The NEMO Dagger 3P is marketed as a sturdy, three person, ultralight backpacking tent. But can one product really be all three of those things?
To be completely honest, my very first experience with the NEMO Dagger 3P was a state of amazement at just how small the packaging was. With a packaged size of just 19 x 6 inches, and this compacts even more inside your pack) it is one of the smallest packaged three person tents available. It takes up minimal space and fits in almost any pack. While the weight (4 pounds, 4 ounces) is not the lightest in its class, it is definitely light enough to carry on most any trip, especially if you are sharing the load with a hiking partner.
So we know that the Dagger lives up to its ultralight, and ultra-compact name, but sometimes when you go with a smaller, lighter tent, you lose out on quality. That is not the case with the Dagger. The tent is solidly built all around. It has a single pole system that branches out into an “I” shape quite easily and the whole tent goes together without hassle.
Just to show you how easy it is to pitch this tent: the first time I used it, as part of the test I chose not to look at how the tent works or the instructions before I took it in the woods. I also went camping in the rain, and didn’t set up camp until after dark. With all of this working against me, it still took less than eight minutes to go from tent in pack to fully set up.
The only possible fault I could find in the Dagger 3P was the fact that the open mesh roof of the tent makes it very difficult to put up in bad weather without getting the inside of the tent wet. In the eight minutes it took me to put up the tent there was probably around a liter of water that had gathered inside on the floor of the tent.
What is amazing and really shows the true waterproof quality of the tent, though, is that I was able to get most of that water out by simply picking up the corners of the tent, and watch all of the water run to one spot. I was then able to “roll” out the water through the open door into the vestibule.
On top of that, with 100 percent humidity as it was raining outside, the tent continued to dry on the inside and was actually drier in the morning than it was when I went to sleep. That just goes to show you the excellent breathability of the Dagger.
The vestibule on this tent is quite large and quite effective. There are actually two, with one just outside each door. During all of my testing, I left my pack and shoes outside the tent in the vestibule and found them all completely dry in the morning. This ensures that all of the floor space is free for sleeping, and there should be plenty of space to truly fit three people in this three-person tent.
Inside the tent are a few different pockets, including an overhead light pocket that does a great job of evenly spreading light throughout the tent. The outside of the tent also has some guy-outs built into both the tent and the guy-lines that make the tent quite visible if shined on by a light.
When you are ready to break camp in the morning, the NEMO Dagger 3P is just as easy to disassemble and repack as it is to set up. It is one of very few tents I’ve seen that actually fits easily back into its carrying bag with even a small bit of wiggle room left over. If you have to pack it wet, it only takes a few hours to completely dry the next time you are able to air it out.
Overall at the current price of $499 the NEMO Dagger 3P is an excellent investment for anyone looking to spend some time in the woods. Whether you are going backcountry camping, hunting, fishing, or just heading out to the backyard, the Dagger will be there for you for many years to come and will be up to whatever challenge you throw its way.
All images via Chris Buckner
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