Review: REI Quarter Dome T3 Tent
Today we’re going to take an in-depth look at the REI Quarter Dome T3 Tent. In my opinion, this tent is a great option for two people on motorcycle trips. It’s the tent that we brought with us on our Boston to Ushuaia trip, and we’ve also used it a fair amount around the United States. It’s a great compromise between size and interior spaciousness, and it held up pretty well to repeated use, so I would definitely recommend it.
The Tent: REI Quarter Dome T3
The tent itself is largely mesh, with a bathtub floor. We have the older version that is entirely mesh down to the bathtub floor seam – the newer version seems to have some solid material further up the tent, which would be good for air coming under the fly. On cool nights, I did find that the air coming under the fly was quite chill, so I’d stack my motorcycle gear between me and the mesh of the tent to give me another layer of protection. I think the new design will address that issue.
The tent has two doors, which makes it easy for people to each have their own exit and not have to crawl over each other during the night. Each door has a vestibule under the fly, which is great for storing things like motorcycle boots, panniers and luggage. The tent has a total of 6 pockets – one at each corner, and two in the top of the tent. We’d use the pockets on the floor for stuff like glasses, contacts, phones, etc. and the pockets in the roof of the tent were great for holding a headlamp to provide general light for the tent.
The tent fly is lightweight, and the design was good – it kept the fly off the mesh tent body, which meant that condensation that collected inside the fly didn’t drip on us, but instead ran down the fly as intended. Unfortunately, it also meant that when you got out of the tent, the condensation-filled fly would get moisture all over you as you exited the tent, but maybe someone more flexible than I would be able to exit the tent without coming into contact with the fly. The fly was great in inclement weather – we never got wet inside the tent, and it stayed in place even on some windy nights. The short, dome-shaped design of the tent helps with that. But because the fly is lightweight, and the tent is largely mesh, this is definitely a three-season tent. We could be comfortable inside down to around 40 degrees, but at 30 degrees, I was mildly hypothermic.
The tent is easy to erect. The poles are color-coded, as are the tabs where they connect, making it easy to deploy. When we first started using the tent, we’d sometimes have to think about which way the fly went over the top, but that may have been just user error/unfamiliarity with the tent. We put up the tent a few times in inclement weather – mostly windy, although occasionally in rain, too – and it goes up pretty fast. From taking it out of the bag to having it erect takes from 2 to 5 minutes, depending on the weather and whether you have one or two people doing it. (One person can do it, but it takes longer. With two people doing it, it’s really fast and easy.)
The fly has a couple of built-in vents which are adequate for cooler nights. You can also tie back the door flaps on the fly on warmer nights if you wanted to get a bit of a cross-breeze through the tent. Unfortunately, on a hot night, there isn’t nearly enough ventilation in this tent. We removed the fly completely when we were camping in 70-85 degree temps at a motorcycle rally last year, which left us with just the mesh. It allowed the heat from our body to escape, but it meant we had zero privacy from the people around us. We didn’t find it to be a great solution. Unfortunately, most three-season tents seem to suffer from this problem. If you’re camping in a really hot climate, you might find yourself leaving the fly off frequently.
The other thing that’s kind of obnoxious about the ventilation in this tent is that you can only close the vents from outside the tent. That means that if it’s really cold, or if it’s raining, you have to climb out of the tent and walk around to close the vents before climbing back inside. Opening the fly to venture out into the cold lets heat escape, and no-one likes going out into the rain at night. So you may or may not be annoyed by this feature. We just learned to check the weather before going to bed (when possible) and close the vents before we turned in for the night.
So the $50,000 question – how is the space inside the tent? Well, I’m happy to report that this tent is plenty spacious enough for two people, plus motorcycle gear, as long as you don’t pile too much inside. We had room to lay out our two sleeping bags and sleeping mats side by side, and we usually stacked the motorcycle gear along one side of the tent – effectively taking up a third person worth of space. But when we brought extra stuff inside the tent, like our cooking gear, we always had to put it away before sleeping – there just wasn’t room to get stuff strung out all over the tent. This was good for us because it forced us to be neater and better organized, which made it easier to pack up again in the morning, but if you like a lot of room to spread out, you won’t have it here.
We did take the dogs car camping over the summer last year in this tent, and it was stretching the space in this tent, even without motorcycle gear. So I’d say this is definitely a two-person tent – you can cram a third person in if you don’t mind being up-close and personal, or if you don’t have any gear or other stuff you want to stow in the tent. Or dogs. Ultimately, we’ve just upgraded to the Marmot Limestome 4P to make room for the dogs now that we’ve got the Ural, but I think that tent will be too big for most people.
The other thing that might be an issue for some people is vertical space. There’s plenty of head room for you to sit up inside the tent. And the two of us hung out inside the tent on a couple of rainy days, and didn’t feel overcrowded. But it’s only just above waist high, so you can forget about standing up or even squatting inside the tent. You have to lie down and do the shimmy to put on pants or get dressed. If that’s a problem for you, you won’t like this tent. Also, because of its short vertical height, you have to crawl in and out. Not a problem for many campers, but if you don’t like dealing with such a small doorway, you won’t like this tent.
One of the positive notes about this tent is the size and the weight – it packs down to around 5 pounds, and the “packed size” is 8 x 25 inches. We were able to fit the tent in a dry sack along with our sleeping mat, a lightweight motorcycle cover and a couple of other odds and ends that we threw across the back of our motorcycle. In the picture below, the tent is in the orange dry sack under my sleeping bag, along with the other items mentioned here.
While that’s not exactly feather-light for backpackers, it was just great for us on motorcycles. It wasn’t too wide – I was still able to open my panniers without the length of the packed tent getting in the way. And it took up very little space. I was quite pleased with how it packed.
All in all, I was pretty happy with the durability of this tent. Over time, we did notice some minor warping in the tent poles, but nothing bad and nothing that prevents it from being fully functional. The tent itself has stretched a bit, so the doors now droop a little – meaning you need to use two hands to open the door zippers. That’s mildly annoying, but the zippers still function fine and the rest of the tent is fully functional, so it’s not a deal breaker to me.
We’ve never had water get into our tent. We did find our sleeping bags moist on the bottom once from moisture coming up through the tent floor and the footprint, but I have no real idea what caused it, and it was a one-time event. We’ve never had leaks, and it held up great in rain and mild to moderate wind. I did decline to camp in Patagonia because I was afraid of how the tent would hold up in the wind, but its nice short dome design probably would have been fine.
Conclusion: REI Quarter Dome T3 Tent Review – Thumbs Up!
In spite of my minor design quibbles, like vents you can’t close from inside the tent, I’ve been very happy with the way the REI Quarter Dome T3 tent has performed. I think it’s a great camping tent for two people plus motorcycle gear. It packs down to a small enough size to pack easily on a motorcycle, and it performs well in a variety of three-season weather conditions. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it if you can live with the short vertical height, and the inability to spew stuff all over the tent due to space constraints. This is a good, solid tent that I would continue to use – it’s held up well for two years, and I imagine would continue to hold up well for many more.