Ultralight Backpacking Tent
Nemo Hornet Osmo 2p
$430, 2 lbs. 1 oz./948g
Sleeping in this ultralight tent while backpacking a section of the Arizona Trail along the Gila River in the first days of April, camping in Idaho’s City of Rocks in June, and backpacking the Nigel, Cataract, and Cline Passes Route in the Canadian Rockies in August, I had a chance to not only test its performance, but also to consider the unique little niche it fills. If you’re seeking the lightest and most packable shelter that possesses all the ease of use, protection, and convenience of traditional double-wall tents as well as a degree of livability that will suit many backpackers, the Hornet Osmo 2p offers much to like.
While camping two nights in the Hornet Osmo 2p at Idaho’s City of Rocks in June, thunderstorm cells unleashed lightning, thunder, and hard, wind-driven rain on both afternoons and evenings. Throughout that hard pounding, everything inside remained dry (including me). In the White Goat Wilderness, we had calm nights with overnight lows in the low 40s Fahrenheit and a very heavy dew that soaked all three tents in our party both nights. On the Arizona Trail hike, we had moderate wind at times, lows in the 30s and 40s, and no precipitation. My daughter also shared this tent with a friend when we backpacked three days on the Skyline Trail in Canada’s Jasper National Park, where we had rain showers one night.
I think what most distinguishes the Hornet Osmo from its closest competitors is less about weather—tents with this structural design in this weight class will deliver enough protection for most backpackers—and more about details that are easily overlooked but play a noticeable role in how much you’ll like a tent.
Nemo’s Hornet Osmo 2p belongs to a small club of semi-freestanding, two-person, two-door, double-wall tents weighing precisely or barely over two pounds/907 grams. These tents share similar designs on a macro scale but differ mostly at the micro level, in details that impact the user experience in almost every aspect from setup to interior and vestibule space.
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One major difference arises in materials. The Hornet Osmo tents employ Nemo’s proprietary Osmo fabric, which uses a combination of 100 percent recycled nylon and polyester yarns. Nemo says the nylon fibers provide 20 percent more strength than standard nylon (presumably nylon of similar weight) while the polyester fibers resist stretching when wet by a factor of three and the fabric’s water resistance has increased by a factor of four. Plus, Osmo achieves water repellency with a finish that’s free of PFC/PFAS chemicals and meets flammability requirements without chemical additives. I’ve seen no concerns about durability so far.
As with all tents using this basic design, set-up is a snap. Color-coded DAC Featherlite NSL poles that join at a single hubbed intersection feature a center ridgeline that forks to two corners—a common pole structure that trims weight but requires staking, which makes it “semi-freestanding.” The short Flybar bridge pole crosses over the main ridge pole to pull the walls outward, creating nice headroom—a feature common in backpacking tents but the Flybar’s flexible design makes it easier during setup than some others and distributes tension evenly. The Flybar also enables pitching the tent with just three clips. Clips and grommets attach the interior tent body to the poles and the Hornet requires just six stakes.
In the City of Rocks, gusts up to 30 mph merely rippled the tent fabric, not bending the poles or affecting structural integrity a bit.
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Unique guy-outs on the canopy exterior walls clip to the rainfly to pull the walls outward, keeping them from sagging inward to brush your head or against your bag. Triangulated corner guy-outs pull the lower tent walls outward to minimize contact between any condensation on the walls and sleeping bags.
I found the excellent ventilation enabled by the mesh walls and ceiling panels and the two opposing doors prevented condensation even on calm nights just above freezing. Much credit for that ventilation goes to another unique Nemo tent feature: The head end of the tent has a large cutout in the rainfly overlapping a solid panel on the lower part of that interior tent wall, such that no rain blows inside even as it creates exceptional air flow. Also, the bottom edge of the rainfly is elevated five or six inches off the ground to promote low-high ventilation.
On our two calm nights in the low 40s in the White Goat Wilderness, that heavy dew thoroughly soaked all three tents outside and inside with condensation, including a more spacious, double-wall tent used in our group, which might presumably be less susceptible to condensation inside just for the fact of greater space. With a cold creek not far from our camp combined with dead air holding a lot of moisture plus cool temps, our little test pool of three different tents demonstrated that virtually any tent would have seen condensation inside.
The tent walls sagged inward on those nights of heavy dew—but I could minimize that problem with more careful staking and balancing the tension on the rainfly’s corner and vestibule stake points. Overall, the Hornet Osmo 2p ventilates as well as other tents of similar dimensions and design and better than most, thanks to that rainfly wall design.
Comparing the Hornet Osmo 2p’s dimensions with two similar competitors in its weight class that I’ve reviewed, the MSR Freelite 2 and the Big Agnes Tiger Wall UL2 Solution Dye: The Hornet’s 27.5 square feet/2.6 square meters of floor area offer slightly less space than those other two; the peak height of 39 inches/98cm is identical; and the floor dimensions of 85×51 inches/215x130cm, with the floor tapering to 43 inches/108cm wide at the foot end, compares with the Tiger Wall but the Freelite does not taper.
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From a user perspective, that’s a snug backcountry abode best suited to people who don’t mind occasionally bumping one another. This is a typical tradeoff for a double-wall tent with such a low weight and high space-to-weight ratio. With this or any tent of similar dimensions, some people might want to consider whether they will occupy it primarily just during sleeping hours or often spend considerable waking hours inside, due to temperatures and weather.
The only pockets are two overhead—not much for keeping track of small items like headlamps when inside—and those overhead pockets aren’t good for anything solid or weighing more than you’d want to bump your head against.
The two vestibules, each 7.1 sq. ft./0.7 sq. meters, are slightly smaller than the other two tents but provide adequate storage space for a mid-size backpack and boots. The rainfly doors zip open beyond the high point of the interior tent doors, meaning the Hornet Osmo has a drip line that permits rain to fall inside. With a little care, you can enter and leave the tent letting virtually no rain inside and possibly not having to unzip the rainfly entirely. But the shallow vestibule also occasionally meant an unzipped, wet rainfly door stuck to my back when crawling inside, splashing some water droplets (not much) onto gear inside—like my sleeping bag.
The packed size of 12.5×7.5×3.5 inches/32x19x8.5cm makes it more packable than comparable tents that have only slightly more living space. But its packed length is most unique: While I normally load tent poles separately into my pack—standing them up in one back corner to accommodate their length—the Hornet’s tent poles are so compact that I could leave them inside the divvy cube stuff sack with all the tent components and easily lay it horizontally into the bottom of my pack.
All new Nemo tents come with a 100% recycled fabric pole bag (instead of wasteful, single-use poly bags).
Other models in this series are the Hornet Osmo 1p ($400, 1 lb. 13 oz./822g) and Hornet Osmo 3p (2 lbs. 13 oz./1.28kg)—both also among the lightest in their categories—and the even-lighter Hornet Elite Osmo 2p ($650, 1 lb. 11 oz./779g) and Hornet Elite Osmo 1p ($550, 1 lb. 7 oz./657g).
See my review of the Nemo Hornet Elite Osmo 1p tent, in which I encountered very strong wind and heavy rain.
Nemo Hornet Osmo 2p
While it may not be the right tent for two bigger people, the Nemo Hornet Osmo 2p represents one of the lightest and most packable two-person, double-wall, semi-freestanding tents, with ease of use, protection, and livability that will appeal to many lightweight and ultralight backpackers.
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