Choosing the Right Hilleberg Tent

Choosing a tent is no different than choosing any other piece of equipment – you first have to determine your needs. Ideally, this profiling process should be less about what you do – climb, hike, and so on – than about where and when (and how) you do those things.

Instead of thinking, “I’m an alpine climber,” for instance, look at the where, when, and how of what you do, and create your own user profile: “I spend much of my time in alpine areas above tree line in all seasons; I tend to travel alone or with a single partner. Sometimes I move camp everyday, and sometimes I establish a base camp. I want to take as little as possible, but while I’m willing to forego absolute comfort, I won’t give up maximum strength and reliability.” Since you probably do more than simply “alpine climbing,” this profile approach lets you factor in everything that you do, rather than get bogged down in one activity.

This information designed to be a guide both to creating your user profile, and to transferring that information into a profile of the Hilleberg tent that will most likely serve you best. And to make that process as simple as possible, every tent description on the web site opens with a Tent Profile using the same criteria as are outlined here.

matching what you do with what you need

The cornerstone of both creating your user profile and choosing the right Hilleberg tent lies in asking and answering key questions about where, when and how you usually travel into the backcountry. This page is meant to be a guide to a general outlook on what you do. Together with the physical characteristics outlined on the next page, choosing the best Hilleberg model for you should be no problem!

Where & When You Travel

Do you spend a good deal of time in snow?
“Snow,” of course, means winter camping, but it also encompasses glacier and snowfield use. Since every Hilleberg tent has true all season functionality, all models will serve you well come rain, shine, or a big snowstorm. The more time you spend in demanding, snowy climes, however, the more likely you are to want certain performance characteristics.

One key here is how long your trips are. If your main focus is extended trips in extreme snowy climes, our Kerlon 1800 tents, with their 10 mm poles and exceptionally robust Kerlon 1800 outer tent fabric (the “1800” indicates the fabric’s 18 kg tear strength), were created specifically for handling these harshest of conditions. Certainly our ultralight Kerlon 1200 fabric, with its 12 kg value, is easily strong enough for snow-oriented use (it is far stronger than many so-called “expedition grade” tent fabrics). But if your trip means day after day after day in the snow, the Kerlon 1800 tents’ fabric and 10 mm pole combination, as well as their commensurately more robust zippers, guy lines and the like, provides welcome extra insurance.

Do you spend lots of time in exposed terrain?
“Exposed,” certainly refers to the formidable areas above tree line in high peaks such as the Alps, the Himalayas and the like, places for which we gear our tents’ strength and stability. Yet “exposed” also denotes nearly any terrain where trees do not mitigate fierce extremes in weather. This includes exposed areas such as the often windy mountains of Scandinavia,  the windswept uplands and high deserts of the United States, and the moors of the British Isles. It also includes deserts such as the Gobi, the Sahara, and the Sonoran. Such places’ notoriously bad weather puts even more demands on a tent than heavy snow use. In addition, you are more likely to encounter sand and grit – both in the air and on the ground – which is one of the hardest things on a tent.

While our Kerlon 1800, Kerlon SP, and our Ultralight, Kerlon 1200 tents all work exceptionally well in exposed terrain conditions, the choice comes down to your particular priorities. Certainly, if you are after the lightest solution that still affords strength, then choose our Ultralight Kerlon 1200 models. If you want more comfort, or if you need extra durability – for, say, extended trips in exposed terrain AND snow use, heavy or prolonged desert use, and the like – then our Kerlon 1800 tents are the best possible choice.

How You Travel

Do you tend to move your camp every day, or to establish a base camp and make shorter trips from it?
“Mobile journeys” is how we think of everything from extreme, long distance expeditions and long distance hikes – skiing across Greenland or thru-hiking The Appalachian Trail, for example – to short rambles in your recreational back yard. Since mobile travelers carry everything all the time, a tent with a very high space to weight ratio is often of prime importance. For hikers – long distance or otherwise – our Ultralight tunnel tents are ideal. For more demanding expeditions – a Greenland crossing, say – our Kerlon 1800 tunnel tents are a better choice, since they offer added overall robustness. For base campers, who carry only the bare minimum on their shorter trips from camp, a tent’s static strength – its ability to handle snow loading when empty, for instance – is often crucial. Here, one of our dome tents is an excellent choice.

In general, our tunnel tents, with their exceptional space to weight ratios, are better suited to mobile journeys (although both the Nammatj and Keron models have been used very effectively as base camp tents). Our dome models – both free standing and self-supporting – meanwhile, afford tremendous static load capabilities, and so make outstanding base camp tents. Some – the Jannu, Allak and Soulo especially – are also light enough to function well on mobile trips.

The X-Factor

Is there one characteristic – either of your tent or of how you travel – that has special importance?
Certain things are more important to some adventurers than others. Some travel in groups and share shelter; others fly solo. Some want the strongest tent, others favor the lightest. Some opt for maximum comfort, while others prefer fewer amenities, either from conviction or in the quest for lighter weight. There is no “right” or “wrong” here, but consideration of all of these factors are vital to finding the right tent for your needs. 

matching what you want with what you do

Each Hilleberg tent was designed and built to provide the optimal balance of strength, usability, versatility, and low-weight for certain user profiles. At the same time, however, because of our materials, our construction principles, and our design philosophy, there is a fair bit of overlap in the function of all the models.

We do, however, believe that certain models are better suited to certain profiles than others. For example, we would not recommend that an expedition to the North Pole – a movement-oriented trip over snow in exposed/above tree line terrain if ever there was one – use one of our ultralight tunnel tents.

Rather, we would point the team towards our Kerlon 1800 tunnel models, not only because their stronger outer tent fabric makes for a more robust tent, but also because they have features that give greater comfort in the harshness of polar weather.

However, at least one North Pole adventurer has used our Ultralight solo tent, the Akto, quite successfully, so the final assessment of what will serve you best must be yours, the user’s. This page approaches tent choice from the features you might want – or need – for your personal comfort.

Ultralight or Not?

Our Kerlon 1800 tents offer the greatest overall strength and more features than our Ultralight, Kerlon 1200 tents, but our Ultralight models are some of the lightest all season tents available.
Choosing your shelter solution solely because it is the lightest in weight, however, can lead to problems. Simply put, if you need maximum strength for dealing with situations, then you need it. A tarp or shelter such as our Rajd is easily the lightest solution, and many people use them quite successfully. But there is a decided sacrifice in comfort, in resisting condensation, and in durability. The reality is that  riding out truly bad weather in a minimal shelter can be miserable, if not downright dangerous.

Tunnel or Dome?

Our tunnel tents offer lighter weight and more useable space. Our dome tents provide better static load stability because of their crossed-pole structure, and so withstand snow loading better – but at the price of greater weight. As with choosing between Kerlon 1800 and Ultralight Kerlon 1200 models, using weight as the only criteria is problematic: if you need static strength, a small increase in extra weight is an insignificant price to pay.

Self-Supporting or Free Standing?

Most so-called “free standing” tents have vestibules that require pegging out. We call these “self supporting” tents – our Saivo, Tarra, and Jannu – to distinguish them from true free standing models, such as our Staika, Allak, and Soulo, which have integrated vestibules, and our solo Unna, which has extra interior space in lieu of a vestibule. These are often better choices where there are limited pitching possibilities, such as rock slabs and gravelly soil.

While not a necessity, using pegs with both our self-supporting and our free standing tents is a good idea, since any unanchored tent can be pushed around by high winds.

Single or Dual Entrances?

Our dual door/dual vestibule tents – whether Ultralight or Kerlon 1800 or SP – offer greater convenience, storage, and, for the most part, venting options. That second door lets you nearly always situate one entrance out of the wind. In the winter, that second vestibule is an excellent place for “snow furniture” – foot wells and/or benches – a worthwhile luxury. They are also a more comfortable choice for taller people, since inner tent entrances on our tents are vertical (or nearly so, in some of our dome tents), thereby increasing overall space. The downside? Extra weight. Indeed, choosing a two door tent is much more about comfort than necessity.