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REI Quarter Dome SL Tarp Review

REI Quarter Dome SL Tarp Review

The REI Quarter Dome SL Tarp is a lightweight waterproof 9.25’ x 9.25’ square tarp with lots of perimeter tie-outs for infinite pitching options. The included guylines connect to the tie-out loops with attached toggles, which makes adding and removing guylines for different pitch configurations lightning-fast. However, the sizing specs are misleading, the tie-out loops lack reinforcements and the polyurethane-coated nylon is somewhat antiquated. I love the flexibility of a square tarp but $150 is a bit too expensive for what you get here.

Specs at a Glance

  • Dimensions: 115” x 115” (Manufacturer); 111”x111” or 9.25 feet x 9.25 feet (measured)–see below
  • Weights:
    • Tarp alone: 12 ounces (Manufacturer), 12.7 ounces (measured)
    • Packed weight (tarp, guylines, stakes, stuff sack): 1 pound, 2 ounces (Manufacturer); 1 pound, 3.3 ounces (measured)
  • Material and construction: 15D (denier) polyurethane-coated nylon, with 16 perimeter grosgrain tie-outs, 3 external ridgeline tie-outs, and 3 ridgeline internal loops made of the tarp material. Seam-taped ridgeline.
    Included: 8 DAC J-stakes (V-shaped) at 0.4 ounces each, 6 quick-attach reflective guylines with linelocs at 0.4 ounces each, stuff sack (0.7 ounces)
There are 16 perimeter tieouts (the orange loops) and 3 more along the top of the ridgeline
There are 16 perimeter tie-outs (the orange loops) and 3 more along the top of the ridgeline

Uses of a Square Tarp

A square tarp is amazingly versatile and fun to play with. Just some of the options include:

  • A-frame
  • Lean-to
  • Dining fly
  • A protected hangout area for a group in the rain
  • A front porch awning for your tent, allowing you to leave the door open in the rain for more ventilation

With practice and creativity, like with origami, much more complicated shelters can be made, with varying combinations of wind resistance, rain protection, and ventilation. Check out our article on square tarp pitches here, with lots of additional information shared by our readers in the comments.

Internal ridgeline loops let you attach a bivy or net tent
Internal ridgeline loops let you attach a bivy or net tent


The Quarter Dome SL Tarp is a simple design: it’s a flat square made by joining two rectangular pieces of fabric and seam taping where they come together. This creates a ridgeline when used in a traditional A-frame configuration. Along the inside of this ridgeline seam, there are 3 loops made from the same fabric for attaching a bivy, net tent, headlamp, glasses, or clothesline and 3 grosgrain tie-out loops on the outside.

Trekking pole tips can fit into the tieout loops with enough space to simultaneously run a guyline
Trekking pole tips can fit into the tie-out loops with enough space to simultaneously run a guyline

There is no reinforced area inside for supporting the center of the tarp with the handle of a trekking pole in a peak but the center loop on the outside of the ridgeline allows you to run a line that could be suspended from a tree. Additionally, there are 16 grosgrain ribbon tie-out loops sewn onto the perimeter of tarp on the edging tape with tiny, one-eighth-inch-wide x-box stitching. There are no fabric reinforcement triangles on the ridgeline or the corner tie-outs–which tend to be the most critical tie-outs–but, curiously, there are reinforcements on the middle of the side hems–the tie-outs least likely to be used on many common pitches, with the least tension and least critical to maintaining the structure.

Quick-Attach Guylines

The included guylines, which are woven with reflective tracer to make the shelter easy to find in the dark, attach with toggles–you slip the toggle through a timeout ribbon and double it back through its own guyline loop, locking it in place. For a tarp that can be pitched so many different ways, it’s awesome to not have to untie and re-tie guylines every time you pitch it. These toggles are a huge improvement in ease of use that flat and concatenated tarp users can both employ. These same guylines with toggles are used on some of REI’s newest tents, like the Flash Air 1 and Flash Air 2, so you can share extras across gear.

The guylines attach quickly by looping toggles through the tieouts, and then locking them into the guyline loop
The guy-lines attach quickly by looping toggles through the tie-outs and then locking them into the guyline loop

Typically, a guyline with this type of lineloc only shortens the guyline to half of its full length. If you need a shorter guyline, a quick hack is to pull extra cord out of the knotted end of the lineloc to the appropriate length and tie a slipknot there.

Sizing discrepancy

REI advertises the dimensions of the tarp as 115”x115”, but we measured it to be 111”x111”. We reached out to REI Customer Service regarding this discrepancy, and, after almost three months, they replied: “Staked out completely flat, your shelter should measure 115″ x 115″ including the webbing loops at the corners. Each webbing loop adds approximately 2 inches to the overall length.”

To measure a tarp based on the length of its webbing loops makes no sense because what users are looking for in the specs is coverage area. We feel that the specs that REI has published are misleading and could be rewritten to be made more transparent.

There's tons of room under the tarp for one or two people
There’s tons of room under the tarp for one or two people

Tarp in Use

During my testing, I primarily used the Quarter Dome SL Tarp in an A-frame or Flying A-Frame with the corners guyed out for maximum ventilation instead of staked directly to the ground in combination with an ultralight bivy sack clipped to the loops on the inside of the ridgeline. Pitching was fast and easy, I experienced no leaking or misting in the rain, and I had tons of weather-protected room as a solo camper. Two people could easily use this tarp together, with individual bivy sacks or a 2-person net-tent.

Materials and Construction Issues

While I experienced no failures in the duration of my testing, the materials and construction have me worried about the long-term durability of this shelter. The Quarter Dome SL uses a polyurethane (PU)-coated nylon. When I pulled the tarp out of its stuff sack, I was overwhelmed by a strong chemical smell that reminded me of the old PVC ponchos from the Army surplus store we used in Scouts growing up. Fortunately, the smell dissipated with use in the field. It felt tacky, that is to say slightly sticky, from day one. There has been so much advancement in coated fabric technology over the past 20 years that this feels a bit like a relic.

Corner and ridgeline tieout loops are sewn to the hem tape but don't have additional fabric reinforcements
Corner and ridgeline tieout loops are sewn to the hem tape but don’t have additional fabric reinforcements

However, my biggest concern is with the grosgrain tie-outs using tiny stitches over a very small area with no fabric reinforcements on the ridgeline or corner tie-outs. A tarp has to be pitched tightly to be effective, and there’s a reason tie-out reinforcements are standard on almost every backpacking tarp on the market. It’s hard to imagine the tie-outs holding up long-term without ripping out, and for $150, I expect better construction.

The tieouts along the middle of the sides are the only ones which are reinforced with an extra patch of fabric
The tie-outs along the middle of the sides are the only ones which are reinforced with an extra patch of fabric

Comparable Square Tarps

Make / ModelDimensionsWeightPrice
REI Quarter Dome SL 1 Tarp9.25' x 9.25'12 oz$150
Hammock Gear The Traverse Tarp9.5' x 9.5'13.67 oz$150
Paria Santuary Sil Tarp10' x 10'18 oz$85
Bear Paw Wilderness Designs10' x 10'19 oz$115
Cook Custom Sewing Tundra Tarp10' x 10'20 oz$185
Hyperlite Mountain Gear Flat Tarp8.5' X 8.5'8.85 oz$365
Mountain Laurel Designs Super Tarp Flat Tarp10' x 10'19 oz$245
Yama Mountain Gear Silpoly Flat Tarp8.5' x 8.5'12.6 oz$140


We were very excited when we learned that REI would be selling a square 115″ x 115″ tarp because this is the ideal size for ultralight tarp camping. While the REI Quarter Dome SL Tarp is very lightweight, packs up small, and has most of the features one would expect on a backpacking tarp, the quality, fabric choice, and robustness of its construction does not compare favorably to square tarps from other companies. We recommend that you give the REI Quarter Dome SL a pass and consider the other tarps we’ve listed above instead.

Disclosure: SectionHiker purchased this product.

SectionHiker is reader-supported. We only make money if you purchase a product through our affiliate links. Help us continue to test and write unsponsored and independent gear reviews, beginner FAQs, and free hiking guides.

About the author

Greg Pehrson is an ultralight backpacker who was bitten hard by the MYOG (make-your-own-gear) bug. He repairs, tinkers, and builds gear, often seeking to upcycle throwaway items or repurpose things from outside the backpacking world.


  1. I have been kicking the idea of a tarp for cooler weather camping. Still haven’t pulled the trigger on one yet. Glad to see an opinion about a product that has some shortcomings.

  2. I have one of the alternatives listed, the Paria Santuary Sil Tarp, and really like it. It hasn’t let me down so far.

  3. Also check out $40 alternatives on amazon by “free soldier” – used a couple several times for hammock camping and they’ve worked great.

  4. What’s the big news on tarps. I have been using tarps for years. They can be fashioned into any shape of shelter, from a simple lean to, to wall tent.
    Tarps are great.

  5. I have this tarp and at first had the same concerns as you. Especially when I saw the Made in China tag on it. They must have bumped the price up. I think I paid about $85. It might have been with discounts. Not sure. 95% of the time, I run a cord from a tree to the ground, like a spine, and drape the tarp over that in a flying diamond pitch. There is less pressure on the tarp tie outs that way. Just be sure to store it loose or the coating will stick together. It has worked OK for me. My advice,,don’t be a tight wallet and go for DCF. One of these days I’ll learn.

    • Actually, when it comes to a square tarp, I’d argue that you want a fabric that will stretch so you can make different pitches and organic pitches that incorporate landscape elements. DCF can’t do that very well. Silnylon is excellent for this.

      • Yes,,a valid point. I have walked passed many poorly pitched DCF tents due to uneven ground. The compromises never end.

        • It is kind of shocking to see how badly they’re pitched. Its part fabric and part skill. There’s a reason conventional double wall tents are still more popular. Perfect pitch all the time even on shitty campsites.

      • Lawrence Constantino

        Just great, ugh! Just ordered one of these from REI. Well have it now, will give it a try for next week’s southern VA AT hike. After playing a little with it in the wind I feel it’s a bit too stretchy, can see condensation rubbing off in a breeze unless really locked down good. I was avoiding the dyneema rectangular tarps (Zpacks) as I’m just learning about tarps and all the info out there centers on square tarps. Will report about it when back in a couple of weeks. After guylines, stakes, and bivy only weight saving over Sixmoon trekker is about a quarter lb all in all. Definitely a chemical smell too. It may get returned if all the bugs crawling over it suddenly drop dead.

  6. While I share the author’s frustration with length and width definitions in the published specs, this is really no different than how tents are measured (stake to stake). I suppose in theory one could argue that it gives you an idea of how much space you need to set it up, rather than how much coverage you get. OK, fine, but I doubt that’s the primary consideration for most people. Rather, it’s how much room you have under/inside it, and most of us have to learn how to translate marketing measurements to practical reality.

    • We take exception to the way that tent manufacturers measure their tents, tarps, etc, so when we review them on SectionHiker, we list the actual size of the living space (inner tent) and not the dimensions of the fly.

      In my experience. most people don’t know how to translate marketing measurements to practical reality.

  7. I use the Cook Custom tarp car camping in back woods sites often on large lakes in Maine. Though heavy, it survives high wind without problems.

  8. I had the same experience Philip described. I got this tarp on clearance from REI for about $125. But when I received it and looked at the extremely flimsy construction at the corners, I returned it. It’s an REI design decision that’s baffling. A properly constructed corner would take a fraction of an ounce of extra material and a few minutes of the seamstress’s time to make. It would be criminal to pay the original MSRP for this tarp.

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