NEMO Hypno AR Tent REVIEW

Slick, two-person inflatable single wall tent.

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by Doug Johnson | 2006-05-23 03:00:00-06

Introduction

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The NEMO Hypno AR uses the AirSupported system consisting of two connected AirBeams that are inflated by one of two available pumps. With the fastest pump, the Hypno AR can be completely set up in less than one minute (even from inside the tent) and comes down even more quickly.

But that's not all that's special about this tent - large side vents and a front vent provide good ventilation, Epic fabric panels increase breathability, and side support rods increase usable space. Built for adventure racing, this tent can fit two hikers reasonably comfortably or four racers in a "puppy pile." However, there are trade-offs with the design, especially in the weight category.

What's Good

  • Very fast set up - less than 1 minute with the foot pump including staking
  • Comes down equally fast - less than 1 minute
  • AirBeams are unbreakable - you can lay on this tent with no damage
  • Large side and front vents offer good high/low ventilation and are accessible through interior zippers
  • AirSupported system is reliable and field maintainable
  • Lightweight at less than 4 pounds

What's Not So Good

  • Set up with lighter Integrated pump (2-3 minutes) is not much faster than conventional poled tents
  • Front air dump valve on our test sample leaked air slowly (but was easily fixed with a little silicone grease)
  • A replacement air bladder weighs 2.6 ounces - necessary if an AirBeam springs a leak
  • Similar tents with carbon fiber poles weigh up to 2 pounds less
  • Short for those over 6 feet tall
  • Expensive at $434 with Integrated pump and $460 with NEMOID foot pump

Specifications

  Year/Model

2005 NEMO Equipment Hypno AR

  Style

Single wall tent with floor

  Fabrics

30d Silicone/PU fabric shell (silnylon), Epic breathable fabric panels with Dimension Polyant reinforcements

  Pole Material

AirSupported Technology support system consisting of dual AirBeams with removable bladders and CPC shut-off quick-disconnect fittings

  Weight Full Package
As supplied by manufacturer with all included items

Measured weights
4 lb 2.7 oz (1.89 kg) with Integrated pump
4 lb 3.8 oz (1.92 kg) with NEMOID foot pump
Manufacturer’s specification
3 lb 8 oz (1.56 kg)

  Weight Manufacturer Minimum
Includes minimum number of items needed to erect tent

Measured weights:
3 lb 14.6 oz (1.75 kg) with Integrated pump
3 lb 15.7 oz (1.80 kg) with NEMOID foot pump

  Weight Backpacking Light Minimum
Same as Manufacturer Minimum but with 0.25 oz (7 g) titanium stakes and 0.004 oz/ft (0.37 g/m) Spectra guylines

Measured weights
3 lb 11.1 oz (1.66 kg) with Integrated pump (3.6 oz, 102 g)
3 lb 12.2 oz (1.71 kg) with NEMOID foot pump (4.7 oz, 133g)

  Area

Floor area: 30 ft2 (2.79 m2)
Vestibule area: n/a

  Floor Area/Backpacking Light Minimum Weight Ratio

0.51 ft2/oz with Integrated pump
0.50 ft2/oz with NEMOID foot pump

  Dimensions

  Measured Claimed
Length 80 in (203 cm) 83 in. (210 cm)
Width 54 in. (137 cm) 54 in. (137 cm)
Height 35 in. (89 cm) 29 in. (137 cm)

  MSRP

$395 for tent - requires additional pump purchase:
$39 Integrated pump
$65 NEMOID foot pump

Total cost: $434 or $460

Performance

The NEMO Hypno AR is a unique tent utilizing NEMO's own AirSupported system which sets up faster than any tent I've ever used. To set up, you simply stake out the corners, attach the pump to the tent inflation valve with a CPC quick-disconnect fitting, pump to inflate (the AirBeams are connected and inflate simultaneously), and you're done. The whole process takes between 1 and 3 minutes, depending on which pump you use.

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To set up the Hypno AR simply: 1) stake out the corners, 2) attach the pump (NEMOID foot pump shown), and 3) inflate. Using the foot pump this can be done is less than 60 seconds!

The system uses dual AirBeams (inflated tubes) in place of traditional aluminum or carbon fiber poles. These air beams consist of an outer tube made of strong and abrasion-resistant Dimension-Polyant fabric and a replaceable internal bladder.

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One AirBeam is outside of the tent body while the other bisects it and can be seen inside the tent.

One AirBeam is outside of the tent and the other bisects the tent body. The two AirBeams are connected at the front of the tent with a long tube that connects both tubes to the valve interface. This interface, at the bottom right hand corner of the front of the tent, consists of the inflation valve with CPC connector and the deflation dump screw-on cap for easy deflation. At the base of each AirBeam is a CPC quick-disconnect for easy bladder changes.

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The valve interface of the NEMO Hypno AR tent.

The NEMO Hypno AR requires one of two pump options:

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The $65 NEMOID foot pump weights 4.7 ounces, is constructed of welded abrasion-resistant fabric and lightweight foam, and has a one-way Dump-Check valve. It is just over 6 inches in diameter, has a 10.5 inch hose with CPC quick-disconnect one-way valve, and inflates from 1 inch (fully compressed for travel) to 3 inches high. To use it you connect the quick-disconnect to the tent's main valve, remove the cover from the Dump-Check valve, and inflate by pressing on the pump with a foot, knee, or hand. By closing the cap and pressing the air out, the pump remains compressed for travel. I was able to complete the entire process of staking out and inflating the tent in less than one minute with the NEMOID pump - the fastest set up of any tent I've ever used.

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The $39 Integrated pump weighs 3.9 ounces and consists of a 25 inch hose with mouthpiece and one-way valve, an air bladder with an alternate inflation valve, and a10.5 inch hose with CPC quick-disconnect one-way valve. The Integrated pump is slightly more complicated to use, requiring you to blow through the mouthpiece (or alternate inflation valve) into a small air bladder, squeeze the air out through the one-way valve into the tent's AirBeams, and repeat the process. While this was an easy process to master, it was more strenuous, requiring serious blowing, and took 2-3 minutes for basic tent set up.

Of the two pumps, I prefer the NEMOID foot pump. Despite the 1.1 ounce weight difference and slightly larger size, the ease of use and faster set up made this pump my favorite in all situations.

Once set up with a basic pitch, side guyouts add significant usable interior space and an additional four corner guyouts add stability in windy conditions. There is one interior pocket as well as a pump pocket that fits the Integrated pump and is accessible from both inside and outside the tent. The pump pocket with external zipper makes it possible to store the Integrated pump in the pocket and get to it without opening the door during normal set up. The pump pocket also allows the user to inflate the Hypno AR completely from inside the tent - just enter the deflated tent, close the door, open both the inner and outer zippers of the pump pocket, connect either pump with the quick-disconnect, and inflate. Voila! Tent set up while completely dry inside the tent with the door completely closed!

The NEMO Hypno AR is constructed primarily of silnylon with a 4.3 square foot panel of breathable/water resistant Epic fabric on each side. The tent comes with a tube of Silnet for sealing the silnylon seams and Granger's waterproofing spray for the Epic panels. While the spray increased the waterproofing of the Epic fabric, it also seemed to decrease its breathability somewhat. The floor is PU coated 70 denier nylon.

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The side vents seal with Velcro, are accessible from inside with side zippers, and can be staked out or rolled completely open.

There are two triangular side vents on the tent that close with Velcro and can be staked out for weather protection or rolled completely open and secured with Velcro tabs in clear weather. Each vent also has a 9.5-inch zipper which makes it possible to open and close the vents from inside the tent.

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The door overlaps in the front for protected wet entrances and a rod extends the gap to create an effective front vent. A full mosquito netting door rolls up and is held neatly out of the way with Velcro tabs.

The front door has a zipper that overlaps the interior zipper, creating a door that is stormproof when unzipped at the bottom. A supporting rod Velcros into place, creating a large front vent. This entryway/vent combination is an excellent idea, providing good floor-level ventilation with minimal extra materials. However, when not in use, the supporting rod had nowhere to go, flopping around and getting in the way of the zipper. A second Velcro tab would provide an easy way to get the rod out of the way.

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While the support rod is very effective supporting the front door vent, it had nowhere to go when not in use, flapping around and getting in the way of the zipper. A second Velcro attachment point would fix this small problem.

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Aluminum Y stakes are included with the NEMO Hypno AR.

The Hypno AR comes with five aluminum Y stakes which are stiff but hard to place and even more hard on the hands. At 0.5 ounce each, they are twice the weight of the 0.25 ounce titanium skewers that are the Backpacking Light staff favorites.

Included guylines are nylon with woven reflective threads. Guylines for the side guyouts are doubled for half of their length and include plastic clips for easy separation of the main guyouts from the vent guyouts. This makes it very easy to open the vents during a downpour: open the vent zipper, separate the Velcro securing the vent, disconnect the plastic clip from the main guyline attachment, and readjust tension (if necessary) via the plastic slider.

Also included in the kit are a silnylon stake bag, a PU-coated and seam-taped dry sack tent bag, two replacement bladders, waterproofing package including Seamgrip, Silnet, and Granger's spray, and an illustrated manual.

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With 30 square feet of space and no vestibule, the Hypno AR is snug but usable for two medium-sized hikers (or four adventure racing sardines).

The minimum trail weight of the NEMO Hypno AR is about 3.75 pounds and it has 30 square feet of space. The area to weight ratio is 0.51 ft2/oz with the Integrated pump and 0.50 with the NEMOID foot pump. This puts the Hypno AR on par with some lightweight freestanding single wall tents that we've reviewed but other models offer much more floor space for the weight. Examples include the all-Epic Black Diamond Firstlight (0.63 ft2/oz) and the adventure-racing angled Mandatory Gear Puppy Pile (1.26 ft2/oz). In fact, the Puppy Pile gives 3.8 more square feet of floor space than the Hypno AR and a weight savings of over 2 pounds.

While it's important to note that the NEMO Hypno AR offers superior ventilation options, faster set up, and better usable space than the Mandatory Gear Puppy Pile, the AirSupported technology obviously comes at a significant increase in weight. While it's still lightweight, especially when shared among four adventure racers, there are certainly lighter options.

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Side guyouts combined with stiff supporting rods create vertical sidewalls that increase usable interior space dramatically.

While 30 square feet of floor space is pretty average for a two-person tent, the unique side-guyout design and rectangular layout maximizes usable space. The side support rods create vertical sidewalls that make the floor plan very livable; this is an elegant and lightweight solution that made a big difference in usable space. However, a short 80 inch length with steeply sloping ends makes for a tight fit for those over 6 feet tall. At 6 foot 2 inches tall, my feet pressed on the end when stretched out.

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An 80-inch length and sloping end walls make for a cramped space for those over 6 feet tall.

Even when fully inflated, the AirBeams can easily be collapsed by hand. This led me to think that the Hypno AR wouldn't do well in winds, but I was wrong. When guyed out on the side, the NEMO tent pitched very taut and stood up quite well to moderate winds. With the sloping front and back, relatively low ceiling, and strong side support, it took quite a gust to cause the Hypno AR to deflect. In winds up to 40 miles per hour, the AirSupported tent deflected no more than comparable single wall tents with carbon fiber or lightweight aluminum poles. The four corner guyouts were a little too low to make a big difference in wind stability but did anchor the tent well.

Although moderate winds didn't affect the NEMO Hypno AR more than other tents, snow load had a dramatically different effect. Using the side guyouts with side vents open created a roofline that was a little too flat to shed wet snow and about 2 inches caused the roof to flatten even more. Shoveling about 4 inches of snow onto the roof caused it to completely collapse. On a positive note, collapsing the tent (or even jumping on top of it) results in absolutely no damage. By removing the snow (or the body), the Hypno AR popped right back up to its original shape with no harm done. Try doing THAT with a traditional poled tent!

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Unlike traditional poled tents, fully collapsing the NEMO Hypno AR results in no damage - it just pops back up!

While the Hypno AR was not designed as a four-season tent, it could hold its own in light snow and dealt very well with rain downpours. The side vent covers and overlapping front vent provide sufficient coverage to keep them open in wet conditions. While the tent is not huge inside, it wasn't horrible to sit out a storm with two people inside. Without a vestibule, though, you have to leave gear outside or live with it inside.

When it's raining, opening the door brings the weather straight into the tent. By using the overlapping base of the door and sliding inside underneath the door, it is possible to make a dry entry. Good thinking. The door uses a waterproof zipper and waterproofing supplies are included to seal all the seams.

The large mid-height vents on the sides and low vent at the front door create a chimney effect that provides excellent ventilation. This is further improved by the large Epic fabric panels. Epic is a highly water resistant and breathable fabric that has been used successfully in Black Diamond tents. However, I'd never seen Epic and silnylon walls used in combination like this before and it gave a good opportunity to compare the condensation resistance of the two fabrics. I tested this by setting up a stove inside the tent and boiling water for several minutes (with me outside the tent). The Epic panels were definitely drier at the end. However, they didn't seem breathable enough to effectively reduce condensation on any of the silnylon panels. The walls seemed to condense just as quickly as an all-silnylon tent would have, leading me to question the design: while these panels create less dripping on the sides of the tent, they have little effect in reducing condensation at the head and feet. One positive aspect might be the greater ability to pass stove exhaust when people cook inside the tent, although I was unable to test this theory.

When conditions were humid and the temperature dropped below freezing, both the Epic and silnylon panels condensed and froze, causing the standard "snowing inside the tent effect." In these conditions, the Epic panels seemed to be no different than the silnylon ones, possibly because the water molecules froze more quickly than they could pass through the fabric.

With its large mesh vents and full mesh front door, the NEMO Hypno AR offers complete protection from bugs, although it is not the most comfortable space to hide out in. The large mesh front door offers good views when conditions are dry and buggy. The front door rolls away completely and is secured by small Velcro straps.

The NEMO Hypno AR is well constructed and had no durability issues during field testing. The AirBeams and vent frames use Dimension Polyant fabrics which have proven extremely durable. All guyouts are reinforced. The main question of durability comes in the AirSupported technology. Despite having the tent pitched over 20 nights in a variety of conditions, inflating and deflating constantly, and laying on the tent many times, no part of the AirSupported system had any issues of durability. Once, the main dump valve had a slow leak but this was easily fixed by putting a small amount of silicone grease around the cap (Vaseline worked just as well).

In the off chance that an AirBeam should leak, four access points on each beam make it easy to get to the beam for repair or replacement. Replacing a beam is very simple: 1) disconnect the AirBeam using the quick disconnect, 2) open an end access point, 3) tie the new AirBeam to the old one, 4) pull it through, being careful not to twist it, 5) connect the new AirBeam and inflate. The whole process took me less than 5 minutes my first time. However, a replacement AirBeam weighs 2.6 ounces, meaning that there's a good chance it will be left at home. Even with one AirBeam totally deflated, though, the tent still remained upright and will get you through the night.

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The AirSupported system proved very reliable in the field. In the off chance that an AirBeam needs to be replaced, the whole process takes less than 5 minutes (left photo shows a damaged AirBeam bladder tied to a replacement in preparation for an exchange). Even with one AirBeam completely deflated, the tent will still remain standing (right).

What's Unique

At $434 or $460 with the Integrated or NEMOID foot pump, respectively, the NEMO Hypno AR is not cheap. For this price, it is also just barely breaks the 4 pound mark, something done by the Black Diamond Lighthouse, the MontBell Hex, and the GoLite Den for much less money. While the Mandatory Gear Puppy Pile tents are more expensive, they are also up to two pounds lighter. However, none of these other tents pitch as quickly as the Hypno AR, nor can they survive someone falling on top of them. The NEMO also offers excellent durability and a ventilation system that exceeds these other tents. For the backpacking or adventure racing team that doesn't mind trading an extra pound or two for these features, the NEMO Hypno AR is a unique and well thought-out design.

Recommendations for Improvement

The NEMO Hypno AR is a well designed tent that offers some unique features. However, I would offer these suggestions to improve the design:

  1. Select one shell fabric and stick with it - either all silnylon for decreased weight and stormproofness or all-Epic for breathability. The Epic panels only help to keep the Epic sections of the tent condensation-free.
  2. Use a gasket or something similar on the main air dump valve - hearing a slow leak in the field is disconcerting, even if it is easily fixed.
  3. Reduce the overall weight of the tent to below 3 pounds to be more competitive with poled tents. This may come with further design improvements or material changes. (Note: see the upcoming NEMO Hypno PQ for steps in this direction.)
  4. Provide an additional Velcro attachment point for the door vent support to move it out of the way when not in use.
  5. Increase the length of the tent to a full 84 inches to accommodate taller hikers.

Citation

"NEMO Hypno AR Tent REVIEW," by Doug Johnson. BackpackingLight.com (ISSN 1537-0364).
http://backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/nemo_hypno_ar_tent_review.html, 2006-05-23 03:00:00-06.

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