Adventure racing is hard. Courses in the sport may take competitors through the nastiest terrain the race organizers can find — for hours and even days at a time. To move fast and efficiently, the best racers learn to give up things like physical comfort, sleep, tasty meals, and any unnecessary pieces of gear. Every single ounce adds to the cumulative burden. The lighter you can pack, the faster you move over a course in the mountains or woods.
New Hampshire-based Nemo Equipment Inc. knows the plight of the adventure racer, and the company has designed a tent specifically to meet their unique needs. At 3.3 lbs, the Nano Elite is among the lightest tents available for team adventure racing. It retails for $389. Beyond adventure racing, alpine climbers and ultra-light backpackers are candidates for the Nano. The company markets it to adventurers on “a mission to cover long distances in the backcountry fast.”
The Nano’s tent body alone weighs less than 3 pounds. It is a single-wall wonder that has about 29 square feet of space and sleeps two people comfortably. Four people spooning in a race or expedition for a couple hours’ nap can also fit, though barely. (Measurements equal around 75 inches long, 55 inches wide, and 42 inches tall.)
When it’s time to pack up and move again, the tent bundles into a volleyball-size package with two lightweight DAC aluminum poles that fold to about 17 inches long. There is a small bag of stakes (which are not mandatory for the freestanding tent). An included compression sack keeps the tent tight for packing.
The tent’s simple, two-pole design helps the foggy-minded racer erect the shelter in a hurry. Built-in, rain-proof vents keep things relatively airy and help dispense condensation. A removable mesh door can lighten the load even further if you can live without it.
The Nano’s body is a single wall of non-breathable, waterproof fabric. A big mesh door and air vents provide some air movement, though don’t expect a drip-free environment if you camp overnight. Condensation can build on the ceiling and walls.
The tent sets up quickly with two crisscrossing poles. These poles are rigged inside the tent and routed through small Velcro loops. It sets up in less than two minutes with practice. Bonus: You can crawl inside the Nano in an alpine crapstorm and set your tent up from within.
On a recent trip to Patagonia, where I was covering a major adventure race for this web site, the Nano Elite was my home for a week of camping. After long days on my feet, it pitched quickly and easily, kept me warm and dry and didn’t factor heavily into my backpack’s weight.
Overall, Nemo has a successful product with the Nano. Though it is not the best backpacking tent, lacking convenience features, it is a great racing tent. It keeps the bad weather out and packs fast and light. It is stripped down and minimal in weight all around — just like an adventure racer should be.