Monday, January 31, 2011

REI Half-Dome 4 Person Tent Review

I promised an updated review of the REI Half-dome 4-person tent we choose for our family backpacking needs. Although I mentioned in the previous post that we would be going to Shenandoah National Park, that trip did not happen. Put simply, we were blessed with a baby who suffered from extreme colic for 4 months. She cried everyday for 4 months straight! So, we definitely did not feel comfortable enough to take her on a big trip like that. However, we did manage to try out car camping a few times!

The first car camping trip we tried was at Lake Jericho. This is a peaceful campground about 20 minutes from downtown Louisville, KY for reasonable rates. The big drawback to this campground is that it shares space with what appears to be permanent RVers. However, the tent camping area is located right by the lake away from the big rigs.

We set up camp fairly quickly - and the REI half-dome 4 person tent went up in a breeze. In some ways it was easier to set up than our old 2-person tent! The only thing we had trouble figuring out was the rainfly, but this was a nonissue since it was so clear that night. We were there about 2 hours, when we tried to get our daughter asleep unsuccessfully. The location by the lake meant we were quickly engulfed in humidity (even though it was the end of September, Louisville suffered from record breaking heat well into October this past yr!) - this made it hard for her to settle, and we were concerned her excessive crying would disturb the other campers. So, we packed out. Rob was able to tear down and pack up camp in less than 30 minutes in the dark! By then, everything was soaked from the humidity - not fun! I sat and waited in the air conditioned car with our baby who was finally able to fall asleep. We were glad we choose such a close location for our first camping attempt though, and at least we got to try out the tent for a little while!

A couple weeks later, we decided to try again. This time, we choose to camp at Jefferson Memorial Forest. This campground was much more secluded and more "camping" like - plenty of trees and no RVers. It was probably one of the best spots we've ever car camped in! Luckily, someone left a nice stash of firewood, so we were even able to have a nice campfire going. The tent went up without a hitch once again, and we loved how much room it had! It felt like we were camping in a mansion - we could fit everything inside and still had room to spare. It actually might be a bit too large for just backpacking, but for car camping it's perfect. We all slept well that night - but at 4am that changed. Apparently, Jefferson Memorial Forest is extremely close the airport! From about 4am to 6:30am the air noise kept us up as we listened to one plane takeoff after another. Thankfully, our daughter didn't seem to notice and she slept soundly! It did get rather chilly though, and we ended up putting her in between us in our sleeping bags to keep her warm rather than having her sleep in her own travel bed.

So, despite challenging circumstances - record heat and a colicky baby - we were able to get out 2 times in the fall, which I consider a success! This spring, we hope to take several trips and put our tent to some more use. But so far, I am very impressed with our purchase and would highly recommend it to anyone with children. It's perfect for car camping, but I think it will also work well for backpacking, especially once more children come along!

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