It’s easy to sympathize with anyone who’s carried an unnecessarily heavy backpack. The excess weight can result from several sources, but experience teaches us two things; how to pack lighter, and the value of gear that’s functional, well-made, and light weight. If you are looking for a two-person tent that falls in to this category, then you might want to read the following REI Dash 2 Tent Review.
- Light Weight
- Good Value
- Lots of Headroom
- Duel Doors
- Duel Vestibules
- Slightly higher profile than some in the category
- Steeply angled sides
- Semi-freestanding design
Things to Consider Before Buying an Ultralight Tent
You can save weight by sleeping under a tarp, but the risk of getting wet means that you really should use a synthetic sleeping bag when doing so. A down bag – when wet – will do nothing to keep you warm. So, if you’ve spent the money on a light-weight down bag, you really should be in a tent. Tents also provide protection against bugs, and are better than a tarp if bad weather keeps you inside for long periods of time.
That’s not to say that this is a true expedition tent, suited for weeks of bad weather. It’s a light weight, three-season tent, that’s suitable for those who want to go light and fast. It has two doors and vestibules for convenience, but this tent is a place to sleep. This is not as roomy as tents in other categories; if your primary use will be car camping a larger (and heavier) tent will be a better buy.
About the REI Dash 2
This tent has two doors and vestibules for convenience, a mesh construction for lots of ventilation, and a surprising amount of head room for a tent of its weight. These features mean that it may be a bit more comfortable than other tents in this category, but the head room also means that this tent has a higher profile than some others in the class.
Features and Benefits
This tent is best characterized as a true ultralight, but with comfort-minded features not always found in tents in this category. It sleeps two, but there is little room for anything beyond two sleeping bags. This is typical for this category, though this tent offers superior headroom. In many ultralights, both tent mates can’t sit upright at the same time. They can in the Dash 2.
Ultralight and Semi-freestanding
The rated weight is only two pounds, seven ounces; but the weight will increase if you add the footprint. Additional weight will be added because you will also need stakes. The REI Dash 2 tent is semi-freestanding, which mean that the fly will require some stakes.
It’s worth pointing out though, that even those tents that are truly “free-standing” should be staked down. If not, they can blow away. But the need for stakes does add a bit of weight, and should be taken into account when selecting a spot to pitch the tent.
Good Value with Ventelation
Many of the tents in the ultralight category are “single wall tents.” There are advantages to single-wall designs, but there are also disadvantages. They tend to be very expensive; and in certain conditions they may not breath nearly as well as the REI Dash 2 tent.
Ventilation can become a significant issue in such tight quarters, especially on longer trips in the summer. In those conditions, heat and humidity may conspire with perspiration-filled clothing to make a tent's interior less than hospitable. Under these conditions, ventilation is an important factor and this tent’s ventilation is excellent.
Some single wall tents also lack a vestibule. This can be important. Given that the tent’s interior is only large enough for two sleeping bags, you may need to leave some of your gear outside. But a vestibule gives you the option of keeping some of that gear out of the weather, even though it’s not really inside the tent.
It also provides a relatively dry place to don your boots in the morning, which can be a real advantage in bad weather. Some ultralight tents have an add-on vestibule. They are functional, but may add more weight than you want. Remember; this tent’s biggest selling point is its low weight.
The second door – which may sound like an unnecessary redundancy – can also be desirable feature. Ultralight tents generally have very limited interior space. That means that if you need to get out of the tent in the middle of the night, you may need to wake your tent mate. It just may not be possible to climb over them and get out, without waking them.
Sharing an ultralight tent with someone can be a bit challenging, but a second door makes it a little easier on both of you. And access to the separate vestibules means added convenience – especially if you need to put your camp shoes on at two AM.
The REI Dash 2 also has interior pockets and hang loops that are often missing in ultralight tent. Remember; ultralight tents are not roomy, and this means that you will want to be able to organize what little space you have to the fullest. You may want, for example, to string a small interior cloths line so that your socks can dry overnight.
There may be some concerns about the REI Dash 2’s profile and steep walls, as designs with these features may not fare well in strong winds. But the “tension-truss architecture” allows for a degree of stabilization, should things get blustery.
Alternatives to Consider
This tent is actually in a different category, in that it’s a mountaineering tent. That means that it can be used year-round, it has a roomier interior, and it will probably do better in sustained winds. This is a better tent if you are going to be setting up in a base camp setting, winter camping, or even for car camping. And though the cost is similar the weight is not. The ALPS weighs in at seven pounds, which means it’s packable, but certainly not in the ultralight category.
At just under five pounds (sans footprint), this Elixir is lighter than the ALPS tent, but heavier than the Dash 2. Its dimensions are similar to the REI model, and it shares the duel door/duel vestibule design. The vestibules are larger on the MSR model. This accounts for some of the added weight, as the fly is larger. Added weight also comes from a stouter set of poles and a free-standing design. This tent will probably handle the wind a bit better.