Freestanding Double Wall Tents - A Cursory Review of 1P/2P Offerings from Mountain Hardwear, The North Face, and Nemo

Ultralight tents are becoming more lightweight and durable. This is good news for ultralighters.

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by Sean McDevitt | 2014-04-15 00:00:00-06

Introduction

A few months ago I contacted Backpacking Light about doing a tent review. I wanted to see how tents have evolved since I stopped designing them in 2010. I was delighted that they said yes! I should tell you a bit about myself: I am a seasoned outdoor industry designer; I worked at Mountain Hardwear from 2000-2010, TRX Head designer, 2011-2012, Header Designer at Trinity Design Collaborative, 2012-2103. I have also been a pro level 24 Solo Mountain Bike racer and Ultra Marathoner for years. My ethos is to try and work hard, get past the marketing gimmicks and hype - get to the science of the product being an improvement or not. I have been fortunate to learn from some super smart people over the years. I have been afforded the opportunity to design fabrics, injection molded parts, tents, sleeping bags, suspension trainers and a lot more. Currently, I specialize in helping start ups refine their designs and bring their product to market.

The purpose of this article is to test and review tents in both the one-person and the two-person variety. For the past few weeks I have been testing the following tents:

  • Mountain Hardwear Mega UL 1
  • Mountain Hardwear Mega UL 2
  • The North Face Mica FL 1
  • The North Face Mica FL 2
  • Nemo Equipment Obi 2P

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Left to right: Nemo Equipment Obi 2, North Face Mica FL 2, North Face Mica FL 1, Mountain Hardwear Mega UL 2, and Mountain Hardwear Mega UL 1.

The tents were tested over several weeks in the mountains of southern California during several storms that varied from heavy gusting rains to heavy wet snow. The tents were also tested in the desert environment of Red Rocks Nevada. The following is my review of the tents after using each of them over the course of several nights.

Mountain Hardwear Mega UL 1

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Mountain Hardwear Mega UL 1 in snowy conditions.

A one-person superlight freestanding tent made with DAC NSL poles and some really light fabrics; 30 Denier floor and 10 Denier fly. Both of those fabric choices are really light and are pushing the limits of durability and functionality. 1 lb 13 oz, $350.

Poles

Positive: Super light DAC NSL poles with custom 7000 series aluminum with larger diameter joints with an injection molded hub the tent bodies can clip directly to. The poles are nice, strong and light and are an ease to setup and take down. Negative: Nothing negative here, the poles just seem great in everyway.

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Pole system.

Fly

Positive: The flysheet is made with a Denier Nylon rip-stop, fully taped seams. Nice details include: super cool nearly shear 10 Denier rip-stop fly, bias bound finished zipper flap. Negative: No window.

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DAC swivel hub system.

Body

Positive: 3O Denier nylon rip-stop floor with reinforced bathtub construction that felt and tested much more durable then what I expected. Negative: The ripstop floor goes against what Mountain Hardwear has said for years: Taffetta floors wear better than rip-stop floors because of the smoother surface and thus more consistent coating thickness and durability.

Small Parts

Positive: The mostly custom small parts it comes with are functional and light. Tent clips, molded grommet tabs are superlight but not too small and work well. The DAC hub clip also works well as well as the tent pole ball end interface clip. Negative: The fly clips to the molded grommet tab via a small molded rod. It was difficult to shove the rod through the grommet tab hole. It’s like they don’t really go together. The guy-lines and fly adjustment is done with 2 mm cord that is pushing the envelope are durability, at least to abrasion. Had one guy-line snap during the night from rubbing on a rock.

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Looks like the tent may need one more clip.

Overall Rating: 5

The Mountain Hardwear Mega UL 1 is a great tent, it’s big enough, functional, waterproof and has some sharply designed small parts. It is not luxurious in size but excels as a freestanding superlight-backpacking tent.

Mountain Hardwear Mega UL2

A two-person superlight freestanding tent made with DAC NSL poles and some really light fabrics; 30 Denier floor and 10 Denier fly. Both of those fabric choices are really light and are pushing the limits of durability and functionality. 2 lbs 2 oz. $450.

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Mountain Hardwear Mega UL 2.

Poles

Positive: Super light DAC NSL poles with custom 7000 series aluminum with larger diameter joints with an injection molded hub the tent bodies can clip directly to. The poles are nice, strong and light and are an ease to setup and take down. Negative: Nothing negative here, the poles just seem great in everyway.

Fly

Positive: The flysheet is made with a Denier Nylon rip-stop, fully taped seams. Nice details include: super cool nearly shear 10 Denier rip-stop fly, bias bound finished zipper flap. Negative: No window.

Body

Positive: 3O Denier nylon rip-stop floor with reinforced bathtub construction that felt and tested much more durable then what I expected. Construction was identical to the 1-person. Negative: The rip-stop floor goes against what Mountain Hardwear has said for years: Taffeta floors wear better than rip-stop floors because they are a smoother surface and thus have a more consistent coating thickness and durability. I have never seen abrasion test results that back that theory though.

Small Parts

Positive: The mostly custom small parts it comes with are functional and light. Tent clips, molded grommet tabs are superlight but not too small and work well. The DAC hub clip also works well as well as the tent pole ball end interface clip. Negative: The fly clips to the molded grommet tab via a small molded rod. It was difficult to shove the rod through the grommet tab hole. It’s like don’t really go together. The guy-lines and fly adjustment is done with 2 mm cord that is pushing the envelope for durability, at least to abrasion. Had one guy-line snap during the night from rubbing on a rock.

Overall Rating: 5

The Mountain Hardwear Mega UL 2 is a great tent, it is tight for 2 adults but not badly so. It is functional, waterproof and has some sharply designed small parts. It is not luxurious in size but excels as a freestanding superlight-backpacking tent.

The North Face Mica FL 1

A one-person superlight semi-freestanding tent made with DAC NSL 8.5 mm poles and coated nylon rip-stop. 2 lbs 12 oz, $319.

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North Face Mica FL 1.

Poles

Positive: Super light DAC 8.5 mm NSL poles with custom 7000 series aluminum with larger diameter joints with one aluminum hub and one DAC “Swivel” polycarbonate hub. Negative: The semi freestanding nature of the foot end of the tent makes set up, especially in high wind a little challenging.

Fly

Positive: The flysheet is a “lightweight coated rip-stop". They don’t advertise it’s denier, but it think it is a 40 D nylon 6 rip-stop with a slight silicone finish, 1200 mm. Floor appears to be a 70 D nylon 6 taffeta 3000 mm.

Body

Positive: 70D bathtub floor. Negative: 70D floor is a bit heavy for a superlight tent.

Small Parts

Positive: The usual trusted DAC parts, polycarbonate “twist clips” and “ball caps” for the strut pole which has a polycarbonate “swivel” hub. Negative: There are stronger material options than polycarbonate available such as nylon or acetyl.

Overall Rating: 4

The North Face Mica FL 1 is a great tent at a good price. Not a drop leaked into the tent over several days of storming. It was however a little unstable in the high wind. Probably because of overall size and interior volume. The weight comes in at 2 lbs 5 oz, which is great considering the durability of the fabrics. That is what good design is!

The North Face Mica FL 2

A two-person superlight semi-freestanding tent made with DAC NSL 8.5 mm poles and coated nylon rip-stop. 3 lbs 2oz, $379.

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North Face Mica FL 2.

Poles

Positive: Super light DAC 8.5mm NSL poles with custom 7000 series aluminum with larger diameter joints with one aluminum hub and one DAC “Swivel” polycarbonate hub. Negative: The semi freestanding nature of the foot end of the tent makes set up, especially in high wind a bit challenging.

Fly

Positive: The flysheet is a “lightweight coated ripstop. They don’t advertise it’s denier, but it think it is a 40 D nylon 6 ripstop with a slight silicone finish, 1200 mm. Floor appears to be a 70 D nylon 6 taffeta 3000 mm.

Body

Positive: 70D bathtub floor. Negative: 70D floor is a bit heavy for a superlight tent.

Small Parts

Positive: The usual trusted DAC parts, polycarbonate “twist clips” and “ball caps” for the strut pole which has a polycarbonate “swivel” hub.

Overall Rating:

The North Face Mica FL2 is a great little tent but the semi freestanding nature of it makes it a bit unstable in high winds, especially during setup. It is however roomy for this category.

Nemo Equipment Obi 1

A one-person freestanding tent with light weight fabrics and DAC NSL poles. 2 door, 2 vestibules. 1 lbs 15 oz, $319.95.

Poles

Positive: The 8.5 mm DAC NSL poles come with an aluminum hub but with no strut pole.

Fly

Positive: The 20 D nylon rip-stop fly feels substantial, Nemo doesn’t list the mm rating but it feels like 2000 mm.

Body

Positive: 30D nylon rip-stop bathtub floor. Nemo doesn’t list the mm rating for the floor but I suspect it is 3000 mm. Negative: Heavier coating on light weight floor can reduce the tear strength… The overall tent size is great, just a bit of wasted interior space due to the lack of a strut pole.

Small Parts

Positive: Brand name small parts from DAC. Negative: As with most manufacturers, they get their small parts; clips, fly attachment pieces and such from DAC, their pole supplier. I am general impressed with Jake’s work, but I found Jake’s Foot fly attachment system to be clumsy, you can’t clip in from multiple angles. I just think the concept of molded corner pieces of the tent is good; I just don’t the execution and ergonomics of the Jake’s foot. Also I don’t understand why the DAC “twist clips” are semi twisted looking and have a little fin on the interior.

Overall Rating: 3

Nemo Obi 1P is a good little tent, light weight, functional, nothing terrible but nothing either that really shines in a market place crowded with other choices. I did somewhat like the fact that the tent and fly are packaged separate from than the pole sack in a way that allows you to easily split the weight. $319.95, 2 lbs 8 oz are competitive specs for a 1 person freestanding tent. It was rock solid and dry through several storms. The biggest drawback was the short 84 inch length.

Nemo Equipment Obi 2

A two person simple free-standing tent with light weight fabrics and DAC NSL poles. 2 door, 2 vestibules. 2 lbs 4 oz, $369.

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Nemo Equipment Obi 2.

Poles

Positive: The 8.5 mm DAC NSL poles come with an aluminum hub but with no strut pole.

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Large gap between the tent and poles.

Fly

Positive: The 20 D nylon rip-stop fly feels substantial, Nemo doesn’t list the mm rating but it feels like 2,000 mm.

Body

Positive: 30D nylon rip-stop bathtub floor. Nemo doesn't list the mm rating for the floor but I suspect it is 3,000 mm. Negative: Heavier coating on light-weight floor can reduce the tear strength… The overall tent size is great, just a bit of wasted interior space due to the lack of a strut pole.

Small Parts

Positive: Brand name small parts from DAC. Negative: As with most manufacturers, they get their small parts; clips, fly attachment pieces and such from DAC, their pole supplier. I am general impressed with Jake’s work, but I found Jake’s Foot fly attachment system to be clumsy, you can’t clip in from multiple angles. I just think the concept of molded corner pieces of the tent is good; I just don’t like the execution and ergonomics of the Jake’s foot. Also I don’t understand why the DAC “twist clips” are semi twisted looking and have a little fin on the interior. It seems like a waste of material.

Overall Rating: 3

Nemo Obi 2P is a great tent, light weight, functional, nothing terrible but nothing either that really shines in a market place crowded with other choices. I did somewhat like the fact that the tent and fly are packaged separate than the pole sack in a way that allows you to easily split the weight. $369.95, 3 lbs even, are competitive specs for a 2 person 2 door freestanding tent. It was rock solid and dry through several storms. Just like the Obi 1P, the Obi 2p is just too short at 84 in.

Summary

All the tents did great through several storms that varied from rain, to sleet, to snow. There was not a bad tent in the bunch. I felt as though the Mountain Hardwear Super Mega UL series got a rating of 5 because it brought the most new technology with some really nice fabrics and proprietary parts. The North Face Mica series was next best with the best design for solving the balance of price, weight and durability. They felt super spacious. The Nemo Obi series was probably the strongest of all of them but was also the shortest. Which tent would I want? Probably the Mountain Hardwear super mega but I am a bit of nerd.


Citation

"Freestanding Double Wall Tents - A Cursory Review of 1P/2P Offerings from Mountain Hardwear, The North Face, and Nemo," by Sean McDevitt. BackpackingLight.com (ISSN 1537-0364).
http://backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/ultralight-tent-review-mcdevitt.html, 2014-04-15 00:00:00-06.

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