We all have that perfect moment in our heads. You get to camp just in time to catch the sunset and snap the perfect picture or time-lapse as you set up your tent and get a gourmet meal started in the most picturesque setting imaginable. In reality, this idealized version of getting out on the road or trail happens … well, never. Most of the time we head out into the backcountry and all of our go-to spots are full hours before we even get in the car. After a late evening drive drags on into the night, finding that perfect sport turns into just finding somewhere secluded from view with a good fire ring and spot for a tent.
That’s where the Nemo Equipment Dagger 3P comes in. in the few months I’ve had it, I’ve pitched this tent more in the dark, wind, or rain than not. It has dealt with blazing heat in Escalante National Monument in July and freezing rain in the High Uintas Wilderness area. Through all of that we’ve been able to fit two people, massive amounts of gear, and three needy dogs without any issues. The Dagger line from NEMO Equipment has quickly replaced other car camping and backpacking tents alike, and is well on its way to being the first essential we reach for whenever we head out on the trail for three-season adventures.
The first thing you have to understand about the dagger is that is built for the ultralight, weight conscious camper. Every detail from materials to pole attachments is refined from years of testing to shave precious ounces without sacrificing comfort. A polyurethane coated nylon floor has high bath tub walls. This design not only keeps water firmly out of your tent, but also serves to cut down on the material of the rain fly, helping you save precious ounces.
The rest of the tent body is No-see-um mesh, ensuring more than adequate ventilation when you’re out on a hot summer night are sharing the tent with a stinky dog (or backpacking buddy). Gear pockets and lofts are sewn right into the body, our favorite being a thick net at each end of the tent for slotting your headlamp into. It is just translucent enough to diffuse the light, making a perfect lantern effect. The DAC Featherlite aluminum poles are sturdy enough to stand up to serious mountain gales, and the single pole, symmetrical design lends itself to easy set up when you have to do it in the dark or for new campers.
Of course, we can talk all day about nylon specs and pole configuration to no real effect. The average consumer doesn’t care about an obscure technical specification, but rather more about how well the whole product performs. So what does all of the innovation and improvement mean for you? First off, this thing is a breeze to haul around. The main pack bag can be separated out into poles and tent body, splitting the weight up between members of your group. With poles, stakes, body and fly, your trail weight is about four pounds. For a three-man tent the only way you’re getting lighter is by going with a tarp shelter. When set up, the walls are more vertical than a typical dome tent, giving you more head room and livable space. This is especially nice on bad weather days or when you’ve got a couple of people trying to do the sleeping bag clothing change shuffle. They even publish a visual guide on “tent topography” for each of the tents they build on their website.
Finally, a note on venting. Nemo has little rigid hook and loop bars at the top of each rain fly vestibule zipper. By opening the top of the zipper at night and using that bar to prop open the fly, you can eliminate tent condensation. Other manufacturers include vents that either need to be tied open with a guy-line, or are ineffective when it’s raining. We’ve found the Nemo solution to be the most user-friendly of any on the market, and most importantly, the one that works when you need it to without any problems. This may seem like a trivial addition, but when you’re four days into a seven-day trip, the last thing you want is to deal with wet sleeping bags and a musty tent.
The bottom line: NEMO Equipment has succeeded in building a one size fits all tent for anyone looking to decrease their gear footprint. The NEMO Equipment Dagger 3P fills a niche between hardcore backpacking and leisurely car camping that no other company has been able to tap. We are constantly on the lookout for the gear that can simplify our packing, camp set up, and trekking loads and we finally found a tent that we can’t find a problem with (and trust me, we’ve been looking). If you’re planning some trail time in the near future and are in need of a versatile shelter than can handle spring, summer, and fall hazards, get a NEMO Dagger!