Hands-on Gear Review

NEMO Hornet Elite Review

Editors' Choice Award
Price:  $500 List | $374.96 at MooseJaw
Compare prices at 3 resellers
Pros:  Superior weight for a dedicated pole tent, easy to pitch, easy entry and exit
Cons:  Expensive, tight for two people, mediocre ventilation
Bottom line:  A great choice for backpackers looking to minimize weight without sacrificing the conveniences of a double wall tent.
Editors' Rating:   
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Trail Weight: Fly/tarp, tent/optional bug net, poles.:  1 lb 11 oz
Shelter/ FastFly Weight (tarp and minimum guy lines or fly and poles):  1 lb 1.4 oz
Weight of Components:  Total: 2 lb.; tent: 10.2 oz.; fly: 9.6 oz.; poles: 7.8 oz.; stakes: 3.6 oz.; stuff sack: 0.8 oz.
Manufacturer:   NEMO

Our Verdict

We love this tent. It's by far the best option if you want to go light but still keep bug netting, a floor and don't want to deal with setting up a tarp. It's a high-performance, semi-freestanding backpacking tent for those who don't mind sacrificing a bit of interior space. It has dethroned the Big Agnes Fly Creek Platinum as our favorite semi-free-standing tent because it's a little lighter, has two doors and is much easier to get in and out of. Its ghostly weight, combined with an intuitive setup, decent weather resistance, and surprising durability make it an obvious choice for ultralight backpackers who don't care for tarps. As the high-end sibling to the Nemo Hornet 2P, it might be the lightest dedicated-pole tents around. The "regular" Hornet is $130 less and only 5 ounces heavier making it our Best Buy for a tent that comes with bug netting and a floor. Boasting two side doors, and vestibules that stake out low to the ground, its carefully considered design makes up for its tight dimensions. While the weight score is not impressive in the Ultralight Tent review, this would easily be the lightest tent in the backpacking tent review and is about half the weight of the Editors' Choice in that review. Compared to others Editors' Choice, the Tarp Tent Duplex, the Elite is only a little heavier, $100 less expensive, easier to buy, and much easier to set up (the Duplex requires wrangling trekking poles). That said, the Duplex is more comfortable, especially when both doors are fully open. What is better? It comes down to personal preference. The ultralight enthusiasts will lean toward the Duplex where backpackers who want something easy to set up and less expensive should go with the Hornet or Hornet Elite.


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Our Analysis and Test Results

Review by:
Ben Applebaum-Bauch and Chris McNamara

Last Updated:
Saturday
December 16, 2017

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With a few notable exceptions, many of the shelters we review fall solidly into either ultralight or conventional tents. The Hornet Elite 2P is one of those exceptions. Nemo puts its absolute best foot forward in an attempt to bridge the gap and offers what is the best compromise we have seen between the two worlds. If you want to know what all the ultralight fuss is about, but the idea of lying under a tarp, unprotected from vicious spring blackflies sends you packing, this is your tent. If you want the feathery load of a UL shelter, but need the peace of mind that only a dedicated pole tent can deliver, this one is for you.

Performance Comparison


The icing on the cake is it's subtle, but important features that prove whoever designed this tent has either spent a fair bit of time in the outdoors themselves or talked to a lot of people that have. We love the slide-in-lock pole fasteners, the tent-to-fly guy out lines that increase the livable space, and the canopy pocket that doubles as a headlamp light diffuser. There are lighter shelters and more comfortable tents, but the Hornet Elite 2P finds a great compromise between the two.

Livability


In order to make the Hornet Elite as light as it did, Nemo had to sacrifice some interior space. If you are sharing the tent with someone else, you should be prepared to cozy up to them.


Nemo did an admirable job maximizing the livable space by adding additional guy-out lines near each door that increase lateral space at shoulder level. However, its maximum interior height of 37" is a few inches lower than many similar 2P tents and 3 inches lower than regular Hornet. Paired with a floor space of 85"x51", two average-sized adults would struggle to sit up cross-legged at the same time. The floor is just the right width for two inflatable Thermarests to nestle snugly side-by-side. This is the key metric where the Editor's Choice Duplex bests the Hornet Elite. The Duplex has a much higher peak height and both side doors, when fully open, are much more luxurious.

The Hornet and Hornet Elite have room for two REI Flash Insulated sleeping pads... barely.
The Hornet and Hornet Elite have room for two REI Flash Insulated sleeping pads... barely.

The saving grace of this tent is its two side doors. They make it supremely easy to roll in and out without disturbing the other person. At 6 square feet, each vestibule offers enough room for boots and a modestly-sized pack to stay out of the tent and out of the rain. Nemo opted for a vertical fly zipper, as opposed to the arc-shaped or semi-circular ones found on most tents, and testers found that it got caught less often. This is the main advantage over it's main competitor, the Fly Creek Platinum. Not only is the platinum's vestibule small, it's tricky to operate. If you want to watch the sunrise from inside the tent, you need to crawl out and pin back the fly. Even then, the view is very limited. In contrast, the Hornet Elite gives you two doors and a better view from each. Having two doors also helps with ventilation.

The Hornet Elite (left) next to the Big Agnes Fly Creek HV2 Platinum. The Hornet Elite has finally dethroned the Fly Creek as the best and lightest freestanding tent.
The Hornet Elite (left) next to the Big Agnes Fly Creek HV2 Platinum. The Hornet Elite has finally dethroned the Fly Creek as the best and lightest freestanding tent.

Each side has a mesh pocket that can accommodate a phone, small book, or notepad. One understated feature is the overhead canopy pocket, made from opaque, white ripstop nylon. It softens harsh LED headlamps and allows the tent to be illuminated at just the right brightness. The tent itself is a neutral grey with yellow highlights, but the fly is what Nemo calls elite yellow, which makes it decidedly less stealthy than most other backpacking tents or UL shelters in our review.

It's the little things. Like how you can loop the fly easily under tent pole. No buckles required here. Thanks  Nemo.
It's the little things. Like how you can loop the fly easily under tent pole. No buckles required here. Thanks, Nemo.

Ease of Set-Up


The Hornet Elite offers a straightforward, fast assembly, even for one person.


The Fly Creek Platinum (right) can be hard to get in and out of. You usually have to use two hands to open the door. Once open  the single Fly Creek door is smaller than either of the two Hornet doors.
The Fly Creek Platinum (right) can be hard to get in and out of. You usually have to use two hands to open the door. Once open, the single Fly Creek door is smaller than either of the two Hornet doors.

It utilizes a single DAC 8.7mm Featherlite NFL pole that branches at the head-end corners, and requires two stakes at the foot for full-setup.

Its minimalist design makes pitching the tent intuitive. There are surprisingly few tent-to-pole hooks, which is a big advantage if you are trying to pitch it quickly in cold or wet weather.

A door for everyone! Two doors is one of the big advantages of the Hornet Elite over most other ultralight freestanding tents that only have one door.
A door for everyone! Two doors is one of the big advantages of the Hornet Elite over most other ultralight freestanding tents that only have one door.

Weather Resistance


This tent stands up surprisingly well to the elements. At first blush, the no-see-um mesh walls would leave the Hornet Elite's occupants susceptible to splash back in a heavy rain. However, Nemo made sure to run the fly almost all the way to the ground, minimizing the amount of space for water to find its way in.


With two people, the tight dimensions invariably result in one or both sleepers pressed up against the mesh walls. However, the tent walls have enough clearance from the fly to keep sleepers dry, even in a storm. For those inclined to bring the tent bag along on their adventures, Nemo offers up a nifty feature that allows you to cinch the bag at its midsection to separate a wet fly from a presumably drier tent.

As you can see  in winds over 15mph  the Hornet Elite starts to bend and flex unless you use all the guy points (which are not being used in this photo).
As you can see, in winds over 15mph, the Hornet Elite starts to bend and flex unless you use all the guy points (which are not being used in this photo).

We slept through wind storms with gusts up to 30mph. At 15mph, the tent held up great. At 30mph, the tent starts to really bend over without using the extra guy lines. The tent comes with extra cord for this purpose, but you will need to buy extra stakes or use rocks.

Durability


Like many other pieces of ultralight equipment, the feel of the 10DSil/PU ripstop nylon (1200mm) floor and 7DSil/PU nylon (1200mm) fly may give the impression that they are prepared to disintegrate at the first sign of rocks or rain, but they proved to be stronger than they look. There were no significant signs of wear over the course of testing.

Weight


This is where the Hornet Elite really shines. At a scant minimum weight of 1lb, 11oz., it is exceptionally light for a double wall, dedicated pole tent. It even garners consideration among floorless and other UL shelters that utilize trekking poles for setup. It has a packaged weight of 2 lbs., 3 oz. and packs down to 19"x5". Ditch the tent bag and included extra guy line and you and a backpacking companion can boast a shelter load of just 1 pound each. Very few other tents with netting and floor are lighter. The ones that are, like the Editors Choice Duplex, require a more time-consuming setup process with trekking poles.


Adaptability


This tent's primary limitation is its interior dimensions. If you are close with your traveling companion though, you may choose to see the space as 'cozy'.


Testing also showed that the tent is not particularly well vented. The underside of the fly collects a fair amount of condensation. However, the relatively steep walls allowed moisture to run down to the ground, instead of falling back on sleepers.

Though not necessarily a limitation, Nemo again prioritized weight savings by choosing not to branch the pole at the foot as well as at the head to make the Hornet Elite fully freestanding.

Best Applications


The Nemo Hornet Elite is a phenomenal choice for a backpacking duo looking to seriously cut down on weight, but not quite ready to ditch dedicated poles. It is made for extended backpacking or thru-hiking adventures along the Long Trail, JMT, Colorado Trail or other similar trips. It would also be a great choice for a solo adventurist who just wants a little more space, without increasing the size of their load.

Value


At a retail price of $499.95, the Hornet Elite is a considerable investment over comparable 2P tents. It's a value purchase for long distance hikers or weekend peak baggers who prioritize a lightweight pack and speed. If you and your hiking buddy need a little more space for a little less money, the non-Elite version of the Hornet 2P is just marginally heavier and costs $130 less. It also gives you more peak height (40" vs. 37") and more vestibule space (16 sq ft vs. 12 sq ft).


Conclusion


The Hornet Elite 2P is the lightest tent available for those who don't want to go to a tarp made by a niche manufacturer. For car campers, casual weekend backpackers, or cyclists, there are plenty of less expensive, roomier options out there. However, if you are looking to shave every possible ounce from your shelter system without having to rely on a ton of guy-lines, or sacrifice a bug-free night's sleep, the Hornet Elite 2P is the best option.

The ability for two people to take off their shoes at once  one on each side  sets the Hornet apart from most other ultralight tents.
The ability for two people to take off their shoes at once, one on each side, sets the Hornet apart from most other ultralight tents.
Ben Applebaum-Bauch and Chris McNamara

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Most recent review: December 16, 2017
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