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NEMO Firefly Review

A tent that elegantly balances weight and durability
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Price:  $350 List | $349.95 at Amazon
Pros:  Lightweight, durable floor, double side doors
Cons:  Small pockets, some components, feels narrow, small doors
Manufacturer:   NEMO Equipment
By Ben Applebaum-Bauch ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Oct 26, 2020
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68
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#11 of 14
  • Comfort - 25% 6
  • Weight - 25% 7
  • Weather Resistance - 20% 7
  • Ease of Set-up - 10% 6
  • Durability - 10% 6
  • Packed Size - 10% 9

Our Verdict

The NEMO Firefly 2 is durable in the areas that count but still lightweight. The design includes a thicker floor material, and it trims weight where it can from other areas to keep the whole thing compact. We think that this tent is a little too narrow, but the peak height is excellent for taller folks. It offers high versatility — it can go the distance on a longer backpacking trip and serve as a car-camping stand-in. The Firefly is for anyone who is looking to lighten their kit without going full ultralight.

Compare to Similar Products

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.

Performance Comparison


This tent toes the line between lightweight and durable.
This tent toes the line between lightweight and durable.

Comfort


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.

This tent has plenty of length but two standard sleeping pads side-by-side bump up against each other with little extra space.
This tent has plenty of length but two standard sleeping pads side-by-side bump up against each other with little extra space.

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.

Black mesh on top of the tent makes it possible to do some stargazing if the weather is right while white mesh on the sides is harder to see through and provides slightly more privacy.
Black mesh on top of the tent makes it possible to do some stargazing if the weather is right while white mesh on the sides is harder to see through and provides slightly more privacy.

Weather Resistance


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.

There is a reliably large gap between the ground and the fly which could cause some problems in a severe rainstorm.
There is a reliably large gap between the ground and the fly which could cause some problems in a severe rainstorm.

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).

Color-coded poles (green at the foot  grey everywhere else) make it easy to orient everything properly and the single-pole structure allows one person to pitch this tent in a couple of minutes.
Color-coded poles (green at the foot, grey everywhere else) make it easy to orient everything properly and the single-pole structure allows one person to pitch this tent in a couple of minutes.

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.

Durability


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.

Thoroughly bend-resistant stakes are one of the small handful of super durable parts of this tent.
Thoroughly bend-resistant stakes are one of the small handful of super durable parts of this tent.

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.

To reduce weight  this tent includes more (lighter) mesh and slims down the profile of the bathtub floor.
To reduce weight, this tent includes more (lighter) mesh and slims down the profile of the bathtub 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 also cuts out unnecessary fly weight (in the inverted 'U') where the side panels otherwise keep sleepers protected.
This model also cuts out unnecessary fly weight (in the inverted 'U') where the side panels otherwise keep sleepers protected.

Value


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.

Conclusion


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.

We would take this tent out on adventures where you want to keep things relatively light but prefer a little extra headroom as well.
We would take this tent out on adventures where you want to keep things relatively light but prefer a little extra headroom as well.

Ben Applebaum-Bauch