Review by: rockprodigy, 2005-09-09
[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.[/b]
Weight: 3.25 lbs
Interior Area: 30 sqft.
People laughed at the idea of building an airplane entirely out of wood, but the “Spruce Goose” was built. People said the Titanic was “unsinkable”, but they proved the critics wrong! When j_ung first told me about the "air supported" tent, he told me not to laugh…but I did anyway! A few seconds later, I regained my composure and started to investigate.
alt="Hypno AR" align="right" />
My initial thoughts of an inflatable tent conjured images of those portable hypobaric chambers that used to be advertised in old climbing rags. However, I soon learned that the concept developed by Nemo Equipment Inc. is much more practical. The only inflatable portion is the crossbeams which take the place of tent poles in traditional tent designs. This is the only fundamental difference between Nemo’s designs and a standard single wall tent.
I tested the “Hypno AR,” a model designed for lightweight applications, specifically adventure racing. Since it is designed for a sport where speed and weight are critical, I wanted to evaluate its applicability for lightweight mountaineering and alpine climbing. On paper, the Hypno is a logical candidate for alpine applications. It weighs in at a scant 3.25 lbs, and allegedly sets up in 1-2 minutes. The major concern I had was its ability to stand up to the rigors of the alpine environment.
In addition to the most obvious “pneumatic” innovation, the Hypno AR also incorporates several other innovative features, making the tent more user-friendly. Most notable for climbers, is the ability to erect the tent from inside, a handy feature when you’re caught unexpectedly in a thunderstorm. In addition, the “Dry Door” incorporates overlapping flaps of tent fabric which enable you to enter and exit the tent during wet weather without letting water into the tent. The storm flaps covering the side wall windows/vents can be opened or closed from inside the tent via a fully weather proof access port...all useful features for climbers.
alt="Hypno AR 2" align="right" /> My first experience with the Hypno was delightful. I was impressed by the sleek design and the clever technology. Inflating the tent with the “integrated pump” was frustrating at first, but with a little practice, it was pretty straightforward, though tiring. The “integrated pump” is a hybrid hand pump that you inflate with your lungs, then squeeze in your fist to create more air pressure than you can generate with your lungs alone. I was unable to attain anywhere near the advertised 1-2 minute setup time. It was more like 3-4 minutes if you include the time required to stake it out, which is highly recommended by the manufacturer.
Once inflated, the Hypno is surprisingly roomy for its weight. We were able to sleep two very comfortably, and three wouldn’t be unreasonable when expedience is more important than comfort…like when you’re alpine climbing. It’s designed for four adventure racers, but I wouldn’t want to be one of them! The side vents allow superb ventilation which significantly reduces condensation compared to other competing models. This is the first “waterproof” tent I’ve slept in where I actually didn’t have to soak up the condensation on the walls with a sponge. If you’ve never spent a lot of time sitting in a tent in a whiteout…let me tell you, this is a big deal! What’s more, because the storm flaps shield the vents from above, the vents can be cracked open during a rainstorm – a significant advantage.
After the first night, I was quite impressed with the little inflatable tent…here comes the “but”. The first [i]day[/i] was not so great. When we returned from a day of climbing, we found our tent in a sad little pile. It turned out the “Valve Interface” (a small nylon bladder where the pump connects) had popped. Presumably, the air in the bladders had heated during the day, and the “Valve Interface” couldn’t handle the added pressure. To be fair, the instructions (which don’t come with the tent, you have to go online and download them) warn against this. To quote:
“Nemo AirSupported tents are designed to be very strong between 5 and 7 psi. You have achieved adequate pressure when it becomes difficult to pinch the airbeam together with your fingers. Do not over-inflate! The airbeams are designed to tolerate pressures up to 25 psi in case an increase in air temperature causes the air inside the beam to expand.”
Dejected, I notified NEMO about the problem, only to discover they were aware of it and had already developed a fix. I mailed them my tent, and 6-8 weeks later, it was back. They had inserted a “check valve” in the vicinity of the “Valve Interface” which releases air when a certain pressure is reached. I tested it again throughout the heat of the day, and this time, when I returned after a day of climbing, the Hypno was still standing. Granted, it had lost some pressure through the valve, so I gave it a few quick pumps, and I was back in business.
Besides the exploding problem, I found the tent to be a little flimsy in strong winds. The tent is intended as a “3-Season” tent, so this was not too surprising. For this reason I wouldn’t recommend it for extreme alpine climbing or winter mountaineering, but other applications would be OK. It is beefier, and with better waterproofing than your typical 3-season, so as long as you don’t expect high winds, it should be suitable. Keep in mind that the Hypno is not intended or designed for technical climbing, however, if you are crazy about saving weight, this is a strong contender, as long as you understand its limitations.
All-in-all, I think the Hypno is a very creative design, and it is well suited for certain niche applications. For example, the Hypno is an excellent choice for summer mountaineering or alpine rock climbing. It is perfect for climbing Fourteeners in Colorado where low weight is paramount, and the ability to erect the tent quickly, and from inside would be invaluable when those afternoon thunderstorms roll in. It would be a great choice for summer alpine routes like Liberty Ridge on Mount Rainier, where you have to lug all your bivy gear over the summit and it’s watertight design would be a big advantage in the Pacific Northwest. The Hypno would also be great for those remote alpine rock climbs like Charlotte Dome or Pingora that require long approaches with a mandatory overnight, but you want to keep the pack weight down to leave room for an extra cam or two.