Bivy sacks are often the shelter of choice when light-and-lean takes priority over comfort. The trade-off for minimal packed size and weight is often minimal functionality and comfort. Sure most will keep the bugs off and will, for the most part, keep the elements out, but getting a good night’s rest can be a challenge and having to hole up in one during bad weather can be torture. NEMO’s Gogo Elite Minimalist Shelter bridges the gap between a bivy and a one-person tent and may be just what you are looking for if you want to shed poles and ounces from your current shelter.
I’ve been using this shelter since May and have had a chance to try it in the most extremes that my local climate provides. It is a great three season shelter. In this case, summer is the season that is eliminated. The reduced ventilation of the Gogo Elite means high temperatures quickly turn it into a sauna. My experience showed the shelter to be uncomfortable in temperatures above about 75 degrees. That said, I did hole-up for a few hours in 70 degrees during a rainstorm. Even though a bit warm, it was not oppressive, and the protection from the elements was far more comfortable than being drenched out in them. The lack of ventilation made the shelter ideal in cold temperatures (14 degrees was the coldest tested). The Nemo felt drastically warmer than the two-person tent I am used to in cold temps.
While on the topic of weather, the single wall issue must be addressed. All light, single wall shelters suffer from condensation issues. Combine single walls with limited ventilation and the condensation is increased. On particularly wet nights, the condensation on the inside of the walls as well as the rain collecting on the outside caused the sides to sag. This could be reduced by guying-out the footbox (discussed later), but is still an area where the Nemo is inferior to a double-wall tent but superior to a standard bivy.
The features of the Gogo Elite that clearly separate it from a traditional bivy are the AirSupported rib and the foot box. Both features work to make this single-person shelter feel far less cramped than you might imagine. The AirSupported rib creates about 2 feet of vertical clearance at the head. The rib is inflated with the assistance of a pump. The pump’s air chamber is first inflated by blowing into it. The chamber is compressed by squeezing which forces the air into the rib. This process is repeated until the rib is fully inflated. The pump is removable, but I wish it was not. It is vital for proper inflation pressure of the rib, yet it is a part that could easily be lost or forgotten.
At just under 6 feet tall, I found that inside the shelter my head was directly below the rib. The extra floorspace at the tip of the tent actually made it feel less restricting in that regard than a standard one or two-person tent. The floor provides plenty of room for small gear and bags and even allows space for unconventional sleep positions such as on your side with your arms under or above your head.
The footbox also acts to create clearance, but this is another area where I have a slight ding against the provided accessories. The footbox has reinforced fabric for propping up the box, but there is nothing provided by Nemo for this function. I think a short, telescoping pole would be ideal, though I have never had an issue finding a stick to perform the same function. There is also a guy loop on the footbox and some extra guy-out cord provided; however, there is not a stake to anchor it so you must rely on tying it to something. I feel Nemo should have provided an extra stake for this function, as it dramatically helps keep the walls off in wet weather, and I have added one so I don’t rely on setting up somewhere with something to tie to nearby.
All of these features come in a small and lean package. The shelter is approximately 22 oz with all accessories packed. With regards to packing, I normally just wad the shelter into my handlebar dry-bag. The size of the NEMO allows me to now carry my shelter, its accessories, a footprint, my 30 degree bag, my sleeping pad, and pillow all inside my 10L eVent.
Overall, the NEMO Gogo Elite Minimalist Shelter’s head and shoulders clearance puts it head-and-shoulders above a bivy. Other unique features further separate the two. If you are looking for a shelter that will see extensive use in warmer climates, you should probably look elsewhere. However, if sleeping in the heat is rare for you and you are looking to minimize weight and packed-volume, this minimalist shelter is definitely one to consider. The NEMO Gogo Elite can be ordered directly through NEMO or through other online retailers for $450.