The NEMO Story

Ideas for new products begin with having real experiences in adventure. A passion for adventure is an absolute prerequisite for being part of the team. Welcome to the story of NEMO.

Tent Topographics: How One Picture Can Change the Way You Buy a Tent

We’re introducing tent topographic diagrams to our spec charts starting … now. Just like the contour lines you often see on trail maps, tent topos help you see the steepness of the slopes—except instead of showing valleys and hills, it reveals the headroom and livability of a tent.


On a typical topographic map, contours join points of equal elevation (height). For instance, take the Matterhorn,one of the most iconic mountains in the world. By looking at the topographic map, you can get an idea of both the shape of the mountain, and the steepness of the slopes. So, the closer the lines are together, the steeper the elevation (or the walls of your tent).


In the same way, NEMO’s tent topos show you the contours of a tent at various heights so that at a glance, you can understand where in a tent you can sit up, sleep, and fit your shoulders. If you’re not able to set the tent up before buying, this is an easy and quick way to understand the livability of a tent.

Why should you care about this? Because statistics can be deceiving.

The main stats that people look at when buying a tent are weight, floor area, and peak height. If
you only look at these numbers, it’s easy to forget about what’s going on between the floor and the
peak height. Take this example of a pyramid style tent and a dome style tent.


Both tents have more or less the same floor area and the same height—but vastly different
arrangements of interior volume. In the pyramid style tent, you can only sit straight up in the
middle, and height of the walls reduced dramatically as you move to the edges of the floor. The
dome style tent has nearly vertical walls which means that you can sit straight up even when you
are on the edges.

The point here is that you can’t look at tents two dimensionally and only think about floor area.
Even some tents with the same floor areas and peak heights can have a very different amount of
usable interior space. Some people value carrying as little weight as possible and can compromise
with less interior space, and others might value whether you can get dressed easily, play cards side
by side with someone, or easily sit at opposite ends of the tent.

In many ways, you can see why tents like Losi 3P have been so popular (and consequently, have been littered with awards). Losi 2P and 3P bridge the gap of “lightweight” and “enormous usable volume” incredibly well. 

In the category of tents that fulfill the vaunted One-Quiver-Wonder, the topo diagrams and basic stats show that the tents are light enough to backpack with, extremely liveable that you don’t go stir crazy on a 2 week backcountry trip, but spacious enough to take car camping all the same. 

1P, 2P or 3P? If you’re trying to gauge whether you should get a 2P or bump up in size to a 3P, tent 
topos will help you consider the space gains versus the weight gains. It will help you realize what a brow pole can do for head room, and how much extra room you might really want.


Is anyone else doing this? Not to our knowledge, although the groundwork for generating these
types of diagrams was originally laid by the Outdoor Industry Alliance’s ASTM committee. The
committee’s eventual goal is to create a standardized method of generating the topo diagrams. But
these things take time.

Over the last couple of years, NEMO has done much work to refine these methods to create the
most accurate diagrams possible. Taking the measurements and producing the diagrams still takes
some work, but we’ve developed some tools to help the process and we are hoping topo diagrams
will soon be adopted by the rest of the high-end tent industry.

Topo diagrams of our tents will be available on our website. We plan to include them in hangtags
starting 2014, and as many retailer partner websites as possible.

The takeaway

Currently, there isn’t an easy way to compare the livable space between tents without setting them up side by side—a difficult thing to do in many retail stores and certainly when shopping online. At NEMO, we want to help you understand differences between tents, and ultimately, choose the best tent for your needs. We put a lot of thought into interior volume and we think you should get the full benefits.

When You Need Tools to Make Your Tools

We just bought made a new tool for our workshop—a deadblow mallet, to be used with chisels, wooden pegs, mortise & tendon joints, etc. This little beauty was constructed from red oak with a hard maple head, African Mahogany wedges, and faced with cowhide on the impact surface.  


The mallet is a good in-between for when you need something more substantial than a plastic/rubber mallet, and a metal hammer is too much. There’s a hollow construction to the head with a handful of metal washers thrown in to get the dead blow effect. Great tools give great results. 

As Cold As the Earth Can Get

We sat down with Mike Marolt (Skiing Everest) recently to talk about what happens to gear when you are somewhere as cold as cold can be on this planet. There are a handful of people that understand this phenomenon, and those of us who haven’t had to survive at -50F got a glimpse of this in Cory Richard’s 2011 aptly named documentary, Cold. This past January, twin brothers Mike and Steve Marolt found themselves on a winter attempt of a 7000m Himalayan peak in the northwestern corner of China. The particular peak is at the hub of the 5 arguably greatest ranges in the world: the Karakorum, Himalaya, Pamirs, Tien Shan, and Kun Lun. All of these ranges blast the region with extreme cold ranging from -50 to -100F, and constant winter winds.

What is it like, trying to survive in these conditions? Mike explains the challenges of setting up camp, eating, putting on boots, trying to electronics to work, etc. 


What is it like to even attempt a trip in extreme cold and altitude like this?
As we started to work the mountain, we soon realized that nothing in the 25 years preceding this expedition, including 7 years of expeditions to the Denali and St. Elias ranges, had prepared us for the combination of the cold and altitude that can only be found in the Himalaya in winter.


As long as we were on the move, there were really no problems, outside of the fairly major discomfort of being cold for long periods of time. However, once we would stop to make a cache or set up a camp, we soon realized that we had a window of about 20 minutes before our feet and fingers began to literally freeze. Making caches was out of the question. If we reached a high camp, we had to set it up and immediately get into the tents and sleeping bags to warm up. Then once warmed, rush outside to collect ice and snow for melting our water, or secure the tents, etc., again, in a rush to get back into the tents to start the warming process all over again. Once in the tents, even with stoves roaring, the temperature never warmed beyond -10 F.  Even in Alaska in early March, we never had problems getting tents warm enough to be comfortable. But those conditions, even at -35, didn’t have the combination of wind and altitude that we were experiencing here.

What do you need to do to make sure you’re eating and drinking enough?
We soon realized that even boiling water was a massive task due to the cold, so any and all water production was limited to filling water bottles. There was little or no hot coffee or food.  Meals were left to candy bars and assorted performance foods that entailed no hot water.

Tell us about the other types of gear you used on the trip.
We were using the Moki 3P on this trip, along with samples of the Canon -40 sleeping bag. Once inside the tent and in our bags, we were in a super comfortable and safe zone, and frankly were amazed at the fact that we were “camping” where we were.


One factor that also came as a surprise was the issue of our foot gear. This was a ski mountaineering expedition and we thus had AT ski boots. These temperatures made for some interesting conclusions about what was entailed in making our boots function. Normally, in super cold conditions, we make it a practice to sleep with our liners, no big deal. You put them at the bottom of your bag and forget about it. In the morning, you take them out, put them on and slip them into your boot shells. However, with the temperatures, even in the tents, as cold as they were, the first morning on the mountain we soon realized that the plastic of the boots was so cold, it was impossible to “slip” the liners into the shells.  We were able to heat the plastic up enough with our stoves to make it work, but we realized we had to not only sleep with the liners, we had to sleep with our entire boots in the bag. This made for uncomfortable sleeping, but it worked. We did have boot heaters designed for the trip, however the batteries must have froze at some point because none of the systems ever worked. We made them work with over boots and while it was a case of constant numb feet, we made do with what we had. In the morning, we had to cook and prepare for the day in our sleeping bags along with the boots inside, something that we normally accomplished in down suits while wearing the boots to heat them up.  But we found that if we put the boots on even 15 minutes before we were ready to move, our feet would freeze beyond anything remotely safe, and more importantly, would never warm up even after hitting the route. The design of the Canon, with its arm zips and oversized hood that fit like a parka, was exactly what we needed in this scenario.

What were you takeaways from this expedition?
In all, this was positively the most miserable expedition we have ever been on without question. However, in the natural progression that allowed us to even contemplate an expedition of this magnitude, winter ski mountaineering in the Himalaya, it was also the most exciting and fun. It was literally like starting out with the sport for the first time, and the skill set we learned from the experience will definitely prepare us for anything, and positively more winter Himalayan climbing and skiing in the future.The specific needs of this trip’s gear were critical in that all the other engineering made for significantly heavier loads and the balance of weight to warmth had to be realistic in light of what a mountaineer is capable of handling. Typical tents and bags engineered for say the Arctic, where there is no altitude, would work for warmth, but considering the effort needed for climbing at altitude in extreme cold made our research for the right gear extremely important. 

NEMO Office Dog Profile Part 8: Rosie

Breed:  Boxer/Lab
Favorite Snack: Marrow Bones
Pet Peeves:  Don’t you dare blow in her face / Nerf Gun fights—she is a lover not a fighter
Favorite part of being at NEMO:  Barking at everyone who enters, protecting the team
First thing people notice:  Her wagging tail and her bark
Best known for:  always wanting to play with every passerby
Greatest Fears:  Horseshoe Crabs
Favorite command to disobey:  Come means stop / STOP BARKING
Best day scenario:  A day of long walks at the ocean with swimming and lots of ball throwing! 
Aspirations:  She has already reached Nirvana for a dog…
Naughtiest Moment:  Rolling in that awful dead thing at the beach and then eating it…. GROSS. [Editor's Note: A close second might be eating dirty tissues out of NEMO trash during flu season]


Multicam Wallets, Hot Off the Press

Special for our Shield line, we’re planning to release some Multicam Ditto wallets imminently. A sample just arrived at our office and it is pretty slick. Notice in the last picture, the Hypalon grip tab underneath the NEMO label; it may not seem worth mentioning, but this little detail makes it easier to open the strap and also preserves the integrity of the embroidered woven label. Small details can make a big difference. 

IMG_4329 IMG_4330 MClabel IMG_4331

Brazil 9000 Update #2: Nao Aguento Mais

Aaron Chervenak and Gareth Jones are making a 9000 km journey across Brazil. When your guide who has been hired to get you to the start of your journey says “Nao aguento mais”—meaning, “I cannot take it anymore”, that’s when you know you’re on a real adventure. 

Rope, Rope, and more Rope: March Beach Cleanup

In the 5 or so years that we’ve adopted the north end of Jenness Beach for cleanup, we’ve gotten used to the trash cycles that change with the seasons. Summers tend to be heavy with beer cans & bottles, coffee cups, and cigarette butts. The Nor’easter storms in the winter/shoulder seasons tend to bring ocean debris. Our March cleanup showed us that we are clearly still in winter season. We picked up 75 lbs of rope, broken bits of lobster traps, and swamped buoys.


We always manage to find one keeper or two to bring back home. This time, Tina was the big winner when she stumbled upon an awesomely beautiful scallop shell. Next cleanup is planned for end of April, so please let us know if you’d like to join us!

Simplicity in Design, an Unlikely Source

Artist / Illustrator / Author Christoph Niemann wrote a elegant piece in a recent New Yorker on simplicity in design. Nevermind that he was talking about the story of designing his strangely addictive app Petting Zoo; it’s a universal lesson that we all struggle with. His words are best read by clicking on the link, but if you can’t bear to click away, this is the crux of it:

As an artist you have to try new things. You have to experiment, and not care about whether the new things actually make sense. You can sketch and plan all you want. But, to discover new territory, you have to get your hands dirty and benefit from the flaws and accidents. Eventually, however, you may arrive at a point where even well-meaning minds won’t be able to get your idea, let alone realize that there even is an idea to be gotten in the first place.

That’s where you have to bring out the ruthless editor in you, who takes that idea and cuts it down…to its core.

Simplicity is not about making something without ornament, but rather about making something very complex, then slicing elements away, until you reveal the very essence. After all the slicing away, you may realize, now that you can clearly see the idea, that it’s actually not very good.

That’s the hardest part: letting go of an idea that, having spent a number of passionate nights with, you have fallen in love with. Even with a certain amount of routine, this letting go sadly doesn’t become easier. The natural instinct then is to rely on what you know is working. It’s unfair, but this is the surest path to boring and predictable results.

The painful and inevitable struggle remains to create in a childlike and openhearted manner, but to be un-wistful and cruel when judging one’s creation.

We have dozens and dozens of products that have gone through this internal struggle. Some emerge from this wash cycle as cleaner, simpler, and better. Others, once scrubbed, are still just not very good. We’ll never be boring and predictable, but that means it’s even more important to be able to let go of ideas that aren’t very good.