REI Arete ASL 2 Tent
Source: bought via a "pro deal"
Price Paid: Very good price
While I'd not call it bombproof, I will say that it will handle any conditions that I'm likely to subject it to including heavy snowfalls and high winds. It's roomy enough that if I'm stuck inside for a couple of days it won't fell like a coffin and the weight and price both fit my needs.
- Could use a bit more ventilation
I've had several winter tents from various tent makers and the REI Arete ASL 2 is as good as any of them but with less weight and a better price, especially since I always wait for a sale if possible. Like all REI tents (and most modern tents) the setup is easy and could be done in the dark in bad weather without error or confusion. Once setup and staked it's perfectly taut and stable.
It easily handles heavy loads of wet, clumped snow and it sheds Oregon rainstorms like a duck. The floor is a deep bathtub design and well seam-sealed. The vestibule is roomy enough for gear, boots, or cooking, though I've never had to cook in this vestibule. The vestibule, even when open, overhangs the tent door to prevent drips into the tent body. I will say that unless absolutely necessary I leave the vents in the tent body open. In cold, damp, windless weather condensation can occur, but that's the price for a secure tent. In my experience it's easy enough to regulate condensation but I have heard of others complaining about it.
It's roomy and bright inside (nothing worse than a dark-colored tent/fly in gloomy weather) with good headroom. The floor is 88x60 with 40 inches of headroom over a fairly broad area but with more space at the head/torso end of the tent. There are corner pockets, roof pockets and sewn-in loops to allow for storage.
The tent poles are larger and, I believe, slightly thicker-walled, than most 3-season tents. Of course that adds weight but it creates the strength that makes this a 3-4 season tent.
I had the 3-person version of the tent but when my wife opted out of snow camping I sold it to buy the 2-person model. Yes, I use a 2-person tent for myself because I like the room and am willing to carry the weight. The design of the two versions is exactly the same so I expect that this smaller tent will be as secure as the larger one. In any case, I have the ironclad REI warranty behind it.
The packaged size is, of course, larger than my 2-person Big Agnes Fly Creek UL2, but it's not enormous at 6x20 inches. With snow stakes the package is a little larger, and I often carry a couple of extra lengths of 1/8" guy rope just in case. (Some guy rope comes with the tent, along with a tent pole repair tube, decent non-snow stakes, and bags for the poles and the stakes.)
Source: bought it new
Price Paid: ~$200
My go-to winter tent for two.
- Reasonable weight
- Easy to pitch
- Need more stakes
This has been my tent for winter camping in the White Mtns for the past three years. It has been a reliable shelter with no issues, although I only camp below tree-line.
It is easy to pitch from the front side only, and the fly can remain attached while you pitch, so that the tent can be mostly covered if it's snowing. The venting is as efficient as it can be, and you only ever need to guy out two points for the best results. The fabric shows little sign of wear and it's easy to clean.
This tent fits two and some gear comfortably, and it has plenty of headroom. You do have to knock the snow from the fly before you exit the vestibule, but that goes for most tents. For the weight and price, this tent has been exactly what I needed, even before I knew exactly what that was.
Price Paid: $224 shipping incl
Used several trips in mountains of SE. Nice tight tent. Had some strong gusts and some sideways rain and it was good to go. I stayed dry and the tent did very well at shedding 40 mph gusts.
Water did come in the upper vents from the sideways rain, but it was negligible. The nylon guy outs on the front vestibule loosened during the night, but it was a real rocker of a storm.
The zippers take two hands to operate because the fabric is not sewn just right, but I got in on sale so I'm okay with the less than perfect quality.
The floor is thin — use a ground sheet. I use an SOL two person emergency blanket on the inside of the floor (perfect fit) and a sheet of tyvek under the floor.
The body stays taut — it's actually difficult to get the poles in the sleeves. The fly is pretty tight and adequate guy outs.
Setup is easy. The fly-on feature works, but it's difficult. The velcro on the sleeves that matches to velcro on the fly can get pretty noisy when the tent is getting whipped all night by big winds. Humidity was not an issue.
It's dry, it works, listed weight is accurate — until you add enough stakes to use all the guy outs. I'd buy it again for $224 because it is a lot of tent for the weight.
Price Paid: $200
Just got the Arete with the 30% off REI gear sale. I set it up inside with no problems. It actually seems bigger than expected but still will be cozy for two guys which is a tradeoff for the weight.
Can't wait to try it this winter in Big Bear or the Sierras. More after I really test it.