The Nemo Hornet Elite OSMO is the lightest tent we’ve looked at and this alone will be enough reason for many backpackers to buy the tent. But it does not come cheap.
Pros / Reasons to Buy
- The lightest tent we have assessed by a long way
- Packs down very small
- Good environmental credentials of materials used
Cons / Reasons to Avoid
- Very expensive
- Semi rigid design means there are more considerations necessary when pitching
- Fly sheet may not provide as much weather protection as competitors
The Nemo Hornet Elite OSMO is by far the lightest tent we’ve assessed – and we can’t stress enough just how remarkable this tent’s light weight is. We think that the target audience for this tent will happily accept any space, comfort and, above all else, cost penalties that have been necessary to reach this weight. For other buyers, though, it’s a tougher sell and we wonder if this tent, especially when you consider its very high price, is too specialised for most.
Compare to Similar Products
- Near Zero 2 Person Ultralight Backpacking Tent
- Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL
- Kelty Discovery Trail Backpacking Tent
Compare all tents in our review together: 25 Best Small 2 Person Backpacking Tents of 2023
Analysis and Test Results
This tent is an absolute marvel of design and shows just what can be achieved with clever design and high-tech materials. Its low weight is its standout feature and we’re sure that the kind of buyer this tent is aimed at will overlook any compromises in terms of space and comfort that have been made to achieve this weight alongside it’s high price, simply to have such a low weight piece of equipment. For may users, though, this tent will remain an aspirational purchase: the very high cost will be impossible for many to justify and unless you’re committed to building and ultra lightweight hiking kit, the weight saving on one piece of gear alone may not be enough to swing the scales in this tents favour.
This tent uses an asymmetric design – so it’s narrower at one end than the other. This makes total sense, as the design prioritises low weight and this is a great way to save on material and therefore weight, however, it can make the tent feel more cramped as it limits the ways you can make use of the internal space (if there’s two of you, and you want to sit facing each other, one person will have less room than the other). Despite this, the tent doesn’t make too many compromises on space: a lightweight tent will never feel ‘spacious’, but the space offered by the Hornet Elite is not too bad. Double entrances and vestibules also help here – meaning there’s less need for occupants to have to scramble over each other to exit the tent.
The Hornet Elite Makes extensive use of Nemo’s proprietary OSMO fabric. Nemo make some bold claims about this material: It’s claimed to have 4x longer water resistance and 3x less stretch when wet relative to the nylon typically used in lightweight tents. These numbers are, we think, quite abstract, but they do seem to bear out and we have no doubts at all about this tent’s weather resistance. One area of concern is the fly sheet. Probably to save on material (and weight), this is small – in fact there’s a ‘cut out’ area near the head of the tent where it doesn’t reach down as close to ground level. This cut out corresponds to a non mesh section in the main tent body, but none the less we wonder if there are some weather conditions where the fly sheet may not provide as much protection from the elements as some competitors: when it’s very windy, or windy and rainy, for instance. As a bonus, the OSMO fabric is mode from 100% recycled material and meets flame-proof standards without needing chemical treatments.
With a complete packed weight of 935g (2lb 1oz), or a trail weight of 779g (1lb 11oz) when stripped of non-essential accessories, the Nemo Hornet Elite is truly a flyweight. These figures are genuinely astounding and it’s the lightest tent we’ve assessed by a comfortable margin – coming in roughly 20% lighter than the Big Agnes Tiger Wall UL – the next lightest tent we’ve assessed. This lightness is clearly the tent’s main selling point and we think there are plenty of people out there who just need to hear this figure to make their purchase decision. The low weight is achieved through a combination of high-tech materials, but also clever design: the fly sheet has a ‘cutout’ section near the ‘head’ end of the tent which corresponds to a reinforced area in the main tent body – this surely saves a few grams. Weight saving is often discussed in terms of ‘marginal gains’ – to borrow a term used in professional cycling: that is, small weight savings here and there adds up to a larger savings when taken as a whole. In practice, this means that a lot of light-weight gear isn’t massively lighter than its ‘regular’ counterparts. However, this Nemo Hornet Elite upends that: the weight saving it offers next to tents that would be normally be considered light is tangible. The weight of this tent is a remarkable design and manufacturing achievement, but of course, it comes at a high price too. It will be interesting to see if any of the innovations here ‘trickle down’ to more affordable mainstream models over the coming years.
The Nemo Hornet Elite OSMO packs down to 48x10cm (19x4in). That’s one of the smallest packed sizes in our round up. This makes sense. The tent is made using thinner lightweight material, so it makes sense that it packs down smaller. As we’ve said elsewhere, the packed size of a tent is an important factor to consider if you are trying to build up a lightweight kit. A tent that packs down smaller might allow you to bring a smaller backpack which in turn can lead to greater weight savings.
Long term durability is often one of the penalties paid when choosing ultra-light weight gear. Certainly, if you’re new to the world of light weight equipment, some of the technical fabrics used can seem very thin and insubstantial. However, these materials can be deceptively tough. The Hornet Elite makes use of Nemo’s proprietary OSMO fabric which make some bold promises in terms of its strength, dimensional stability and environmental credentials relative to the nylon that’s often used in light weight equipment. Many of these claims will take years of assessment to fully verify, but for now, the fabric seems to deliver and we have no doubt that the Hornet Elite will last for many years if cared for appropriately. As with any thin tech fabric, care should be taken to avoid pitching the tent where it might snag against sharp rocks, branches or foliage or where sharp equipment like crampons might cause damage. For this reason, deploying a tent footprint is probably a smart idea with this tent (thought hat is a bit of extra weight to carry!)
Nemo are keen to talk up their sustainability credentials and include repair patches with the tent. They also offer a professional repair service to tackle anything the owner can’t manage themselves. The tent also comes with a lifetime warranty.
Ease of Setup
In common with other ultra lightweight tents, the Hornet Elite is a semi-freestanding design. That means that the tent pole assembly only contacts the ground in three places rather than the more usual four. This design allows Nemo to save some weight on the poles, however it does mean that the corners of the tent body at the feet need to be staked out or otherwise tensioned (under rocks, for instance) in order for the tent to take it’s full shape. This does make setup a little more tricky as it means you need to put a bit more thought into where exactly you pitch the tent – rock flats, very hard or frozen ground can be problematic, for instance. Beyond this, though, pitching the Hornet Elite is no more complex than most modern tents and if you have any experience with a recently made lightweight tent, then you should have little difficulty here.
It goes without saying that you should practice both pitching and breaking down any new tent before you take it out on the trail. Pitching a tent for the first time after a long day of hiking or in bad weather is very far from ideal.
We didn’t expect that the Nemo Hornet Elite OSMO would be cheap. The level of tech required to hit this weight point is going to be expensive: specialisation comes with a cost. At the time of writing, the tent costs £679.97 in the UK and $649.95 in the US. The only tent in our round up that’s more expensive is the mountaineering specific Chogori – also from Nemo – which could be described as being just as specialised as this tent, but just in a different way. There’s no two ways about it, this tent is pricey, but that’s what’s necessary if you want this level of weight. As to whether or not it’s worth it is a very personal question: There are surely many people out there who will see the weight figure and won’t hesitate to pay the entrance price as they’ll see such a lightweight piece of kit as being integral to the success of their expedition or the enjoyment of their hike. For others, it’s a much tougher choice and we think that the majority of potential buyers will happily accept a heavier tent at a much lower price – especially if it promises to be a bit more roomy and durable too.
This tent is a remarkable engineering achievement. Clever design, high tech materials and manufacturing methods have come together to produce something that’s astoundingly light. What’s more, this is achieved without making too many compromises in terms of space, comfort, and durability. We don’t think it’s possible to talk about this tent unless you put its low weight right at the start and for many buyers, we think this will be the only factor they are interested in. But we also can’t ignore the cost. This is a seriously pricey piece of equipment, and that cost will mean this remains an aspirational purchase for many.
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