Know What You're Getting Into - NEMO’s Solution for Comparing Livable Space Between Tent Models

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Currently, there is no standard methodology for quantifying the livable space of a tent, and no easy way for a consumer to compare two tents without setting them up side by side—often not easy or possible in a store or online setting. Traditionally, customers are provided with a picture, weight, floor area, and packed size. Two tents with the same floor area, and even the same volume, can have very different livable spaces. For example, an A-frame tent only has headroom in the center, while a dome tent of the same floor area will allow the user to sit up almost anywhere, and thus, has more livable space. Providing total interior volume is not a good indicator of livable space because this information doesn’t tell you how that volume is distributed throughout the tent. The most useful information to a consumer is communicating where they can sleep, sit, kneel, or stand in a tent and this is what NEMO aims to do with its tent topographics.



Retailers struggle with disproportionately high returns of lightweight tents because consumers often don’t understand the amount of livable space associated with a tent. Members of the Outdoor Industry have been discussing how to accurately portray the livable space of a shelter and there is a movement (and a subgroup of the ASTM/OIA committee) to develop a standardized method in order to create a level playing field for comparison.

NEMO has refined one of the methods proposed through the group and has proven its accuracy and repeatability. The brand began implementing the measurement for each of its tent models in 2013 and is urging the ASTM/OIA committee to test and adopt the process. Both retailers and consumers have praised the easy to translate drawings. 

NEMO has been contacted by several interested manufacturers and has shared the process in hopes that the industry can adopt a scientific and quantifiable standard. The measuring tools will be on display at NEMO’s booth at Summer OR (21009) for manufacturers and retailers to learn more.


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The Goal. Identify an accurate, precise, and accessible method to measure and quantify tent livability.

The Method. Using contour lines, much like a topo map, we can portray ‘elevations’ within the tent. This image relates well to our customers because they are already familiar with topo maps. Showing the contour lines of two tents side by side, you can easily compare livable space between the two. 

How To: 

  1. Set up the tent, making sure it is properly tensioned.
  2. Trace height contours of interest with the NEMO tracing device (see below) and a high contrast pen (we trace at 0”, 12”, 24”, 36” 48”, 60” and 72”)
  3. Turn tent inside out 
  4. Photograph a plan view of the tent floor from as far away as possible
  5. Trace the contour lines using digital software

The NEMO tent topography tracing device consists of an interchangeable pole of specified height and holds a pen concentric with the pole. By moving the pole around the tent floor, keeping the tip in contact with the wall, the topographic contours are translated onto the floor. To help maintain accuracy, an audible cue indicates if you’ve pushed too much on the fabric. The process is repeated for each height.

We chose the following heights to translate:


0” = Footprint

12” = Sleep Zone

24” = Body Zone

36” = Head Zone

“We always strive to give the customer the tools they need to make the most informed purchasing decision and this diagram is helpful for both retailers and consumers,” said Cam Brensinger, founder and CEO of NEMO. “With so much attention being called to tent livability, it’s time for the industry to have a scientific and quantifiable method with which we can compare models from different brands.”

For more information on tent topos and the process, please contact Ben Saunders, Director of Sales,, 603-219-1510 or Kate Ketschek,, 603-828-1050.