Canoe camping has become a tradition in my family. From my father to me, and from me to my wife and now our children. Not trailer camping, or car camping—where people leave their comfortable home to occupy a claustrophobic piece dirt with dank facilities and hordes of strangers only feet away—but canoe camping where we paddle and carry all our gear days into the wilderness (usually in Northern Ontario). We have two trips planned in August, and its with these coming trips in mind, my family and I decided to try out the Nubé Hammock Shelter from Sierra Madre Research.
REVIEW IN BRIEF: Throw out your ground tent and buy this. Seriously. It beats our traditional tent in almost every way. It’s lightweight, low space, and amazing comfort are almost too good to be true.
Every Victoria Day Weekend (it’s a Canadian Holiday), we go camping somewhere with a couple other families. It’s car camping—our friends aren’t adventurous enough for canoe camping—but we all have to make sacrifices for our friends. We decided to bring our Nubé Hammock Shelter to test it out, figuring that if there were any problems, we had our backup ground tents.
This is what we tested:
- Nubé Hammock Shelter
- EZ Sling Suspension System
- Pares Hammock (for the bottom bunk)
- xPlor Hammock (for the top bunk)
- Nubé Winter Barrier
- Sleeping was in down filled sleep bags rated to -9 C (16 F)
Location and weather conditions:
- Letchworth State Park, New York
- Nighttime low 5 C (41 F)
- Rain. Lots of rain.
Night 1: 43 year old male, 5’11, 185 lbs (Pares hammock), 42 year old female, 5’6, 135 lbs (xPlor hammock)
Night 2: 14 year old female, 5’4, 110 lbs (Pares hammock), 13 year old female, 5’2 100 lbs (xPlor hammock)
Night 3: 43 year old male, 5’11, 185 lbs (Pares hammock), 14 year old male, 5’6, 120 lbs (xPlor hammock)
SETUP AND TAKE DOWN
The Nubé Hammock shelter has no poles. The shelter itself is attached to two trees via provided lines pre-connected to “sky hooks” on the shelter tarp. The remainder of the shelter is staked out using the other provided lines and stakes.
There are two keys to set up. First, try to get the top of the shelter as level as possible. The initial height must be higher than the desired height because it will be pulled down lower when it is staked out. Second, and I can’t stress this enough, you have to learn how to tie a friction knot. Sierra Madre Research has videos showing you how to do this (indeed for all the setup) and even has little 2D barcodes on the gear itself to direct you to the links. However, none of that will do you any good if the first time you go to setup your Nubé, you have no internet.
It took a while to get the Nubé set up the first time, but that was just unfamiliarity with the system. Now that I know what I’m doing, I don’t think setup will be anymore difficult than a standard ground tent.
The EZ sling system is so simple as to be trivial. A wide strap is wrapped around the tree with the loose end passed through a loop. A series of pre-tied knots along the attached rope provide a variety of hook points for the hammock carabiners to give the desired hang angle. We connected both hammocks and the gear staff to a single suspension system.
The winter barrier connects to the netting of the shelter via two clips and a series of spring-loaded sliders and pre-existing loops. The only difficulty here is that two of the connectors on the side with the zipper are only easily connected and disconnected from inside the hammock (the zipper can’t pass through these connectors and must be mostly closed first).
If you’ve tied your friction knots correctly, take down is very fast since the knows come undone with a pull. One of the things I hate about tents in general is having to remember the correct folding pattern to get it to fit nicely back into the bag. There’s not of that with the Nubé. All the components (shelter, hammock, winter barrier) all go into stuff sacks, and most of those have compression straps to make things extra compact. Awesome.
One nice feature of the Nubé Hammock Shelter is the line lock system. Basically, all the lines used to hang and stake out the shelter have nice little velcro sections around the connection points that allow you to wrap and secure the lines so there is no tangling or loose line flying about when you pack and unpack the shelter.
CONSTRUCTION AND FUNCTION
The quality of the shelter and all components look great to me. I suppose only time will tell how durable everything will be in the long run, but my initial impression is very favorable.
Bug Netting Storage
One feature I liked was the ability to roll up the bug netting/gear storage/winter barrier rolls up and stows out of the way with the same straps/loops used as connection points for the winter barrier. This leaves a nice sheltered hammock for daytime use.
One of nice things about our test (though not so great for the weekend) was that we had a ton of rain. The Nubé Hammock Shelter didn’t leak a drop due to the excellent tarp and shelter sleeves that can be constricted to protect water from reaching the hammock connection points. The same could not be said for our existing ground tent, which is usually really good in the rain.
The rain also revealed some other perks of the Nubé that I hadn’t thought of.
1. Rather than huddling under a tarp or gathering in a stuffy tent during a rainstorm, the Nubé provides a nice and open experience (with the bug net rolled up) where you can relax away the daytime rain.
2. Because the bottom never even sees water, there is no more worrying about packing up a tent with a soaking floor. 3. Even though we had our Nubé Hammock Shelter set up in a highly shaded area, the roof tarp of the shelter dried more quickly than our ground tent that was sitting in the sun. I don’t know if this was because the material or because the angle of the tarp lets it shed water more easily, but it was an unexpected perk.
Sleeping with Upper and Lower Bunks
One of the concerns I had going in was on how well two people could sleep in the top bunk/lower bunk setup. Firstly, the xPlor hammock can clip right onto the hang points for the Pares hammock, which I found handy in setting the appropriate tension of both hammocks. So, how well did it work for two people?
On the negative side, headspace is cramped for the person in the lower bunk. Trying to change your clothes, for example, is quite an effort. Coupled with the winter barrier, I would not suggest it for anyone who is claustrophobic.
All that being said, the room is more than enough, and who needs to sit up when sleeping? Even though we had both hammocks hooked up to the same suspension system, the motion of the other person didn’t create much more disturbance than someone rustling the covered next to you in a traditional tent. As a solo shelter, the Nubé feels like a palace.
Sierra Madre Research doesn’t recommend the upper xPlor hammock for people over 5’6 and I would agree with that, but the two 5’6 testers who slept there didn’t have any problems although they couldn’t get as flat a sleep as in the lower bunk.
The Winter Barrier
The winter barrier did exactly what it was supposed to, providing a more enclosed environment to store body heat. It also provides a little extra privacy. Releasing a couple of the connections allows extra airflow, but other than the hindrance of having to undo two connections to be able to open the side zipper fully, it is exactly what I expected.
The Nubé Hammock shelter has less storage than our ground tents. There is no vestibule and no floor space (obviously). There is a gear stash that works well for a back (or shoes and clothes discarded for sleeping). I did noticeably feel the suspension cords of the loaded gear storage through the Pares Hammock, but it is entirely possible I didn’t connect it right. I will pay more attention during our August trips and update this review then and might try an extra set of carabiners to let me attach it lower on the suspension rather than making the hammock carabiners do double duty.
There are also two pockets (one in the middle on either side) that are conveniently accessed from either the top or bottom hammock. They are a little on the small side, so don’t count of putting much in there (I used mine for glasses and a book). One disappointment here is that the pocket on the zipper side is attached to the lower bug netting rather than the tarp itself so that opening the shelter drops the pocket—and possibly its contents—onto the ground.
Sleeping has always been the one thing I hated about camping. I’ve tried different inflatable mats, foam mats, pool inflatables, and all of them leave me sore with little sleep to show for it. I also toss in turn, waking up dozens of times during the night.
Hammocks are awesome in general, and the Sierra Madre Research hammocks are exceptional. The Pares in particular is super spacious and let me sleep almost flat on a slight diagonal. I woke up feeling great without any soreness and didn’t wake up any more than I would in a hotel room. Everyone of us, top or bottom, thought the sleeping comfort of the hammocks was head and shoulders above a tent (the one friend included in our test also thought it was better than the bed she usually had in her parent’s trailer).
Without the ground beneath you, I can see a risk of being more susceptible to cold than in a normal tent, but our sleeping bags were more than up to the task, and I think the smaller volume of the shelter (compared to a tent) with two sleepers might actually lead to increased heat overall.
For the comfort alone, I would chose the Nubé Hammock Shelter over a ground tent if it were the same size or even heavier. The fact that the Nubé destroys traditional tents in both weight and space makes the decision a no-brainer.
Weight of Nubé Shelter (shelter, stakes, and sack): 3 lbs (1.4kg)
Weight of Winter barrier: 1 lb 4 oz (0.6 kg)
Weight of Hammocks (Pares + xPlor + suspension): 2lb 12 oz (1.25 kg)
Total Weight: 7 lbs (3.2 kg)
This weight alone is on par with the packed weight of equivalent tents, but there are other things to consider. No sleeping mats! That’s another 2-3 lbs of weight. Also, if you’re like us, you already bring camping hammocks (and I’ve seen people bring camping chairs) for seating/relaxation during the day. In my particular case, our typical equipment weight in ground tent and day hammocks for 2 people is about 13 pounds. That means we’ve shed 6 pounds for the next trip.
Beyond the weight considering, the space savings are also huge. Our current sleeping mats are relatively compact, but still take up a lot of space and the tent is a giant cylinder when packed. Between the two, they easily occupy most of one of our portage packs (not including the two camping hammocks we also bring for the day). Because all the components of the Nubé system pack separately, they are much easy to stuff in and around existing gear, and the compression straps mean the total bulk is less as well.
At the time of purchase, I spent $498 USD on the Nubé Shelter, hammocks, winter barrier, and 2 pairs of EZ Slings (that’s one more than needed). That’s not cheap, but it’s not unreasonable either, especially when you consider what you don’t have to buy. Good quality light ground tents can easily cost $300-$500 on their own. Typical lightweight and compact sleeping mats are another $50-$100 each. For me, that puts the cost of the Nubé at exactly what I’d expect to pay for a new ground camping setup for portage-friendly gear. So . . . same price for lighter, smaller, and infinitely more comfortable? Will somebody tell me why there are still so many ground tents being sold?
I will never be sleeping on the ground during one of our canoe trips again. Our two kids have already been arguing over sleeping schedules for the upcoming trips because they loved the Nubé so much. Our only solution is that I will be buying second complete setup from Sierra Madre Research. I’ve already ordered their Stratos hammock shelter (a newer, modular version of the Nubé), which also looks awesome. Unfortunately, it is backordered, but they say it should be in stock by the end of the month.
This Nubé really is a win on nearly every level. I can’t endorse it enough for any wilderness camper who values quality, compactness, and most of all, comfort. The only real negative that I see is the lack of side-by-side sleeping with my spouse. Sierra Madre Research, if you’re listening, I would love to see you develop a shelter that included side-by-side hammocks (maybe with a 3 tree system?). In my mind, it would take an already astounding product and make it perfect.
*Review Note: As with all reviews and opinions in this blog, the views expressed here are my own and are given without any financial or material incentive whatsoever.