Friday, July 1, 2016

REI Quarter Dome 1 Review

Tree on Hidden Mesa where I shot the tent setup video
My 6 night stay inside the REI Quarter Dome 1 during the week of Ride The Rockies has given me some insights to share.
First, I like the tent's interior space.  I was able to stow my Gossamer Gear Kumo Backpack plus shoes and another bag with lots of room to spare.  I did use the vestibule area to store shoes and water bottles, but found I didn't need the extra space as I was already carrying an extra clothes bag inside than I would when backpacking.  I am a side sleeper and had plenty of room to turn about during the night.
I tested the vent one night by closing it and woke up with interior rain on my face in the morning, soaking my sleeping bag.  Wrong!  I left it open, even in rain the remaining 5 nights and woke up mostly dry each morning.  A Velcro "pole" holds the vent open.  While I could close the vent from the inside using the built-in zipper, I learned it must be open to stay dry from condensation.
The nights it rained (and sometimes it rained long and hard) I did get the foot of my down sleeping bag damp from contact with the tent side.  The real problem was the ties to the stakes had loosened, so that was not the fault of the tent.  Tightening the tarp more during setup seemed to solve the problem the rest of the week.
The one night I setup the tent on wet ground was the worst.  It was also 28 degrees when I awoke and windy.  The outside of the tent was frozen hard with flaky frost on the inside of the tent.  During the night I had dressed in everything I had with me and was warm.  The note here is the tent will be wet inside from condensation when the environment is wet.  Perhaps a second vent along the roof may help this problem many other users have encountered.
Setting up the tent is easy.  The instructions are printed on the bag it comes in.  I would lay out the footprint and lay on it to make sure the ground was clear of rocks, roots and gopher holes.  Then I would lay the tent body on top of that.  When it was windy I staked down these two on the windy side first.  Then I pulled out the poles, connecting the orange one first and would plug it into the orange tab grommets at each end, then I would connect the silver pole and place it into the white tab grommet at the head.  Then attach the clips and buttons to the tent, and snap the plastic clear tab end onto the open end of the silver pole, creating the door overhang.  Then just put on the tarp, starting with the head poles, then the foot pole. The little black nylon hoop snaps into place onto the clear tab at the top of the door.  Stake out as needed.  Pull the lines taut on the tarp where they hook into the tabs and all should be dry.
I shot a video of setting up the tent and sped it up.  The tent sets up in 5-6 minutes.  With practice, 4 minutes or less may be achievable.

We camped on well-kept soccer fields, grass parking lots, baseball fields and in school playgrounds with gopher holes every few feet (gophers would pop up two at a time).  Elevations were from 8000 feet to 10,000 feet.  Yes, we had snow one morning.
The morning of the gopher holes, a bicyclist caught my tent in his chain ring, tearing 5 small holes in the tarp, above the 6" waterproofing bathtub floor.  I was getting dressed in the tent at the time and asked if they tore the fabric.  The person lied, saying no, and was gone.  I was very disappointed when I found the tears ringed with chain ring grease.  The tears being above the bathtub floor means my new tent won't be waterproofed until I repair it.  Fortunately it didn't rain anymore on the trip as the piece of tape I have for repair was too short for all these holes. While sad about my new tent being torn, I will buy the proper repair tape, put it on the inside and outside of the tears and will keep track of how well the repair holds over time.

Note the chain ring holes in my tarp
As for daily packing, I stuff the tent inside the bag it came in, with the tarp first, the tent body then the footprint last, so I pull out what I need first (I usually lay on top of the footprint first to check the ground for bumps and being level).  When wet, I just stuffed the tent into the mesh outer pocket of my backpack.  It was dry when I checked it later that day.
The tent poles are a little complicated, all connected with interior bungees and using nylon "buttons" and various "snaps" to pitch the tent.  These buttons and snaps "should" hold up fine, but to me are potential failure points and are different enough to require spares or some backup means to secure the tent on long distance trips. The poles themselves use these buttons and snaps ingeniously to hold the tent open wide enough to be useful. I will pack the poles into their bag, so none of the buttons get lost.
The pole ends punch through grommets at each attachment tab and on through the footprint and tarp tab grommets.  Tighten the tarp tabs to hold all together.  When you open the poles, put together the orange pole first.  The long end will be to the foot of the tent.  Connect the silver portion last.  The orange pole, matched to the orange attachment tabs runs the full length of the tent in a large arch. The silver pole crosses this arch, from the head side white tab to create the door top space using snaps to attach to the tent.  The design is smart and I hope it holds up to repeated use with the nylon parts.   My plan was to use my hiking poles to setup the tent, but they will not work in this case (only in an emergency).  I would hope REI will find a more secure way to attach these tents and remove these potential failure points.
The footprint also uses plastic/nylon hooks to attach to tabs and strings of the tent body near the foot of the tent where the tent is staked down.  These hooks are difficult to use.  Using gloves here just wouldn't work well in the cold.
There are 3 outside attachment points for tieing down the tent in windy conditions.  All three use a Velcro attachment under the tarp to the nearby poles right at the tie-down loop.  I had pitched my tent with the foot pointing into the wind, so I didn't need any extra stability that one windy night. However, if the wind had shifted to the opposite direction, the vertical walls the wind would have hit may have needed some extra staked-out stability.  I removed the plastic sliding clip from the guy lines and tied my own taut-line hitch.  As long as the line is taut, I can snug up the knot to tighten the line without the plastic pieces (save about an ounce for both).
The stakes the tent came with were very heavy for me at .6 ounces each, unlike my .4 ounce V stakes. I used my 6 V stakes and two of the REI stakes on this trip.  I plan to purchase 2 additional 8" aluminum nail stakes to replace the included stakes.  One will hold the door and the other will be extra protection for the wind guy lines.
From the outside, the gray tarp disappears in the foliage quickly.  The orange floor and brown footprint look OK.  To open the door from the outside requires 2 hands, every time.  The right holds the fly, the left operates the zipper.  From the inside, you can sometimes open the zipper with one hand, the direction of the pull moving the fly aside from the zipper.
So here goes the scale test:  On my scale, the tent tarp weighs 10.3 ounces, the tent body 15 ounces, the footprint 5.6 ounces, the poles with bag is 9.7 ounces, and my full stake bag (six .4 ounce V stakes, two .6 ounce REI stakes, tent pole section, 2 guy lines, one tent stake puller all inside a Tyvek envelope) currently weighs 5.1 ounces, the tent bag weighs .9 ounce.  Total weight is 46.6 ounces or 2.91 pounds.  Travelling without the tent body will reduce the weight to 31.6 ounces, 1.91 pounds, just under 2 pounds. So much for a lightweight tent.  REI says the tent minimum weight is 2 pounds, 2 ounces (without the footprint), and that must include the poles, but no bags or stakes can reach that number with my tent.  Maybe I will forgo the tent bags and footprint in my backpack to save some weight.
In setting up the tent, I found the footprint to be a an inch larger than the tent.  On the heavy rain night, it did route some rainwater under the tent, but the tent stayed dry inside.  While this may be because the tarp ties loosened during the night, the other campers in our group using different REI tents had the same "footprint too large" complaint.  I like the footprint to be 2" per side shorter than the tent floor and this one appears to be 1" wider than the floor at both length and width when the tent is setup.  The footprint is marked with the same color tabs for setup as the tent body.
Overall the REI Quarter Dome 1 is a well designed, fairly lightweight backpacking tent.  Being made of lightweight materials, it is prone to tearing against metal bicycle chain rings, but that is to be expected.  I will let you know about the repair and how long it lasts.
I enjoyed sleeping in it nightly.  Even in the wind it was quiet. The interior space is awesome for the single overnighter, and I didn't once mind crawling into it over the week of 6 nights.  Multiple nights with rain, some driving rain didn't get me wet.  Sitting up inside I had plenty of room and was able to see to cook with the stove outside the door during rain.  With the tarp door zipped open I could see the stars at night and in the Colorado backcountry, that means seeing so many stars I couldn't make out the constellations.
Pros = Generous with interior space due to an ingenious pole system, very light and bright inside. The setup is simple, provides tie-downs for high wind, and can be setup with only the tarp and footprint similar to a tarp.  Fairly lightweight, seems to be rain proof and packs easy.
Cons = Buttons and snaps are potential failure points, footprint hooks difficult to use, footprint too large.  The tent interior will be wet/damp from condensation when the environment is wet/damp, could use more ventilation. Weighs significantly more than promised.  The silly Caution tag inside hangs down into your face at night, so that will soon be cut out.  This tag should have been placed where it didn't hit your face.
I bought this tent with my own money and plan to use it many years.

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