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REI Makes Major Updates to Iconic Tent: Half Dome ‘Super Light’ 3+ Review

The REI Half Dome 2 Plus has been my favorite camping tent for years. I upgraded to the new Half Dome SL3+ to compare the new version to the one I fell in love with.

REI Co-op Half Dome SL 3+ Tent
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I’ve been rocking a REI Half Dome tent for half a decade, and while it’s kept me dry, cozy, and safe on nearly all of my camping trips over the past 5 years, my partner and I decided it was time to find something a bit roomier for us and our dogs.

We’ve been sleeping in the 2018 Half Dome 2 Plus, and that “Plus” seemingly doesn’t mean two people plus three dogs. Sure, we all technically fit inside. But it’s usually more of a vertical pile of bodies than a comfortable night in the woods.

Thus began our search for a three-person tent. We car camp more than we backpack but wanted something that would work for both types of trip. So, a super-spacious (and heavy) tent like the REI Wonderland was out of the question.

That said, space really was an important factor in our decision. We have a full-size mattress topper from my SUV platform that we sleep on when car camping. We wanted that mattress to fit with room to spare around the edges for sleeping pups.

Eventually, we settled on the REI Half Dome SL 3+, as the previous Half Dome 2 Plus had been so reliable. The new version of the old tent is significantly lighter, making it perfect for backpacking. But it’s also still spacious for car camping and made with high-quality hardware.

We were not disappointed.

In short: This summer I tested the updated REI Half Dome SL3+ on numerous camping trips with my partner and our dogs, comparing it to my several-seasons-old Half Dome 2 Plus. Because REI prioritizes slow innovation over fast, flashy gimmicks, anything that was already working well with the older Half Dome version has stayed the same. It remains a simple, functional tent that is lighter than the previous generations and easier to set up. Nearly everything about the Half Dome has improved in 5 years — except for two small things I like less.

REI Co-op Half Dome SL 3+ Tent


  • Seasons 3-season
  • Sleeping capacity 2-person
  • Minimum trail weight 4 lbs., 14 oz.
  • Packaged weight 5 lbs., 5 oz.
  • Packed size 7" x 20.5"
  • Floor dimensions 92" x 56"
  • Floor area 35.8 sq. ft.
  • Vestibule area 22.5 sq. ft.
  • Peak height 44"
  • Number of doors 2
  • Number of poles 1 hubbed poleset
  • Pole material DAC PF aluminum
  • Canopy fabric 40-denier ripstop nylon/20-denier nylon mesh
  • Floor fabric 70-denier taffeta nylon
  • Rainfly fabric 40-denier nylon
  • Design type Freestanding


  • Light enough for backpacking
  • Big enough for car camping
  • Easy to set up
  • Straightforward design


  • Fewer pocket storage spaces than previous versions

REI Co-op Half Dome SL 3+ Tent Review

The “SL” in the new Half Dome SL3+ stands for “super light.” This is one of the biggest upgrades REI made to this tent — its weight. My old REI Half Dome 2 Plus had a minimum trail weight of 4 pounds, 14 ounces, yet was about 13 square feet smaller inside than the new SL3+.

We’re not quite sure why REI changed the word “Plus” in the older version, to the symbol “+” in the newer one. But both have the same meaning: they offer slightly more room than standard two- or three-person tents.

Half Dome REI
(Photo/Nathan Lemin)

Now, call me a creature of habit. But when I started to test the latest REI Half Dome SL3+, I fell back into the simple joy of camping. It was like talking to an old friend.

To keep myself honest, and to make sure I wasn’t just falling for comfort, I set up some practical tests. I prioritized things like time to set up and take down, ease of use compared to other tents I’ve used, and the fit and finish of the REI Half Dome SL3+.

Setup and Takedown

REI co-op half dome sl3 + in the outdoors with my two of my pets inside
(Photo/Nathan Lemin)

I am familiar with the Half Dome’s poles and basic setup. I clocked myself at just about 4.5 minutes to set the SL3+ up and 3.5 minutes to take it down. Neither of these times included the rainfly. But independently, that took about a minute and a half to put on and a minute to take off.

Again, I’m used to setting up tents, and this tent in particular. But those setup/breakdown times should help illustrate that with some experience, this will be a straightforward and speedy tent to camp with. That’s not only important in the backcountry: We all know how sad taking down camp on a Sunday is, and the slower that process goes, the more dreadful it becomes.

setting up the REI Co-op half dome sl 3 plus tent
(Photo/Nathan Lemin)

The tent is easy to pitch and disassemble thanks to the singular pole design, which creates something like a large H shape to connect corners and hang the interior from. The clips snap easily and snugly to the poles, making it fast and stable to erect.

An excellent upgrade in the newer version is the more integrated footprint, which the poles no longer attach to (a huge annoyance with the older version). Instead, they attach to the tent itself with a simple hook and eye.

REI shipped the footprint and tent already connected. I’m going to leave them that way as long as I can because it saves setup time and headache — though they can be detached for cleaning and so on.

Comfort and Practicality

The REI Half Dome SL3 set up with footprint but without the rainfly.

When you are accustomed to backpacking tents, the REI Half Dome SL3+ feels like a big tent on the inside. And when you consider how light it is (4 pounds, 14 ounces minimum trail weight), this is a sizable tent for that weight class. And while size doesn’t equal comfort, when you need to sleep five bodies, that extra space is crucial.

I also didn’t want one giant tent that would only work for car camping and one ultralight tent that would only be good for backpacking. I’d rather my go-to tent work for both. This Half Dome does just that. It’s an ounce lighter than my old tent even though it’s significantly bigger, its packed size is not considerably larger, and it’s even easier to set up.

Thinner Materials, Better Hardware

Half Dome REI
(Photo/Nathan Lemin)

Obviously REI made some serious weight cuts to the Half Dome SL3+. From what I can tell hands-on, a lot of the weight savings in the new tent comes from thinner materials and better hardware. REI ditched the classic tent stakes for slim aluminum ones, which are harder to bend and easier to use.

The floor material is 40-denier ripstop nylon instead of 70-denier. The rainfly also got lighter. It’s now 30-denier ripstop nylon, down from 40-denier in the Half Dome 2 Plus. And it beaded and repelled water far more quickly than my old tent used to.

The Half Dome SL3+ also uses DAC PF aluminum poles. DAC, a Korean tent pole manufacturer, is considered by many in the outdoor world to be the gold standard for strength-to-weight performance.

A Few Small Gripes

setting up the SL3+ teht structure and footprint while backpacking in the outdoors
(Photo/Nathan Lemin)

There are some weird things that I tend to care about when assessing gear. One thing I think the older Half Dome 2 Plus had the newer Half Dome SL3+ beat on was interior tent pockets. I’m assuming the latest Half Dome cut down on some of these for weight savings. But I loved the sheer number and size of interior pockets on the older 2 Plus version.

That said, the newer Half Dome far surpasses some tents in interior pocket storage. With two large overhead pockets and four smaller sidewall pockets, there is still ample storage in REI’s Half Dome SL3+.

One other preference for the older model was the way the interior doors zipped all the way around. The older door design could easily be tucked overhead and out of the way. That made it easy to get larger items in and out of the tent.

The newest Half Dome doors don’t do that. They zip just to one side and can be rolled and secured with hook-and-eye closures, similar to many competitors. That’s not inherently bad — I just preferred the older doors.

REI Half Dome SL3+: Final Thoughts

author's 3 dogs comfortably lying down in the spacious REI co-op half dome sl3 + tent
(Photo/Nathan Lemin)

The REI Half Dome SL3+ is a solid upgrade to an old favorite. I’ve found my go-to tent for the foreseeable future. I hope this REI Half Dome serves me well for as long as the previous model did. After five full seasons of camping, the only repair work that old tent truly needs is a new cord in one of the poles.

I’d confidently make an argument that the REI Half Dome SL3+ is the perfect tent for most campers. It’s big enough to be cozy and spacious for car camping with two or three people. Or, it can accommodate two people and at least a couple of dogs. And it’s light and fast enough to work for backpacking trips.

If you don’t need all that space, REI also offers this Half Dome in a two-person SL2+ version. That tent is nearly a pound lighter than the SL3+ and is still spacious for a two-person tent.

The latest Half Dome is simple, stylish, and functional. It maintains all its former glory while flashing subtle improvements where necessary.

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Nate Lemin

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