NEMO Dragonfly 2 Review
Cons: Tapered foot, pockets are high up
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Our Analysis and Test Results
This tent is exceptional in a crowded field and fills in just the right niche for the backpacker who wants a full-featured freestanding shelter that won't weigh them down. It earns an Editors' Choice Award for combining a nice set of features like storage space while keeping weight in mind.=
The Dragonfly has room where it matters most and features that set it apart from other similar models. The two side doors are very large relative to the size of the tent walls. This makes it easy to roll in and out, especially if you are used to having to hunch over and scramble to exit a tent. Their shape is a little unusual, so it's not quite as easy to open them with one hand, but the inconvenience is minor. This model's 88" length is just right for most folks (including those around 6 feet). It's 50" width is enough for two standard Thermarest pads, plus a little extra, and its peak height of 41" offered us more than enough headroom across the width of the tent. You may technically have a little more interior space in other models, but we never really missed it.
The privacy panels on the side are not terribly high, but the two-tone black and white mesh is thoughtfully incorporated into the canopy to maximize both privacy and stargazing when the weather allows you to camp without a fly.
Where this tent excels though, is with its storage space. There are two large-enough individual storage pockets on each side, as well as a pair of light diffuser pockets that make reading at night a real pleasure. Then there is the massive gear loft overhead that can easily hold most any reasonable item you would want to stash for the night. If there is a complaint to be had here, it is that all of the pockets require a long reach, so you may have to sit up to get what you are looking for — tough life.
On the other hand, if there is something that can't be tucked away in one of the pockets inside the tent, there is a delightfully massive amount of space in each vestibule for a pack, boots, another pack, and maybe a tent for your dog. We feel like this tent will do the trick in most cases.
Ease of Setup
The Dragonfly is easy to set up. If you have pitched a tent by yourself before, we are confident that you could get this one up in no more than four minutes. The poles, corner webbing, and fly clip webbing are all color-coded to ensure that you are attaching the right pieces to the right places. The structure of this tent is a variation on a traditional X-frame, which ends up looking something more like a stick figure with its arms straight up in the air and its legs spread apart.
The vestibules have two stakes each (four total), with four additional stakes for the tent itself (one at each corner). They come with a nice piece of blue reflective cord tied on, so they don't get lost in the neutral backdrop of a forest floor. It also means that you can avoid kicking a stake in the middle of the night when you are getting ready for bed.
This tent has a nice geometry and tension that keeps you protected from the elements. Its eight stake points and additional options for guylines ensure that it anchors firmly to the ground in the wind, and the fly also runs nice and low. When pitched, the sides of the fly slope so the tent can't get broadsided by the wind quite as easily as some other models.
One potential area for improvement is with ventilation. The fly runs low to the ground, which is excellent for preventing splashback. There are struts on each vestibule zipper that allow you to prop them open, even in the rain; they don't open very wide, leaving the tent susceptible to a bit of condensation. All in all, this tent will serve you well for 3-season camping.
For its weight, this tent brings some durability as well. Its 20D ripstop nylon floor and 15D ripstop nylon fly are trending towards delicate but still stand up to the regular stresses and strains of backpacking.
The pole structure offers enough flexibility that we aren't concerned with snapping a piece during setup or breakdown. It is important to make sure that each pole segment is securely locked into place with each of its adjacent segments. One thing that can happen if that's not the case the leverage from the male end of a segment can be great enough that it cracks the female end of its adjoining segment.
Weight and Packed Size
We know that weight is the metric that gets compromised with each additional feature. However, the Dragonfly toes the line beautifully. Weighing in at just a nudge over 3 pounds, it is the best of both worlds.
Splitting the weight between two people is easy with the included 'Divvy Sack.' And if you do have a partner with you, a pound and a half per person is very reasonable. At 19.5"x4.5", it also packs down relatively tightly. If you choose to ditch the stuff sack altogether, it does a nice job of filling in space around some more rigid items in your pack.
This tent costs a good chunk of change, but we think it is well worth it if you are using it multiple times a year. For its combination of performance and durability, this tent feels like it is very reasonably priced. With reasonable care, it will last for many adventures to come, making it a worthwhile lightweight and comfortable investment.
We think that the Dragonfly takes the cake. This is a tent that most anyone could take anywhere. If you regularly spend nights in the backcountry but want a single tent to do it all, the Dragonfly is an excellent choice. It's light enough for extended backpacking trips and roomy enough for car camping. In many cases, tents try to do too much, but in this case, the Dragonfly gets it just right. It has a superb design combined with an excellent feature set. It balances comfort and storage space with a reasonable overall weight. It is a clear Editors' Choice Award winner that we would gladly grab for our next overnight adventure, wherever it is.
— Ben Applebaum-Bauch