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NEMO Equipment Rocket 2 Tent Review

NEMO Rocket 2 Tent Review

The NEMO Rocket 2 is a three-season, two-person single-wall tent that can be set up with trekking poles or the pair of interlocking tent poles included with the tent. Weighing only 22 oz (18.2 oz without poles), the Rocket 2 has two asymmetric peaks, two doors, and two vestibules with solid mesh doors and sides to provide good air and prevent internal condensation. Carbon fiber struts in the corners help form a deep bathtub floor that provides ample interior head and foot room so you can stretch out without touching the ceiling. To achieve its light weight, the Rocket 2 is made with thin ripstop nylon and lightweight components that require delicate handling. NEMO more than any other conventional tent manufacturer has thrown down the gauntlet with this tent, demonstrating that it is possible to build a comfortable two-person ultralight tent with conventional fabrics and materials.

Specs at a glance

  • Weight: 22 oz. (21.8 oz actual, tested)
    • Tent: 18.2 oz
    • Poles (2): 3.6 oz (optional)
  • People: 2
  • Doors & Vestibules: 2
  • Type: Non-freestanding, Single Wall
  • Materials:
    • Canopy: 7-denier silicone/polyurethane impregnated ripstop nylon/no-see-um mesh
    • Floor: 10-denier silicone/polyurethane impregnated ripstop nylon
  • Hydrostatic head: 1200 mm
  • Dimensions:
    • Floor: 77 x 40 inches
    • Peak height: 40 inches
  • Seam-taped: Yes
  • Minimum number of stakes to pitch: 6

How to Pitch the Nemo Rocket 2

There are two ways to pitch the Rocket 2: with trekking poles or with the two tent poles included with the tent. I illustrate both, but I’d strongly recommend using trekking poles because they enable a much stronger and more wind-worthy structure. NEMO doesn’t provide any instructions for a trekking pole pitch, which is a curious thing, but it’s easy to do by adding two additional guylines.

The walls of the Rocket are held up by carbon fiber struts
The walls of the Rocket are held up by carbon fiber struts.

Tent Pole Pitch

The best way to set up the Rocket 2 is to peg out the corners of the rectangular floor, before inserting the poles included with the tent. The corners of the tent have carbon fiber struts which hold the walls of the bathtub floor up. They are removable for packing, but they’re also easy to lose, so you might want to just leave them in place when you break down the tent.

Close up of carbon fiber strut and guyline complex
Close up of carbon fiber strut and guyline complex

Each strut has a top and bottom guyline that merge together at a single stake loop. You will need a fair amount of extra clearance to stretch the guyline out before staking it, which will limit your tent site options if you’re in a dense forest. It’s important to position the struts so that they’re as vertical as possible and to orient the guylines at a 45-degree angle from the corners. In order to get a taut pitch, it helps to peg out a corner and its opposite on the diagonal, in order to get squared off walls.

The Rocket’s ridgeline is supported by the horizontal pole
The Rocket’s ridgeline is supported by two poles which connect to form a T

The Rocket 2 comes with two straight tent poles that snap-fit together to form a T. The horizontal top pole of the T supports the ridgeline between the peaks of the two tent vestibules. The vertical pole drops straight down is placed in an opening in the tent floor so that the pole tip comes in contact with the ground below the floor. A cord lock helps hold it in place so it does not shift at night.

The pole drops through a hole in the floor and is held in pace with a cord lock
The pole drops through a hole in the floor and is held in place with a cord lock.

It’s kind of strange to have a hole in the floor of your tent that pooling water can bubble up though, so you’ll want to avoid setting up the tent on dished-out and compacted-earth tent pads which fill up with water when it rains. The end of the pole that touches the ground is cylindrical and slightly rounded but not flared in any way to prevent penetration into the ground. This can be an issue if you need to pitch the tent on softer ground, including sand. As we’ll see, it’s yet another reason why I recommend pitching the Rocket with trekking poles instead.

The side doors have two zippers instead of one
The side doors have two zippers instead of one.

Once you’ve inserted the center pole, you stake out the two vestibule doors, which are responsible for holding the side walls up. The bottom of the vestibules has a pronounced catenary cut to save weight and improve airflow through the tent. The vestibules zip down the middle, allowing you to store gear under one half and roll back the other door for ease of entry and exit. It’s also possible to roll back both doors if you attach a long guyline (not supplied) from the top of the vestibule down to the ground. This also significantly improves the stability of the structure, which has some wobble to it since it’s only supported by the center pole.

Running long guylines from the peak of the vestibule improves shelter stability and make it possible to roll back both sides of the vestibule for maximum airflow.
Running long guylines from the peak of the vestibule improves shelter stability and makes it possible to roll back both sides of the vestibule for maximum airflow.

The sides of the tent under the vestibules are made with bug-proof mesh. Each side door has two zippers, instead of one continuous circular run. In order to open or close the zippers, it’s best to pinch part of the sidewall for support first, as this makes the zippers track better and prevents snagging. The reason this happens is that there’s very little tension on the sidewalls, because the roof is only supported by that one vertical pole.

Interior space is quite good with plenty of clearance between your feet and the tent ceiling
Interior space is quite good with plenty of clearance between your feet and the tent ceiling.

Despite the presence of the center pole, the interior of the tent is quite spacious and there’s lots of clearance between the tent canopy, your face, and the tops of your feet to prevent any internal condensation transfer to your quilt or sleeping bag. Interior ventilation is quite good, even in the pouring rain with the vestibule closed, because the vestibule doors don’t reach all the way to the ground. The side walls are vertical and there’s plenty of interior width and length to fit two occupants side-by-side and store extra gear at the head and foot ends of your mat. The Rocket 2 is also light enough for one person to use, which doubles its value if you want one shelter for use with a part-time partner.

The center vestibule zippers are quite fragile however and snag frequently when opening or closing the doors because the surrounding material is so thin. I completely destroyed one vestibule zipper while testing the tent on such a snag, but there are velcro strips that run beside it, so you still close the vestibule should this happen to you. It is an example however of how fragile the Rocket 2 is.

Birdseye view of angled Rocket 2 center ridgeline
Birdseye view of angled Rocket 2 center ridgeline

The Rocket 2 does not have a symmetric A-frame style architecture, as you might expect. The two vestibule peaks are oriented at an angle from one another, presumably to help improve aerodynamics and create catenary curves (which require less material) to save fabric weight. However, this design makes it difficult to set the Rocket 2 up between two trees, using guylines from the vestibule peaks, because it’s hard to judge the angles in which the guylines should be tied to the trees in order make taut vestibule enclosures. The offset peaks are also very sensitive to pitches made on uneven or unprepared stealth tent sites when the tent is set up with the center pole.

I’ve found it much easier to pitch the Rocket 2 with 2 trekking poles because you can make one side slightly taller than the other to compensate for any uneven terrain that you might need to set up on. Trekking poles also let you fine-tune the height of the tent canopy, which I’ve found tends to be a bit too low when pitched with the center pole alone. This helps fully tension the catenary curves of the tent peaks and improve wind worthiness. The trekking pole setup requires the use of two peak guylines, with the added benefit of being to roll the vestibule doors fully open.

The Rocket 2 is easy to pitch with trekking poles and is more stable with them
The Rocket 2 is easy to pitch with trekking poles and is more stable with them.

When using a trekking pole pitch (instead of the included tent poles) you want to position your trekking pole handles in the vestibule peaks, on the outside of the mesh doors. Be careful not to put the (sharp) tips of your poles anywhere near the tent canopy because they’ll punch right through the thin 7 denier nylon ripstop. I know from experience.

Now why would I do something so stupid, you wonder? It’s simple. I was testing the manufacturer’s marketing claims that this tent can be set up with trekking poles, something they don’t document in their set up instructions and haven’t “instrumented” with the typical peak reinforcements found in such tents. In the process of trying to figure out all possible setup permutations, I did what a typical ultralight backpacking newbie who hasn’t used dozens of such tents before might do. That’s deliberate. The goal of SectionHiker.com gear reviews isn’t to prove that I’m the smartest guy in the teepee, but to test, review, and explain how to use a product in real life, for both beginners and experts. Someone once explained that the best way to determine the structure of a crystal is to break it. So if I’m a bit rough on gear during gear reviews, it’s because I’ve deliberately put on my beginner’s mind thinking cap. As Shunryu Suzuki writes, “No matter how advanced my skills get, I try to experience everything as a beginner. In the beginner’s mind, there are many possibilities, in the expert’s mind there are few.”

While NEMO hasn’t reinforced the vestibule peaks the way other ultralight tent and tarp manufacturers do, there’s enough fabric and stitching redundancy in the peaks to support your pole handles, provided you add two more guylines and anchor the peaks independently from the doors. Doing this also relieves the pressure on the fragile vestibule zippers and makes it possible to open both vestibules doors for maximum ventilation, without having the tent fall down.

Comparable Two Person Ultralight Tents and Shelters

Make / ModelWeightDoors/VestibulesPrice
NEMO Hornet 2P Elite 27 oz2$500
Big Agnes Tiger Wall UL 235 oz2$400
Big Agnes Fly Creek HV Platinum26 oz1$550
MSR Carbon Reflex 229 oz2$549
Gossamer Gear The Two 31.4 oz2$389
Tarptent Motrail36 oz1$265
Tarptent Stratospire Li (2)27.7 oz2$689
NEMO Rocket 222 oz2$450
Zpacks Duplex Tent19 oz2$599

Recommendation

The NEMO Rocket 2 is a two-person, single wall, ultralight backpacking tent weighing 22 oz. It’s spacious and well ventilated, with two doors and two vestibules, so you and a partner can get in and out at night without disturbing each other. It’s also lightweight enough that one person can use it as a spacious solo tent, if they only want to buy one tent but still want to camp with an occasional partner.

While you can set up the Rocket 2 with the included center poles, I’d recommend pitching it with trekking poles instead. This lowers the minimum weight of the Rocket 2 from 22 oz to 18.2 oz, making it the lightest two-person single-wall tent available today, even lighter weight than the Zpacks Duplex Tent (19 oz), which is made with DCF (formerly called cuben fiber). That’s quite an accomplishment since the Rocket 2 is made with conventional tent fabrics, it costs less, and can even be purchased from REI and other outdoor stores.

Ultralight backpacking has gone mainstream with The NEMO Rocket 2 Tent
Ultralight backpacking has gone mainstream with The NEMO Rocket 2 Tent

But is the NEMO Rocket 2’s light weight reason enough to buy it? If you’re going to pay $450 dollars for a tent, I believe you deserve something that’s going to last more than a few trips without ending up in a repair shop or a landfill. I’ve been following NEMO’s use of 7d and 10d lightweight tent fabrics during the past two years from a durability standpoint, with some trepidation. I didn’t go out of my way to harm the Rocket 2 during this evaluation, but I did manage to seriously damage it. That sends up a red flag for me. There comes a point where it’s worth spending more or bucking up and carrying a few more ounces for a product that is going to last. If it were my money, that’s what I’d do. But that’s a decision I leave to you.

Disclosure: NEMO provided the author with a tent for this review.

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23 comments

  1. I like a lot of Nemo’s products, but some of this stuff is rather ridiculous. I’d actually rather carry an extra pound or even two pounds before I’d spend $450 on something so fragile. That’s just me, though. To each his/her own, HYOH, etc.

  2. Interesting about the damage – what did you do and how did it happen? 7d does seem incredibly fragile…

    • I tried setting the tent up with a trekking pole tip in the peak. R-i-p. The zippers got snag and wouldn’t un-snag the way a normal silnylon tent zip would. Pretty simple stuff.

      • Is it designed for tips up? E.g. does it have a grommet? Maybe it was intended to be handles up?

      • It’s not designed for trekking poles at all (really!). Nemo was a little upset that I was going to publish a review that describes how to use them because they really wanted me to focus on the use of the center pole. I told them they’re crazy to think that UL hikers won’t try to use trekking poles to pitch this tent. I wish they HAD made it trekking pole compatible (with peak reinforcements) and that it had a symmetric ridgeline. But what can you do. Maybe version 2.

        No grommet (top or bottom)

      • Hmm…..their website says you can use trekking poles.
        https://www.nemoequipment.com/product/rocket/

      • Dan – I know what they say, but I have direct access to company representatives as well as the product. I have also been using the tent since last October and I can assure you that there is no provision on the tent to facilitate the use of trekking poles such as reinforced peaks or a grommet such as those used on your X-Mid tent or any other similar style tent asymmetric mid such as the Tarptent Stratospire 1, SD High Route, BD Beta Mid, or any other tent that supports the use of trekking poles.

        You can use trekking poles on the Rocket 2 as long as you just jam your handles into the peaks, as I illustrate. But the people at NEMO who I’ve been speaking would have preferred that I focused on the use of the center pole pitch, which I frankly found unusable and undesireable.

      • Did you see their 3oz optional DCF footprint that is being marketed as “bombproof” for “gravel and sharp surfaces”. Some users selling out $149 for that are going to be quite disappointed.

      • I generally ignore footprints. So no.

      • You set it up not as it was intended with the pole tips up and you are knocking NEMO for it. I understand why NEMO would be pissed at you.

        Gossamer Gear and Big Agnes use 7D fabric on their lightest tents, and many people have had successful thru hikes with them.

      • Actually NEMO is not pissed at me. I have an excellent relationship with the company. I think based on my conversations with them that they would have preferred that I praised the center pole pitch, which I couldn’t and wouldn’t do. NEMO markets this tent as being trekking pole compatible (just go to their website and watch the Rocket 2P video if you don’t believe me), but doesn’t make any provision in the design or construction for the use of trekking poles, like reinforced peaks or a grommet for a pole tip. I just explained how to successfully pitch the tent with trekking poles for people who want to know how to do it because I had to figure it out myself by trial and error. There’s nothing stopping you using it with trekking poles, you just need to be extra careful not to damage it.

        Regarding the use of Gossamer Gear’s 10D floors (can’t remember what BA uses), also used in NEMO’s Elite series tent, I have also been critical because I think its unnecessarily low. There are plenty of thru-hikers who’ve also been successful with Tarptents which uses a 30 D silnylon (with a hyrostatic head of 3000). But at least in the case of Gossamer Gear (and Tarptent, of course), those are tents that is designed for the use of trekking poles from the get go. As a gear reviewer, my job is to lay out the pros and cons of different design choices. You’re welcome to disagree with me, but if you want a mouthpiece for vendor’s marketing spiels, this isn’t it.

  3. A cool new spin on an old design; no, not the Duplex, which is just another copy of tents that go back centuries. I still pack my original 3 lb Copper Spur UL1. Bullet proof by today’s standards and needless to say, a luxury room in the wilderness. I can easily loose a lot of tent weight, but nothing has really popped for me. I hate the narrow bivy feel of the single pole tents like the Fly Creek and the R2P is the first tent that has really caught my eye. I was just waiting to see that first review and your’s is it. Some brilliant design notes are overridden by your well considered cautions. I’m going to wait for the next version or copy of the Rocket 2P. I can’t imagine those DCF makers not jumping on this design. Thanks for an excellent review.

    • Tarptent has been using their pitchlock architecture for many years now, so even the vertical sidewalls are nothing new. I can’t imagine why DCF makers would jump at this design. The Zpacks Duplex is so much simpler to manufacture and set up.

  4. 40″ wide? Hope both people are side sleepers.

  5. hydrostatic 1200? that is not a tent for rainy season for sure ..

  6. Philip,

    Given the hydrostatic 1200, then, you wouldn’t recommend this tent for full 3 season, but rather when the user is confident that the weather is going to be good? This tent seems fragile based on your description. The Gossamer Gear one/two any better since they too are made of 7D material? Or about the same? I’m considering between these two 2P tents, and I’m trying to determine if there is a real difference besides the floor space and price. GG is a bit heavier but more roomy, and a bit cheaper.

    • Easy choice. The Gossamer Gear tents are designed to only be pitched with trekking poles and are reinforced for that purpose. I haven’t tried the Two, but the One is a super sweet tent and a much better deal. The 7D fly on the One isn’t a huge issue since it doesn’t touch the ground. However, you still need to be careful with the floor on these lighter tents. If you’re worried about the floor, you can use a piece of window wrap as a footprint. Here’s my One review.
      https://sectionhiker.com/gossamer-gears-the-one-ultralight-tent-review/

      As for a 1200 mm hydrostatic head…it might be ok. Feel lucky?

      • Thanks Philip. Will contact GG and talk to them a bit more about this issue, but I think I’m going to risk it this spring and buy their TWO tent.

  7. Have you seen the new BA Flycreek HV Carbon 2? It is a miracle in the making and design but the price tag of $849 for a 1lb 2-7oz feather in your pack is out of most folks reach. I do however, drool at the thought of skipping up the trail with one in my pack!

  8. For those looking at the 1200 mm hydrostatic head fabric with trepidation, I was given one of these tents and used it in fairly heavy rain a few weeks ago. I can confirm that it is not particularly waterproof. The fabric wet out across the entire surface of the tent and everything on the inside was a bit damp in the morning. Additionally, a sizable puddle formed in one of the corners in the middle of the night and I had to prop up the ceiling to prevent it from re-forming, even after I adjusted the tension of the adjacent corner and added an extra guyline. This was with the T-pole pitch, so it’s possible the puddle could be prevented if one were to use trekking poles.

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