Ambassador Steve Buelna Takes This Gear Review of Tents For An Unconventional Test Ride
Almost a year ago today, I made the big lifestyle change of ditching what I referred to as “the only motorcycle to have” (Harley) and changed my tune, and embraced the adventure bike world. With this came a real need/desire to get out camping more. So, I found my 10-year-old Marmot Ajax 2 tent in the shed and started to strap that on the bike for adventures. It has served me well on many trips this past year. But…I couldn’t help but think, could there be a better tent out there? This burning question led me to jump at the chance to test out and review three of the Nemo tents. I have to say, they have definitely lived up to my expectations and then some. I was super excited to pick up and test out the Nemo Hornet 2P, Aurora 2P, and Dagger 2P tents. Each one is terrific in its own regard, but I feel a lot of that will depend on what your intended use is. I’ve broken down the review of each below.
Admittedly, I am not a backpacker (yet), but if I were, this would be the one I would choose out of the three models reviewed. The pack size and weight of this tent are ridiculously minimal. Assembly took a bit longer, but that was mostly user error. This is not a freestanding tent and will require tent stakes to make it secure to the ground and to provide maximum space inside. Since weight and size are important when camping off the motorcycle, the size of the Nemo Hornet 2P is something that intrigued me a lot. I could see some trips where this tent would be fantastic so I would not need all of the bags on my bike. Having said that, if I were to choose this tent it would probably be if I were doing more backpacking than moto camping. The materials are really durable while being almost paper-thin, light, and packable. Though I didn’t have the pleasure of testing it during a rain event, the design appears to be well suited for keeping you, and your gear, dry. I would question having two people inside this tent, but I suppose it would be feasible if necessary.
The Hornet is SUPER light at 2lbs and 6 ounces. The price tag is also “not that heavy” at an MSRP of $329. As I mentioned, while I am generally concerned with bulk and weight, I can deal with an extra pound or so for some more “wiggle room” inside the tent. So, for me, I might lean towards the Dagger. However, if I did any backpacking, this would certainly be the way to go.
Interestingly enough, this tent most closely resembles my own current tent (the Marmot Ajax) in weight, ease of assembly, and general size. That said, I found the materials and craftsmanship to be better than that of my marmot. The fabric of this tent is thicker than the Dagger and Hornet, but the pack size and weight weren’t any greater than my current setup. This model comes with a footprint that works perfectly for this tent. Inside there is ample room to store your gear if on a solo mission. You can also comfortably sit up and move around inside. The zippers on this model seemed easier to open and close as compared to the other two Nemo models, but slightly louder (if that is a concern of yours). One thing that wasn’t ideal is that there is only a single zipper, which I did not prefer after becoming accustomed to a double zipper door design. Unlike the Hornet and Dagger, the tent stakes that come with it are more of your typical bent metal stakes. I would certainly upgrade the stakes if I purchased this tent. Aside from that, it is a terrific tent, and if I were solely truck camping, I would consider this for my go-to selection based on ease of use and price.
Of the three tents, this is the most economical with an MSRP of $249. It does take up more volume for storage than the other two, but with a packed weight of 5lbs 7 ounces, it is still quite light, a great value, and a tent that will last you for years!
In the spirit of saving the best for last, it is now time to talk about the Dagger 2P tent. My first impression picking it up was how incredibly light was. Removing the contents revealed very similar materials to the Hornet, as well as, robust tent poles and better quality tent stakes. The materials of the Nemo Dagger 2P tent are much quieter than the Aurora, including the zipper. I was also excited to see that it had a two-way zipper design on the door. Inside there are four ample corner pockets and a pocket on the dome that can be used to place a headlamp. Similar to the Aurora, there is adequate interior room for you, your gear, and to sit up if you need to. While setting up, and taking down, this tent I also took the opportunity to use the same stuff sack I use for my Marmot Ajax. I found that it packs down to almost half the size of the Marmot and is a couple of pounds lighter. Set up is just as easy, if not easier, than my Marmot tent.
The tent poles snap into the outer hold-downs and save me from chasing them back and forth (as one would always pop out with my Marmot). The rainfly also snaps into place in the same connection point for the poles. Aside from trying to install the rainfly inside out (yeah, but I only did that once), it is pretty much a foolproof setup design. One of the other super cool features I noticed was the bathtub floor design. With minimal seams along the ground floor, it keeps you high and dry from the mountain floors. I can attest that this tent performs perfectly well in the rain. While not a huge rain event, I was able to set this tent up easily in the rain in only a matter of minutes and stayed completely dry once set up. Since this test was performed in the luxury of my backyard (I know, my neighbors must think I’m nuts), the vestibules weren’t necessary when I used it, but I was impressed and excited for the space that they would provide to store gear safely out of the rain.
No review would be complete without some critique. So, for the Nemo Dagger 2P, the only thing was the zipper was a little stiffer than the Aurora, but marginally. I’m fairly certain that would go away with more use. I do have to say that the Nemo Dagger 2P zipper is much quieter than what I am used to, so I was pleased just the same and feel the trade-off for pack size is worth a slight need to focus more on opening the zipper. But my only REAL gripe about this tent is that after using the Dagger for a bit, I absolutely do not want to go back to my Marmot Ajax. The Nemo Dagger is by far a superior tent and would be worth paying a little more to get the best.
The Dagger 2P comes in at an MSRP of $429, but on the motorcycle where a couple of pounds and packing volume can impact whether I bring more clean shirts (or more likely more snacks), the reduced weight of 3lbs 14 ounces makes a lot of sense.
TMS Ambassador – Steve Buelna is an avid runner, (whether trails or pavement, he doesn’t discriminate) living in Truckee, CA. Follow @_buelna_ on Instagram for photos of his adventures on foot or on BMW GSA1250 Adventure Bike, anywhere either will take him. In addition to Tahoe Mountain Sports, Steve is also a Koda Nutrition USA Ambassador and Big Blue Adventure Ambassador as well as the leader of the “Newbies” Run Club for Donner Party Mountain Runners.