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Nemo Nano Elite Tent Review

The Nemo Nano Elite is marketed by the manufacturer as a lightweight, fast set-up tent aimed at adventure racers and the fast-and-light crowd. Since I can't run with the former, I try to hang with the latter.

Overall Rating: Average

The Nano Elite forgoes a vestibule to achieve a low base weight. The Nano Elite has a speedy set-up and is strong and relatively light weight for its style. However, the lack of a vestibule or other protection for the door in order to utilize it for venting made actual use less pleasant than it was stuffy.

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by Ray Estrella |

Nemo Nano Elite Tent Review - 1
The Nano Elite is a 3.2 pound two-person single-wall three-season tent.


The Nemo Nano Elite is marketed by the manufacturer as a lightweight, fast set-up tent aimed at adventure racers and the fast-and-light crowd. Since I can’t run with the former, I try to hang with the latter…

The 3.2 pound (1.46 kilogram) Elite’s interior two-pole set-up and side entry is reminiscent of the Bibler Ahwahnee and Black Diamond Lighthouse tents, but at a much lighter weight, achieved by using non-breathable 20 denier nylon for the body. The Elite is the lightest weight-to-floor-area shelter Nemo makes, even including bivies. And, if the tent can in fact be used by four people, the shelter clocks in at 13 ounces per person.

I did not put the four-person claim to the test, but I did put the Elite through its paces.

Year/Manufacturer/Model 2009 Nemo Nano Elite 2- to 4-Person Tent
Style Three-season, two- to four-person, single-wall tent with floor.
Fabrics Body: 20 denier silicone and PU coated nylon ripstop (1 flavor each side)
Floor: 30 denier PU coated (5000 mm) nylon ripstop
Poles and Stakes Poles: DAC 9/9.6 mm Featherlite poles, total weight 13.1 oz (371 g)
Stakes: 5x  6.4 in (16.3 cm) aluminum X stakes, total weight 2.2 oz (62 g)
Dimensions Length Listed: 82 in (208 cm)
BPL Measured Length: 82 in (208 cm)
Width Listed: 56 in (142 cm)
BPL Measured Width: 53 in (134.6 cm)
Inside Height Listed: 40 in (102 cm)
BPL Measured Height: 39.5 in (100 cm)
(Note: set-up can make these numbers fluctuate.)
Packed Size 8 x 7 in (20 x 18 cm)
Total Weight Listed Weight: 3 lb 1.6 oz (1.43 kg)
BPL Measured Weight: 3 lb 3.6 oz (1.46 kg)
Trail Weight 2.8 lb (1.27 kg)
Protected Area Floor Area Listed: 32 ft2 (2.97 m2)
Actual Area as Set Up: 30.2 ft2 (4.64 m2)
Protected Area/Trail Weight Ratio 10.8 ft2/lb
MSRP US $389.00
Options Footprint ($39.00, 7 oz/198 g)

The Product

Nemo Nano Elite Tent Review - 2
Parts of the Nano Elite.

The Nano Elite comes packed in two sacks. The two nine-section, shock-corded poles are in their own 0.8-ounce (23-gram) storage sack that ended up as a 17-inch (43.2-centimeter) long package that is 2 inches (5 centimeters) in diameter. The three sections that make up the middle of each pole are 0.6 mm thicker than the sections at either end to provide more strength at the top of the arch formed by the bent poles.

A 2.7-ounce (77-gram) dry-bag style stuff sack holds the tent body, along with the stake bag. Looking inside the 0.5-ounce (14-gram) stake bag, we find the five aluminum stakes, two guylines, two nylon repair patches and a tent-pole repair sleeve. The guylines, nylon patches, and repair sleeve weigh in at 1 ounce (29 grams).

As Nemo makes the claim that the Nano Elite packs down to the size of a climbing helmet, I thought it appropriate to get a photo of it next to one. When compressed aggressively, the tent body just about gets as small as my Black Diamond helmet. The poles will not fit inside the dry-bag, but the two storage sacks may be attached to one another by running the strap of the dry-bag through a wide loop in the middle of the pole sack. I did not do this, as I pack my poles separately.

Nemo Nano Elite Tent Review - 3
As small as a climbing helmet? The Nano Elite stuffed.

The set-up is pretty straightforward and was no mystery to me, as I own a Bibler tent and have used other interior-pole tents in the past. Nemo has thoughtfully printed the set-up instructions on a piece of Tyvek-type material, which is affixed to the open end of the dry-bag.

The ends of the poles sit in a concave metal button at each corner of the tent. Once put in position, the poles stay in place by means of Velcro anchor wraps. A nice touch is the ability to attach them from either side of the tabs, making set-up a little faster.

Nemo Nano Elite Tent Review - 4
The poles sit in a metal button in each corner, and are secured with wrap-around Velcro tabs. Two mesh gear pockets sit against the back wall.

At either end of the back wall can be found a triangular mesh gear pocket that measures 11 inches (28 centimeters) at the bottom with an opening of 5.5 inches (14 centimeters). As the pockets are only attached to the tent at the corners, other larger or bulky gear may be stuffed behind the pocket, keeping it close at hand.

The large single door opens by way of an arched double-slider zipper. The zipper is protected by a 1.5-inch (3.8-centimeter) storm flap. As the zipper runs in an upward curve from one side to the other, it means that the open door must lay on the floor of the tent or the ground outside when fully opened. There is a single door keeper in the center of the opening that allows the loose door to be gathered and kept in place somewhat.

Nemo Nano Elite Tent Review - 5
Views of the Nano Elite. Top left picture shows the door closed. Top right shows the door open with mesh insert closed. Bottom left shows the side profile. Note the angle of door. When open, rain can fall into the tent and onto the occupant closest to the door. The bottom right picture shows two standard size sleeping pads in place.

The door has a removable mesh insert that can be used to ventilate the tent in bug laden areas. It goes over the door on the outside, allowing the door to be adjusted from inside the tent. One thing I found aggravating is the fact that the mesh insert has a zipper pull on the outside only. I must catch the zipper with a fingernail to drag it around the track to open while inside the tent. Grrrrr.

The Nano Elite has a 36-inch (91-centimeter) long vent near the top of the back wall. A 5-inch (12.7-centimeter) long strut pushes the vent open. The strut, which is attached to the outer edge of the vent, has a section of Velcro to keep it in place. When fully extended, the opening provides approximently 90 square inches of mesh-protected ventilation.

Nemo Nano Elite Tent Review - 9
Views of the vent from inside the tent (left), and outside the tent (right).

Nemo Nano Elite Tent Review - 10
The 36-inch long opening provides up to 90 square inches of mesh-protected ventilation.

Field Testing

I used the Nano Elite a total of seven nights, three in Minnesota, three in our local California mountains, and one in Yosemite National Park.

In Minnesota, there were heavy winds coming at 38 miles per hour (61 kilometers per hour) when I pitched the Nano Elite. Setting it up in the high wind was a bit of a chore. I staked one corner to keep it from blowing away and crawled in to set up the poles. The wind was whipping the tent about so much that it was quite difficult to get the pole ends into the metal buttons. Once I had the poles in place, I had to quickly shut the door so as not to become a giant kite. After securing the poles with the Velcro tabs, I went back out to stake it down. I added the two pieces of nylon cord supplied to the guy-outs on the windward side and realized that the tent came with only five stakes. I used a screwdriver as a stake to hold one of the guy-lines. I later put one of my own Ti stakes in with the Nemo stakes in order to be able to fully stake the tent.

Nemo employs catenary curves at the base of the tent to cut out wasted fabric and increase tension in the tent walls, which helps with wind resistance. The tent handled the wind okay, but since the floor can only be staked down at the four corners, I found that the wind came under the floor of the tent at the catenary curves. Though I pulled the corners as tightly as I could, the wind still threw my bag and sleeping pad around when I wasn't actually on top of or inside them.

This windiness also occurred in California. I was measuring the winds at 12 miles per hour with gusts to 20 miles per hour (19 and 32 kilometers per hour). Again, while I was not in the tent, the wind went under the floor, tossing everything around inside.

While the wind helped keep condensation at bay, as I was able to adjust the door opening to ventilate the tent, it also kept waking me up, as the side of the tent would smack me in the head during gusts. Perhaps this would be less of a problem for users under 6 feet tall (I am 6 feet, 3 inches). As such, I used the Elite as a solo shelter, placing my sleeping bag and pad at an angle to get as much length as possible. Even laying at an angle kitty-corner, my bag still hit both sidewalls.

Nemo Nano Elite Tent Review - 11
I found the Nano Elite to be too short for me to keep from hitting the sidewalls, even when placing my sleeping bag at an angle.

As long as there was a little bit of air movement, the Nano Elite did a decent job of keeping condensation under control. But in calm conditions, condensation started building up immediately. On trips during which the bugs were not out yet, I could remove the mesh insert to allow the most ventilation possible and noticed that it did help reduce condensation somewhat, though this wouldn't be a good solution in buggy conditions.

Nemo Nano Elite Tent Review - 12
Waiting for snow at Saxton Camp.

The night in Yosemite saw clear skies and not a breath of wind. The mosquitoes forced me to keep the mesh insert in place. The temperature got down to 38 F (3 C), and I woke to copious condensation. Water was dripping from the poles onto my bag. I used my Packtowl washcloth to wipe the inside walls off before packing up and had to wring it out a couple times in the process.


As I am 6 feet, 3 inches (191 centimeters) tall, I would have enjoyed the Nano Elite more had it been about 8 inches (20 centimeter) longer. While it is wide enough for two people (should they be shorter than I), there is not room for much else in the way of gear storage inside. The door placement on the side means that the person in the back must climb over the front person to enter or exit the tent. Should that be acceptable, the Nano Elite gives two people a quick pitching tent at about a pound and a half each.

It should be noted that the lack of a vestibule means that, for two people, their packs and possibly footwear would have to stay outside, where they will be exposed to the weather. The lack of vestibule also means that the door can’t be opened to ventilate the tent when it is raining, as water will fall straight into the tent. The person in the front gets crawled over and rained on each time their partner needs out. ("What, you have to go again? Hold it!"). These limitations would probably rule out using the Elite in a place like the Pacific Northwest. Plus, as I ran into condensation problems with the door open, I shudder to think what it would have been like with it closed.

I chose to use the Elite as a solo tent, bringing my gear inside with me. Even solo, the Nano Elite’s weight comes in at the low end of most free-standing two-person tents. Indeed, the tent I use most often, a Big Agnes Seedhouse SL2 with carbon fiber poles and Ti stakes, comes in at only a few ounces less than the Nano Elite.

It should be noted that Nemo does make a standard Nano that is longer and wider, with a vestibule to protect the door. These changes (shorter length and width, no vestibule) were made to the Elite simply as a way to cut weight.

There is plenty of head room, even when I was sitting on my Neo Air pad. The steep side-walls give the tent a lot of room to move around in. Two people can sit and play cards in it with no problem. Four people may even be able to sit inside to wait out a rain shower, but I do not think that four hikers could use it to sleep in. I did not try this, as I don't know three other people that will hike with me, and the Swedish Bikini Team was not available.

Nemo Nano Elite Tent Review - 13
The Elite's height and steep walls make for plenty of room and head clearance.

The tent performs well in high wind, though any tent with a rectangular base and only two cross poles is going to present a flat face that can catch wind. I tried to always set it up with a back corner into the (anticipated) breeze, and while the sidewallss did bow in during big gusts, the tent did not flap, nor was it noisy. I was pleasantly surprised that it handled the windy night in Minnesota without a single stake being pulled loose.

In non-inclement weather, I found that the Elite has fair ventilation. As long as there is some air movement, condensation was really not a problem. In as little as 4-mile-per-hour (6 kilometer-per-hour) winds, the tent would have enough air movement to keep it fairly dry. The condensation problems occur when it is calm or inclement, though, from my experience, that is true of any non-breathable single-wall tent. The addition of a low shingled vent at one or both ends of the tent would help ventilation, especially when the door may not be used for this purpose due to weather.

One thing that Nemo may want to look at is the placement of the metal buttons in the corners that the poles go into. It is pretty important that the poles, which have a sharp edge, go into the buttons and not the fabric of the tent. I found that the buttons are slightly to the inside of the corner, which made it difficult to insert the pole, especially if the wind was blowing. Each time I set it up, I would wonder if that was the case with any of my other similar tents. Finally, I dug out my Bibler Fitzroy to see if had the same problem, and found that its metal button was dead centered in the corner. I can slide its poles in and hit the button each time, no guessing or fiddling.

Nemo Nano Elite Tent Review - 14
While the catenary curves at the base are supposed to help with wind resistance, I found that strong winds would blow under the tent at these points.

What’s Good

  • Light weight for a freestanding tent
  • Fast set-up
  • Good stability in high winds
  • Lots of headroom
  • What’s Not So Good

  • Heavy condensation in inclement weather when venting options are limited
  • Pole-in-button placement difficult in windy conditions
  • Not long enough for taller users
  • Mesh lacking inside zipper pull
  • Comparisons

    As far as comparison tents, the Nano Elite's closest competitor is probably the Mandatory Gear Puppy Pile Too. This single-wall, external-pole tent uses carbon fiber poles, silnylon, and a lower height to achieve a weight of only 1 pound 14.1 ounces (0.85 kilogram), over a pound less than the Nano Elite.

    Closer in form and function is the Black Diamond Lighthouse. While weighing 12.5 ounces (354 grams) more than the Nano Elite, it boasts more headroom, breathable Epic fabric, and a third short pole at the top that allows limited protection from rain for the door and back window/vent.

    Tent Floor Area (ft2) Peak Height Ventilation Trail Weight (lb) Cost
    Nemo Nano Elite 32 40” Back vent 2.8 $389.00
    MG Puppy Pile Too 36.7 33” Roof-top vent 1.88 $549.00
    BD Lighthouse 33.1 45” Back window, Epic fabric 3.0 $429.95

    Recommendations For Improvement

    • Add an inside pull for the mesh door zipper
    • Re-position the metal buttons for pole ends
    • Add a low vent on the sides for ventilation during rain or snow
    • Include a sixth stake for full guyline use


    "Nemo Nano Elite Tent Review," by Ray Estrella. (ISSN 1537-0364)., 2009-07-07 00:10:00-06.


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    Nemo Nano Elite Tent Review
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    Addie Bedford
    (addiebedford) - MLife

    Locale: Montana
    Nemo Nano Elite Tent Review on 07/07/2009 14:17:38 MDT Print View

    Companion forum thread to:

    Nemo Nano Elite Tent Review

    Pamela Wyant
    (RiverRunner) - F - M
    Re: Nemo Nano Elite Tent Review on 07/07/2009 18:01:52 MDT Print View

    Nice review Ray.

    It's probably a good thing the Swedish Bikini Team was not available. You might have had a heck of a time explaining that when you got home...

    Lynn Tramper
    (retropump) - F

    Locale: The Antipodes of La Coruna
    Re: Re: Nemo Nano Elite Tent Review on 07/07/2009 18:07:59 MDT Print View

    I wonder in what way Nemo thinks this tent is "better" than the Hypno PQ they released a few years ago? Seems about the same weight, same features, but uses poles instead of airbeams. Personally Ithink the airbeams were pretty cool, and the Hypno had a front entrance so no climbing over your tent mates.

    Robert Bryant
    (KG4FAM) - F

    Locale: Upstate
    Re: Nemo Nano Elite Tent Review on 07/07/2009 21:29:20 MDT Print View

    Reminds me a lot of my old $20 Walmart Ozark Trail Jr. Dome. Nothing wrong with the design, but not warranting of the price they are asking. Seems like a TT Double Rainbow blows this one out of the water.

    Edited by KG4FAM on 07/07/2009 21:34:28 MDT.

    Dave -
    (FamilyGuy) - F

    Locale: Up there
    Nemo Nano Elite on 07/07/2009 22:09:16 MDT Print View

    They have a larger model - the Nano (non-Elite). Still no vestibule but larger and made out of breathable material. How breathable? No idea.

    Craig W.
    (xnomanx) - F - M
    Re: Re: Nemo Nano Elite Tent Review on 07/08/2009 01:17:31 MDT Print View

    "Reminds me a lot of my old $20 Walmart Ozark Trail Jr. Dome..."

    I also had a $20 Ozark Trail called the "Cougar Flat"! It was a kids dome tent. I think it measured about 3'x6'...I could barely fit on the diagonal.
    I made some modifications and used it as a solo tent- it weighed in right under three pounds. Not bad for a freestanding tent ten years ago...not many other tents were coming close...especially for $20!
    I spent many good nights in the Sierra in that little thing.

    Mark McLauchlin
    (markmclauchlin) - MLife

    Locale: Western Australia
    Re: Re: Re: Nemo Nano Elite Tent Review on 07/08/2009 06:56:14 MDT Print View

    Nice review Ray, great to see that you are writing reviews for BPL now. Look forward to seeing some more.


    Robert Bryant
    (KG4FAM) - F

    Locale: Upstate
    Jr. Dome on 07/08/2009 07:57:23 MDT Print View

    The Jr. Dome was a dream come true for me in Boy Scouts. My dad couldn't afford high dollar gear for us so the Jr. Dome was perfect. He could afford it and I got my own private tent that was nicer than the Eureka Timberlines that the troop had. I even carried it on a trip from Springer Mtn to Damascus Va (mostly in shelters, but it did get used).

    Eric Blumensaadt
    (Danepacker) - MLife

    Locale: Mojave Desert
    AAaaarrrggghh! on 07/08/2009 13:00:36 MDT Print View

    Yet another iteration of the wedge tent, a design I once owned when Jansport was the 1st to put it on the market.

    My tent was terrible in side winds when it flopped all over. In rainy or snowy weather it let the water or snow drip in onto the floor as soon as I opened the door.

    So ya gotta ask yerself, "Why would anyone revert back to a failed design?" I dunno and I could care less. This tent has no design elements to recommend itself, NONE.


    Doug Johnson
    (djohnson) - MLife

    Locale: Washington State
    Re: AAaaarrrggghh! on 07/08/2009 13:54:28 MDT Print View

    Failed design? Your tent may have been a failed application of this design but the two pole wedge design is a solid design that has been applied successfully in many, many tents.

    Some outstanding applications of the design include tents by Black Diamond (Bibler), Integral Designs, Rab, Big Sky, Marmot, and yes, Nemo.

    In fact, I survived the worst storm of my life in a wedge tent- the Nemo Tenshi. In winds estimated to be over 70mph, the Nemo tent was a survivor.

    Every design has strengths and weaknesses, but the wedge design is far from a "failed design".

    Lynn Tramper
    (retropump) - F

    Locale: The Antipodes of La Coruna
    Re: Re: Re: Re: Nemo Nano Elite Tent Review on 07/09/2009 13:49:25 MDT Print View

    "Seems like a TT Double Rainbow blows this one out of the water."

    Indeed. At least in the DR, IF you insist on squishing four people into a two person tent, the folks on the outside edges will merely be squished up against dry mesh instead of wet silnylon. Imagine the breath of four adventure racers condensing in a single skin silnylon tent!

    Brad Groves
    (4quietwoods) - MLife

    Locale: Michigan
    Re: Nemo Nano Elite Tent Review on 07/09/2009 13:57:13 MDT Print View

    I don't remember the exact product, but I believe it was aluminum fuel bottles that once came with a warning printed on the paper label: "Warning: Not for use as bowling pin." Given that I get grouchy cramming 2 people into 30 square feet, I can only hope that Nemo's suggestion of 4 people is also tongue-in-cheek. (And yet I sit here with a grimace knowing they're probably serious.)

    Doug Johnson
    (djohnson) - MLife

    Locale: Washington State
    Re: Re: Nemo Nano Elite Tent Review on 07/11/2009 08:25:06 MDT Print View

    4 people in a 2 person tent is common practice in adventure racing- hence the "racing" logo. comfy? no!

    Eric Blumensaadt
    (Danepacker) - MLife

    Locale: Mojave Desert
    Hmmmm... on 07/19/2009 19:12:35 MDT Print View


    My list of complaints against conventional wedge tent designs seem to me to be still valid.

    1.The Nemo WILL permit rain to enter the tent upon opening the door.

    2. 2 crossing poles ALONE are insufficient to withstand strong side winds without bending. Perhaps long side guyline flaps & cords could help a lot in this instance. Didn't see the flaps on the Nemo.

    So why would you or any backpacker or adventure racer want this tent when other, better designs are available?

    Eric The Unconvinced