Wilderness Backpacking
Gear Giveaway

Enter to Win!

NEMO Hornet 2P Review 2018

  • Ultralight Backpacker

NEMO Hornet 2P Overview

Content
I hate hornets: they’re mean, creepy, and they always hung around the front door of my parents’ house during summer. The NEMO Hornet 2P tent, however, is a bug I can get behind. Lightweight and feature-rich, the Hornet 2P is ready for adventure whether hitting the trail solo in style or on minimalist tours for two.

The Hornet 2P is an ultralight tent designed for those who want to cut all but the necessary from their pack. The semi-freestanding setup takes some skill, but greatly reduces overall weight. Clever features from NEMO, like the Divvy Stuff Sack and Light Pocket, add to overall livability.

This and more makes us give the NEMO Hornet 2P tent our Classic Pick award for the Ultralight Backpacker.

There are a lot of tents that claim to be ultralight these days. The category of a go-to, two-person tent from a reliable manufacturer is brimming, and we are fully aware that the NEMO Hornet 2P has stiff competition. The fact that it’s just five ounces over two pounds, while still having poles, two doors, and a handful of nifty features, puts it over some other tents in our opinion. Other tents that are comparable in terms of weight, cost, and awesome-ness are the Big Agnes Fly Creek HV UL2 and Six Moons Designs Lunar Duo Explorer.

Read the full NEMO Hornet 2P review below.

2018 Update: We tested the 2017 model of the Hornet 2P, and it is not being updated for 2018.

NEMO Hornet 2P Specifications

Feature Type Feature Specs What This Means
Packed Weight 2 lbs 5 oz. (1 kg) Extremeley light for a two-person shelter with doors, poles, stakes, etc. You can get lighter, but not without sacrificing a lot.
Type Semi-Freestanding The Hornet 2P has a three-pronged hub pole design. Two holes stake into the front, with just one point in the middle of the back. You need to stake out the two back corners for full tension.
Wall Type Double Wall The tent body and rain fly are two separate pieces. Helps with condensation and airflow, but is heavier than some single wall tents.
No. of Doors 2 They are small D-shaped doors, but this allows two people to exit the tent on their own sides. Access to vestibules as well.
Sleeping Capacity 2-person (really 1.5-person) Listed as a 2-person shelter, and technically can sleep two. It’s very tight quarters, so we recommend only sleeping with a partner in this tent.
Seasons 3-season The Hornet 2P is durable and can resist wind, but it doesn’t have the design to withstand a true winter. Use in three seasons.
Packed Size 19 x 5 in. (48 x 12 cm) Quite thin, long bundle. You can use the Divvy Sack to place the poles separately and get the tent body to the size of a small cantaloupe.
Floor Dimensions 85 x 51 in. (216 x 128 cm), narrows at foot to 43 in. (108 cm) Just large enough for two 20-inch pads at the foot and tall enough for a six-foot person. Not huge.
Floor Area 28 sqft A small square footage overall, but decent for an ultralight backpacking tent.
Peak Height 40 in. (102 cm) You can sit up fully in the center, but not anywhere else as it slopes quite a bit.
No. of Vestibules 2 The Hornet 2P fly creates two full vestibules when set up. Nice for storing gear, though they aren’t huge.
Vestibule Area 16 sqft per vestibule Relatively small space, engineered for a pair of shoes and an ultralight backpack.
No. of Poles 1 Just one pole with a hub for this tent. Slim and light.
Pole Material 1 DAC 8.7mm Featherlite NFL One of the lightest pole technologies on the market.
No. of Interior Pockets 3 There are two floor-level pockets for storing small gear like headlamps. There’s also a Light Pocket in the ceiling, which creates a nice even glow for reading.
Rain Fly Material 10D Sil/PU Nylon Ripstop (1200mm) Incredibly thin material. We can’t believe it’s as strong as it is.
Floor Material 15D Sil/PU Nylon Ripstop (1500 mm) A very thin floor material. Decent water resistance.
Mesh/Body Material
15D Nylon Ripstop / No seeummesh
A very thin body material. Decent water resistance, and noseeum mesh is the good stuff.
Footprint, Fast Setup? Hornet 2P Footprint $49.95, Fast Setup Not Possible NEMO claims you don’t need a footprint for this tent, but we always recommend carrying one. You can’t do a fast setup with this fly and footprint.
Manufacturer Warranty Lifetime Warranty NEMO offers a lifetime warranty for this tent, which includes manufacturing defects and issues of workmanship. It does not include regular wear and tear, and you have to be the original purchaser of the tent.
Retail Price $369.95 A high price for an ultralight backpacking tent, but less than some other extreme tents! You’ll get what you pay for, as long as you don’t want a ton of space.

Gear Review of the NEMO Hornet 2P

Origins: Easing You In

As I write this review, the Thomas Fire is still burning in the Los Padres National Forest above Ventura. Many of the trails I adopted as my own in the short three years I’ve been in Southern California are likely unrecognizable. That’s one of many reasons I’m glad I was able to take the NEMO Hornet 2P into the wilderness and soak up some of my favorite spots before the reality of a heavy fire season set in.

NEMO-Hornet-2P-review-sespe-wilderness-1
Los Padres National Forest, near Ojai, before the Thomas Fire.

If you read my reviews, you’ll know I visit Mount Pinos frequently as it provides high-mountain scenery, convenient location, and challenging trails right in Ventura’s backyard. I took the Hornet 2P to Sheep Camp for a quiet solo trip before the late-fall frost moved into the high country. The Hornet 2P performed beautifully and really intrigued me.

I was stoked to take it on another quick after-work trip in the Sespe Wilderness, the next valley over from Pinos. I hiked out in the late afternoon along a trail I’ve walked countless times, and settled in the dry, sandy bottom of the Sespe River.

NEMO-Hornet-2P-review-setting-up-tent
Setting up the Hornet 2P in the Sespe Wilderness.

Revelation: The Moment I Knew

One thing you should know about me: I hate sand. Why I picked a sandbar on which to set up camp is beyond me, but it put the Hornet 2P to the test.

Unlike most traditional tents, the Hornet 2P is semi-freestanding due to the three-pronged, hubbed pole design. Semi-freestanding is in opposition to freestanding, in which two (or more) poles allow a tent to be erected entirely on its own, without staking for tension. On the Hornet 2P, in order to maximize floor space, volume, and structural stability, the two foot corners need to be staked or anchored out. This was no small feat in coarse river sand, one of my least favorite settings in which to anchor a tent. Sand, in case you didn’t know, doesn’t hold stakes very well.

NEMO-Hornet-2P-review-stake-in-sand
Driving stakes in sand is an interesting task. One must have patience and dedication, which is required to get the Hornet 2P fully taut.

I set to creating deadman anchors using metal stakes and strung them perpendicular to the guy point, then covered it in sand, and topped the stake with a river stone. After a few minutes of adjusting and accidentally pulling out stakes, I was able to step back and admire my work. I had achieved a surprisingly taut pitch.

NEMO-Hornet-2P-review-without-fly-side-shot-scenic
The Hornet 2P fully staked out, and taut! Note the large stones over the two back corners, and the three-pronged design of the pole.

I know I am great at pitching tents (and humble to boot), but this was the moment I knew the NEMO Hornet 2P was living up to its weight and design.

Digging Deeper

NEMO is known for packing their tents (and other gear) with features and thoughtful design elements, and the Hornet 2P is no exception. Let’s start with the basics.

The body is made from a combination of fine noseeum mesh (for bug protection and ventilation) and 15-denier (15D) nylon material, which are the the floor and walls. The 15D material is much thinner than the 30D-75D nylon found in many other lightweight and traditional tents, which is part of the reason the Hornet 2P has such an edge in terms of weight. I didn’t, however, see any punctures or damage after camping on pine needles and rocks at Sheep Camp on Mount Pinos. I wouldn’t toboggan down granite in the Hornet 2P, but I was impressed by the durability of such a wispy-feeling fabric. The fly is made of an even airier 10D nylon that packs down to nothing.

NEMO-Hornet-2P-review-campsite
The Hornet 2P with half a door rolled up. Fine mesh, fine body, fine tent.

The center-seam zippers were easier to reach than many other tents I’ve used, and the zipping was mostly snag-free: a huge asset when fleeing rain or the Boogeyman after taking a midnight pee-trip to a tree, as is my norm. Minimized door toggles kept the doors open for great cross breezes and views of the setting sun, and the Micro-cordlocks help achieve a taut pitch at the door point and feet of the tent.

NEMO-Hornet-2P-review-tie-offs
These tiny door toggles allow you to roll up one half of either door. Great for a view or a breeze.

The Hornet 2P’s architecture is created by a three-pronged, hubbed DAC Featherlite NFL pole that anchors into two Jake’s Foot sockets at the head and a single grommet at the foot. I have always been skeptical of Jake’s Foot sockets, but I’ll get into that later. This design is not that complicated to set up…unless you’re staking into something like sand. From a design perspective, though, the poles go in easy and the micro-cordlocks allow you to get tension quickly.

NEMO-Hornet-2P-review-tent-scenic-3
Another sunset shot of the three-pole design.

Looking to the inside of the Hornet 2P, you’ve got a whole lot to be excited about. Two pockets hold your nighttime essentials (remember: no food or toiletries!). I am a huge fan of pockets, especially when camping with a buddy. There’s nothing worse than hearing your tentmate roll over your glasses because you didn’t have a side pocket. (True story.)

A gimmicky feature I actually ended up loving is the Light Pocket: a small sleeve of light-diffusing fabric in the ceiling of the tent. I put my headlamp in the sleeve and it cast a beautiful glow by which to read and organize my gear. I once scoffed at a friend who raved about this feature, and now I have to take back that scoff. I won’t be telling him that, and I hope he doesn’t read this…

NEMO-Hornet-2P-review-light-pocket-2
The Light Pocket is at the top of this tent. Put your headlamp in and create a perfect mellow light for reading and packing.

Finally, let’s talk about stuff sacks. They aren’t sexy. Until now! The Divvy Sack is NEMO’s re-designed stuff sack. It’s genius.  I rarely carry my tent as a self-contained package. Typically, I remove the poles and stakes and place them on the sides of my pack so the tent body and fly can fit inside my pack. The Divvy Sack allows you to do this easily, and takes it a step further by giving you a full-length stuff or a half-size stuff using a mid-sack drawstring. I was able to compress the body and fly to the size of a small cantaloupe and it disappeared in my pack. BOOM.

NEMO-Hornet-2P-review-divvy-sack-and-poles-size-comparison
The Divvy Sack is NEMO’s ingenius way of encouraging different packing. Take the poles and stakes out of the stuff sack and the tent compresses to a fraction of the size. The Wide Mouth 32 oz Nalgene is for a size comparison.

Sleep Comfort 

I slept with the fly on in the high country and it made for a warmer night, but condensation did build with temperatures in the mid-30s. A typical issue with small, ultralight tents is condensation, and I think the Hornet 2P fairs fine, but is not spectacular.

Interior comforts like the Pocket Light and side pockets make tent-life extremely pleasing.

Space 

The Hornet 2P, despite the “2” in the name, is ideal for solo camping. It gives you enough room for a 20- or 25-inch sleeping pad plus gear. I would only sleep with a partner in this tent if it was my significant other, on a minimalist trip with a close friend in bad weather, or in an emergency.

NEMO-Hornet-2P-review-sleeping-pad-and-bag
To give you a sense of space, here is the floor with a 25-inch sleeping pad and sleeping bag. Definitely not enough room for two with this pad.

Sleeping solo was awesome, but the tent is billed for two people and I don’t think that’s very realistic. The floor is 85 inches long and I am only 5 foot 8 inches, yet the foot of my sleeping bag touched the end of the tent. The sloping walls contributed to this and I wouldn’t recommend for users taller than six feet.

NEMO-Hornet-2P-review-interior-space
Views from inside the Hornet 2P. Plenty of room for one — a tight squeeze for two.

The body of the tent has a cord on each side that attaches to the fly and helps pull the sidewalls of the body out to create more volume. This helped considerably when using the fly, but an uber-tight pitch is required when skipping the fly as there is nothing to pull the walls out. One could attach additional guy lines to these attachment points, but I fear they would be insufficiently anchored in the fabric.

NEMO-Hornet-2P-review-exterior-size
One final size shot from the outside.

In short, don’t expect a lot of space. Use the fly to achieve maximum space, and get ready to seriously cuddle if you’re shacking up. Also, keep in mind that these sorts of condition are, generally speaking, par the course for ultralight shelters.

Durability 

As I mentioned above, I am impressed with the durability of the extremely thin and lightweight materials in the Hornet 2P. I haven’t seen any holes or major abrasions, even after camping on pine needles and rocks. If you’re a heavy user, you’re rough on your gear, or if you aren’t picky when it comes to picking a campsite, I’d recommend the optional footprint ($49.95). I’m a big fan of footprints, especially when walking with a partner who can share the load. Footprints aren’t necessary, but I’ve noticed a big difference in floor damage when I use one.

Ease of Setup 

The Hornet 2P requires a moderate level of tent intuition or a thorough read-through of the instructions. It isn’t as simple as many two-pole quarter domes, but it isn’t as complex as a multi-pole mountaineering tent. Ideal tension can be challenging to attain, especially in rocky soil where stake placement is tricky, but practice makes perfect. The adjustability of multiple points on the rainfly make a taut pitch easier once you’ve dialed in the body.

NEMO-Hornet-2P-review-tent-fully-staked
The Hornet 2P fully staked out in the mountains. Dirt is much easier than sand, and the fly makes this look like a cool bug.

Vibe 

I liked sleeping in the Hornet 2P. The space for one is great whether you put gear inside with you or under the vestibule, and the Light Pocket added a nice reading light and ambience on a chilly night. The upper volume was not as spacious as some fully freestanding models, but not a deal-breaker. #chillvibes.

NEMO-Hornet-2P-review-fly-with-door-up
#chillvibes in the NEMO Hornet 2P.

Grievances

The NEMO Hornet 2P is designed by engineers who know what they’re doing, and have done it well. That said, I had two big issues.

The first: the upper volume of the tent, or lack thereof. Because the sidewalls are only supported by the center pole, the mesh and walls tend to droop inwards. This creates a tight area when sitting up, and it would be more cramped for two, especially if both people have lofted sleeping bags with thicker sleeping pads. The fly does help to pull out the walls with the attached cords, and a very taut pitch helps to mitigate droop when using the tent without the fly. I think more practice pitching the Hornet 2P is in order to get the elusive perfect pitch, and I recommend you set it up in your backyard before your first trip with the tent.

NEMO-Hornet-2P-review-interior-space-3
This gives a good sense of the sloping walls. You can see the guylines meant to pull the mesh walls to the rainfly, but it only works so well. You need a truly taut pitch to get maximum headroom.

The second: Jake’s Foot. No, it’s not a disease, but a new(ish) method of securing the ends of your poles to the corner of tents. The main issue: they’re plastic! Plastic breaks, in case you’re wondering why I’m outraged. This has always scared me away from buying a tent with the Jake’s Foot design, despite the merits of a tent like the Hornet 2P. I still have reservations about long-term durability, but I was impressed by the ease with which pole tips set in the foot and how simple it was to then attach the fly on the Hornet 2P.

After using them, they do seem to be durable. But I am so used to grommets that the sight of a plastic pole receiver sends shivers down my spine. NEMO and other brands who utilize the Jake’s Foot sell replacement parts — I’m not sure that if that inspires confidence or not — but I don’t want to carry a field repair item if I don’t need to. I’ll be keeping an eye on Jake, as should you if you decide to go with this tent.

Final Word

If you’re looking for a backpacking tent that floats like a butterfly and stings like a bee, check out the NEMO Hornet 2P for ultralight solo adventures and features galore. No anti-itch cream required.

Where to Buy NEMO Hornet 2P

The NEMO Hornet 2P is a popular ultralight backpacking tent. You can find them at some physical stores, like REI, but it’s most common in online retailers. NEMO offers this tent in the regular, which we tested, and in the “Elite”. The Elite is about $130 more, and even lighter. While we do appreciate the weight, we don’t feel the price justifies the purchase of an Elite.

NEMO also offers the Hornet series (and Hornet Elite series) in a 1-person design. The cost difference between the two is only $40, and we feel that a 2P tent with more room will be better in the long run than a 1P tent.

Compare NEMO Hornet 2P tent prices below.

sebastian profile pic 2

Sebastian Cancino

Sebastian lives for the outdoors. He devotes his energy to camping, hiking, and backpacking with his friends in the mountains of Southern California, and you'll frequently find him volunteering on the trails of Los Padres National Forest. His favorite trek was his thru-hike of the Big SEKI Loop in Sequioa-Kings Canyon National Park, and he hopes to complete more long hikes in the future. Sebastian works at Patagonia, and is here to provide objective views on the industry’s best gear from all brands. Peek on his Instagram to see where his latest adventures are taking him.

Review Policy: We do not accept payments or gifts from brands and vendors, and strive to provide unbiased, independent advice. Brands typically provide review samples which we return, and in some cases we purchase the item so we can keep using it long after the review. Affiliate Policy: We support the hours that go into our reviews and testing through affiliate commissions on purchases made through links in this article. These don't effect the outcome of our reviews or selection of gear, as per our Review Policy.

Enjoying the new Backpackers.com?
Help us improve by answering 3 questions.

Yes, sure

No thanks