Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Nemo Hornet 1P Tent Review

I have been looking for a lightweight tent to do the Yading outer kora next month (I gave away my last crappy solo tent to a guy at Qiunatong on the Nujiang last year, when I urgently needed to lighten the load to get across the border illicitly into Tibet on the back of a motorbike).
For this trip I had in mind an MSR NX Solo 1-person tent. I already have an MSR 3-person Hubba tent and it's great quality. However, at around $770 retail the Solo ain't cheap. I almost managed to bag one on Gumtree for about $450, but someone else beat me to it.
While browsing at Paddy Pallin  I saw they had an alternative - the Nemo Hornet 1P. It seemed ridiculously lightweight - 910g, which is like a feather even compared to the Solo (which is only about 1.2kg).
Again, quite pricey at $580 when new, but I saw one on sale on Gumtree for $400 and snapped it up. I bought it from a Canadian cyclist who had only used it once and didn't need it. And bonus - he threw in a free footprint worth $60.

Well, I tried the tent out this weekend as a prelude to using it on the kora. I took it to The Basin at Pittwater to give it a gentle introduction to the great outdoors. The tent is pretty easy and self explanatory to put up - a Y pole that plugs into round slots, so that it is pretty much freestanding. However my main first impression is just how thin the tent material is - it feels almost paper thin. Apparently the Nemo Hornet is only 7 denier (whatever that means) fabric. It certainly feels flimsy and I wouldn't want to give it any rough treatment or hard wear and tear. A couple of times I panicked when caught the fabric while trying to do up the zip - and very carefully picked it apart, worried that it might rip.

The other thing that doesn't inspire confidence with the Nemo are the plastic hooks that connect the inner tent to the pole - they look fragile, but I haven't tested them out in a strong wind. Thirdly, the fly doesn't go all the way down to the ground - it has a kind of mankini effect, leaving exposed inner tent, where the groundsheet is extended about a foot above ground. I suppose in theory if you had anything less than horizontal rain you should be OK - but it doesn't look reassuring. Overall, I would be a bit worried about using this tent in prolonged gusty conditions.

When pitched, the tent seems solid and appears quite stable. There is capacity for an additional three guy lines to really anchor it. I'm taking the extra pegs, but hope I don't have to use them.
I had the campsite pretty much to myself and turned in at 10pm to give the tent it's first try out. The Nemo has enough space for one tall person to sit up with just enough head room. It's not a bivvy bag - but it's not a mansion either. When lying down there's just about enough space around your head for a few personal effects, and that's about it. Forget about bringing your pack inside unless you use it as a pillow, sideways. I managed to drag my Macpac Cascade into the vestibule between the fly and inner tent mesh - but it was a squeeze and had to put my pack on its side.
Once in the tent it was comfortable and very airy - as you would expect given that much of the inner is just mesh. That makes it OK for a cool Australian night, but not sure I'd be be taking this anywhere too icy.

I slept OK in the tent, it was warm and well ventilated in temperatures that went down to about five degrees - and there was no condensation inside the tent itself. However the fly got completely soaked with dew overnight and didn't seem at all water repellant - good job it wasn't touching the sides. The other thing I really noticed again was how gossamer thin the groundsheet is - you really need to have the footprint, especially if you are camping on anything vaguely sharp such as rocks, stones or twigs.

So my overall impression on this baby test is that the Nemo Hornet 1P is neat, well designed ultralight tent. It's amazingly lightweight and that's why I have chosen it. I'm taking a chance with it on the kora, but only because I know there are stone shelters at strategic points along the way that I can use for emergency shelter should the need arise. I'll let you know how it fares under those conditions once I'm through.

UPDATE: The Nemo tent worked out OK on the trek, though I was worried about the rain sometimes. Here the review that I posted on the Nemo site:

I was wary about taking my new Hornet 1P on a seven day trek into the Tibetan borderlands of Yading. The average altitude was 4200m and we experienced pretty much continual rain for the whole trip. I was surprised (and obviously relieved) to find that the tent stood up well to the continual rain - even during thunder and rainstorms. I had to move the tent at one point because our chosen campground became swamped - but that wasn't a fault of the tent, which stayed dry despite sitting in 3 inches of water. I found the tent a little cramped - just enough room for me and my pack in the vestibule. But it was comfortable and roomy enough to change gear in. Ii is well ventilated and so I wouldn't recommend it for camping in snow or icy conditions.

My only criticisms of the tent are: 1. Pitching in the rain means the floor gets wet as the fly goes up last. Fortunately I'd brought a sponge for cleaning pans and this helped wipe up the water. 2. The inner tent zip kept getting caught on the fly - I worried it would rip (but it didn't). 3. The extra guylines were hard to see - people kept tripping over them, so I had to stick walking poles around them as warning markers.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Yading Big Kora - planning on making a detour

On my forthcoming trip to Yading in June I hope to do a little detour on the final sections. Thanks to the wonders of Google Earth 3D I have discovered this side valley with some alpine lakes that looks like it's worth exploring. So on the final stretch, instead of the usual route heading over the  7th Pass and returning to Chonggu monastery (in blue) I'm planning a little side trip (in red). Of course it's easy to make plans on Google Earth and find that in real life on the ground it is not so do-able. I found this out to my discomfort when i tried descending alone from the Balagong pass above Dimaluo in Yunnan two years ago. Looks straightforward on Google Earth but the reality was very thick bush, followed by a series of farmsteads each guarded by a rabid Tibetan mastiff!
But anyway I shall give it a go. Nothing to lose in trying.