Let’s get one thing straight. This thing is LIGHT. When the postie tossed me the box, I genuinely thought I’d been sent the wrong thing. Perhaps a water bottle? Maybe one of those parachute hammocks you see all over Instagram? I was wrong. Within that beautiful brown box was a full-blown, ultralight 2-person tent. The Nemo Hornet.
First things first. This isn’t your super stripped back, bare bones, ultralight survival shelter. This is a fully-featured, 2-door, pole-supported tent that happens to weigh less than 1kg. For some, this tent is all you’ve ever wanted. For others, everything you’ll never need. However, like all things in the world of outdoor gear, in losing weight you have to sacrifice something.
So let’s figure out what that something is, and if this tent is right for you.
To do that, I went camping. With a 22L pack.
The point of this tent is to be stupidly light, without sacrificing the livability of a larger, heftier tent. It’s by no means a car camping extraordinaire… this bad boy is designed to be hoofed around mountains and valleys with your own two feet.
Designed for serious hikers, this tent takes up minimal packed space, and at close to 900g fully packed, takes a minimal toll on your overall weight. Plus, being a 2-person tent with a nifty stow mechanism when sharing the load, you end up carrying the equivalent of stuff all.
Traditionally, the word ‘ultralight’ means modifying already minimal gear to shave grams. Cutting toothbrushes in half, snipping unused webbing off packs – and when it comes to shelter – a WORLD of compromise.
Bivvy bags (body bags), tarp shelters (mosquito havens) and trekking pole tents have been the go-to gold standard for ultralight hikers. Bivvy bags are about as pure a shelter as you can get. The only thing you can do in them is sleep. A tarp setup at least provides protection from the elements (with the necessary rigging skills) for both you and you gear while you cook up a storm – but provides no defence against the swarms of bugs in the Australian summer.
Trekking pole tents are great, but without perfectly tying them out, they easily fall down. (Believe me, spending 2 weeks in the Australian Outback trying to peg into some of the oldest, densest bedrock on the planet had me wishing for a poled tent setup).
The Nemo Hornet 2P is an ultralight 2-person 3-season luxury. Nemo have really strived to provide features that make you WANT to crawl in at the end of the day. From the pitch, to getting up to answer natures call – I found this tent just easy. So let’s start from the ground up.
Poles. Poles! As a semi-freestanding tent, Nemo opted for the industry standard in light ‘n’ strong. A DAC Featherlite NFL hubbed-pole system opens up into a simple Y shape, with Nemo’s own ‘Jake’s Foot’ connectors at attachment points. Who’s Jake you ask? No idea. Jake’s weird feet do a great job at grabbing onto the end of the poles and holding tight, as you run around the other side of the tent. It just works.
Once the poles are in, you simply lift up the mesh inner and connect it to the pole hub. A few little guy lines at corners open up the interior space.
2 people… if you’re friendly. It’s super comfortable as a lightweight solo shelter, but the reality is this: if you’re planning on sharing this tent with someone, you’d better be comfortable getting cosy. Nemo have thought of this however… there are 2 doors and 2 vestibules. Each vestibule has room to stash your gear, or cook in less than ideal weather – and having your own door saves the awkward ‘crawl over your mate when you have to go pee in the middle of the night’ situation. Plus in summer you get a beautiful breeze by opening the whole thing up.
The pockets on each side of the tent inner are another example of Nemo’s focus on comfort. Along with this thinking are the Light Pockets – white translucent pockets in the ceiling of the tent to put your headlamp in, that cast a diffused even glow throughout the tent.
It’s the little things.
The Nemo Hornet 2P doesn’t skimp on performance. Having 2 vestibules means there isn’t a single large panel of the tent to catch in a strong breeze – instead the geometry of the fly, along with the DAC pole setup, gives me confidence that I won’t take off in the middle of the night. The 10D Sil/PU Nylon Ripstop fly (15D on the floor) won’t sag as much as the pure SilNylon you’ll find in other ultralight offerings – but will sag a little compared to space-age (read: expensive) DCF, or Dyneema Composite Fabric (formerly Cuben Fibre).
There is one interesting design aspect in the fly, where on the head end of the tent, the fly ends about halfway down the tent and exposes an extended section of the waterproof bathtub floor. Perhaps this is for ventilation – however I question the storm readiness of this end of the tent. That being said, tall nylon panels on the inner of the tent also stop winds and rain that may find its way past the fly on stormy nights.
So Where’s The Compromise?
Along with the cosy dimensions (just 2.6m2 of floor area), quite simply – durability. A 15D floor is mind-bogglingly thin. Of course, it’s high tec ripstop and it’s somewhat designed to be abused – but I’m left paranoid about snagging any part of this tent on any rock, stick or untrimmed toenail.
Along with this, the 1200mm hydrostatic head on the floor needs some consideration when pitching in wet weather, to not pitch in an area where water will pool. Unless you like sleeping in a puddle. Along with this, I found in my test that the fly was more effective when pitched exactly right. An inexperienced user may struggle to find the correct, balanced tension across the tent.
So, with a bit of skill, consideration and a cosy partner to snuggle with (unless you’re alone… I feel ya), the Nemo Hornet 2p is an excellent way to retain comfort in your shelter of choice, whilst stripping more than enough weight to justify those tinnies you stuffed at the bottom of your pack.
Personally, this tent will get a ton of use, especially on straight-forward but long trips. However when it comes to the real gritty expeditions, I might find myself reaching for the gear that simply inspires confidence… but then again…
All photos by Aidan Howes
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