The NEMO Equipment Hornet Elite 2P (33 oz / 935 g, $499.95) is a semi-freestanding, double-walled, ultralight tent. It is designed to be, according to the NEMO website, “… the ultralight tent of choice for extreme minimalists wanting the best in technical materials and design.” Intended as a three-season, two-person shelter, the Hornet Elite features design touches meant to increase the tent’s volume while not adding any extra weight.
About this Review
This Limited Review is based on my initial testing of the NEMO Equipment Hornet Elite 2P over five weekend trips in Southeast Michigan during January, February, and March of 2020.
Features and Specifications
- Ultra-fine 7D nylon ripstop fly
- Two doors and vestibules
- Dual-stage stuff sack
- Volumizing guy-outs
- Light Pocket
- Capacity: two persons
- Seasons: three
- Minimum weight: 1 lb 11 oz (779 g)
- Packed weight: 2 lb 1 oz (935 g)
- Packed size: 19.0 x 4.5 in (48 x 12 cm)
- Peak height: 37 in (94 cm)
- Floor area: 7.3 sq ft (2.5 sq m)
- Floor dimensions: 85 x 50/42 in (216 x 128/107 cm)
- Vestibule area: 2 vestibules with 6.2 sq ft (0.6 sq m) each
- Doors: two
- Frame: aluminum
- Canopy: no-see-um mesh
- Fly: 7D PeU nylon ripstop (1200 mm)
- Floor: 10D Sil/PeU nylon ripstop (1200 mm)
Since this is a Limited Review, I will not present a detailed performance analysis based on long-term use. Instead, I’ve noted performance observations and issues below.
|Criteria||Observations and Issues|
|Weather Resistance||Overnight weather conditions ranged from lows of 25 F (-4 C) to 40 F (4 C). Conditions were generally wet and muddy, with a maximum snowfall of 2 in (5 cm). We did not experience any rain. However, I found the waterproofing of the NEMO Hornet Elite 2P to be very good. There was no serious leakage from the fly. Condensation build-up was slight, but the steep walls and sharp peak of the tent did not allow it to collect or drip down during the night.
The tent’s floor did not leak, though I did use a lightweight Polypro ground cloth to keep the tent body clean. One night we pitched the tent too quickly and got some snow between the ground cloth and the tent bottom. The snow melted, but the small puddle of water did not seep through to the tent’s interior.
Other reviewers have reported issues with the volumizing Flybar coming undone during high wind events. It is unidirectional, so it doesn’t surprise me that it could come undone under heavy load. I did not have any issues with it, but I did select sites that were slightly protected from the wind and pitched the tent perpendicular to the prevailing wind. Backpackers that spend a lot of time in high wind areas will want to keep that in mind.
|Ease of Setup/Takedown||Setup of the NEMO Hornet 2P Elite is straightforward. The instructions published by NEMO have the user set up the tri-pole first, attaching to the corners then snapping the body into the pole. I found it pitched more easily when I staked out the tent body first. The saddle between winter and spring in Michigan can be very windy; staking the corners first made the Hornet Elite 2P much easier to set up.
I ended up timing each of my two dozen or so setups and takedowns of the Hornet. Setup times including the rain-fly averaged just under five minutes. Without the fly, I was able to set up in about five minutes and 15 seconds. For the life of me, I could never get the fly facing the correct direction on the first go, adding a good 30 seconds to the setup time. I ended up tying a bit of red cord to the right corner in an effort to speed things along, but I still rarely got it right. Andrew Marshall (BPL Gear Editor) tested this shelter before I got my hands on it, and he had the same problem with the fly.
My rainfly confusion aside, the Hornet Elite 2P is straightforward to pitch. The tri-section pole is color coded, making it easy to align the poles on the first try. The delicate nature of the materials meant I needed to put some careful thought into site selection. It’s also important to note that the tent is not free standing.
It would have been nice to be able to pitch the NEMO Hornet Elite 2P in a “fly only’”configuration, but that is not possible. Certainly a small complaint, but one worth noting.
|Livability (Two person and one person)||The NEMO Hornet Elite 2P is a livable two person shelter. My wife and I are both 5’8” (173 cm) tall and of average build. The fit with early spring sleep systems [35 F (2 C) to 45 F (7 C)] was snug, but passable. Anyone over 6’2” (188 cm) may have issues with the length of the tent.
It is a great setup for backpacking with a plan of spending as little time in camp as possible while putting in big milage days. For an extended trip with prolonged time in camp, it’s way too much proximity for us. Two doors and two vestibules increase the livability for two people, enabling entrance and egress without having to climb all over one another.
For one person, the NEMO is very comfortable. The Hornet 2P is roomy enough to drag my backpack inside on a stormy night, while the two vestibules provide ample room for cooking, hiking shoes, and stashing any gear that may be too dirty or wet for comfortable cohabitation.
There are two gear pockets, one per each side of the tent. They are quite ample, easily keeping my cell phone, lens cloth, and other pocket items at hand.
The Light Pocket is an interesting idea. It is a pocket located at the apex of the tent that is designed to hold a head lamp. The pocket itself is made from a white, light diffusing fabric. I’m not convinced that the fabric makes that much of a difference from a simple mesh enclosure, but it doesn’t hurt and the pocket does make for a nice headlamp stash. There is also room in the pocket for a couple of pairs of glasses.
There are three tie-down points on the interior that, in theory, a hiker could use to fashion a gear loft. I was not able to find a gear loft specific to the Hornet, and with the ample side pockets, I wouldn’t bother carrying one if I could. This tent is designed for sleeping between long days of hiking. On days like that I keep the vast majority of my gear in my backpack overnight.
|Packability||The NEMO Hornet 2P Elite is the most packable two-person double-wall shelter I have ever used. Compared to the Eureka! and Marmot tents I’ve used with backpacking partners in the past, the NEMO Hornet 2P Elite packs into an incredibly small package.
The tent, fly, stakes, ground cloth, and pole all stuffed in the dual-stage stuff sack for a total size of 20 in x 18 in dia. (51 cm x 46 cm dia.) The NEMO Hornet 2P Elite easily slips into the side and front pockets of my small Granite Gear Virga2.
|Durability||With a shelter this light, I was worried about the durability of the NEMO Hornet Elite 2P. Generally, those fears were unfounded. My biggest concern was that the 10-denier floor wouldn’t hold up. The floor even feels thin in the hand. The no-see-um netting is also incredibly delicate to the touch and I thought that it would be prone to tears. Neither the floor nor the tent body showed significant wear after my testing.
I used a Polypro ground cloth for the entire length of the review. This was winter in Michigan and I didn’t want to have to deal with a dirty tent bottom in my pack all day. The ground cloth got shoved into a pack pocket along with the fly, keeping the interior of my pack relatively clean. While the ground cloth may have helped preserve the tent floor, I was careful with my site selection. In less muddy conditions, I would not hesitate to leave the ground cloth at home.
I did have an issue with the rain-fly. During my second pitch of the tent, the stitching on the rainfly failed at one of the velcro closures. While it was an easy enough task to repair it myself, I don’t think I should have to take on a repair task my second time out with a shelter this expensive.
|Weight||My carrying weight for a fully loaded setup of the NEMO Hornet 2P Elite was 2 lbs (906 g). This consisted of the tri-pole, tent body, rain-fly, six stakes and their bag, two additional guylines, and a Polypro ground cloth. I had no need to bother with the stuff sack for either the poles or the tent and fly. The ground cloth was in an effort to keep the inside of my pack clean and dry. The ground in Michigan is wet and muddy over the winter. For a dry summer hike, I would not bother carrying one. It would be simple to shave two ounces (57 g) off of this kit; simply remove the ground cloth and replace four of the stakes with titanium shepherd’s hooks.|
What Makes the NEMO Equipment Hornet Elite 2P Unique?
There is no getting around it, the NEMO Hornet Elite 2P is an excellent tent. It checks a number of boxes; it’s super light, highly livable, and incredibly packable, with very good weather resistance to boot. If I were to own one shelter for two people going hiking in the midwest in three seasons, the Hornet Elite 2P would be my pick. Here’s a weight breakdown of each component.
|Tent stuff sack||0.6||19|
|Ground cloth (just a piece of thin Polypro)||1.6||44|
|Ground cloth (Official NEMO)||6.6||187|
I don’t think the NEMO Hornet Elite 2P is the best choice for everyone. People in high wind areas, those who camp regularly above treeline, or folk that spend a lot of time in rough terrain would be better served by a more robust shelter. If time in camp is valued as much as time on the trail, then the Hornet Elite 2P is too small for two people.
- Fast and Light Use Case
- Use as a Solo Shelter
Fast and Light Use Case
Fast, long days are where this tent shines. For two people with a daily mission of maximum distance, I do not know of a better traditional double-walled semi-freestanding shelter. It also performs admirably as a spacious one-person shelter. That being said, I’m not giving up my solo shelter system. The Hornet Elite 2P weighs six ounces (162 g) more than my tarp and bivy setup. While the Hornet Elite 2P is an easier pitch, I just can’t justify the tradeoff in weight or adaptability.
There is a lot to love about the NEMO Hornet Elite 2P. It is a well thought out ultralight tent with nice design touches throughout that enhance its usability. There are ample storage pockets which are easily accessible by one or two people, the tent is easy to pitch, and though the interior space is limited, the design maximizes it. I have no qualms about the durability of the materials and found the tent to be comfortable and dry.
If you and your hiking partner’s goals are putting in lots of miles and spending as little time in a tent as possible then you should definitely consider the Hornet Elite 2P. The tent packs up fast and small. It is tailor-made for big days covering a lot of ground. If you both are the sort of hiking duo that likes spending time in camp and wants some elbow room, you will be better served looking elsewhere.
Use as a Solo Shelter
The NEMO Hornet Elite 2P is a fantastic one-person shelter. For the cost of a few extra ounces (few hundred grams) of pack weight, you get a lot of space for a solo hiker. Those that hike with four legged friends would find the space ample as well, though if your pup is over 100 lbs (45 kg) the space might get tight fast.
My experience with the stitching tearing on the rain-fly velcro is all that precludes me from highly recommending the NEMO Hornet Elite 2P. It is a fantastic tent.
I compared the NEMO Equipment Hornet Elite 2P to the Big Agnes Tiger Wall Platinum 2.
The price point is similar, with the Tiger Wall 2 Platinum costing $50 more. The designs are similar as well. Both tents are semi-free standing with nearly indistinguishable interior dimensions. They both have two doors and two vestibules.
The differences lie in the weight and in the pitching options. The Tiger Wall 2 Platinum weighs 5 oz (142 g) more than the Hornet Elite 2P (at total packaged weight). The Tiger Wall 2 Platinum can also be pitched in a fly-only configuration, whereas the design of the Hornet makes a fly-only pitch impossible. If the ability to pitch fly-only is important to you, you should consider the Big Agnes Tiger Wall 2 Platinum over the NEMO Hornet Elite 2P.
|MSRP||The NEMO Hornet Elite 2P costs $499.99 while the Big Agnes Tiger Wall Platinum 2 costs $549.95.||Hornet Elite 2P|
|Weight||The NEMO Hornet Elite 2P is about 5 oz (142 g) lighter than the Big Agnes Tiger Wall Platinum 2.||Hornet Elite 2P|
|Packed Size||The packed size of both shelters is virtually identical, with the NEMO Hornet Elite being an inch longer but the Tiger Wall Platinum being an inch wider in diameter.||Tie|
|Floor Area||The two shelters have virtually identical floor areas - with a slight advantage of 0.7 square feet to the Tiger Wall Platinum.||Tiger Wall 2 Platinum - barely|
|Vestibule Area||The Big Agnes Tiger Wall Platinum has just under 2 square feet more vestibule space on each side than the NEMO Hornet Elite 2P||Tiger Wall 2 Platinum|
|Peak Height||The peak height of the Tiger Wall 2 Platinum is two inches higher than that of the NEMO Hornet Elite 2||Tiger Wall 2 Platinum|
|Number of Doors||Both shelters have the same number of doors.||Tie|
|Set-up style||The Tiger Wall 2 Platinum can be set up in fly-only mode.||Tiger Wall 2 Platinum|
It’s essential to compare the NEMO Hornet Elite 2P to its heavier, less expensive kin, the NEMO Hornet 2P. For $130 less, the Hornet 2P delivers more vestibule area, more interior height, and more floor space. It does weigh more (5 oz / 131 g). Also, there is less netting in the non-elite version’s tent body. Reviews of the non-elite version of the Hornet 2P mentioned condensation as an issue. I hypothesize that the difference in netting is the cause; while I had minor condensation on the fly of the Elite version, I had no issues with it in the tent itself.
There are hardware differences as well. The anchors for the ridge pole on the Elite version feel better designed than those on the non-Elite. The non-Elite is pitched using two Flybars, which increases the headroom a bit. If cost is a consideration, the non-Elite Hornet is worth a look.
Are differences between the non-Elite and Elite versions of the Hornet worth the $130 price? To me they are. Better airflow with the increased netting, slightly more fly coverage, and more durable anchoring add up to the price difference. Take that along with the weight savings, so for me it’s a no-brainer. Your financial situation may well be different than mine. If $130 is the difference between being able to take an extra night out on the trail and an incremental gear upgrade, save the money, get the non-Elite, and have a great time outdoors.
Product Strengths and Limitations
- Ease of setup/takedown – The single pole setup was quick and easy.
- Packability – The Hornet Elite 2P is the most compact two-person, semi-freestanding, double-wall tent I have ever used.
- Weight – One of the lightest options in a widely available, double-walled, two-person shelter market
- Durability – Poor stitching on one of the rain-fly velcro closures is tough to swallow in a $499 shelter
- Confusing fly system
Where to Buy
- Andrew reviewed another Big Agnes shelter, the Big Agnes Fly Creek HV1 Carbon, not long ago.
- Curious about double-wall vs. single-wall shelters? Our community has some advice.
DISCLOSURE (Updated November 7, 2019)
- Product(s) discussed in this article may have been purchased by the author(s) from a retailer or direct from a manufacturer, or by Backpacking Light for the author. The purchase price may have been discounted as a result of our industry professional status with the seller. However, these discounts came with no obligation to provide media coverage or a product review. Backpacking Light does not accept compensation or donated/discounted products in exchange for guaranteed media placement or product review coverage.
- Some (but not all) of the links in this article may be “affiliate” links. If you click on one of these links and visit one of our affiliate partners (usually a retailer site), and subsequently place an order with that retailer, we receive a small commission. These commissions help us provide authors with honoraria, fund our editorial projects, podcasts, instructional webinars, and more, and we appreciate it a lot! Thank you for supporting Backpacking Light!
- Read about our approach to journalistic integrity, product reviews, and affiliate marketing here.