I recently had the opportunity to put to test two of my ultralight shelters: the brand new
Marmot Nitro 1P (an ultralight pyramid style / hybrid tent weighting only 940g) and a Savotta Pena lean-to that I’ve had for a while but haven’t really had an opportunity to use yet. I had the intention to test the temperature limits on my Cumulus Quilt 350 by sleeping in the Marmot Nitro, but as the temperature dropped to -15 °C (8 °F), I soon abandoned the idea and ended up sleeping in my cottage where the temperature was only little below the freezing point.
What I did do is erect (stop snickering) the Nitro 1P and cook a meal inside to see how well
it works. And it does. Kinda. If you are willing to take the tradeoffs. So I will share my early experiences with the Nitro and write about the Pena lean-to later.
Pitching the Marmot Nitro 1P
Setting up the Nitro 1P for the first time with frozen fingers was an exercise in frustration. What goes where, how come there are not enough stakes, how on earth do I attach the rain fly. I suggest a few practice rounds in good weather, as this tent is not quite any tent I’ve ever set up.
I suspect it will be very fast to setup after a few times, as there are not too many moving parts. The tent is set up in two phases, first the inner tent is pitched and then the rain fly is attached. I will have to try and see if it can be pitched with the outer tent attached.
The basic process that I followed is:
- Stake out the corners of the floor
- Insert the one piece of tent pole to the foot end of the tent
- Insert and adjust the trekking pole to the door end
- Pull the tent up using guy lines at both ends
- Attach the rain fly
- Guy out all the lines
- Adjust until tight
Where I had the most trouble was actually in step 5. And that’s because I was attaching the fly inner side up. Yep. Color me stupid. It really looked like the more sensible candidate for an outside, but I never could figure how to attach it. After flipping it around just to make sure, everything just clicked.
One thing contributing to the confusion was the instructions talking about red tabs. I suspect the instructions are from 2P because nowhere are red tabs to be found. Throw the rainsheet over the tent so that the zipper align and then attach the tabs in the most intuitive way possible and you will have it right.
I did end up tightening the guy lines a few times and adjusting the stakes to make it anywhere near tight setup, and in the end wasn’t totally happy. Do remember, though, that it was -15°C (5 °F). One thing I found a bit odd is that the tent does not come with enough stakes for all the guy lines / corner loops. I had to improvise with sticks. I’m not quite sure what the shortage was, since it’s possible I did not figure out correctly where to share the pegs with inner and outer tent. My feeling is that by adding two stakes for the vestibule and sharing the rest, the pitch should be quite good with minimal added weight.
If you value ease of pitching over weight, you will probably want to add a few stakes. I know I will, even though this is my ultralight setup. The pegs seem a bit flimsy as they are of the cheap round peg variety, but they do their job surprisingly welll. Replacing them is something I may consider at some point.
The only larger complaint I have is with a lock on the guyline pulling the walking pole tight. It kept slipping. I did manage to keep it tight with a simple knot but it did not raise confidence for using the tent in high winds. I will have to get a few more pitches done to see if it was a user error or a real problem in the tent.
Using the Marmot Nitro 1P
First, I have to warn you. This thing is quite tiny. You can fit a single sleeping mat and the gear you’d normally bring inside in it, but that’s about it. The foot end tapers off quite quickly and goes very low, which creates a somewhat claustrophobic atmosphere. The bad thing about this is that as the moisture condenses on the outer tent, it may be quite easy to unintentionally wipe it off with your sleeping bag, which is something you do not want to do especially on a multiday trip.
The height of the tent is adjustable, but in practice the height of the pole needs to be somewhere in the ballpark of 125cm – 130cm. It should be enough for most people, I certainly managed to sit upright in the tent, but as I am quite short, mileage may vary here. You should try and squeeze out every inch of height you can, it affects the spaceousness quite a lot.
What I wanted to do is test if I could cook a meal in the vestibule. This is something that I would not usually do in the tent, but it is certainly something I would want to do when it was raining.
So I sat inside and set up my gas cooker in the vestibule. Although it’s cramped, it can be done, if using gas that is easily controllable.
Again, I need to caution that my cooker is about the most minimal gas setup available, so with larger setups, you may be suffering. Also I might not cook with alcohol stoves that might flame unexpectedly, although with proper caution it could probably be done. You can forget about gasoline burning stoves like MSR Whisperlite or XGK.
During cooking time I had my backpack under the rainfly at the side of the tent, as you can see at the end of the article. With careful placement, I think a backpack could even fit at the side of the tent permanently, which certainly makes it easier to get in and out of the tent. At the very least shoes can be stored there.
So the tent does basically everything a shelter should do in a minimal footprint:
- Allow you to sleep
- Allow you to cook
- Store your stuff
It is also cheap and light. I can handle the cramped spaces, so the stability of the tent is the only major worry I have. I do not give it unreserved recommendation, but recognizing the caveats, it’s certainly a tempting piece of kit for an ultralight setup.
Update on April/May 2016
Sleeping a night in the tent seemed to corroborate my initial conclusions. I was again pitching in the dark (using a flashlight) and it was raining, so my pitch was probably worse than the first test that was done in freezing temperatures. It also made the sleeping experience even more cramped than I expected.
Getting into my sleeping bag (actually, a quilt and silk liner) was tough. As was getting out to heed the call of the nature. There was, however, “ample” room for bringing in my backpack.
It was wet and due to the subpar pitch, the foot end drooped lower than it could have. In the morning some of the condensation had rained down the floor / sleeping mat. So I half expected to have my quilt all wet. But actually the wetter end of the quilt was near my mouth, due to the breathing. So although condensation is a problem, it isn’t a a problem that would render the tent unusable.
After that I have also pitched the tent in good conditions and with ample time to adjust factors it becomes obvious that there’s a difference of night and day between a good and a bad pitch.
Lessons from a night in the tent and a few practice pitches afterwards:
I recommend you stop and consider twice if you should go for the 2P (at 250g more weight) or other roomier single layer pyramid options. If you decide to go for the 1P then:
- Accept that you are trading comfort for saved grams. Rejoice in the savings every time you meet discomfort. And everytime hauling that pack in your back feels surprisingly light.
- Learn to pitch it well. Psychologically there’s a large difference in the feeling of claustrophobia. The tent can feel like a coffin or quite tolerable 1-man tent. It will also keep your sleeping bag drier in the foot end.
- Practice your getting in/out of sleeping bag dance. A few repetitions should do it.
- Recognize that you will want to spend time outside the tent and only sleep in it. If it rains and you have to stay in several hours, you will have it cramped.
On the positive side:
- It is easier to find an open place for a tent with such a small footprint. The spot I found was about the largest semi-flat area available.
- It pitches fast once you have the knack of it.
- It’s just marvelously light and small when packed.
Buy on Amazon
If you want to help support this site, consider buying the tent using the link below.
Marmot Nitro 1p Tent: 1-Person 3-Season Green Lime/Steel, One Size