Tuesday, April 30, 2013

BLOG 44. NEMO OBI-2P Tent Review

by Cliff Jacobson

NEMO makes a number of well-designed, ultralight tents which are well-suited to canoe camping. I’ve been using one of them (an OBI-2P) for more than a year.  It earns high marks. The OBI tents are distinguished by the number of occupants they hold. 1P=1 person, 2P=2 person, etc.  The tents are identical except for size. The following is a review of the 2P model which I have been using as a solo tent:
NEMO OBI -2P pitched under twin tarps in the BWCA 
The OBI-2P  (two person tent) weighs well under four pounds with stakes, poles and lines. Stuffed, it is not much larger than a football. At 42 inches wide (at the head end) it is luxurious for one and suitable for two, if you’re a hobbit and madly in love. The tent is very stormproof and secure in wind. It goes up fast—about four minutes alone—and unlike some of its competitors, you don’t need an engineering degree to remember how to pitch it. Here are my observations:

1. It sets up fast (about four minutes!), even in wind.
2. The fly covers every seam and zipper and stakes nearly to the ground so that blowing rain can't get in. This feature alone puts this tent well ahead of the pack.
3. Every tent should have a vestibule for gear storage. This tent has two!
4. Two doors (for ventilation and security in the event a zipper fails on one entry) are essential. The OB  squarely hits the mark here.  Each of the two opposing doors are covered by the fly which extends to form the vestibules. Peel back the vestibules for cross-flow ventilation. The slightest breeze wafts through the tent. Impressive!
5. The fly is ultralight silicone-treated nylon, the canopy is fine-mesh no-see-um net, colored black for high visibility. In 1917, Horace Kephart wrote in his book, “Camping and Woodcraft”, that any color other than black will reflect light into your eyes and distort your vision. Congratulations to NEMO--they are one of the few companies on the planet who gets it right!
6.  You need loops for storm lines on the hem and face of the tent so that the tent can be secured in a heavy blow. Most tent makers don’t add enough storm-loops, wrongly believing that campers will think they must stake all the loops for a proper pitch. Thank you, NEMO, for crediting campers with some intelligence!
In calm weather you can set up the tent with just two stakes (one at each vestibule apex). There are 12 stake points in all—enough to anchor the tent in a storm.  A short bar that flips out and Velcro’s near the peak of each vestibule allows protected ventilation in rain. The anodized arrow-shaft aluminum poles are shock-corded together as a single unit—nothing can be misplaced. The pole mass (which resembles a TV antenna) snaps together in seconds. The unique “Jake’s foot” fittings at the tent corners are fast and secure.  I generally dislike no-see-um netting because its tightly woven mesh stifles air flow.  But NEMO did it right on this tent by choosing no-see-um net over more breathable mosquito mesh. Why? Because you can easily bug-proof a no-see-um net door with repellents or Permetherin. But not with a tent whose canopy is all netting. At any rate, ventilation is never a problem. Again, kudus on the black color which allows a near window-clear view of your surroundings. The tent is free-standing and can be pitched without the fly.  Or, you can disconnect the “Jake’s feet” and pitch the fly without the tent. 

There are some clever touches: the diffused “light pocket” in the peak (which holds your headlamp) is one, as are the twin zippers on each vestibule which provide ventilation and star-gazing options. Oh, did I mention the star chart that is sewn to the tent bag? Each vestibule has a “canopy extender cord” that clips to the mesh canopy and pulls it out to provide more interior space. This is fine in good weather but it can be problematic in rain (see #4 below). There is no fat on this tent—everything has been engineered for function!

More kudus:
1) The tent bag is large enough! The folded or stuffed tent easily fits inside the bag even when the tent is wet and muddy.
2) The poles pack separately in a special bag that slides into a sleeve on the outside of the tent bag.  A snap fastener keeps poles and tent together.  Clever.


1.    The pole bag is too narrow.  The poles fit but you have to work at it. Nylon shrinks about five percent over time--the tight fit will get tighter.
2.    If it rains, you won’t want to pack the wet fly and dry tent in the same bag. A partitioned bag or two stuff sacks are the way to go.
3.    NEMO supplies high quality “you pound ‘em” four-corner, aluminum stakes. These stakes are 6 inches long—too short for all but hard, rock-free ground. Eight or ten-inch aluminum pins that can be set by hand are better for all-round use but these are too long to fit in the stake bag. The pole bag should accommodate longer stakes.
4.    A plastic hook with locking tongue secures the canopy extenders (nylon ribbons) to a small nylon loop on the tent canopy. Snapping and unsnapping these hooks is a hassle, more so if it’s dark. A rigid D-ring here would make things easier.
5.    Rain water may wick down the canopy extender ribbons and fall into the sleeping compartment. Solution? Waterproof (seam tape) the extender stitching on the fly or disconnect the extender when it rains.
6.    There are storm-loops on the fly—two on the front cross pole and one on the rear ridge pole. The back pole secures to the fly with a Velcro tab which transfers wind-stress to the pole when the storm-loop is guyed out. The front poles don’t have Velcro tabs. They need them too!   
7.    The Fastex clips on the tent bag add weight and bulk and slow down packing the tent.  A simple drawstring bag would be better. The stuff sack is black and hard to see on the ground.  
8.    A serious side wind may distort the windward vestibule enough to expose gear or possibly contact the tent canopy. Storm-loops sewn to the vestibule hems (between the apex stakes and corners) and fly face would stiffen the structure and increase storage space.  Extra storm-loops are a welcome ounce on any tent. When guyed out they can spell the difference between a taut tent that defies the storm and a deformed one that doesn’t!

Nit-picks aside, the OBI-2P is a terrific tent. It’s very light, very compact and it has plenty roomy for one person. In nice weather you can unzip the fly vestibules and fold them around the front poles. Then, you can lay back and gaze through the netting at the stars or enjoy the cool air that flows crossways through the tent. At the first raindrop, just unzip the doors, grab the two fly sections that form the vestibules and zip them shut. The tent is wind-stable and dry and unlike some other super-light tents, it is not claustrophobic. Its’ 40 inch height (at the head) allows one to sit up comfortably. Materials and construction are first rate. Overall, this tent earns an A.

Capacity: 2 (if you’re hobbit and in love!)
Actual packed weight (with pole, stakes, bag)…..3 lbs 10 ounces*
Sleeping compartment measurement: 42” x 84”
Maximum interior height: 40”
Floor Area: 27 sq. ft.
Vestibule Area: 18 sq. feet
Included accessories: Dry bag style stuff sac, light pocket, stakes, repair kit.
*You can cut a few ounces if you replace the “dry bag” stuff sack and pole bag with ultra-light silicone nylon stuff sacks.

You can purchase this tent and other NEMO tents at Piragis Northwoods Company and the Boundary Waters Catalog http://www.boundarywaterscatalog.com/browse.cfm/4,10104.html

Cliff Jacobson

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

How Important is the Boundary Waters to You?

Is the Boundary Waters important to you? Tell us how much in your own words by commenting below! Tell your friends about this wonderful place so that we can increase awareness for preserving this beautiful wilderness area! 

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

BLOG 43 (short). GearTies

BLOG 43 (short). GearTies
by Cliff Jacobson
GearTies: They come in a variety of lengths, thicknesses and colors
Occasionally, a product comes along that is so useful and so simple, you just gotta shake your head and wonder, “Why didn’t I think of that?” GearTies, which are nothing more than plastic-wrapped wires are a case in point.  They come in a variety of lengths, thicknesses and colors and are easily formed into hooks, coils and custom configurations.  They are most popular for bundling electrical wires, but their uses are limited only by your imagination:  Secure your GPS to a canoe thwart; bind a rolled tarp; hang a light inside your tent; secure paddles to canoe thwarts for portaging; hang a water bag or pack from a tree limb etc. 

Their uses are limited only by your imagination
Okay, GearTies are not a “must have” item.  But they are pretty cool. And they sure are useful. The more I use them the more uses I find for them.  Really, now; why didn’t I think of that?

You can get them Here if I've peaked your interest.

Cliff Jacobson

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Bell Composite Canoes arrive in Ely

Ted Bell brought these to us today and made our Wednesday.

Call Steve Schon to get your new Bell Composite Northwind 17, Northwind 18 or Magic today!


Saturday, April 6, 2013

BLOG 42. FAQ: Stuff You Trust

BLOG 42. FAQ: Stuff You Trust
by Cliff Jacobson

Here's a frequently asked question:

We’re planning a wilderness canoe trip and want to be prepared with the best equipment. I hear there’s a great new trail stove (tent, rain parka, canoe pack etc.) on the market that is absolutely terrific. It was top rated in the last issue of “Fun Camping Magazine”.  What do you think of this hot new product?  Should I buy one?
            Hightech Harry

Cooke Custom Sewing (CCS) tundra tarp--worth its weight in gold on buggy trips
Dear Harry:
Don’t take magazine product tests too seriously.  Writers work on deadline and are usually paid by the length of copy they produce not the time they spend researching and field-testing.  Time is money, so research and product testing are kept to a minimum.  Bad reviews irritate advertisers, which are a magazine’s life blood.  For this reason, writers are encouraged to tone down criticisms.
Hilliberg Katum 3/Norway

For example, many tents and garments have small zippers that won’t take much abuse.  But you’d better not write it that way.  Ever notice how often the word “may”—as in “may fail”—appears in equipment evaluations?

The term “expedition-proven” doesn’t mean much any more.  Most modern canoe “expeditions”  don’t last long enough to prove anything. For example, I once made a 17 day canoe trip where the only rain was a short drizzle.  Needless to say, my rain gear worked perfectly!
Gransfors axes:  My favorites!
The best advice is to carefully examine everything before you buy.  If a zipper looks weak, it probably is.  If there’s a plastic knob that can burn or break, it likely will. How will the product perform in high winds or when it’s caked with mud or sand or soaked with rain?  Will it break if you drop it?  Can you repair it in the field without special tools?

The original and always reliable Nalgene bottles
Be aware that some of the most highly touted products which work flawlessly over the short haul, fail miserably when the weeks turn to years. So be wary of advertising claims and the testimonials of individuals whose experience is limited to a few trips. Instead, seek the advice of those who travel wild places year after year. These are the real experts even though their opinions are seldom seen in print.

All this can be summarized in one word—trust!  Why change to something new if your current tent, trail stove or whatever,  has never let you down?  However, if it is well worn, or you are sure that something better has come along, try the new thing for a time—a long time(!)--before you commit to it for a lengthy expedition where your safety is at risk.  Trust doesn’t come in a few days or even a few weeks.

Cliff Jacobson