REI Quarter Dome SL 2 Tent Review

REI QUARTER DOME SL 2 TENT REVIEW

This blog post is sponsored by REI. As always, all opinions and words are my own.

I recently tested out the brand new REI Quarter Dome SL 2 Tent on a recent 5-day packrafting trip in Southern Utah. Released in Spring of 2019, the Quarter Dome SL comes in at a minimal trail weight of 2.8 pounds and is about a pound lighter than their longstanding, ever-so-popular Quarter Dome tent.

I’ve tested a number of ultralight tents over the years, and most come with their compromises. Whether you sacrifice space, forgo double side doors, or have a tent made of thin, weak material in order to save weight, many of the lighter weight tents have their downsides.

I’m not sure about you, but I tend to be hard on my gear, so durability is important. Also with a partner and a dog, we need more space than most ultralight two-man backpacking tents will afford.

With that said, packing as light as possible on our recent packrafting trip was important, so it was the perfect opportunity to put the new REI Quarter Dome SL 2 Tent to the test.

In this blog post, I share my favorite features of this new tent that make it a great addition to any backpacker’s gear closet.

REI Quarter Dome SL 2 Specs

  • Minimum Trail Weight: 2 pounds 8 ounces
  • Packaged Weight: 2 pounds 14 ounces
  • Packed Size: 7 x 20 inches
  • Floor Dimensions: 88″ x 52″ at head / 88″ x 42″ at foot (L x W)
  • Peak Height: 38″
  • Sleeping Capacity: 2
  • Best Use: 3 Season Backpacking Tent
  • Type: Semi-Free Standing
  • Price: $319

Check out my review of the new REI Quarter Dome SL 2 Tent - a spacious ultralight backpacking tent that weighs 2.8 pounds and has a ton of great features.

How spacious is REI’s Quarter Dome SL 2 Tent?

If you have experience with ultralight tents, you know that many two-man tents tend to be small – more like 1.5 person tents. With a partner and a dog, I  pretty much always size up to a 3-man tent. For that reason, I was a little skeptical that we’d all be able to fit comfortably in this ultralight 2-man tent.

In comparing it to other popular 2-man tents under three pounds, the floor dimensions of this tent are actually quite generous and slightly bigger than its more expensive competitors. Neither of us felt cramped, and with the large vestibules on each side of the tent, we were able to store a majority of our gear outside of the tent and still have easy access.

So how did our dog fit? Charlie is a border collie / mini-Aussie mix that weighs about 38 pounds. I was actually surprised that the three of us fit without too much trouble. The tent measures 88″ inches long. I’m 5’5″ (~65 inches), so Charlie was able to sleep at the bottom corner near my feet without cramping my style too much. Of course, a three-man tent is cushier, but with the weight savings, it’s still manageable to get a good night’s sleep with your family (as long as you both aren’t 6 feet tall).

With 38″ inches of peak headspace, we also felt like we had plenty of headroom. There is also a spacious interior pocket on both sides that will easily fit your headlamp and other evening essentials.

Check out my review of the new REI Quarter Dome SL 2 Tent - a spacious ultralight backpacking tent that weighs 2.8 pounds and has a ton of great features.

Double Doors and Vestibules

For a while, I was using a Mountain Hardwear Ultralight 2-man tent, and it only had one door near our heads. If you had to get up in the middle of the night to pee, it was very difficult to sneak out without disturbing the other person. After a few years with that tent, I decided that two side doors is a must. Not only is it easier to get in and out, you can stay more organized by keeping you and your hiking partner’s gear separate in your own individual vestibules.

One thing I really like about this tent is that you can roll back both the fly door and the tent door for super easy access when you are unpacking your bag and setting up your sleep system.

The big doors and vestibules, combined with the roof vent, allows for great ventilation on warmer evenings.

Check out my review of the new REI Quarter Dome SL 2 Tent - a spacious ultralight backpacking tent that weighs 2.8 pounds and has a ton of great features.

Setting Up the REI Quarter Dome SL 2 Tent

I set this tent up all by myself in less than 5 minutes on the first try without really reading the instructions.  First, there is a single pole system that works off a central hub. The tent poles, clips, and ends are also color coded so you can easily see how to orient the poles.

Check out my review of the new REI Quarter Dome SL 2 Tent - a spacious ultralight backpacking tent that weighs 2.8 pounds and has a ton of great features.

Check out my review of the new REI Quarter Dome SL 2 Tent - a spacious ultralight backpacking tent that weighs 2.8 pounds and has a ton of great features.

The thing to know is that this tent is semi-free standing. This means you have to pull tight and stake all of the ends down in order to get the maximum space out of the tent floor. This is also important for stability. You can see from the photo below that the foot end of the tent only has a pole in the center. Personally, I didn’t find this a big deal, especially when reducing the number of poles results in weight savings.

Check out my review of the new REI Quarter Dome SL 2 Tent - a spacious ultralight backpacking tent that weighs 2.8 pounds and has a ton of great features.

To throw on the fly, all you have to do is match up the doors, and the fly quickly clips into the ends of the tent poles. Then stake out the vestibule doors. It’s super simple, and the fly has pre-installed tension lines so you can snug everything up.

Check out my review of the new REI Quarter Dome SL 2 Tent - a spacious ultralight backpacking tent that weighs 2.8 pounds and has a ton of great features.

Durability

This was the first trip I used the Quarter Dome SL 2 tent, and we were fortunate with little wind and great weather. This allowed us to sleep without the fly and stargaze from bed since the entire tent is mesh.

As it goes with all ultralight tents with that much mesh, you have to be careful not to catch a zipper.

The fly and poles seemed durable and well built. I’m confident this tent will stand the test, but I’ll come back and report once I use it in gnarlier weather. In this case, the included guylines will come in handy.

While REI makes a footprint specific to this tent to protect the bottom, we didn’t use one on this trip, even with our dog. We didn’t experience any pinholes or tearing, but it probably wouldn’t be a bad idea to use a footprint if you don’t mind carrying the extra 6.4 ounces.

Check out my review of the new REI Quarter Dome SL 2 Tent - a spacious ultralight backpacking tent that weighs 2.8 pounds and has a ton of great features.

Final Thoughts

The REI Quarter Dome SL 2 backpacking tent is an awesome lightweight option, especially for the price. At $319, it’s in some cases $200 cheaper than the competitors, while coming in very close in weight. Click here to check it out on REI’s website and to read other users’ reviews of the Quarter Dome’s evolution.

Got questions? Leave a comment below and join the discussion in our Bearfoot Theory Outdoor Adventurers Facebook Group!

Written by Kristen Bor

Hey there! My name is Kristen, and this is my outdoor blog. I discovered the power of the outdoors in my 20s, at the time I needed it most. Now 15 years later, prioritizing that critical connection with nature continues to improve my life. My goal at Bearfoot Theory is to empower you with the tools and advice you need to responsibly get outside.

6 comments on “REI Quarter Dome SL 2 Tent Review

  1. Just bought a used one for $140 at REI Garage Sale in Saratoga, CA! According to the tag, the customer said it did not stand up. I set it up in the store, without instructions, it was all intuitive, and worked perfectly, no tears or zipper issues. I just couldn’t quite stake the back corners into the concrete slab. 🙂 One of the employees commented that returns are often due to user error. It looks like a great tent, and glad to read this review before giving to my son for Christmas.

  2. I just purchased this SL2 and set it up last night .. I’m sure in soft dirt , where it’s easy to stake out , it’s going to set up fine .. but it is nearly impossible to set up in rocky dirt .. with just the poles installed, the foot end is barely wide enough to place your feet .. the outside corners just sort of flare up and there’s no tension to hold them either down to the ground or out anywhere close to their full width .. if your happy with a loose and wrinkly mesh inner you’ll probably have an easier time setting it up .. but the instructions say to pull hard .. as hard as you can .. to get rid of the wrinkles and stake .. unfortunately I tried staking out in the Sacramento Mountains east of Alamogordo , in prep for the CDT IN 2022 , and the ground is probably 50 or 70% rock and I spent a good 5 or 10 minutes on each corner trying and shifting the corners and retrying , trying to find a hole that the stakes would go threw .. took a good 20 to 30 minutes before I finally had all four corners and the tent floor flat and about 95% wrinkle free .. THEN I had to do the same with the rain fly .. the cordage on the rain fly for windage tie down was long enough that I just tied the three lines to heavy rock .. the cordage for the mesh corners and the cordage for the bottom edges of the rain fly are too short .. you either have to get a stake into the ground or you better take with you extra cordage and go rock hunting .. you can probably sleep in it unstaked but your feet are going to be brushing against the sides of the bathtub .. I received nine stakes , aluminum Vees , you’re going to need a minimum of twelve .. four for the mesh inner , seven for the outer , three for the storm clouds .. you can share two out at the two foot corners , but I’m taking fourteen titanium Vees just in case I need better tensioning options .. if you’re planning on hiking in rocky terrain or just want to throw the poles up and dive in out of the rain , this is NOT a freestanding tenting and you will NOT enjoy sleeping in it unstaked .. like I said , it’s “possible” in an emergency , but you are not going to enjoy the crowded space and the loose fabric .. buy 11 rock bags .. the LARGEST they make , because this tent requires a TON OF TENSION to pull the corners taut .. I’ve been hiking for 44 years .. since I was 11 .. I hiked about 2/3 of the CDT in 1984 , after graduating from high school in early June .. from Antelope Wells to the north end of the Winds .. and hiked the full length in 1994 after getting out of the Military .. I’ve always used double x pole half domes because they only need staking in windy conditions .. have a Marmot Tungsten 1p that is nice but it’s a little crowded for long distance and a little heavy .. I probably should have bought the tungsten 2p ultralight but they seem to be always sold out and this one is lighter .. can’t afford to buy another tent .. bought the tungsten 1p ( before the UL existed ) for a planned 2019 that I couldn’t make and then a 2020 CDT that got shelved because of the pandemic .. so I’ll have to stick with this one and hope I can find enough heavy rocks or logs if I can’t get the stakes in past the rock and get enough tension .. wish it was lighter but I can’t afford another 600 dollars .. should have bought the Tungsten 2p UL from REI when they were available back in 2019 .. ~ Highlander ~

    1. Hi Highlander, appreciate you sharing your experience with this tent. I’ve used it in rocky terrain before and rocks in the corners do a pretty good job when you can’t put stakes in the ground. The rain fly is a little trickier, but most tents have the same problem with rocky ground. Best of luck on the CDT!

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