Ultralight Backpacking Tent
Nemo Dragonfly 2P
$450, 2 lbs. 10 oz.
From clear, cool, late-August nights on the Teton Crest Trail, to mixed weather that included rain and wind on a five-day hike in Yellowstone’s Bechler Canyon area in September, the Nemo Dragonfly 2P displayed the weather protection and exceptional livability that distinguishes it as one of the very best two-person, three-season ultralight backpacking tents on the market today—at a very good price for this level of quality. Here’s why.
Most unique about the freestanding, two-door, double-wall Dragonfly 2P is its outstanding balance of low weight and livability: It represents quite possibly the top competitor to a tent I’ve long considered arguably the best in this category, the Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2. And it’s cheaper. The Dragonfly’s floor area of 29 square feet matches that of the Copper Spur HV UL2, as does the 88-inch length, while the width of 50 inches tapering to 45 inches from head to foot ends creates a near match. Many backpackers will find the living quarters close but comfortable for two people to share and sleep in. And it’s two ounces lighter, at just over two-and-a-half pounds.
The Dragonfly employs a frame similar to the Copper Spur HV UL2, consisting of one pre-bent, DAC Featherlite NFL 8.7mm hubbed aluminum pole that arches high, creating a 41-inch peak height that’s impressive in this weight category, and a second, short bridge pole over the top that expands the area of generous headroom in the center of the tent—tall people can sit up in the Dragonfly with room to spare. The materials and geometry of the Dragonfly lend it a degree of sturdiness comparable to the Copper Spur HV UL2 and other tents of similar weight. In Yellowstone, it withstood moderate winds without so much as bending.
With mostly mesh ceiling and walls, plus the traditional double-wall design and two doors creating cross-ventilation, condensation was never a problem, and the tent interior stays cooler on warm nights. The tent uses two different types of mesh: white around the sides, which offers a bit more privacy, and black mesh overhead, which blends into the sky to offer undiluted stargazing with the rainfly off at night.
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The trapezoidal vestibules provide a generous combined storage area of 20 square feet, with two stakeout points instead of the usual one for each, expanding their useable area. When unzipped, each vestibule’s two door panels can both be rolled back, creating multiple possible configurations, including leaving one panel in place as a wind shield, or rolling back both (on one or both sides of the tent) for better ventilation and sky viewing, while maintaining rain protection overhead because the drip line prevents water rolling off the rainfly into the tent interior. Strut vents at the top of each two-way vestibule door zipper pop easily into place, creating a gap that maintains some cross-ventilation even when you need both vestibules closed up in windblown rain or cold temperatures.
At one end of the tent, the rainfly reaches about midway down the interior wall, rather than nearly to the ground—adequate for keeping out rain while enhancing ventilation, but also making it easier for dust to blow up inside.
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The Dragonfly includes excellent, small details that really make the user experience much better, like color-coded poles that simplify and speed up pitching; two large mesh interior pockets; and ceiling pockets for a light. As with any ultralight shelter, the fabric is reasonably durable, but certainly not compared to heavier tents: 15-denier sil-PeU nylon ripstop rated to 1200mm for waterproofing in the rainfly, and 20-denier sil-PU nylon ripstop also rated to 1200mm in the bathtub floor. The packed size of 19.5×4.5 inches is as expected for a tent of this size and weight.
Nemo’s Dragonfly 1P ($400, 2 lbs. 1 oz.) brings that architecture and livability to a single-door (on the side) solo tent with comparable livability and vestibule area.
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Nemo Dragonfly 2p
Arguably one of the two best, most comfortable, two-person, freestanding, ultralight backpacking tents on the market—and the cheaper of the two—the Nemo Dragonfly 2P’s excellent weight-to-space ratio strikes an ideal balance between livability, low weight, and protection from the elements, with impressive attention to details.
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NOTE: I tested gear for Backpacker magazine for 20 years. At The Big Outside, I review only what I consider the best outdoor gear and apparel. See The Big Outside’s Gear Reviews page for categorized menus of gear reviews and expert buying tips.