Rich Nemo Sleeping Pad
The first step toward a good night’s sleep: a Nemo sleeping pad.

In the highly competitive backcountry gear market, it can be easy to make a name, not quite as easy to distinguish what that name means. Certain brands — Osprey, Gregory — suggest the sturdy and reliable. Certain brands — Hyperlite, ULA — suggest they ultra uber light. Many of the rest, though, struggle to claim a niche.

Not the case with Nemo, says Kurt Smith.

“Nemo strives for a balance between lightweight and comfort,” says Smith, whose company, Top Gun Sales, represents the family-owned, New Hampshire-based Nemo.  “Nemo won’t sacrifice one for the other.

“I think a lot of hikers start the AT with an ultralight mentality,” he adds, “and that mentality gradually changes.” (On the topic of comfort itself — as in, What exactly defines comfort when you’re sleeping on the ground or slung between two trees? — he adds, “Comfort when you’re 20 years old is totally different than when you’re 30, or 40, or 50.”)

In short, Nemo appeals to folks who don’t want to go backpacking with 40 pounds on their back, yet don’t don’t want to camp like cavepeople, either.

Smith is currently on a tour of Great Outdoor Provision Co. shops in North Carolina and Virginia, setting up a Nemo camp in stores and letting folks test the Nemo weight-and-comfort ethic. Among the products he’ll have for you to test:

Nemo Stargaze™

Stargaze™ chairs. OK, at 5 pounds, give or take, these aren’t backpacking chairs. “They’re more for going to the beach, the kids’ soccer games, music festivals.” The Stargaze is part hammock, part rocking chair, part recliner (on second thought, maybe 5 pounds isn’t too much to stuff in your pack!). It basically lets you enjoy the comfort of your plush recliner at home with eyes closed and listening to the surf break on the Outer Banks. Has a cup-holder, too. Kurt will have three versions of the chair: the Stargaze Recliner Low Chair, the Stargaze Recliner Chair, the Stargaze Recliner Luxury Chair. Learn more here. 

Nemo Rave sleeping bag

Disco, Rave, Ramsey and Cleo sleeping bags. These bags all embrace Nemo’s popular Spoon™ shape, which allows minimal heat loss and maximizes comfort for folks who feel constrained by traditional mummy bags. What’s most notable about these new bags is that they come with Thermo Gills™, zippered vertical vents on the left and right side of the torso that allow a more effective form of temperature regulation than unzipping. “They allow you to dump heat without letting in cold air. We had a woman in Charlotte who took the Rave, which is rated to 15 degrees, out on a 40-degree night and didn’t overheat. [The Thermo Gills™] extend the range of the bag.” The Rave and Cleo are the women’s version, the Disco and Ramsey men’s. Learn more here. 

Cozmo and Tensor sleeping pads. Perhaps the most underrated piece of backpacking gear, the sleeping pad can ensure that you sleep like a baby, or that you toss and turn the whole night through. The Tensor offers a cush 3” of mattress, keeping you from making contact with bumpy rocks and roots, and its Spaceframe™ Baffles keep restless sleepers from sounding like they’re on a bag of potato chips. At 1 pound, 5 ounces, it’s a good bet for weight-conscious backpackers, and it packs down to the size of a Nalgene bottle. The Cozmo, at 3 pounds 15 ounces, is geared toward car campers, with its 4 inches of loft, built-in pillow and foot-pump inflation system. Learn more here. 

Nemo Hornet: also comes in this 1-person version.

Galaxy, Hornet and Dagger tents. The lightweight in the group is the Hornet™ Elite, the 2-person version of which sets up in a jif and weighs just 1 pound, 12 ounces — and still it provides two doors and a vestibule, inside pockets for your headlamp and such, and a guyout system that extends your vestibule coverage. The Dagger weighs 3 pounds 12 ounces and bridges the gap between serious backpacking and car camping trips, while the Galaxi, at 6 pounds, 2 ounces is the perfect option for the couple that backpacks together — and likes a little extra room inside their home. (Good, too, for folks who pack with dogs: it features a Pawprint, which you attaches to your floor and protects the tent from the frisky feet of four-footed companions. Learn more here.

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Experience Nemo

Come check out Kurt Smith’s Nemo camping kingdom at your local shop. He’ll be in Raleigh, Charlottesville and Virginia Beach, from 3 – 8 p.m., on the following dates:

  • Raleigh, Thursday, May 3
  • Charlottesville, Saturday, May 23
  • Virginia Beach, Sunday, May 24