NEMO Gogo Bivy Shelter: Who Needs Poles?

Posted on: January 14, 2008


MSRP: $265

Weight: 1.9 pounds unpacked; 2.2 pounds packed

Coverage: 19 square feet

Vestibule Area: 4.5 square feet

NEMO, a relatively new company out of Nashua, New Hampshire, has designed a unique technology to keep their tents and bivies light: air. This fall I tested their Gogo bivy, one of the lightest on the market. Instead of using poles to support its mouth, an air-filled beam creates structure and stability, and cuts down on weight. After countless seasons using standard tents and bivies I was curious to see how this improbable new design would hold up to rugged conditions in the Tetons.

Two different air pumps are available. The first pump is NEMO's patented "Integrated Pump," which comes standard. It takes the 1-2 psi you generate with your lungs and amplifies it to the 7-9 psi needed. Blowing up the air beam takes about fifteen seconds. An optional foot pump allows you to fill the beam with your foot in five seconds. It's easier to use than the "Integraged Pump," but I preferred the standard "Integrated Pump" because it packs smaller and weighs less.

Once filled, the air beam exceeded my expectations: it was structurally sound, and I never expected it to fail. If an air beam does start to leak, an extra air beam is included with the bivy, as is a patch kit.

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After the first five-minute setup in the dark I began to notice intentional design features. One was the swallowtail shape that staked out and provided more space above my sleeping bag than other bivies I'd used. I weathered a storm in this bag and stayed relatively dry and comfortable through the night.

I also was impressed with the Gogo's packaging and vestibule. It came in a lightweight dry bag stuff sack (why don't all tents have this?). The sack made the bivy easy to put away and cinched down to the size of a melon. Once packed it was nice to know my shelter would stay dry if subjected to the elements. The vestibule featured a floor that extended for extra sleeping space or retracted to act as a gear stash. Of course, if you're taller than 6 feet, plan on keeping your pack outside.

I wondered why the Gogo might be a better purchase than an ultra-lightweight tent, which packs down to the same size and has extra indoor space at the expense of only a few ounces. However, I quickly realized the fabric on the Gogo was much more durable than tents of similar weight. NEMO uses a 30D waterproof outer shell and a 30D PU coated abrasion-resistant nylon floor. And with a combination of these breathable fabrics, swallowtail design and an airy vestibule, condensation was minimal.

The Gogo is more expensive than other "poled" bivy shelters, but its ingenious air beam technology, packaging system, durability and vestibule features are worth the price.

Pros: Lightweight; air beam is structurally sound; retractable vestibule; streamlined swallowtail design; dry bag stuff sack is functional and easy to use.

Cons: Expensive; optional foot pump is bulky.

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