REI attempts to bridge the gap between grounders and treelings with their REI Quarter Dome Hanging Tent. It sleeps flat like a tent, but strings up between two trees like a hammock. It’s a promising premise, but how does it actually perform? My review.
The biggest distinguishing feature that separates this “hanging tent” from other traditional hammocks is the inclusion of two aluminum spreader bars, one on each end of the shelter, and a bucket shaped interior. What this does is both flatten out the sleeping surface while lowering the center of gravity to greatly improve stability. The body of the hammock is built from waterproof rip-stop nylon with crossing reinforcement bands to distribute tension, and the canopy is constructed entirely of mesh, except for the centered, zippered entrance. Included is a light weight 15 denier rip-stop nylon rain fly, Dacron anchor lines, 4 tent stakes, 4 guy lines and a stuff sack. There are two small pockets, one located inside the shelter and the other outside just under the entrance. There are also a few small loop spaced along the inner ridge of the canopy for attaching lamps, and other small items. The dimensions come in at 81″x 23″ with a 250 lb. weight capacity. The shelter comes in at 3 lbs 2 oz packed and retails for $219.00
What I liked
The concept here is to provide a flatter sleep surface than that of a traditional hammock can provide, and this certain works in it’s favor. With the proper pitch and tension, the hammock lays almost completely horizontal with practically no curve to the spine of the user. The allows the shelter to accommodate both side and back sleepers. The spreader bars expand the width of the hammock, pulling the fabric of the “walls” off of the sleeper and provide an enhanced amount of shoulder room. This almost completely eliminates “shoulder pinch” which forces the shoulders forward on traditional hammocks. The sewn in bands along the bottom of the hammock not only add extra strength, but also work unison with these spreader bars to distribute body weight and tension the fabric body in such a way that creates that flat, solid feeling surface, minus the pressure points. The result is a sleeping system that is quite comfortable for hours and hours on end, and a far cry from the typical man eating bananas I’m used to. Laying inside feels like laying on a bed, and often times I forgot that I was in a hammock at all.
While inside, livability is pretty decent too. There is a little extra shoulder space on each side, and enough space at the head and foot that anyone under 6 foot should have plenty of room to sprawl, stash some extra gear, and the small pockets help keep things like headlamps, phones and a light snack close by while staying out of the way. The auxiliary attachment loops work well enough that even fairly heavy items like small cameras can be hung here, without the mesh drooping down onto the sleeper.
Setting up the hammock is quite simple. Just toss the included straps around a tree, clip in the carabiners of the hammock body, assemble the two spreader bars, and tension the anchors by pulling on the tension lines. The rain fly connects via thin strings with metal hooks that are easily looped around each tree, and 4 stake out points are all that remain for the rain fly. All the lines feature tension locks, which allow one handed adjustments to tighten down all needed points and also works to help line up the tarp over the hammock. It’s impressively simple and one of the easiest hanging setups I’ve ever used.
Construction wise, the Quarter Dome hammock exceeded my expectations, especially for the price. The materials chosen are light and packable, yet hold a definite quality to them that never once made me question their durability. The spreader bars are impressively robust, with no flex or give to them at all, the mesh resists nicks and pulls even after being dumped onto sticks and branches, and the rain fly holds up great in strong winds. The zippers work well too, never once hanging up on me or becoming hard to pull. It’s obvious that a lot of care was put into choosing the proper fabrics, and the consistency in which they’re sewn together is top notch.
The weather protection is pretty good, with a rain fly that easily covers the entire canopy without being excessively large. Anything short of powerful winds resulting in 45 degree rain directly into the ends of the tent will be easily blocked by the cover, although some misting could occur in tough storms. If conditions are particularly bad, the fly can be lowered onto the hammock to the point that the water proof body of the tent will block any extra spray, even in the worst weather. Either way, it provides perfectly adequate protection for three season conditions, without being over the top.
Ventilation is of course excellent, so condensation is minimized.
What I didn’t like
While the layout of the hammock provides a good amount of floor space for the average sized camper, the height of the canopy doesn’t really offer the ability to sit up. while technically viable, my head always pushed into the mesh with a bit of tension, with the only truly comfortable sitting position being at a 90 degree angle with my feet out the door.
I also found the storage options to be quite minimal. The included pockets are just large enough to cram in a small water bottle, a phone, a headlamp, and one other item. Everything else will need to be tossed to the foot of the hammock, or stored underneath. The design just begs for a long wide pocket at the head and foot of the hammock, to the point that I actually caught myself reaching for that non-existent feature several times, only to be disappointed that it wasn’t there. Still, keeping items under the hammock is a viable option, although a paint to get too. Items under the shelter should be well protected, although I recommend keeping things inside a backpack with a pack cover over top, just in case.
The anchor lines are very stretchy. Because of this, I always needed to pitch my shelter quite high in the trees just to stay off the ground. Even several feet off the ground, the stretch would at times drop me straight to the earth when I sat inside, making the proper height difficult to judge. This becomes tricky when combined with the need to get the hammock set up at just the right tautness. If you pulled the lines too tight, the shelter will bow up in the middle when inside resulting in an arched, downhill sleeping angle no matter how you lay. If you pitch the lines too loose you’ll be on the ground, or sleeping in an arch. It’s not difficult to work out with a little practice, but it does take some trial and error. I’ve found a good pitch usually required a chest high pitch of the hammock itself with just a small amount of tension on the lines.
The line tensioners on the ridge of the rain fly tend to slip when too much pressure is applied to them. They perform well enough, but achieving that truly taut pitch is difficult given the situation. I once found myself pulling the lines tight, only to have then slip when pulling corners of the rain fly tight, and repeating the cycle until the rain fly was too low, and had to start over. A simple fix is to remove the rain fly hitches and instead tine in some taut line hitches instead. Only the ridge lines slip (as they’re actually pulled upwards, against the design of the tensioners). The corners of the fly hold great.
There is no included sack for the tent stakes, which actually really bother me. This meaning dirty, clay packed stakes (a common occurrence in my local grounds) will have to be stuffed elsewhere or meticulously cleaned on the trail to keep other items clean. Although, the included stakes are my favorite DAC tent stakes. So it’s not all bad.
Not quite a con, but worth mentioning, the hammock requires an abnormally long distance between the trees it’s being anchored too. Trying to squeeze between two relatively close trees isn’t going to work, as you’ll never be able to get the proper pitch. So, a more wide open space than many hammockers are used too will be required to set up this shelter.
There is currently no native under quilts available for this shelter. Rumor has it one is on the way, but you’ll need to get creative to insulate the bottom. I preferred using a Thermarest Prolite Plus pad inside, which provided extra padding and plenty of warmth. Nany under quilts will work on this shelter with a little creativity, although the fit isn’t quite perfect. Foam pads also work inside, but they grip like angry tree frogs to the DWR treated fabric, making it very difficult to re-position once laying on it.
The REI Quarter Dome Hanging tent falls in a weird space. It’s really not a tent, but it’s also not quite like most hammocks out there either. It certainly provides a much better sleeping experience than a traditional hammock, with it’s flat laying surface, roomy should space and generous length. However, it doesn’t provide the room to freely move around inside, or even really sit up, like an actual tent would. It’s a compromise that will certainly appeal to a range of users, but it’s not going to satisfy the needs of everyone. Perhaps though, making the comparison to a tent isn’t fair, despite it’s name and it’s obvious attempt to bridge the gap between the two. It truly is a hammock, and that is where it excels. Laying inside is blissful. It’s impressively stable, pressure point free, and really doesn’t feel like you’re hanging between two trees at all. The included rain fly does handles wind well and does a good job of keeping out sun, rain, and tiny blood sucking critters. The downside is that sleeping is all that this system is really great for. There is enough room under the tarp to hang out during a storm if one desires, but when paired with the hammock itself it cannot be pitched low enough to provide much sideways protection for people under it, and the hammock often gets in the way of moving about. The better option is to simply sit in the hammock with legs hanging out of the door, but this is restricting. In the end, it’s a well built piece of equipment that provides a great sleeping experience, but small issues like slipping tensioners, limited storage space, and the lack of an included stake sack result in minor annoyances. Still, despite all of it’s flaws, I actually still really like the shelter. It’s comfortable, being inside is enjoyable for long periods of time, and considering the relatively affordable cost, it’s hard to get hung up on the minor grievances listed above, all of which can be worked around. The next time I’m camping with a hammock, this will likely still be the one that makes the cut. But, I’ll probably still pack my tent.
Recommended, for some
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