Nemo is a pretty new player to the Aussie market, so new in fact that when I said I was testing out a “Nemo tent” for the weekend, my friend asked if I would be sleeping in a giant clownfish. Sadly, it was not to be, but I was far from disappointed with the Nemo Dagger 2P.
As we drove into Ben Boyd National Park thunder rumbled overhead and rain was lashing the coast. Crap hiking conditions but perfect for giving a lightweight two-person, three-season backpacking tent the berries.
Size & Weight
I actually thought part of the tent was missing when I received it because there was so much dead space in its stuff sack, but it’s just very, very small. At about 48 x 15cm it took up the same amount of space as my sleeping bag, not bad for a place to spend the night! The stuff sack also includes a clever drawcord system that can compress the tent to two-thirds its normal size, sans poles, and helps out with splitting the tent between 2 people.
It weighs bugger all too; with a 1.7kg packed weight it’s definitely the lightest two-person tent I’ve ever used. It comes in 100g less than the Mont Moondance 2 and is on par for grams with the MSR Hubba Hubba NX. There are lighter tents out there but few are fully featured and offer proper two-person liveability at less than a kilo per person.
Ease of Setup
I used the tried and tested reviewer method of not doing any prior reading before arriving at camp and still had the Dagger up within ten minutes. You simply lay out the tent, construct the single DAC pole (it has a longitudinal spine that branches off to each corner and a crossbeam to increase headroom) and slot the ball sockets into each of the four corners.
Each corner has a tricky piece of plastic called a “Jake’s Foot” that holds the end of the pole and doubles as a clip point for the rainfly. While I like how this keeps the end of the pole away from dirt or rocky surfaces, I’m always wary of the durability of any plastic that relies on flexing to clip things in.
Hook the tent to the poles, throw over the fly, clip and tension it at each corner and peg it out with a few of the excellent spin-resistant stakes and you’re done. It’s freestanding so pegging the tent base out is entirely optional. You can also easily flip back the fly for stargazing through the thin mesh that makes up the entire upper half of the tent.
Space is where the Nemo Dagger excels; it’s a bloody palace. For a tent that can go as light as 1.5kg, it’s impressive that each person has enough space inside for a full-sized hiking airbed with room to spare (especially at the feet, making this tent a great option for tall hikers).
2.9 square metres of interior floor space is complemented by 2.1 under the vestibule which was more than adequate for my pack, shoes and sheltered camp kitchen. I particularly liked how the vestibule was staked out at two points, the trapezium shape is much more useful than the triangle vestibules common on many tents.
Inside there’s heaps of headroom at 107cm which was made way more usable by the cross beam. The tub-style walls are near vertical, I never felt like I was brushing up against the walls of the tent when moving around inside.
The interior doors unzip in opposite directions and the pockets are on alternate sides of the tent. I’m personally not a fan of this. (What? I’m friendly!) Couples may have to play a ferocious game of Scissors-Paper-Rock to decide on who’s getting the annoying door but it’s not the end of the world. On the plus side, two doors is far superior to one as you don’t have to crawl over your snuggle buddy to go and take a leak.
There’s also two lofted pockets that Nemo are calling “Light Pockets” thanks to their translucent material. I chucked my head torch in one of them and it diluted an even glow over the tent at the perfect angle. They’re not strictly necessary but they’re also pretty cool.
The durability of a lightweight hiking tent is always going to be a compromise, lest it become not a lightweight hiking tent. The Dagger actually performs pretty well in this regard with a 30D PU Nylon ripstop floor fabric and 15D Sil/PU Nylon ripstop fly. If that’s utter gibberish to you all you need to know is that although the materials are lightweight, they’re more durable than a lot of the competition.
I didn’t notice much indentation on the fabric from the ground but the way the fly stretched over the poles in some parts raised some red flags. This tent won’t last forever but I’d definitely use a footprint and take the time to align the fly correctly to get the most amount of use from it.
The poles and pegs are confidence inspiring high-quality alloy but as mentioned before, I was concerned with the durability of the “Jake’s Foot” clipping system.
At its core, this is what a tent is for, not stargazing or tricky storage solutions but keeping you dry and at a comfortable temperature. I mentioned earlier that we had some pretty brutal weather down south and I’m happy to report that the Dagger held its own.
I was initially worried about the rather large cutout at each end that exposed only a single layer to the elements, but the overlap and tough floor material ensured no water came through. In fact the tub construction runs the entire way around the tent so you’d probably be ok even if rivers start running through your campsite. The Dagger kept out heavy and consistent rain but the thin fly fabric did become quite saturated and the zips became tricky to use one handed once the protective fabric around them wetted out.
In terms of wind resistance, the freestanding structure is very rigid and the tent has many tie on points for guylines if you’re really copping a beating.
Ventilation is provided via two optional vents at the top of the exterior doors. You do sacrifice some door height but being able to change up the ventilation without going outside is a bonus. I still think Mont’s system that allows access through the roof of the tent is superior but this isn’t a bad system and it doesn’t add any extra zips. The tent’s upper section is all mesh which allowed a great deal of airflow once the rain stopped and the humidity set in – it’s best to stake the fly out as far as possible to provide a big gap for air to enter.
I was loaned the Nemo Dagger 2P for this review and it’s safe to say that I really don’t want to return it. It’s basically the lightest tent on the market for the space and features on offer and the sturdy 3-season design is appropriate for almost any conditions Australia will throw at you. With an RRP of $699.95 it’s definitely an investment but if you want a tent that can handle anything, from car camping to lightweight multi-day expeditions, the Dagger should be well and truly on your radar.