Choosing the right Hilleberg tent

There really is no “best” tent, but there is a “right” tent for you. Choosing that “right tent” is less about what you do on your adventures – climbing, hiking, hunting, sea kayaking, bicycle or motorcycle touring and so on – than it is about determining what your tent needs to be able to do on those adventures. We advocate that you establish when, where, and how you will most often use your tent as well as any specific features or performance attributes that are important to you, and that you assess your general level of experience and confidence in your backcountry skills. With this information, you can then determine the tent (or tents) with the most suitable qualities for your needs.


Where & when you travel

In general, the more demanding the terrain and/or the weather you are likely to encounter, the more advisable it is to have a more robust tent. The stresses on a tent in the protected, forested terrain of the Southeastern United States during the summer are very different than those in the exposed expanses of Greenland in nearly any season. Typically, the more exposed the terrain, the more severe the weather can become, in all seasons. And while “exposed” certainly includes high peaks such as the Alps, the Himalayas and the like, it also means almost any terrain where there is little to mitigate fierce extremes in weather. The often windy mountains of Scandinavia, the windswept uplands and high deserts of the United States, and the moors of the British Isles – all fully qualify as “exposed.” So, too, do most deserts – the Gobi, the Sahara, the Sonoran, among others – whose notoriously bad weather and sandy, gritty environment puts enormous strain on a tent. Add snow and ice to exposed – think storms in the mountains or high plains, or glacier travel in any weather – and the demands on your tent also increase significantly.

And the more remote your trips – the farther you are away from the possibility of fabric and zipper repair – the higher safety margin you need and the more durable your tent’s materials should be made of.
Such conditions and situations call for an all season tent, and for the greatest durability and comfort – and for extended trips in exposed terrain AND snow use, heavy or prolonged desert use, and the like – our Black Label models are the best possible choice. These tents were created specifically for handling the most challenging conditions, and their stronger materials provide welcome extra insurance. And Black Label tents offer the most versatility in any condition, from the most challenging to the mildest.

If, however, you are an all season traveler whose trips are less demanding, but that may include some challenging terrain and weather, then our Red Label tents are an excellent choice. And if you go out almost exclusively in protected terrain, in warmer locales, or during the snow free parts of the year, then our lightest weight, Yellow Label tents are good options. 


How you travel

Do you tend towards “mobile journeys,” where you take down and pitch the tent every day – anything from extreme, long distance expeditions and long distance hikes to short overnight trips close to home – or do you take short trips out of a base camp? Our tunnel tents offer outstanding space to weight ratios, and so are well-suited to travelers who carry everything all the time. For treks in the warmer seasons – long distance or otherwise – our very lightweight, airy, Yellow Label models are superb, while for trips where snow or other kinds of challenging weather conditions are likely, our Red Label models are a better choice. For more demanding expeditions, especially in harsh conditions – a Greenland crossing, a high mountain ski traverse, or a long hike in remote high country – our Black Label models are ideal.
Those who establish a base camp – mountaineers, high mountain hunters and the like – and do shorter trips from there, often value a tent’s static strength – the ability to handle snow loading when left unattended, for instance – over other considerations. Our Black Label dome models  afford tremendous static load capabilities, and so excel as base camp tents.


What’s important to you

It is vital that any features or performance qualities that are important to you are included in your selection process. You may place a premium on light weight – although getting trapped by that can be ill-advised (see the “lowest weight” misconception below) – or you may favor maximum strength or extra comfort. You may prefer to share your shelter or go it alone. Here are some of the factors you should consider:

Maximizing comfort: Black Label tents offer the most comfort, but irrespective of the Label category, another option is to go “up” a size: a Hilleberg 3 person tent has room enough for three people and their gear, but it is very comfortable for two, with very little weight penalty.

Tunnel or dome construction: Some users simply prefer one type over another, but each has its advantage. Our tunnel tents offer lighter weight and more usable space. Our dome tents provide better static load stability and can be a better choice in tough pitching conditions, but at the price of greater weight.

Self-supporting or free standing dome: We distinguish between “self supporting” tents, where the vestibules need to be pegged out, and “free standing models,” which have integrated vestibules and require no pegging for pitching. The latter are often better choices where there are limited pitching possibilities, such as rock slabs and gravelly soil.

Single or dual entrances: Our dual door/dual vestibule tents offer greater convenience, more storage, and, in some cases, more venting options. Taller people often find them more comfortable, since a two door inner tent has more usable space. The downside: extra weight.


Self assessment

Many experienced users take super light gear into the backcountry all the time, with great success. They make this choice on purpose, knowing that they are giving up security, comfort and durability – and they often do it precisely for the challenge. This is not “the norm,” and you certainly don’t have to do this in order to get more enjoyment from your backcountry trips. In fact, many would argue that doing so actually takes some of the joy out of the wilderness experience. Either way, only you can assess how confident you are sacrificing strength and security for weight, or with taking the most minimal shelter you can. In general, the less experienced you are, the better off you are with a stronger, more comfortable tent. Our advice: when in doubt, choose one Label category “above” what you think you need. We often recommend Black Label models to new or inexperienced users, rather than Red or Yellow Label ones, simply because Black Label tents are the most comfortable, the easiest to use, and offer the greatest security. For the same reason, we recommend them to the most experienced users, as well, since these adventurers often purposefully travel in the most demanding places and weather.
Only you can decide what’s best for you. Below is a comprehensive chart showing the features of each model in all the Label categories. If you have any questions, please contact us!


The “lightest weight” misconception

In choosing a tent, there are a few important truths. One is that while low weight is clearly a big factor, selecting a tent or shelter solely because it is the lightest in weight is rarely the best course. Another is that the lighter the weight, the lighter the materials; and the lighter the materials, the less strength, UV resistance and durability the tent offers. Also, the lighter the tent, the less features it will have and so, consequently, the less comfort it will offer – and possibly the less security it will give you in adverse conditions.

If you need maximum strength for dealing with situations you will encounter, then you need it, and weight should become less of a priority. In any situation, a simple tarp or a shelter such as our Blue Label Rajd is easily the lightest solution, and many people use them quite successfully. But there is a decided sacrifice in comfort, in resisting condensation, in durability, and in simple strength. Riding out truly bad weather with such minimalist protection can be miserable, if not downright dangerous. That is why, in all of our Label categories, we have tried to find the best balance of strength and light weight for their intended performance range.

Rather than basing your decision on the weight of the tent, look instead at everything you carry, and calculate what the REAL relative weight of a tent is. For instance, for 4 people, a Keron 4, which weighs 4.6 kg (10 lbs 2 oz), equates to only 1.15 kg (2 lbs 9 oz) per person, which is light by any account. Alternatively, two Nallo 2s weigh 4.8 kg (10 lbs 9 oz), and are neither as strong nor as roomy for the weight as the Keron. Even for 3 people, the Keron 4 weights just over 1.5 kg (3 lbs 5 oz) per person, still an impressively low weight, especially given the comfort and security the Keron offers.


Our labels:

Black Label    Our strongest, most adaptable, most comfortable all season tents.
Red Label        All season tents that prioritize light weight over absolute strength, adaptability and overall comfort.
Yellow Label    Our lightest weight tents, engineered for warmer climates and for the snow-free months of the year.
Blue Label        Our specialized tents, each designed and built for a specific purpose.

Read more about our labels here and more about fabrics here.