Think You’re Crazy?
Then spend a little time with our product developers, who are always dreaming up new ways to test the gear we make. Yes, it’s true: we could just follow standard practice and rely on the ratings from our suppliers—but that wouldn’t be much fun, would it?
See, the thing that makes NEMO so different is this: we’re total geeks. We live and breathe this design stuff. We talk about Timoshenko beam theory over lunch and debate friction loss when we go for a jog together, and get real heated about transient conduction assumptions over beers after work.
So today the topic is testing. Weird, wild and wonderful ways we test the gear we’re putting out there even beyond what our factories do. Besides it being fun, we do it to make sure when you decide to live in your tent on a windy peninsula, or take your sleeping bag into artic conditions, that we’re pretty darn sure it will stand up to the test and keep you living the dream, full on.
And while we take testing incredibly seriously, with a full repertoire of laboratory and field testing, we also like to have a little fun along the way. So, for your amusement, here are six ways we test our products that are totally unique to this quirky place we call NEMO.
1. We Put tents on Trucks
Why use a wind tunnel when you’ve got an old Tacoma and a runway? When we were first developing our AirSupported Technology™ — basically a tent with no poles, just inflatable airbeams — we wanted to see just how much wind it could handle. Airbeams are technically stronger than aluminum – they will bend, but they won’t break! Our Morpho 2P maxed out our truck’s speedometer, passing with flying colors, and without flying airbeams.
2. We Explode Airbeams
Speaking of airbeams, we explode them sometimes. Since air expands when heated, we need to know the burst pressure of an airbeam when used in very hot conditions, i.e., your upcoming Death Valley camp out. So we over-inflate them, put them in a heat chamber, and crank up the temperature until they burst.
What’s it like? Loud. Really loud. Don’t worry: we’ve learned to send out a “We’re Blowing Things Up” email first so we don’t scare our coworkers.
3. We make it Rain
Since we can’t command the clouds to deliver unnatural amounts of monsoon-like rain when we need it most, we built a rain chamber. It’s an aluminum frame with Plexiglass walls, sealed with marine caulking, and recirculating hundreds of gallons of water. We use it to test our tents, checking for leaks, water wicking in, splashback coming in underneath, and changes to the fabric.
Here’s the interesting thing: you’d think this would be a pretty intense experience, right? According to Kurt, one of our product developers, “It’s actually very peaceful inside; it’s the ultimate white noise. In fact, one of our interns fell asleep inside the tent once.” Maybe we all need a rain chamber at home?
The downside to having a rain chamber right in our office? Well, there was the time we accidentally flooded the office. It was all hands on deck while we wet vacced two inches of water out the window and into the river beside our building.
4. We’re 2 Hours from The Most Extreme Weather Conditions on the Planet
We’re talking about the top of Mount Washington in our native New Hampshire…6,289 feet high and home to the most extreme weather observatory on earth, having measured winds up to 231 mph. So naturally, we put a tent up there.
We staked our extreme artic shelter Isopod to the rocks on top of the mountain, where we watched it for 10 days resisting unspeakable gusts and remaining intact and proudly in place. When we finally noticed a wrinkle in the fabric and investigated, it turned out the failure was not in the tent itself—in fact, the wind vibration against the rock had ground the end of the metal tent pole to a pulp.
5. Our Tensile Tester Is Like a Medieval Torture Device
…If you’re nylon webbing. Our tensile tester pulls things like metal poles, tent fabric, and seatbelt-grade webbing apart with incredible force. For example, we’ll pull a tent pole apart from the ends and watch it stretch like taffy til it breaks.
What’s it like watching this happen? Unlike sitting in a tent in the rain chamber, this is anything but peaceful. According to Gabi, one of our product developers, waiting for something to catastrophically fail is part exciting and part terrifying. “It’s like waiting for a balloon to pop.”
6. We Filled Our Cloudview Hammock with 50 Gallon Drums
How many people can you pile in a hammock? We don’t know, but we know you might just try that trick sometime, and we don’t want you to end up on the ground. So we took our Cloudview hammock to our CEO’s back yard, put two 50-gallon drums in it, and slowly filled them up with water. 840 pounds later, our hammock had stretched a bit but the drums were safely snuggled inside.
The moral of the story: in an office filled with engineers and designers, it’s fun to blow things up. But more importantly, in a design shop where we’re obsessed with your experience in the wild, it helps us feel fully confident our products will keep you safe, dry, and happy on your next adventure.