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Need help choosing lightweight, 2-person, backpacking tent

I am an occasional backpacker, a more recent development and in my 60s.  generally fit and can hike all day but prefer to have a proper tent for my 2-3 maybe 4 night outings.  I use shelters when i can and usually hike with 1 other.  My thinking is a 2 man tent.  Mostly focused on the various NEMO tents, but there is what i think is a lighter-weight REI tent now as an option.  Looking for light, but not so delicate that it breaks when used.... Thoughts and experiences?   Thanks!

6 Replies

@ces55 Thanks for reaching out!

Although it is a thread about three person tents, I think you will find the information in the '3 person ultralight tent options' conversation particularly useful as it speaks to some of the things you're looking for in a tent. 

In terms of REI tents, we produce the REI Quarter Dome 2 as our ultralight backpacking tent and recently came out with the REI Quarter Dome SL 2, which cuts 13 oz off of the minimum trail weight. It does come with some sacrifices, however, as the SL 2 is a 'semi-freestanding' tent, requiring stakes to hold the foot-end of the tent body in place (as opposed to tent poles), as well as giving up several inches of head space (the SL 2 is 4 inches lower). 

Hope this helps, feel free to let us know if you have other questions!

At REI, we believe time outside is fundamental to a life well lived.

@ces55 REI knows tents and does a good job.  I have used an REI Roadster for several years with great satisfaction and it is still performing well.  REI tents generally get good to excellent reviews from reputable sources like

This particular model may not quite suit your needs, but I think it is indicative of the general quality of REI products.

Superusers do not speak on behalf of REI and may have received
one or more gifts or other benefits from the co-op.

@ces55 The Nemo tents are really  nice.  The Dagger is the most comfortable, but also slightly heavier.  The Hornet is a great tent but tight for 2 people (depends on your mindset- are you "living" in your tent or just sleeping in it) and not completely freestanding, but the weight is 2lbs!  The REI Quarterdome SL2 is a very similar tent, with very similar specs at a slightly lower price.

Because you are in your 60's, you have probably realized that weight (even the difference of a few ounces) really matters.  A lighter pack weight will make your hike more fun and you will feel better at the end.  So, you need to consider: cost (lighter tents are generally more$$), weight (lighter tents are more delicate and may need a little more love to last a long time), space (sleep is super important and you want to get your best rest in order to be ready for the next day.  are you hanging out in the tent? you may want a little room to move)

I think you will be happy with the Quarter dome 2, look at the differences between the original and the SL models, also look at the dagger2 and I'd throw in the MSR Hubba Hubba as another sturdy option. Good Luck!!

@ces55 You are spoiled for choice so it depends on your budget, intent and how much work you like to do/skill you like to use setting up. 

Lighter weight tents are more delicate but will not "break when used" if you treat them with some care.  Generally using a footprint is a good idea and for some designs the factory version of this gets you fly first setup /fly last takedown and fly only options which can be handy.  You may want a more robust tent if you typically camp where storms are possible.

1P tents can be pitched in tighter spots...something to consider 

Personally I have a Big Agnes Tiger Wall UL2 and find it a pleasant tent to use.  I find the orange color makes it a happy place.  Others don't.  You may not care but if you don't like waking up with the particular color then the tent will not make you happy so that is also something to consider.

A consideration with the Tiger Wall is that it is semi-freestanding and so requires some guying out.   The Nemo Hornet and REI Quarter Dome SL1 are of similar design.  You trade around minor features, weight and cost depending what is on sale.

Freestanding tents only require the vestibules to staked out which is only necessary in weather or if you want privacy.  The Big Agnes Copper Spur UL2,  Nemo Dagger 2 and REI Quarter Dome are examples of this style.  If you camp on rock or hard ground this style of tent makes life easier but are generally quicker to set up in any case   I had a first generation Big Agnes Copper Spur UL2 from 2010 which is still in service with another family member.  It is a good tent but I traded it for a Big Agnes TW UL2 to save weight since I generally use it solo.

Then there are non freestanding tents aka trekking pole tents.  These require more setup and must always be guyed out but if you use trekking poles (and I recommend you do)  then they can save quite a bit of weight.  They are generally single wall hybrids  so they intrinsically have "fly first" setup.  REI only sell their own Flash Air 1 and 2 of this style and since they are new this year they are somewhat unproven.  Early tests show that the Air 1 may not be a well vented as It might be.  Condensation management can be a issue with single wall tents.  Some more proven designs of this style  are the 1.5 person Luna solo from Six Moon Designs (which I may try) and the Zpack Duplex but there are quite a few other  "cottage industry" makers that sell them.

Hi @ces55, I just responded to another post yesterday that's similar to yours - it is inquiring about lightweight 2-person backpacking tents. Here is the link, if you'd like to read about the two tents I'd highly recommend (REI Co-op Half-Dome + 2 and the ALPS Mountaineering Lynx - 2 person tents).

Superusers do not speak on behalf of REI and may have received
one or more gifts or other benefits from the co-op.

@ces55 Another consideration is that most lightweight 2P tents are tapered so you cannot fit two 25 inch rectangular sleeping pads without overlap at the foot.  20 in pads will fit.  Possibly some wider pads that taper will also work.  Doesn't matter if you intend to use the tent solo of course.