Let’s do a thought experiment for a moment. What if your tent did everything a tent was supposed to do – in fact, did it better than most tents – without any poles? Well, we have good news and bad news. The good news is, such a tent exists: the NEMO Equipment Morpho 2p has been around for ten years. Of course, we wouldn’t have mentioned good news without a bad news chaser: you won’t be able to buy it after this season.
Over the years, tent companies have experimented with ways to innovate tents beyond the fabric -over-pole paradigm. Ultralight manufacturers make wispy tarps out of sail fabric that weigh half a pound and use trekking poles as support. Some manufacturers use external poles in an attempt to ease setup (it works sometimes). But rare is the company that eschews poles altogether. In fact, until recently, Nemo was the only company that did it.
Poles are a pretty simple solution to a complex problem – how do you create the most structural strength using the least weight? But, they come with drawbacks. For example, a gust of wind can not only knock your tent over, but it can break your poles as well. Broken poles mean no more tent. A careless pole placement during setup can punch a hole right through your tent body or fly.
NEMO developed AirSupported Technology (A.S.T.) to solve some of the problems that come with tent poles. They’re easy to repair in the field and less expensive to replace. They spring right back into shape no matter how hard the wind blows. They’re easier to pack into tight places, making bike or kayak camping a breeze.
The NEMO Morpho 2p incorporates two A.S.T. airbeams into a modified tunnel design. When inflated to 7-9 psi, an airbeam can stand twice the downward force of a traditional tent pole. The Morpho will stand solidly even down to 4psi. Each airbeam incorporates a thin, airtight bladder inside of a stronger sleeve made of Dimension-Polyant X-PLY fabric. X-PLY is seriously tough stuff and gives each airbeam a minimum burst strength of 20psi. If you’re worried about the airbeam bursting in temperature swings, don’t; even if the air rises from 32°F to 120°F during the day, an airbeam at 7 psi will only rise to 8.2psi. Airbeams are field reparable with duct tape.
But enough geeking about these airbeams. The Morpho 2p is a hybrid single-wall, double-wall design that utilizes NEMO’s OSMO waterproof/breathable fabric for the tent body and 30-denier PU-coated nylon ripstop on the floor. It has 39 sq. ft. of floor space, which is luxurious for a 2p tent these days. That said, you should be very good friends with your tentmate because the layout doesn’t necessarily make the most of that space. A tapered foot area means you won’t be able to fit two 20” sleeping pads side by side. And, the airbeams cut into floorspace as well, probably chopping at least six inches off useable width.
NEMO’s construction methods are impeccable. The Morpho pitches tautly and stays that way throughout the night. NEMO uses Lineloc adjusters to tighten things up at each corner and save weight over normal ladderlock buckles.
Our campsite, right next to a roaring creek, didn’t push the Morpho 2p to its limits, but did present a pretty reasonable test. Setup was easy. For some reason, the NEMO footpump was missing from our demo package, but we were able to rig up a bike pump and inflate the airbeams without issue. Because it’s a tunnel design, the Morpho is not self-supporting. It needs at least four stakes to stay upright – two at each end. We placed eight stakes total and the tent was rock solid.
The air was pretty still all night, but the creek added some humidity to the normally dry Colorado night air. We opened all of the Morpho’s vents and experienced absolutely no condensation, despite overnight lows dropping below the dew point. Just for poops and giggles, we opened the doors and rolled them back during the day. With the screen doors exposed, the Morpho gets plenty of fresh air.
NEMO’s most recent iteration of the Morpho 2p weighs in at 4 lbs., 3 oz. (We didn’t double check that on our scale, sorry.) A.S.T. gives the Morpho some advantages and some disadvantages. On the plus side, if you’re on a trip where space matters more than weight – biking or kayaking for example – it allows you to squeeze your tent into odd places like a pannier or waterproof compartment. On the downside, you can’t split the tent between two people because it’s one, integrated piece. That makes it a bit more of a burden on a backpacking trip – maybe one that’s not worth bearing.
Once the novelty of airbeams wears off, the Morpho is still a solid tent at a decent weight. It’s not the lightest or the roomiest, but it holds its own, even after ten years. It shines brighter in its niche than it does as a general tent, which is probably why NEMO is not selling any airbeam tents to the general public next year. Members of the armed forces will still be able to get them through NEMO’s Shield Edition. We predict a cult following once NEMO discontinues them.