Review by: rockprodigy, 2006-02-07
[size=12][b]Full Disclosure: The company that manufactured this equipment provided it free of charge to RC.com and RC.com then provided it as compensation to the reviewer for his or her review. This company does not currently advertise on RC.com -- 2/9/06.[/b]
The Tenshi is NEMO Equipment's contribution to the high-end Alpinism market. It's a two-person, four season tent, with all the trimmings for your latest extreme climb, from winter peak-bagging in the Lower 48 to high altitude Alaskan giants. In case you've never heard of them, NEMO Equipment is a startup company so-far devoted to innovating the outdoor shelter industry. Since their inception in 2002, they have re-examined many traditional concepts in tent design, and the result has been a much-needed infusion of fresh ideas in a traditionally boring industry. Although they originally made their splash in the market in the 3-season tent category, their newest contribution to the high-end, four-season group is a force to be reckoned with.
Upon first opening the Tenshi, I knew this tent was different. The designers at NEMO don't take anything for granted, and as such, they even re-invented the Tenshi's carrying case. You don't get the same 'ole stuff sack with this tent. Instead it comes wrapped in a clever pouch that has compartments for the poles, stakes and tent, which all roll up in a tight package. The Tenshi's most obvious innovations are the Condensation Curtain and Removable Insulated Floor.
NEMO seems to understand the issues of condensation better than any other tent manufacturer. It's as if their designers are the only ones in the industry who actually go climbing. As a result, their tents are designed with a deliberate goal of reducing condensation. The Condensation Curtain is one of those "why didn't I think of that" ideas that seems so simple, and yet so elusive. It is a thin piece of fabric that hangs from the walls on the inside of the tent, thereby separating the tent into two compartments for sleeping. The smaller, front compartment is for the occupant's heads, designed to trap the moisture emitted from respiration, while the majority of the tent's inner volume is isolated from the moisture, keeping most of your sleeping bag and clothes dry.
[i]Eliminating condensation appears to be the order of the day for NEMO’s Tenshi. Top row, left to right: Tenshi’s front vent, a side vent showing the small bar that keeps it open, the view of the vents from inside. Bottom, left to right: Tenshi with its condensation curtain installed, looking up at the condensation curtain – note that the head compartment has its own vent near the top. [/i]
In addition to the Condensation Curtain, the Tenshi employs several other features to limit condensation. The Tenshi utilizes "eVENT" fabric for its single-wall construction. The Tenshi has two vents, one on each side near the top of the tent. These are designed to be operated fully from inside the tent with access ports that allow the occupants to open the vent and deploy a small pole which keeps the vent wide-open, even in bad weather. The Tenshi also has a second opening that doubles as a vent or door. If you've never spent much time tent-bound on a glacier, condensation can actually cause it to rain inside a tent. Believe it or not, experienced expedition climbers actually carry a chamois with them to dry off the inside walls of other "unbreathable" tents, but with the Tenshi's innovations, this could become a thing of the past.
Tenshi's Removable Insulated Floor (RIF) is simply a piece of foam padding tailored to fit perfectly in the Tenshi. This is something I actually had thought of before, but have never found on the market. With the RIF installed, there's no more sliding off your sleeping pad in the wee hours of the night only to wake up with your face frozen to a glacier.
Just like their AirSupported tents, the Tenshi actually sets up from inside. If it's raining or windy, just roll it out, stake out the corners, then dive inside with the tent poles (In fact, I found that you can even skip the staking out the corners step if you're really in a hurry). Once inside, you can assemble the poles and erect the tent. The Velcro guides on the inside corners of the Tenshi keep the poles in place.
All these features are nice in theory, but how do they work? Well, since NEMO puts so much effort into controlling moisture, I decided to test that feature directly. The Tenshi is designed for two people, so to really put it through the ringer, why not cram three grown men in there for a February night out at 11,000 feet in Colorado? First off, we actually fit pretty comfortably... so all you "hard cores" out there can spoon with two of your best buddies for those really "sick" climbs. The Tenshi made it through the night with flying colors. With only the upper side vents open, the moisture inside the tent was minimal. With other tents I have used in those conditions I would wake up to a thick sheet of ice coating the inside of the tent. The Tenshi merely had a slight layer of frost... completely unheard of for three men crammed into that tent.
The Tenshi impressed in other categories, as well. Its multiple tie-down points made it very stable in the wind. The single wall "eVENT" fabric insulates well and kept us quite warm at elevation in the Rocky Mountains in winter. The door was easy to get in and out of, and the Tenshi breaks down quickly and easily.
[i]The second-generation Tenshi, complete with a full vestibule for the same price.[/i]
Since I received my Tenshi, NEMO has made some additional improvements that I was unable to test. The Tenshi will now come with a larger removable vestibule for no additional cost which will make it more competitive with other tents in this category. Another feature is the "Sleep Tight Anchor Transfer" or STAT, which will enable climbers to securely anchor themselves to something outside the tent. The STAT feature will offer the security of a portaledge, if perched in a precarious position.
In all honesty, I couldn't find much wrong with the Tenshi, however, I did manage to break one of the included stakes while trying to pound it in with a rock... I suppose that could be attributed to "operator error". Frankly, stakes are a bit useless in environs for which this tent is designed. It would be nice if NEMO could come up with another brilliant idea for anchoring a tent in snow that is lighter than carrying snow pickets or dead men.
At $675, the Tenshi's cost is high, but I believe it will be worth it. It has a 28-square foot interior, and weighs 4.9 lbs without the RIF (the RIF weighs slightly more than two sleeping pads). Those stats are near the best on the market for two-person, four season tents.
The Tenshi is a great choice for providing shelter in the most inhospitable parts of the world. For some climbs, keeping your gear dry is a matter of life and death, and in those cases the Tenshi could be a real life saver. If nothing else, it will make your trip that much more enjoyable; its condensation controlling features keep the interior of the Tenshi warm and dry where many of its peers fail miserably.