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 tentsite options if you’re in 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 pace 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 in to the ground. This can be 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 have 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 easy 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 side wall 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 side walls, 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 rip stop. I know from experience.

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 mades it possible to open both vestibules doors for maximum ventilation, without having the tent fall down.

Comparable Two Person Ultralight Tents and Shelters

Make / Model Weight Doors/Vestibules Price
NEMO Rocket 2 22 oz 2 $450
NEMO Blaze UL 2 32 oz 2 $480
NEMO Hornet 2P Elite 27 oz 2 $500
Big Agnes Tiger Wall UL 2 35 oz 2 $400
Big Agnes Fly Creek HV Platinum 26 oz 1 $550
MSR Carbon Reflex 2 29 oz 2 $500
Gossamer Gear The Two 29 oz 2 $389
Six Moon Designs Haven DCF + Haven NetTent 28 oz 2 $680
Tarptent Motrail 36 oz 1 $265
Tarptent Stratospire Li (2) 27.7 oz 2 $689
Zpacks Duplex Tent 19 oz 2 $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 that 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.

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Last updated: 2019-01-07 02:31:06

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

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Author: Philip Werner

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