If comfort is more important to you than weight, go ahead and buy a three-person tent for yourself and your mate. But consider this first: New pole connectors, like plastic hubs and sockets, have made tent walls more vertical, which creates more usable space in a two-person model without adding significant weight. Either way, set up a few tents and crawl inside before you decide. Of the tents that fit your needs, buy the lightestunless you're car camping. And there are two other things to consider. Opt for a mesh canopy if you like to stargaze, or are heading someplace hot, keeping in mind that a more breathable tent is great for stuffy nights but colder on chilly ones. As for doors, though they add a bit of weight, we generally favor tents with two entrances, which are kind of like his-and-hers bathrooms.
We've tested plenty of tents for under $180, but none held up like the REI Half Dome 2. The redesigned classic two-man is a third largerand considerably sturdierthan the previous iteration and includes both multiple doors and a vestibule. Instead of crossing, the twin main poles run parallel, which saves a few segments (and ounces) and makes the walls more vertical. It's a bit awkward to set up for the first time but easy with a little practice. Other smart touches include vents on the fly that kept testers condensation-free in fog and rain on Oregon's Rogue River, pockets to stuff the opened canopy doors into (saving the hassle of lashing them aside), and an "attic" to dry socks or hold a headlamp for overhead lighting. "It'd be a good tent at any price," one tester summarized, "but it's an incredible tent at this price."
5 lbs, rei.com
Livability: 4.4 (out of 5)