NEMO Firefly Review
Cons: Small pockets, some components, feels narrow, small doors
Manufacturer: NEMO Equipment
Our Analysis and Test Results
This tent strikes a balance between a lot of competing factors — weight against durability, comfort against packed size. As one might expect with a compromise like this, you get some things you want and some things you wish were different.
This tent sounds good on paper. In practice, we found it to be a little lacking. We love the two side doors. They are shaped to make it especially easy to open them with one hand. The door tie backs also make it possible to have unobstructed views of nature if the weather and bugs permit. On the downside, the doors are slightly smaller than those on most other models in the category.
The 88-inch length is fairly standard, and we found that it is generous and long enough for a 6-foot sleeper to make it through the night without bumping up against the head or the foot end. However, we found that at 50 inches wide, tapering to 45 inches at the foot; we really noticed the difference from models that offer a few more inches. Testing showed that this tent is primarily for two skinny people (or for one, if you want to spread out).
When considered along with the two modest storage pockets (which are also positioned high up on the tent wall), the narrow width feels especially problematic, given that there just isn't a ton of room to store gear that you want to keep close at hand. On the plus side, the peak height and headroom feel generous. Again, two tall folks can sit up without rubbing their heads on the ceiling or bumping into each other. Subtle design choices like two-tone mesh (white on the sides for privacy and black on the ceiling for stargazing) are a thoughtful inclusion.
When it comes to weather resistance, we had a positive experience out on trail but are also left with a couple of concerns. The fly is waterproof enough, but it doesn't run super low to the ground. This is nice for ventilation, but it also leaves gear in the vestibule susceptible to rain runoff. One of the tradeoffs that this tent makes is to limit the amount of fly coverage at the head and foot ends, instead leaving rain protection to a high polyester wall. We didn't always find that this was maximally effective at keeping us dry.
In addition, the fly vents that are meant to release condensation are also fairly small. We were better off when the weather allowed us to tie back the vestibule, which allows for a sufficient cross breeze.
Ease of Setup
One person can set up this tent without too much trouble. The "referee signaling touchdown" pole configuration has color-coded ends that match the webbing at the corners of the tent that match the corners of the rainfly as well. The crossbar maximizes headroom. The tent and fly attach to the poles with standard grommets, and the foot end of the fly is adjustable so you can cinch it down with the right tension. Because of the cut of the fly (described below), there are only six stakes (one at each of the four tent corners and one for each of the two vestibules).
Though the main pole structure can sometimes be a little wonky during setup, especially in the wind, one person can competently pitch this tent in about 3-5 minutes with a little practice.
Here again, we have a tent that offers good durability in some areas and sacrifices it in others. The floor is thicker 68D polyester, which is atypical for a tent this light. This hearty bathtub floor allows you to sleep more and worry less about a stick or rock punching a hole through it, which certainly cannot be said for some of the tissue paper-thin UL tents of the world. The tent corners of this model are also well reinforced, and the end of each pole segment is flared slightly, which makes each one easier to insert into the next and reduces the risk of snapping.
The studier, albeit cheaper-looking materials appear in the details — the stake loops at the corners, and the guy points. This is also paired with more delicate features like the tent and fly zippers and fly vent kickstands. Though we didn't experience any failures during testing, these are the parts that need to be babied a little more like a UL model.
Weight and Packed Size
The Firefly buzzes in at a spritely three pounds, five ounces. It is lightweight for sure, which is especially surprising given the polyester floor.
It packs down with the best of them. Given its heavier floor material, we would expect it to take up more space in a pack than it actually does. That is, it stuffs down smaller relative to its weight than a lot of other models. The fly is thin and light. The pole hubs are somewhat gangly and don't collapse as nicely as we would prefer, but all in all, it's an easy carry for two.
This model attempts to split the difference between a top-tier ultralight tent and an affordable but lovable behemoth. Our assessment is that it sets a lower floor for lightweight tents in terms of price, and it will serve you well. However, if you are already going to drop some big money on a lightweight tent, we would recommend looking at one of the award winners that might be slightly more expensive but also more comfortable and even lighter.
The NEMO Firefly attempts to strike a balance between weight on the one hand and durability and cost on the other. Though it sacrifices some comfort features to get there, it ultimately does an admirable job.
— Ben Applebaum-Bauch
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