The REI Dash 2 is the lightest weight 2 person tent that REI has ever sold. Weighing just 2 pounds 7 ounces (not including stakes or stuff sacks), it is a double walled tent with a conventional hubbed poleset, two doors, and two vestibules. But the design of this tent with its aerodynamic fly, high cut vestibule doors, and 15 denier ripstop nylon construction represents an interesting change in direction for a company that has long focused on making more conventional dome-style two person tents.
When evaluating the Dash 2, it’s important to examine this new tent in the proper context. Its intended use is for backpackers, couples or individuals, who prefer a double-walled tent architecture, but want the lightest weight one available. Keeping those priorities in mind, the Dash 2 has distinct advantages over similar tents intended for the same audience.
But switching to an ultralight-style shelter like the Dash 2 can take a bit of getting used to if you’re used to more comfortable camping style tent. Understanding the comfort and performance tradeoffs made by lightweight tent designers is one of the reasons why choosing lightweight or ultralight tents can be difficult and why it’s important to understand your priorities before making a purchase decision.
The REI Dash 2 is a double walled tent, meaning that it has an inner tent that is pitched first, followed by an outer rain fly. This can be a problem in pouring rain because the inside of the inner tent can get wet before you can cover it with a rain fly. However, double-walled tents can also be advantageous because most of the internal condensation that forms at night in your tent will evaporate through the mesh walls of the inner tent and be trapped underneath the inside of the rain fly, away from you, so you and your gear will stay drier.
One of the unusual things about the Dash 2 is that the rain fly doesn’t cover the entire inner tent (see top photo.) The top and sides of the inner tent at the end where your feet go, are fully exposed to the weather. These panels are waterproof so it doesn’t matter if they get rained on, but I feel that this design decision could be better explained by REI in the documentation and marketing literature about this tent than is currently available. Customers want to understand why the products they buy function the way they do and this is something that I think REI would benefit from as they bring more lightweight products to market.
REI Dash 2 Tent Pitching Instructions
Like most double-walled tents, you pitch the Dash 2’s inner tent first by staking the four corners to the ground. You’ll need eleven stakes to pitch the Dash 2, five for the inner tent and six for the rain fly (using my instructions below, which are better and more complete than the ones REI provides).
While the Dash 2 comes with REI’s standard aluminum tent stakes, I prefer using Easton 6″ and 8″ tube-style stakes for New England ground conditions because they hold well in campgrounds and forest locations. Whichever stakes you choose, you will want ones that have some sort or cap or a shepards hook on top to hold down the cord and webbing on the inner tent and fly guyouts.
Next expand the tent pole, which has a hub and spoke design, including a center ridge pole that runs the length of the tent, two diagonal arms that insert into grommets at the head of the tent and a short crosspole at the foot end. When pitching, it’s best to start by attaching the crosspole at the foot of the tent and then inserting the arm poles into the corner grommets at the head end.
Next, drape the rain fly loosely over the center ridgeline pole so that the arrow-shaped end of the fly is at the foot end of the inner tent. Starting at the foot end, secure the rain fly to the short crosspiece pole using grommets sewn on the inside of the rain fly. Stake the point of the arrow to the ground but don’t make it too tight yet, because we’ll have to re-tension all of the tent’s guylines after the entire fly is set up.
(Note: In the pouring rain, it’s possible to quickly cover the inner tent with the loose fly once the hubbed poleset is in place to minimize internal wetness. Securing the fly can then take place at a more leisurely pace. Practice doing this at home first, though)
Next, attach the three velcro tabs on the inside of the fly to the center ridgeline bar and the two arms. These help secure the rain fly to the poles.
Next, stake out the side vestibules using the guyline loops at the bottom of the door zipper, at the base of the dark green stripe.
Next, instead of securing the webbing strap at the head end of the vestibule to corner of the inner tent, use a separate tent stake and stake it out in front of the head end of the tent as shown above. This gives the vestibule a much tighter pitch and eliminates any slack in the vestibule which will flap in the wind. Repeat this for the vestibule on the other side of the tent.
While my method for staking the head-end of the vestibules is possibly unorthodox, REI doesn’t provide any instructions for securing the guylines at the head of the vestibules with the tent. If you simply assume that they secure them to the corners of the inner tent, you’ll end up with a very loose vestibule with little internal volume.
Finally, stake out the center guy line at the front of the tent and then walk around the tent and tighten all the guylines, as needed.
Wind and Rain Performance
The Dash 2 is a semi-freestanding tent, which means that you can un-stake the fly and inner tent and move them around without having to take the whole tent apart, if you want to moves its location or orientation (also handy if you have a picnic pavillion to set it up under in the pouring rain before moving it to your campsite and staking it down.)
When pitching the Dash 2, you can regulate the amount of air that flows under the tent vestibules and through the inner tent by setting it up in different locations and orientations based on wind direction. In high humidity or very hot weather, air flow through the tent will help reduce internal condensation along the walls and foot end of the tent while making you feel cooler. This can be uncomfortable in shoulder season weather however, because it can make the inner tent feel very drafty and cold…a common design trade-off in lightweight tents.
The high cut of the vestibules also means that wind can blow rain under them in stormy weather. Your best protection against this is to pitch the arrow end of the tent into the wind and to store your gear near the head end of the vestibules. This is only required for extremely windy conditions in highly exposed tent sites, however. In practice, you’d be better off camping in a more protected location like a forest.
The Dash 2 is actually quite good in heavy rain, and will keep you and your gear dry. While lower than in some tents, the solid edge of the bathtub floors and taped seams ensure that the floor of the tent remains dry even if you camp on a dished out tent site where water can pool underneath you.
The only issue I’ve experienced with rain in the Dash 2 is dripping from the fly into the inner tent when the vestibule is opened. This occurs because the side of the inner tent extends a bit past the vestibule drip line (see photo above). The only way to mitigate this is to only unzip the vestibule door part way when the fly is wet and you want to get out of the tent.
Internal Space and Livability
The Dash 2 is a tight fit for two people, but that’s not a revelation. Many two person, ultralight-style tents are also snug fitting and possibly better suited for one person who wants more living space inside their tent. The real value-add with this tent are the two side doors and vestibules, which are far more convenient for couples than a competitive product like the Big Agnes Fly Creek 2, which only has one door in the front vestibule, and is a hassle to enter and exist when sharing with another person.
I’ve used the Dash 2 on trips as a 2-person and a 1-person tent, and while my wife and I can both fit into this tent at night if we bring narrow 20 inch sleeping pads, almost everything else we bring has to be stored in the vestibules. Even then, our sleeping bags run up against the side walls of the tent and down in the foot box resulting in some internal condensation transfer. Again, this is the norm in many 2-person, lightweight tents today, and one of those tradeoffs that gets made in the name of weight savings.
While we can both sit up in the tent, which has plenty of head room. there’s isn’t any room on the floor between us or along the tent sides. There is some spare space at the head end of the tent above our pillows for smaller items however, a small mesh gear loft overhead, and two mesh pockets, one in each corner pocket.
The Dash 2 is comfortable and spacious when used as a single person tent however, a useful consideration if you want to use the same lightweight tent for solo and couples trips. When used as a solo tent, internal condensation transfer from the foot end and side walls of the tent to your sleeping bag becomes a non-issue because there is plenty of room to keep your gear in the middle of the tent. Having two vestibules for a single person tent is also not without precedent in the ultralight tent category and is a real convenience because you can keep your gear covered in one vestibule and get in and out of other more easily.
REI’s Dash 2 ultralight-style tent a perfectly livable two-person double-walled tent for backpackers that want a very lightweight tent and are willing to cope with its snug interior dimensions. At 2 pounds 7 ounces, not including stakes (which will add 4-5 more ounces), the Dash 2 isn’t the lightest 2 person backpacking tent you can own, but having two doors and two vestibules is a very nice feature to have in a tent that will be shared by two people or for one person who wants a little bit more room at night. From my perspective, I think REI can do a better job at explaining some of the Dash 2’s design nuances by providing more complete pitching instructions and videos of the tent’s performance in a wind tunnel. Customers that buy lighter weight tents need to understand the comfort and performance tradeoffs that designers must make to deliver lightweight backpacking gear and educating them more will be a big step toward reducing future product returns.
- Two doors and two vestibules
- Excellent cross ventilation
- Light colored fabric provides plenty of interior light in sun and moonlight
- Stealthy color scheme
- Built-in gear loft and corner pockets
- Seam taped with bathtub floors provides protection against rain and wet ground
- Bi-directional vestibule door zippers
- Vestibule dripline falls inside inner tent wall
- Vestibule are a bit on the small side
- Drafty in cooler weather
- Poorly documented pitching instructions
- Lack of reflective accents makes tent difficult to find at night
Specification and Dimensions
- Weight, minus stakes, stuff sacks, and footprint: 2 lbs. 7 oz.
- Packed size: 6 x 20 inches
- Floor dimensions: 90 x 54 tapering to 42 inch width at foot end
- Floor area: 29 square feet
- Vestibule area: 5.3 + 5.3 square feet
- Peak height: 40 inches
- Doors: 2
- Poles: 1 hubbed poleset
- Pole material DAC aluminum
- Canopy fabric: 15-denier ripstop nylon/20-denier mesh
- Floor fabric: 15-denier ripstop nylon
Disclosure: REI provided Philip Werner (SectionHiker.com) with a sample Dash 2 tent for this review.
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