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NEMO Hornet Elite 2 Review

This featherweight tent is exceptional for moving fast and light but won't leave you with a ton of space to spread out
NEMO Hornet Elite 2
Photo: NEMO Equipment
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Price:  $500 List | Check Price at REI
Pros:  Ultralight, easy set up, two side doors
Cons:  Narrow dimensions, expensive, thin materials
Manufacturer:   NEMO Equipment
By Ben Applebaum-Bauch ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Apr 12, 2021
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68
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#11 of 13
  • Comfort - 25% 4
  • Weather Resistance - 25% 7
  • Weight - 20% 9
  • Durability - 10% 5
  • Ease of Set-up - 10% 8
  • Packed Size - 10% 9

Our Verdict

The NEMO Hornet Elite is a marvel of modern material science. This exceptionally lightweight tent is an excellent option for long-distance backpacking trips. Its semi-freestanding structure is very easy to pitch, and it packs down small, even if one person is carrying all of the components. We recommend it to those who prioritize weight savings above all else (but don't want to opt for just a tarp shelter). It can feel extremely cozy for two people, and it doesn't fare particularly well in high winds, but for a lightweight tent, it still comes with some nice perks.

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NEMO Hornet Elite 2
Awards  Editors' Choice Award Editors' Choice Award Best Buy Award Best Buy Award 
Price $500 List
Check Price at REI
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$279 List
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Pros Ultralight, easy set up, two side doorsExcellent balance between weight and features, many storage pockets, large vestibulesTwo large double doors, good headroom, excellent balance of interior space and weightSpacious, affordable, included footprintVery spacious for its weight, durable, moderately strong, great value
Cons Narrow dimensions, expensive, thin materialsTapered foot, pockets are high upExpensive, delicate materialsHeavy, bulky polesHeavy for backpacking, hard to get the fly vestibules taut, not enough stakes or guy lines
Bottom Line This featherweight tent is exceptional for moving fast and light but won't leave you with a ton of space to spread outA superior tent that balances light weight with excellent featuresOur favorite tent for all your backpacking needsThis inexpensive tent is spacious enough for laid-back car camping and light enough for short to moderate backpacking tripsA luxury tent for a great value
Rating Categories NEMO Hornet Elite 2 NEMO Dragonfly 2 Big Agnes Copper Sp... REI Co-op Half Dome... REI Half Dome 2 Plus
Comfort (25%)
4.0
8.0
8.0
10.0
10.0
Weather Resistance (25%)
7.0
8.0
8.0
7.0
7.0
Weight (20%)
9.0
7.0
7.0
4.0
3.0
Durability (10%)
5.0
8.0
7.0
8.0
8.0
Ease Of Set Up (10%)
8.0
8.0
8.0
8.0
8.0
Packed Size (10%)
9.0
8.0
9.0
4.0
4.0
Specs NEMO Hornet Elite 2 NEMO Dragonfly 2 Big Agnes Copper Sp... REI Co-op Half Dome... REI Half Dome 2 Plus
Packaged Weight 2.13 lbs 3.16 lbs 3.09 lbs 4.82 lbs 5.41 lbs
Floor Area 27.3 sq ft 29 sq ft 29 sq ft 35.8 sq ft 35.8 sq ft
Packed Size 4.5 x 19 in 19.5 x 4.5 in 19.5 x 6 in 7 x 20.5 in 7 x 20.5 in
Dimensions 85 x 50/42 in 88 x 50 x 41 in 88 x 52 x 40 in 92 x 56 in 92 x 56 in
Vestibule Area (Total) 6.2 + 6.2 sq ft 20 sq ft 18 sq. ft 22.5 sq ft 22.5 sq ft
Peak Height 37 in 41 in 40 in 42 in 44 in
Number of Doors 2 2 2 2 2
Number of Poles 1 3 1 1 1
Pole Diameter 8.7 mm 8.7 mm 8.7 mm 2 mm 8.7 mm
Number of Pockets 2 3 3 6 6
Gear Loft No No No No No
Pole Material Aluminum DAC featherlite NSL DAC featherlite NFL DAC featherlite NFL DAC featherlite NFL aluminum DAC Pressfit aluminum
Guy Points 3 5 4 4 4
Rain Fly Material 7-denier PeU ripstop nylon 20D nylon ripstop 15D 1200mm silicone nylon ripStop 40-denier ripstop nylon/20-denier nylon mesh 40-denier nylon
Inner Tent Material 10-denier Sil/PeU ripstop nylon 15D nylon ripstop [Body] 10D polyester mesh, [Floor] 20D nylon ripStop 40-denier taffeta nylon 70-denier taffeta nylon
Type Two door freestanding Two door freestanding Two door freestanding Two door freestanding Two door freestanding

Our Analysis and Test Results

This tent is barely over two pounds (including stakes and guyline). It goes all in on minimizing weight but also tries to maintain some creature comforts like two side doors and vestibules.

Performance Comparison


This super lightweight tent is small but comes with a few creature...
This super lightweight tent is small but comes with a few creature comforts.
Photo: Ben Applebaum-Bauch

Comfort


The bottom line is that this tent is great for one person and tight for two. The two side doors go a long way with making a tent this size feel roomier. The interior dimensions, 85 inches long, 50 inches wide (tapering to 42 inches at the foot), definitely feel snug with a second person. The lower sidewalls creep in a bit, limiting space at abdomen height. One unique feature of this tent is the flybar at the top that is meant to perform the same function as a cross pole in a traditional tent by maximizing peak height volume. It increases space at the ceiling, and for one person looking to carry the whole tent, it's adequate and an impressive innovation. However, with two people trying to sit up at the same time, the 37 inch peak height still means your head will press against the mesh ceiling.

Two sleeping bags fill every nook and cranny of floor space.
Two sleeping bags fill every nook and cranny of floor space.
Photo: Ben Applebaum-Bauch

Keeping with the minimalist design, each side comes with a gear storage pocket sufficient for a phone, deck of cards, or pair of gloves (or any other small items you want to keep close at hand). There is also a headlamp storage pocket at the top that is made of opaque white fabric, which diffuses the light nicely at nighttime.

The flybar attempts to increase headroom without adding the bulk...
The flybar attempts to increase headroom without adding the bulk that a traditional pole does.
Photo: Ben Applebaum-Bauch

Weather Resistance


This tent is impressive given how few pieces it actually has. It is really simple to get a good, taut pitch with both the tent and the fly, which gave us that much more peace of mind when the rain moved in. The fly runs low and tight to the ground, which minimizes splashback. Though the area of the vestibules is a scant 6(+) square feet each, it was still nice to know that our boots were protected, even if a few backpack straps still stuck out.

Water beads and rolls off of the ripstop nylon rain fly.
Water beads and rolls off of the ripstop nylon rain fly.
Photo: Ben Applebaum-Bauch

The downside of this tent is its lack of rigidity in high wind. It only has a few pole segments, so even if you stake it out as thoroughly as you possibly can, the spine of the pole structure still wobbles and flexes in the wind.

This tent comes with a couple of weather resisting features like an...
This tent comes with a couple of weather resisting features like an additional flap that covers the fly zipper to keep water from dripping through.
Photo: Ben Applebaum-Bauch

Weight


This tent is an all-star when it comes to weight. In fact, when you consider the entire package (tent, fly, poles, and stakes), it is one of the very lightest (semi)-freestanding tents around. All in it is just over two pounds. This increases its versatility quite a bit, making it a super lightweight option for two people to split up (as long as you don't mind be really cozy with that person at night), or a roomier tent for one person, still carrying a very reasonable load.

The materials of this tent are some of the thinnest and lightest...
The materials of this tent are some of the thinnest and lightest that we have seen.
Photo: Ben Applebaum-Bauch

There's really nothing bad to say about it. There are tradeoffs for having a tent this light, which are discussed in this review. It's heavier than many ultralight tarp shelters, but as far as dedicated-pole, double-wall tents go, this one is as light as it gets.

Durability


You do need to take care with the Hornet Elite. The fly, tent floor, and mesh are all susceptible to puncturing more than is typical. Over the course of testing, we noticed that the floor started to develop little pin holes where rough soil and sand had been rubbing at night.

This model does a nice job of keeping it simple. The poles slide and...
This model does a nice job of keeping it simple. The poles slide and lock into a metal coin at each tent corner. Though some materials are delicate, this tent really minimizes the number of pieces that it has.
Photo: Ben Applebaum-Bauch

One of the nice things, however, is that there are so few pole segments and only one point of intersection at the pinnacle that it is less likely you will snap one of them (though the tent does come with a repair splint if you do). However, delicate materials aside, we found the construction quality to be excellent and never had an issue with broken zippers or bent stakes, as is so often a problem.

Ease of Set Up


Owing to its limited number of parts, this tent is one of the easiest to pitch. The Y-shaped pole structure and webbing on the clips are color-coded to make it even easier to ensure everything is oriented correctly. The tent uses unique slide-and-lock grommets that make it quick and simple to insert and secure the pole ends to the tent. The fly then loops onto the same stakes as the tent corners and also has one stake point for each of the two vestibules.

Held up by a single Y-shaped pole, this tent pitches in a matter of...
Held up by a single Y-shaped pole, this tent pitches in a matter of minutes.
Photo: Ben Applebaum-Bauch

Taking this tent down is just as simple. We appreciate the reflective cord attached to each stake, which makes it easier to spot in the dark or if it's just driven deep into the dirt. One person can easily pitch and break down the tent in a couple of minutes.

Packed Size


This goes hand-in-hand with weight, but this tent packs down very tightly as well. Its 10D floor and 7D fly fabric both feel a little like tissue paper. Both parts are thin enough that you could stuff one each into a water bottle pocket if you wanted to.

The tent stuff sack can be cinched off to carry pieces separately...
The tent stuff sack can be cinched off to carry pieces separately from each other.
Photo: Ben Applebaum-Bauch

The pole segments are similarly minimalist. We typically carried them either in one of our deeper water bottle pockets, secured with a strap, or just slid them vertically down the side of our packs. We also appreciate NEMO's divvy sack, which has a drawcord at its midsection that allows you to separate a soggy fly from the rest of the tent if it hasn't had time to dry out before you get moving.

Value


We think that this tent has moderate value. There are other comparable, slightly less expensive options out there. It is pricey, but also requires care each and every time you pitch it. However, if you are committed to a long-distance trip and are already inclined to baby your gear, it certainly won't disappoint.

Conclusion


The NEMO Hornet Elite is excellent for those who are planning a long-distance and/or lightweight adventure and don't mind sacrificing some interior space to shave ounces from their pack. It has its drawbacks, but all in all, we like this tent.

This one or two person tent is a great choice for lightweight...
This one or two person tent is a great choice for lightweight backpackers.
Photo: Ben Applebaum-Bauch

Ben Applebaum-Bauch