NEMO Fall Backpacking Trip 2013

Our annual NEMO fall backpacking trip was earlier this week. We took the Kinsman Ridge Trail to the Eliza Brook Shelter, and camped overnight. The next day we hit South Kinsman, traversed over to North Kinsman and exited via Fishin’ Jimmy Trail to the Lafayette Campground. There was a little of everything on this trip: some good old fashioned New England hiking (lots of steep, lots of up), whisky, hot chocolate, late morning frost covered summits, fall colors, fly fishing, and a cold beer waiting for us at the end. The smiles are just that much bigger at the end, with those in our hand.



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Bet You Never Thought of Shock Cord This Way

The elastic shock cord inside your poles helps make setup quick and painless. Maybe you’ve never thought about it, but the shock cord is more or less a giant rubber band, except that instead of being in a loop, the shock cord is linear and runs the length of the poles.

The length of shock cord is less than the total length of poles, so that the elasticity causes the poles to “snap” together when unfurled. While this isn’t necessarily a new thing in the industry, it’s an important part of set up so you can set up quickly, don’t lose poles, or mix up their order (this matters more for variable diameter pole sets, obviously). There are two secrets to getting the shock cord right in NEMO products: material type and length.

From a materials standpoint, the rubber in the shock cord needs to retain its elasticity over the lifetime of the tent, as well as for the environment of use. For cold weather tents, we generally switch over to a different shock cord whose rubber can still be compliant at extreme temperatures. From a length standpoint, we use an algorithm to determine the length of shock cord for each pole set so that the aluminum ferrules self-assemble with appropriate force. If the length of shock cord is too short, there is a constant force stretching out the shock cord which will wear out the material prematurely. If the shock cord is too long, then the pole segments might not fully assemble, compromising the structure’s strength. 

If you’re eating up all this information and yearning for more, check out this video from physics grandmaster, Richard Feynman, about a completely different way to think about rubber/elastic bands.

Comfort at the Extremes – NEMO’s Suzanne Turell Talks with Outside’s Gear Guy about Canon™-40

As the new Canon™-40 Sleeping Bag went into production this spring, Outside Online’s Gear Guy Bob Parks checked in with NEMO’s Design Director Suzanne Turell about the inspiration behind Canon’s innovative Thermal Regulating features—and walking the fine line between keeping mountaineers warm and comfortable at the extremes.

An excerpt from Outside Online “Gear Guy” – Friday March 08, 2013

The day we talked with design director Suzanne Turell about the process of making the Canon, her office was busy with prototypes for tent pole clips coming off the 3-D printer, and meetings with the design and engineering team working on plans for products three years out.

When she and the other designers sat down to make a sleeping bag for very cold temps, they looked at the jackets of polar explorers, which often have an extended head covering.

“The hoods are made to roll forward, so that you get this long opening in front of your face that you can close,” explains Turell. “The idea is to warm the air that you’re breathing. Otherwise, your lungs aren’t ready for the big jump between temperatures.

” The designers realized they were on to something when they saw the documentary Cold at the Banff Mountain Film Festival. “The film showed people sleeping in negative-70 air or something ridiculous, and they were choking on the air while they were sleeping, says Turell. “It was painfully obvious that you need something more than the gear currently offered.”

Soon after creating the prototype for the Canon, one tester reported a flaw that the design team couldn’t ignore. “He said the bag was warm,” recalls Turell. “But in some ways it was too warm because when it wasn’t negative-40 degrees, he couldn’t vent it properly.”

The designers, who are all avid campers, knew the phenomenon all too well. “It may be zero degrees or negative 20, but you’re in a bag for the extreme cold and get really sweaty. Your sleep gets interrupted,” she says. “We’d all experienced this in the company, and so it was a light-bulb moment. We all started thinking about ways to compromise the baffles [the columns of insulation sewn into the fabric] so that they would let out the warmth in a controlled way.” The designers’ solution was to place a zipper that spreads the baffles apart but doesn’t let air flow through the wind-cutting fabric.

Polar explorer Robert Neary

Polar explorer Admiral Robert Peary in his arctic furs.

Stove Pipe™ Tunnel Hood keeps a pocket of warm air near your face so breathing is comfortable in the bitter cold.

Stove Pipe™ Tunnel Hood keeps a pocket of warm air near your face so breathing is comfortable in the bitter cold.

Adjustable Thermo Gills™ vent body heat at your core without letting cold air rush in.

Adjustable Thermo Gills™ vent body heat at your core without letting cold air rush in.

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NEMO Rockies Rep Eric Miller is a Certified Badass

We’re proud to report that our Rockies region rep Eric Miller just completed the Matterhorn Grand Loop with his good friend Thomas Taplin.  

Failure can often teach you much more than success. After an attempt last year had to be abandoned due to a large snow storm, they were successful this year in climbing one of the world’s most iconic mountain. In Eric’s words, “a horrendous 9 hour traverse/climb to the Carrell Hut on the Matterhorn… another 12 hour day climbing up the Italian Route to the summit then down the Horni Route and finally back into Zermatt. 2.5 days of amazing climbing, suffering and laughter.” 

A huge cheers to Eric, adventure and accomplishing hard-fought dreams. And being with it enough at the end to take a decent selfie.


Not All Aluminum is Created Equal

We’ve been thinking a lot about aluminum poles. On the surface (pun intended!), they may all look the same—smooth, sleek, metallic pole segments. But like most things, it’s what’s inside that counts.


One of the main differences between different brands/types of aluminum poles besides the type of metal is the quality of the anodization. Both of these factors influence an aluminum pole’s ability to resist stress crack corrosion, one of the most common ways for poles to fail. 

We built an in-house machine based off an ASTM test procedure that allows accelerated conditioning of pole segments. It forces the poles to be cycled through a corrosive environment. And the idea is that you can strength test the poles before and after the conditioning to see how the performance drops off.

Much like the test where you drop a baby tooth in a cup of soda for a couple weeks, very bad things start to happen to low grade aluminum poles after some time in this corrosive environment. It’s important for us to have this testing in house because it allows us to see for ourselves the quality of materials we put into products and the performance of those materials over the entire lifespan of a product. 

Just like we like to say with the food we eat—know what you buy, and buy what you know.

Memories of Summer Camp

It’s that time of the year—when kids are sent off to Summer Camp, en masse. For many of us, this is the first taste we get of sleeping in tents and sleeping bags, spending more hours outdoors than indoors, waking up to the sun, and more recently, unplugging from games, tablets, and phones.


One of the most endearing traits of Camp is that nothing really changes that much. Pictures from this year don’t really look THAT different from pictures 50 years ago. And it’s not just pictures, it’s true for experiences too. From backpacking to swimming to war games to singing, there is hope in the world that kids can be entertained in ways that don’t involve a glowing screen. 


More impressive are the intense friendships, traditions, memories that keeps people coming back for more, year after year. Don’t believe it? Listen to Notes on Camp , on This American Life. Prepare to be blown away by the intensity of excitement from kids. 

Maybe it’s the lack of distractions or time in the wilderness or being a part of a tribe or the personal growth that comes from being on your own for a little while—but either way, there’s a corollary lesson to real life here. As adults, we rarely think that same “camp time” is necessary for our physical and emotional well being. Few of us, if any, take a few weeks out of our summer to go to camp. Yet the tide is turning (photo credit below to Scott Sporleder, NYT). 


Perhaps evidence shows contrary; that our sense of community /appreciation / friendships are intensified and magnified through the lens of the Great Outdoors. And in the age of getting more for your money and time, this might be the strongest argument of all to get outside. 

An Epic, In Their Own Backyard

Linking together feats of strength, extreme logistics & planning, a plethora of mountain knowledge and know-how, and a once-in-a-lifetime weather window, Washington state locals Jason Hummel and Kyle Miller completed the American Alps Traverse earlier this June. 

In case anyone is wondering whether this is a BFD (#4, not #2), let’s just cut to the chase and say, YES. 


This epic consisted of over 16 days, 60,000 vertical feet, 120 miles, and a grand traverse of the Cascades, spanning from the North Cascade Highway through the rugged North Cascades National Park, connecting with the Suiattle High Route, hitting the summit of Glacier Peak, and winding out via Whitechuck River Road. Then magnify logistics to accommodate a 2+ week expedition, carrying unfathomable loads. Then, we begin to explore the depth of this accomplishment. 


And, in case you’re wondering, their tent of choice was Quantum Elite

Fall 2013 Sneak Peek: Canon -40F

Launching this fall, the Canon -40F sleeping bag is the ultimate winter sleeping bag. We’ve undergone some significant testing over the last 2 years during design and development—testers have taken this bag on trips as wide ranging as SETI-sponsored scientific research trips to the Arctic to multi-week snowmobile cross country trips across Greenland to harsh winter expeditions in our local White Mountains. Every fabric, stitch, design detail, and square inch of insulation has been pored over with a fine tooth comb in order to deliver ultimate performance. 

Rather than wax poetic about design details like the multi-tiered insulation construction in the footbox that prevents point loading of foot forces, we drew up this handy diagram that is much more fun to look at. 


The original inspiration for this diagram came from a NASA illustration of a 1969 spacesuit. There were many parallels between Canon and a spacesuit when we considered the amount of protection each one afforded its user.