For some, going light is not just preferable, it’s the only way to go. The Nemo Hornet Elite has been designed for those people. It’s a two person shelter with two doors, two vestibules, and it weighs a scant 2 lbs. 3 oz, but can it hold up on the trail?
Every detail in the design of the Nemo Hornet Elite 2 has been carefully and meticulously planned with scrutiny placed on excess in an attempt to shave down pack space and weight as far as possible, while still providing the amenities needed to comfortably sleep two people. So, let’s talk about that design. Starting out with the frame, the Elite uses a single DAC Featherlight NFL 8.7 mm frame. The poles begin at a single point at the foot, arching over the sleeping compartment, and splits into two kinked poles that expand out to the terminating points at the head of the tent. The kinks, or bends, in the poles force the frame up higher and more vertical at the head, increasing the internal volume while adding extra tension. The rainfly is constructed from a very thin but strong 7D silicone/Polyurethane ripstop nylon, with 10Dsil/PU fabric used on the floor. The tent features two “D” shaped doors, one on each side, and two vestibules with full zippers. Internally, there are two small pockets, one beside each door, and one light diffusion pocket above to accommodate headlamps as lanterns. Small clips connect the inner canopy to the rain fly near the doors, allowing the vestibule to pull the inner walls outward as the vestibule is tensioned, increasing shoulder room inside. The tent features a 51″ wide head, tapering to a 43″ at the feet, and the peak height is 83″ tall near the center.The shelter includes 6 stakes, 4 guy lines, a stuff sack, and weighs 2 lbs. 3 oz. It retails for $499.95
What I liked
Considering the weight, I was pleasantly surprised with the robustness of the design, and especially the wind stability. The DAC NFL frame sets up surprisingly taut and sturdy, providing a good amount of resistance against blowing wind. There are also three points where the fly can be attached to the aluminum frame via Velcro tabs to prevent the fly from shifting, and 3 guy out points that connect directly above these tabs, allowing it to be staked out in all directions with a near direct connection to the frame, greatly improving it’s stability. When using all of these systems together and with a proper pitch, I found the tent able to easily hold up to 20 mph winds, and even strong gusts as long as they’re not hammering in on the vestibules directly. It’s still an ultra-light shelter, so some care must be taken to choose a proper campsite under treeline to avoid direct gusts if possible. If worse comes to worse, however, it can take the abuse when needed. I always felt secure and protected inside, a very important piece of mind when it comes to feathery light shelters.
When it comes to actual build quality, Nemo has did a pretty solid job. DAC Featherlight NFL poles are well known for their impressive strength to weight ratios, and the 7D and 10D tent fabrics, despite being whimsically thin, actually hold up surprisingly well. I’ve never used a footprint with the tent, and I’ve had no issues with abrasion, although if I was camping on granite I might consider one. The tent stakes are stout and hold up to being gently hammered with rocks, and the terminal pole clips where the poles connect to the tent body are solid metal, a first for me. Stitching and seam sealing is also very good, without any visible frays, loose threads or missed seams. I’m quite impressed with how they managed to combine such a light weight build with high quality materials.
The basic set up of the tent is very easy. Simply stake out a few corners to keep it from blowing away, assemble the shock-corded poles, pop them in the unique metal clips on the tent canopy, and lift the mesh body to the poles and clip them in place. From there, Staking out the corners raises the foot up via the volumizing guy points, and the rain fly simply clips on, and has tensioners for adjusting the tautness. It’s fast, easy, and can be done in the rain or wind with little issue.
Ventilation on the tent has been pretty O.K. The large cut away in the rainfly at the head of the tent allows extra air to blow in and over the inner canopy, and the largely mesh inner body design allows air to move in and out without much resistance, but without being too breezy. The rain fly also sits somewhat higher off the ground than many shelters to further facilitate the cycling of fresh air. In good conditions (a dry breeze and mild night) while camping solo, I’ve had no condensation at all, but that’s not always the case in wetter environments. More on that later.
At 2 lbs 3 oz, the tent is incredibly light weight, especially when considering it’s essentially free standing. It’s light enough that despite being a 2 person shelter, I have been using it as my solo tent, utilizing the extra internal volume to sprawl out. It of course gets even lighter if split between two backpackers (about 1 lb each as it mostly evenly distributes). A tent this light makes hauling a pack across those long miles that much more enjoyable, and after a few days on the trail it really pays off.
The tent is also very packable. I slide the poles into my pack vertically, filling in a small gap created by my sleeping bag stuff sack, and simply lay the tent fabric on top of the sleeping bag itself. It takes up a thin layer about three inches thick in my pack, which is barely noticeable and leaves me tons of room for other gear. It will fit in even the smallest of packs, making light weight, lower capacity backpacks an option for multi-day trips, further cutting carry load.
It’s a beautiful tent and the glow of the sun off the fabric makes waking up a real treat. It’s scored many compliments based on it’s good looks, and is probably my favorite shelter of all time, visually.
What I didn’t like
To achieve such an incredible weight, the floor space has been minimized to the very edge of practicality for two people. It’s great for one camper, but when stuffing two inside, it’s quite tight. If you’re not wholly comfortable with your tent partner, be warned. You’ll be rubbing elbows all night long, so be ready to get friendly. Laying two full sized 20″ wide sleeping pads inside covers basically the entire floor, minus a little space a the head and foot of the tent. Two people can sit up inside at once, but not side by side and you’ll be rubbing the mesh like it’s a newborn kitten. Thankfully, the dual vestibules allow enough space to keep all gear outside of the tent, Keeping clutter out of the equation. It’s not an intolerable experience with another inside, but if I was spending exceptionally long days or nights inside, I would consider something larger.
Another sacrifice for weight comes in the number of included tent stakes. It comes packed with 6, which is the number needed for a basic pitch and it’s generally enough. It includes some rather robust guy line too, but no tensioners or stakes to tie them out with. I’ve found that it’s adequate if connect the guy lines to the corners of the tent, doubling up on the included stakes, but an ideal pitch requires 4 more stakes placed farther from the tent, tying off to a tree or rock, or perhaps even fashioning your own stakes out of fallen sticks on the trail (it works in a pinch). It’s certainly not a deal breaker, but worth mentioning.
There is no top vent nor double zippers on the vestibules to allow for extra ventilation. Instead, you’ll be relying on the natural breeziness of the design. This is generally fine, but on very soggy nights the single wall section at the head of tent can pick up some condensation. It’s easily managed with a camp towel, but if gone unchecked can result in a slight dampening of a sleeping bag hood in humid conditions.
the “D” style doors are a bit on the small side, but they certainly get the job done. They do require sitting up and sort of pivoting to get inside, but otherwise not much of an issue. I personally didn’t mind them, but some with knee or back issues might find some challenge here.
I recommend always attaching the rain fly to the poles using the included Velcro attachments and guying out the tent. It slows down the setup process by a few seconds, but greatly increases it’s stability and keeps the tent from squeeking and groaning as the rainfly shifts. Without them, the tent will sway more easily in the wind, greatly reducing it’s strength. I would consider them a necessity.
To dodge buying line tensioners for the included guy lines, consider using a tautline hitch. They work great for guy lines as they’re reliable, easy to use, and can be looped around stakes, sticks or rocks. This will save some money and weight, and you might even get away with just using the 6 included stakes if you’re clever.
The tent stakes are directional with a small notch only on one side to grip the line/ tent corner. Make sure you place the notch away from the tent with the stakes themselves at 40 to 60 degree angle or your lines could slip off.
Shaving weight on a shelter is as much an art as it in an engineering feat. Cut weight in the wrong place and your tent quickly becomes fragile, complicated, or just a chore to live in. Nemo has obviously put a lot of thought, trial and experience into shaving every possible ounce, while still maintaining livability. I really like having two doors and vestibules as it allows me to keep all of my gear out of the way and provides and easier entry and exit when solo camping. The volumizing guy points at the feet and shoulders of the tent add extra internal space and stability without adding extra weight, and the inclusion of internal pockets helps keep gear organized and out of the way. Still, there are some sacrifices. It’s certainly a tight fit for two people and caring for a shelter this light requires careful camp selection and little extra time spent clearing out rocks and sticks. I would also like to see a few more included stakes, and the inclusion of at least one top vent or double zipper to help with those soggy Tennessee summer nights. But, what is included here is innovative and will certainly hold a lot of appeal for some. For those who demand the lightest shelter for destroying miles of trail, or for those who usually camp solo but occasionally bring a partner along, the Hornet Elite does an excellent job of pulling double duty as a do it all shelter. For those, the trade offs make a lot of sense (thru hikers take note). If, however, you usually camp in pairs, the shoulder to shoulder floor plan makes it harder to recommend for anyone who plans to spend lots of time at camp. In the end though, I really like the Hornet Elite. It’s insanely light, reliable, and is easy to set up even in bad conditions, and it just looks great. I’ll be packing it often as my go to solo shelter, but I’ll probably be bringing some larger when another person is involved. It’s an exceptional shelter.
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