The Co-op will roll out an upgraded line of its flagship tents in 2018. We spent a few nights in Great Smoky Mountains National Park camped inside the updated Half Dome 2 Plus to see what’s new.
REI’s history dates back to Lloyd and Mary Anderson finding a way to buy better ice axes. But ask anyone inside the brand, and they’ll tell you that the real flag-bearer for REI is its Half Dome tent.
During a three-day trip through Appalachia’s Pisgah National Forest, REI Creative Director Ian Eburah unveiled what he called “an update to the most iconic product for the brand.”
He was referring to a streamlined offering of Half Dome tents REI will release in spring 2018. I received a prototype Half Dome 2 Plus to try out through cool, wet autumn nights recently in Pisgah.
In short: The 2018 three-season Half Domes are bigger, roomier, and a bit more expensive than their predecessors. All new models—from one- to four-person—will be “plus size,” and it’s apparent from the inside.
The Half Dome 2 has abundant headroom, floor space, and vestibule area. These tents won’t appease the ounce-conscious, but backpackers and campers mainly concerned about space and functionality will appreciate the brand’s upgrades.
Tent Review: 2018 REI Half Dome
Stargazers will rejoice when they see the new line of Half Domes. The upper three-quarters of this tent is see-through mesh.
Additionally, all tent poles but one are now black so as not to distract from the views outside the tent.
Shoppers will also notice that every 2018 Half Dome will have a “Plus” next to it. That’s because REI is doing away with the slimmer standard versions of its one-, two-, three-, and four-person Half Domes. So each iteration will have a little extra leg, head, and shoulder room compared to other tents of the same capacity.
Two other major updates improve the entryways. Larger, teardrop-shaped doors flank either side (only a single door for the One Plus). And a stash pocket inside the roof makes for quick door stowage.
Finally, REI altered the pole structure to make the side walls vertical rather than tapering inward. This adds a little extra headspace above the doors.
First Look: 2018 REI Half Dome 2 Plus
I had three days and two nights with the 2 Plus. And I didn’t have to share it. The first thing to note is that it is roomy. I’m 6-feet 3-inches, so I’m used to hunching over and sleeping diagonally in some tents.
But the 2018 Half Dome 2 Plus had more than enough room. It was nice to sit up without my head grazing the mesh, and I had room enough to change comfortably too.
I also sat inside an older Half Dome 2; the difference in space is noticeable. Though “half dome” refers to the shape with rainfly, the inner dimensions of the 2018 Half Dome are essentially cubic in shape.
The other standout feature was the full-view mesh. Similar to the redesigned quarter domes the brand released this year, the Half Domes have full mesh along the upper two-thirds of all walls.
This mesh allowed for almost unobstructed views above and around—especially in twilight.
Setup is simple. The structure is symmetrical, so laying out the poles is intuitive. Anyone who’s set up a semi-modern tent—particularly an REI tent—should have no trouble with the clips and grommets.
Four vents along the fly roof prevented any drip-back condensation at night. I run hot when I sleep, so I’m used to waking up to a damp sleeping bag—especially when it’s cool outside.
But I had no moisture or dampness inside the tent, from either warm air inside or rain outside.
At nearly 5 pounds packed up, this is not an ultralight shelter. There are many lighter two-person options, though features and price tags vary widely.
2018 Half Dome Limited Edition Graphics
While function is key, form is also worth considering. REI added a little fun to the mix with the 2018 Half Dome designs. I received a burgundy-gold tent with an artistic rendering of a Mt. Rainier sunset.
Another aqua-and-purple offering harkens back to the Co-op of the ’90s (and those jazz-swirl paper cups).
Both designs will be limited run alongside the standard colors (REI previewed bright-yellow Half Domes as part of the standard 2018 lineup).
REI 2018 Half Dome Tent Review: Final Thoughts
I expect fans of REI’s Half Dome tents will like the improvements for 2018. The extra view and increased space make this a solid blend of functionality and comfort.
It’s worth noting I also have a two-person Quarter Dome, and by comparison, the Half Dome makes more sense for most partner-camping trips. It’s just as easy to set up while offering more gear storage and room to cuddle—or separate, depending on the situation.
At 4 pounds, 14 ounces, the weight is noticeable on longer hikes. I will use this tent primarily for shorter backpacking trips and while car camping. Along with a one-person tent in my stable, this makes for a solid three-season camping addition when a touch of luxury is in order.
REI 2018 Half Dome Tent Specs
- Half Dome 1 Plus
- 92″ x 38″ x 40″ (LxWxH)
- 3 lbs. 11 oz. (min. trail weight)
- Half Dome 2 Plus
- 92″ x 56″ x 44″ (LxWxH)
- 4 lbs. 14 oz. (min. trail weight)
- Half Dome 3 Plus
- 92″ x 80″ x 46″ (LxWxH)
- 5 lbs. 14 oz. (min. trail weight)
- Half Dome 4 Plus
- 92″ x 92″ x 48″ (LxWxH)
- 7 lbs. 1 oz. (min. trail weight)