In years past, REI’s Quarter Dome was on the cusp of breaking through in the lightweight tent market. It was a fantastic value for the weight, but the build quality was a step down from the competition and there were some compromises in the design. With a 2017 update, however, REI has addressed these issues and the result is a great all-around tent—no price caveat required. The new model has a very competitive sub-4-pound weight, functional interior, and mix of premium lightweight materials. Below we break down the Quarter Dome’s interior space, weight, durability, weather protection, storage, and more. To see how the new model stacks up, see our article on the best backpacking tents.
Unlike the previous generation Quarter Dome, which was a complete revamp of the old T2 tent, the 2017 version of the REI Quarter Dome 2 is much more livable. The most significant update is a pole structure that opens up the interior with near vertical walls on all sides. In particular, the space around the head and feet has increased—REI claims by 28% and 23%, respectively. At the head end, this is most noticeable when 2 people sit up side-by-side (peak height has increased to a tall 42 inches). At the feet, the squared off walls are less prone to hitting the footbox of our size long sleeping bag.
We do value the increase in usable space, but the Quarter Dome still is a weight-focused design with a fairly small footprint. The floor of the tent is listed at 52 inches at the head and tapers to 42 inches at the feet, and I measured the actual usable space inside as a few inches less at each end. As a result, our 2 regular sized (20-inches wide) sleeping pads took up nearly the entire width of the interior. It’s a good idea to use mummy-shaped pads, and if you have 2 wide (25-inch mats) or just prefer a little more space inside, it’s worth considering the 3-person Quarter Dome.
Starting with the update a couple years ago to their Flash series of backpacking packs, REI appears to be willing to add a little weight to their gear for the sake of comfort. The new Quarter Dome 2 has a minimum trail weight of 3 pounds 5 ounces, which is an increase of 4 ounces over the previous model. This still makes it the lightest 2-person backpacking tent that REI currently offers—next up is the popular Half Dome 2 at 4 pounds 9 ounces.
Within the lightweight backpacking market, the Quarter Dome is pretty competitive. The popular MSR Hubba Hubba NX (3 pounds 7 ounces) and Nemo Dagger 2P (3 pounds 5 ounces) are nearly the same weight, although the REI’s tapered shape isn’t as roomy overall as those 2 tents. You can certainly go lighter with the Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2 at 2 pounds 12 ounces, but that will cost you another $100.
The Quarter Dome’s packed size is very much reflective of its weight. At 7 by 18.5 inches, the new model is 1.5 inches shorter than the previous Quarter Dome and 3 inches shorter than the Half Dome 2. We had no issues fitting the tent inside our backpacking packs, but those carrying a small capacity bag may need to separate the tent body and rainfly from the poles. The 2 hubs do give it a somewhat thick diameter—the Copper Spur HV UL2 we had along on the same trip was a more compact 4 by 19.5 inches.
Right off the bat, it’s readily apparent that REI placed a bigger emphasis on build quality with the new Quarter Dome. Everything from the fabric and zippers to the stakes, which REI upgraded to DAC brand pegs for this year, have a premium look and feel. That being said, the tent does use fairly thin materials as a means to keeping weight low. The tent body and floor is 20-denier ripstop nylon, and the rainfly is an even thinner 15 denier. This isn’t out of place for a lightweight tent—Big Agnes’ Copper Spur uses a similar mix of 15 and 20-denier nylon—but the fabric does require extra care to avoid getting a puncture. Using the Quarter Dome footprint or making one yourself will go a long way in extending the tent’s lifespan.
The REI Quarter Dome falls in-line with lightweight backpacking tents in terms of weather protection. You get a full coverage rainfly, waterproof bathtub-style floor that is tall enough to protect you from most wind, and enough guyout points to get a taut pitch. A nice benefit of the large vestibules (covered below) is that your pack, shoes, and whatever else you store outside is completely protected by the wide, waterproof shelter. We did notice that the tent was more prone to flexing in strong gusts of wind than the Copper Spur HV we tested along side it, but proper use of the guylines makes the REI plenty sturdy for most 3-season use.
Most modern backpacking tents offer pretty good ventilation, and the Quarter Dome 2 is no exception. There is ample mesh along the upper portion of the tent body, and the double wall construction leaves enough space between the inner tent and rainfly to encourage airflow and reduce condensation build up. The Quarter Dome also has a roof vent in the rainfly at the top of the head end of the tent. And while this is a fairly common feature, REI includes a zippered opening to access the vent without having to go outside. If rain starts coming at you sideways in the middle of the night, this is a great way to quickly batten down the hatches.
One of our biggest complaints with the previous Quarter Dome was its small vestibules, and REI made significant gains here with the new model. At 6.7 square feet each, the old triangular vestibules barely had enough space to accommodate a pack and hiking shoes without interfering with access to the tent’s interior. The new vestibules are 10.75 square feet apiece, which represent a very noticeable increase. Not only are the new vestibules 4.5 inches larger at their widest point, the 2-stake design also creates a more spacious “porch” right outside of each door.
Storage on the inside of the tent is just as good. There are 3 large stretch pockets built into the ceiling that are conveniently located overhead, and you’ll find 2 additional triangular pockets at head height near the front corners of the tent. Lastly, at every pole attachment point is a hang loop on the inside of the tent body for connecting a light. All in all, storage is a clear strong suit of the redesigned Quarter Dome.
Set up and Take Down
Setting up the Quarter Dome is a simple process and can be done by a single person in only a few minutes. REI has attached instructions to the stuff sack, but those familiar with setting up a modern, freestanding tent likely won’t need them. It’s as easy as staking out the corners, connecting the color-coordinated poles and grommets, and clipping the poles and tent body together. The rainfly fits easily over the top and connects with color-matching buckles at each corner (a nice change from the cumbersome old system that required connecting a grommet directly to the base of the pole). Take down is just as fast, and both are easy to complete in windy conditions.
It’s worth nothing that the Quarter Dome comes with only 9 stakes, which is 1 short of what we would consider necessary for a basic set-up. Eight pegs are required to stake out the corners and 2 vestibules, which means you have to decide between staking out either the head end or foot end of the rain fly (we confirmed this point with REI’s customer service). It’s not uncommon for a tent to be short on stakes—and it’s always a good idea to bring along extras for connecting guylines in stormy weather—but we consider this to be an odd omission.
What We Like
- The updated Quarter Dome has a tall peak height and relatively open interior with only a small gain in weight.
- High quality fabrics, tent poles, and stakes.
- Very large vestibules for easy entry, exit, and storage.
- Despite a $50 increase in price, the Quarter Dome still undercuts a lot of the competition by $50 or more.
What We Don’t
- The tent only includes 9 stakes, but 10 are necessary for a basic set-up.
- The 20-denier floor is fairly thin and requires care.
- The tapered design at the feet limits what shape and size of sleeping pads you can use.
|REI Co-op Quarter Dome 2||$349||3 lbs. 5 oz.||18.5 x 7 in.||42 in.||28.7 sq. ft.||2|
|Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2||$450||2 lbs. 12 oz.||19.5 x 4 in.||40 in.||29 sq. ft.||2|
|MSR Hubba Hubba NX||$400||3 lbs. 7 oz.||18 x 6 in.||39 in.||29 sq. ft.||2|
|Nemo Dagger 2P||$400||3 lbs. 5 oz.||19 x 5.5 in.||42 in.||31 sq. ft.||2|
|REI Co-op Half Dome 2||$199||4 lbs. 9 oz.||21 x 6 in.||40 in.||31.8 sq. ft.||2|
A lot of backpacking tents on the market aim for that perfect balance of weight and features, but the Quarter Dome 2 is one of our favorites. Its $349 price may be a $50 increase from last year’s model, but the tent’s interior space, generous storage, and quality build justify the bump. You can save quite a bit of money with a tent like REI’s $199 Half Dome 2, but those that spend a lot of time on the trail and in the backcountry will appreciate the Quarter Dome’s weight savings and premium construction.
Two strong alternatives to the Quarter Dome are MSR’s Hubba Hubba NX and Nemo’s Dagger 2P. Unlike the Quarter Dome, which tapers in width and height at the foot end, the MSR and Nemo are symmetrical designs. This gives you more usable space inside and allows 2 people to sleep head-to-toe comfortably. More, the Hubba Hubba NX and Dagger use a thicker 30-denier floor fabric, which likely will be more durable over time. Where the Quarter Dome is the clear leader is value, as it undercuts these 2 competitors by a significant $50.
Another popular tent that received an update for 2017 is the Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2. We tested this tent side-by-side with the Quarter Dome on our trip to Canyonlands, and found the 2 share a lot in common. Both have similar floor dimensions that taper towards the feet, and their vertical walls make the interior tolerable for 2 (getting the 3-person model still is best for comfort seekers). The Quarter Dome’s pole design does open up more space at the foot end of the tent and it has larger vestibules (21.5 sq. ft. vs. 18 sq. ft.), but the Copper Spur gets the clear weight advantage with a 9-ounce savings. More, we found that the Copper Spur was the slightly sturdier tent in wind, although both models should be good enough for most 3-season conditions. Independent of price, we prefer the Copper Spur overall, but the $100 savings makes the Quarter Dome a great value.
Editor’s note: We usually provide a live price comparison table below our outdoor gear reviews, but the Quarter Dome 2 is sold exclusively by REI. You can see the Quarter Dome 2 page here and support us in the process. Thanks!