I spent approximately 40 nights backpacking with the REI Dash 2 ultralight 2-person tent this summer. I’ve never done that much camping in a single summer – awesome! This tent saw the gamut of weather except for snow, including torrential rains and extreme winds. I’ve pitched it in dirt, sand, and on granite slabs. It more than survived the John Muir Trail. I think I’m ready for a real review.
The REI Dash 2 Tent At A Glance
The REI Dash 2 is a semi-freestanding ultralight 3-season, 2-person backpacking tent. Yes it can hold two adults but maybe 1.5-person tent is more accurate.
The tent, fly, and poles weigh 2 lbs 7 ounces; add the bag, footprint, and stakes and you’re up to around 3 lbs 6 ounces based on my measurements. It packs up to a fairly compact 6 inches wide by 20 inches long.
The Dash 2 is 7.5 feet long, 4.5 feet wide at the head and tapering to 3.5 feet at the, well, feet. This gives it a floor space of 29 square feet. The tent has entry zippers on both sides as well as vestibules that come in just over 5 square feet each.
The frame is made of a single hubbed collapsing pole comprised of plastic and DAC aluminum. The tent and rain fly fabric are made of an ultralight 15-denier ripstop nylon.
Available at REI for $349; purchase the footprint for an additional $29.50.
What I Like About the REI Dash 2
For 2-person backpacking tents, this one is a great compromise between light and cheap. I’m realistically always going to carry a footprint, stakes, and the fly, so 3 lbs 6 oz is pretty damn light and you can’t find anything lighter than that for under $379 ($349 for the tent and $30 for the footprint). Compare that to other 2-person ultralight backpacking tents like the Big Agnes Copper Spur UL2, another very popular choice, which is a few ounces heavier and $450 after also purchasing the footprint; the MSR Hubba Hubba NX which is a pound heavier and $450 with footprint; and the NEMO Hornet 2P which is actually a few ounces lighter but $40 more.
I had a difficult time choosing a good tent for the John Muir Trail, but I’m glad I went with this one. My trailmates had the aforementioned tents and seemed to have more troubles than me.
It is nice to have vestibules and entry zippers on both sides so you’re not crawling over your tent mate to go piss in the middle of the night. I much prefer side-entry tents to foot-entry tents; it seems like there’s just more room for my clumsy ass to manipulate myself into the tent.
I have verified that this tent can be assembled and disassembled underneath the rain fly. It is slightly awkward and takes some practice, and your tent will still get wet when it’s raining hard, but this method does help keep it drier.
On normal (non-rainy) days, the tent assembles and disassembles very fast.
The Dash 2 has an aerodynamic design and does a great job shedding wind when the foot is aligned into the wind. If you can’t align the tent into the wind, the wind will push on the walls of the tent, bending the light poles. It literally looks like someone is pushing in on the wall. I had this problem in some tight spaces along the Lost Coast Trail.
The rainfly also does a great job of keeping the rain out, but it doesn’t cover the inner wall at the foot – more on that below.
I think the tub is just the right height. It’s high enough to keep all but the worst flooding out of the tent, but short enough to keep the weight of the tent down.
I was in an unplanned scenario one night where three of us had to cram in the tent. Earlier I said it’s more like a 1.5-person tent, but three is still possible! And if it’s just you, it’s very roomy for you and your gear.
What I Don’t Like About the REI Dash 2
It’s strange – this tent came with no directions. Now, assembling tents like this is for the most part straightforward and shouldn’t require detailed instructions. But there were a few things that got me.
- The footprint has webbing loops to stake the corners at the head of the tent, and a webbing loop in the middle of the foot (these are the three points the pole clips into). But the corners of the foot have curious plastic snap hooks. Are these for snapping to the tent corner string loops? If so, I can’t get the footprint taught when staking the tent. And then these snap hooks are a pain in the ass to unclip when it’s cold (see photo).
- I had difficulty getting the vestibules taught. Either the area in front of the zipper was slack or the area behind the zipper was slack. I don’t know what I was doing wrong. Then it’d flap in the wind.
- The rain fly is reinforced in the areas that cover the frame hubs, but I could rarely get these small patches to actually align over the frame joints. Again, I don’t know what I was doing wrong here, after much experimentation.
I hate the term “semi-freestanding”. Either it’s freestanding or it’s not. Sure, once you pitch the tent I guess it does stand up on its own, but the corners of the foot need to be staked or guyed out.
There aren’t enough stakes! What’s up with that, REI? If you stake all required points with the rain fly, you’re two stakes short. I purchased two MSR Mini Ground Hog stakes to make up for it, but while you’re at it just replace all the stakes with those or the regular MSR Ground Hogs. The tent comes with aluminum hook stakes that don’t hold very well in loose ground. And if you can’t use stakes because of solid ground, the tent only comes with two guylines.
The rain fly is an odd shape at the foot – it quickly tapers to a point, leaving the foot of the inner wall exposed to rain (see photo). This makes conditions ripe for condensation. And considering my regular-length sleeping bag is usually resting against the foot of the tent (it’s either that or my head), I’m left with a damp sleeping bag foot in the morning.
The vestibules are pretty small. Five square feet is hardly enough room to cover my pack; comparable tents sport vestibules almost twice that size.
Overall Thoughts About the REI Dash 2 Tent
Despite its flaws, the REI Dash 2 still a tent that I’ll continue to use for hopefully another season or two, until it needs to be replaced. The material almost feels like tissue paper but it’s held up very well over an abusive summer and has had no rips, tears, or holes. I plan to do even more backpacking around Lake Tahoe next year for my Tahoe Trails project and that’ll abuse it some more.
All of the shortcomings I’ve listed above can be fixed, and I’m patient enough to put up with them for the rest of the time I own this tent. I will continue to experiment getting it all as taught as possible and share what I find.
If these shortcomings are things you won’t want to put up with, check out REI’s selection of other 1 & 2-person ultralight backpacking tents. The MSR Hubba Hubba NX is highly reviewed though I’ve never seen it. The Big Agnes Copper Spur UL2 is also highly reviewed and I know quite a few people who are happy with that tent.