not — if properly set up with taut guylines keeping the fabric of the rainfly from touching the walls of the tent.
On the third camping weekend of last month, I set out to the mountains northwest of LA, and camped in the Los Padres National Forest, loaded with the same essential gear. On both that trip and the previous weekend to the Angeles National Forest, I left the rainfly in the bag and opted solely for the bear and coyote protection afforded by the mosquito netting, which also provides a great view of stars — not quite as clear as with just my feet under the rainfly, but clear enough to compel you out of the tent for a full view of the magnificence of the dry, night sky, unsullied with light pollution.
You could spend a lot of time researching tents. In fact, I have a breakdown of the best family tents I could find online here. You may save some money and get a good tent. But if you wan to save a lot time, and probably quite a bit of money over the 15+ year of use you may get out of it, it’s safe to buy the right-sized tent for your needs at REI. And if you are going on a either a solo adventure or a two-person backpacking trip, the REI Half Dome is a great choice.