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Discussion in 'Camping Toys' started by NorthIdaho800gsa, Nov 5, 2019.
My Keron 4GT was pretty long, but I never ran into any issues finding room to pitch it.
One thing to consider when thinking about freestanding vs not, is that tents with full length pole sleeves & a design where the fly & inner stay connected & are pitched together, are not usually freestanding. Most of the Hillebergs are like this. Once you have used a tent of this design you will never want to go back to putting on the fly every time you pitch.
We have an old Macpac Minaret which is quite similar to a Nallo 2, It's eventually going to be replaced with a Nallo GT 2 or 3 as a bigger vestibule would be about the only thing that needs improving. We've never had a problem pitching it although it's not too often we're on ground you can't put a peg in, if moto camping you always have at least 1 motorcycle on hand which will do one end. I think a long skinny tent is actually easier to fit into a variety of spots, it doesn't matter if the vestibule end ground is a bit uneven.
Maybe a little late to the party here, but I'll put in my two cents. My current Hilleberg collection includes a Saitaris, Staika, Kaitum 2GT, Allak 3, and Rogen (always rotating, buying/selling/trading). So black, red, and yellow label; tunnel, dome, free-standing and semi-free standing. Do I need 5 Hillebergs? Nope. But they're awesome and cheaper than a lot of other addictions. I can't really speak to the Exped tents, since I've never owned one. However, I have 2 of their sleeping pads and 2 of their rolling duffel bags, and they're great. I'm just not familiar with their tent materials/construction, which I feel is a big part of the value equation. That being said, I'll try to give my take on the original 2 questions and a couple of the other points that have come up.
Inner/outer tents pitched together with the footprint attached: IMHO, the value of this feature cannot be overstated. If you ever put up this style of tent in any type of stormy weather, you'll never want to go back. This is a common feature across the Hilleberg line. I have put up my Staika in a snowstorm with 45mph winds, and it was pretty much drama-free. If you've done this with a standard body-first / separate rain fly arrangement, you know how much it sucks. Starting off with a wet tent body is no fun. If you're stuck in your tent and need to cook or sort gear but want to keep the sleeping area dry and clean, it's nice to be able to shove all that stuff to one side of the inner, un-toggle the rest of the inner and have a large amount of protected space under the outer tent. Using the toggles with cold fingers can be a bit fiddly, especially the lower ones towards the corners, but not a huge deal.
Large vestibule: Most folks like these for extra storage, which is definitely nice, but I find another big benefit to be the ability to get in and out of the tent without exposing the inner tent to the weather. On damp mornings it also makes it easier to avoid rubbing up against the outer tent when it's wet with condensation. The GT vestibules also make the tents feel huge if you're sitting out bad weather, and it seems like they'd be great if you have dogs (I don't).
Free-standing vs. tunnel tents: This is one where I always had free-standing tents and didn't really "get it" with tunnel tents until I bought one. I think you have to actually see the tunnel tents in person to understand how much volume there is inside them. The vertical walls (particularly the end walls on the Keron/Kaitum) are a huge plus in my opinion. I'm 6'1" and my wife is 5'11", and while the dome tents are long enough, our sleeping bags come into contact with the end walls on the dome tents. Especially with higher-loft cold weather bags and thicker sleeping mats. Not a big deal (you can use synthetic bags, cover the end of your down bag with a rain jacket or trash bag, be a shorter human, etc.), but something to be aware of if conditions are right for condensation. With the vertical end walls, we can't reach them if we stretch out and try. This geometry also makes the the tunnel tents "feel" much bigger inside than you would think. With the Staika and the Allak, something that's not very well depicted in any of the photos or videos I've seen, is that the long walls are nearly vertical. This is due to the arrangement of the toggles that attach the inner tent to the outer. There is a toggle on each long side at about the upper third of the vertical door zipper that attaches to a ring sewn into outer tent along the pole that supports the vestibules. This holds the upper portion of the inner tent vertical in much the same way as the cross-pole on many current tent designs by other brands, while still keeping the vestibule completely supported. Difficult to explain, but it makes these tents feel bigger inside than you'd think as well.
As far as pitching them goes, there are pros and cons to both designs. First off, if you're in bad weather, you're going to have to stake out either style. If you're on a rocky surface, the tunnels can suck - you need extra guyline and have to be up to speed on your knots. If you're on tough ground, you can always get the free-standing tents pitched. With the tunnel tents, the poles are completely sleeved and all insert from the same side of the tent, which is fast. The dome tents (at least Staika/Allak) use a combination of sleeves and clips, and require several trips around the tent to get them fully pitched. The tunnel tents are easier to relocate than I expected, as you can just gather up the 3 or 4 hoops and carry the whole thing around somewhat easier than picking up a pitched dome tent (minor point). The tunnel tents are long - the GT versions of the Keron/Kaitum are over 16'. This could make it tough in some campgrounds with designated sites, but most other places aren't really an issue. Also - it seems some people try to rely on the guylines on tunnel tents to get a taut pitch. However it's the 4 tension straps at the ends of the tent that should create the taut pitch, and I think people may be afraid to put as much tension on them as they're designed for. The guylines are really for stability in the wind. Something to be aware of when looking at photos/videos of pitched tunnel tents.
Overall, I was surprised by how much I like the tunnel tents, and how much easier they are to handle than I thought. The space to weight/packed size ratio is pretty impressive. All that said, I think if you were looking for a 1-2 person tent that would pretty much do it all and do it anywhere, the Staika's pretty hard to beat.
Value: This one's (obviously) pretty subjective, and this is going to be a long-winded answer. You've been warned. I'll try to approach it from the practical and then the "philosophical". Practically speaking, Hilleberg uses some of the best materials out there, and their construction is outstanding. If you've been down the Hilleberg rabbit hole, I'm sure you know all of this, but their Kerlon silnylon is extremely strong, their Vectran guylines do not stretch, they use metal for many critical parts, any of the plastic parts (buckles/hooks/rings) on the tents are very well made and high quality. Basically they're top of the line in materials and construction. I think that's pretty well acknowledged. They're also fantastic when it comes to customer service. As and example, recently they had a run of bad shock cords in their tent poles. As soon as they realized it, they put the word out that they'd send replacement shock cords along with instructions for changing them, or you could send your affected poles to them and they'd change them for you. No waiting for customers to start reporting issues, then denying there was a problem, then making excuses, then begrudgingly agreeing to some half-baked solution. Just fixed, period. I think if you actually use these tents at or near their limits, there's no question about the value.
Where it gets interesting to me is on the philosophical side of things for people that don't use these tents at their limits. Are Hillebergs expensive tents? Yep. Are the materials and construction THAT much better than other expedition-worthy tents? I think you'd have to really push them to the limits to ever find out, which, let's be honest, most of us never will. I just like to camp off my motorcycle in the summer, throw up my tent in the local state forest or even my front yard when it's nasty in the winter just for fun, do some car camping with the family a few times a year, and that's about it. I do not "need" one of these tents. It's certainly impressive that polar explorers and elite mountaineers trust their lives to them, even more so given many of these people have to pay for the tents rather than getting them through sponsorship deals. But again, all of that has little to do with why I own Hilleberg tents.
I've spent the last 18 years as an employee, partner, or owner of small businesses. Primarily involved in different facets of low volume, high quality custom manufacturing. I have a healthy appreciation for how difficult it is to try to make a living making high quality expensive things - and I mean actually MAKING them. I can't imagine how hard it is to do it on an international scale, and go against the industry grain of lowest possible labor costs, and constant "innovation" in the form of new "features" and "improvements" just to have something new at every trade show. I appreciate what Hilleberg does and how they do it. I love the fact that a company like this exists, and I'm at a point in my life where I can vote with my dollars to support them, so I do. I think a lot of what gets lost in the marketing around recreational outdoor equipment is the basic fact that this stuff exists to have FUN. To me, it is fun to be in my tent when it's 15 degrees outside and the wind is gusting at 45mph+, and to know those conditions are nowhere near the tent's margins of performance. It's fun to have a tent that can last as long as I'll want to use it, and probably as long as one of my nephews or nieces wants to use it. It's fun to think about that one lady in Estonia that built my tent, and put her name on a tag that's sewn into one of the seams. It's just fun to use the best. And if you are in those extreme environments, I'd imagine it offers a lot of peace of mind. So to me, $1500 to own a product of this quality made this way is excellent value for money. In what other area can you spend $1500 and have the top of the line? If you don't have the money, you don't have the money. It was almost 25 years from when I first heard of Hilleberg to when I bought one. That doesn't mean they weren't worth the price 25 years ago.
I grew up and currently live in the rural midwest. If most of the people I know were aware that I currently have a tent in my house that cost $5 shy of two grand, they'd pull my wife aside and tell her to get me some help. Interesting thing is, many of them would show up to cart me away in a $15,000 side-by-side that they own for no other reason than to cruise around the gravel roads on Sunday afternoon drinking cans of Busch Light out of a $500 Yeti cooler. To me, all of those things are a massive waste of money (especially the Busch Light - for the love of god, drink some good beer) . Point is, I guess it's all about perspective.
Hope this is of some help.
Awesome writeup brother. I'm putting off the purchase for a little while. My tent and panniers are going to have to wait. I'm buying another house and my banker says to watch what I put in and take out of the bank. Plus it's just more I have to move. I have decided to go with Hilleberg though. I have some time to figure out which one now.
My wife and I are 5 1/2 years into an extended RTW ride. We started out with an Exped Venus III. We had a number of issues with zips and a pole although these were dealt with efficiently by Exped culminating in them giving us a brand new replacement tent under warranty. Certainly can't fault their customer service.
We recently changed out the Exped for a Hilleberg Keron 3GT. The build quality and materials are definitely a step up from the Exped. We're currently in Patagonia, famous for its winds, and we have total faith in the Hilleberg. In contrast we bent a pole on the Exped in Death Valley with wind gusts of about 35mph (we got off lightly compared to others who had their tents shredded).
The Hilleberg Keron 3GT is a tunnel tent and offers two vestibules one of which is extended. It's perfect for motorcycle camping for two people. All wet gear, boots, helmets, Ortlieb dry bag etc. can be stored in the vestibules keeping the sleeping area bone dry. The fly, inner tent and footprint can all be pitched together, a huge bonus.
In hindsight we should have maybe started out with a Hilleberg. At the time I just couldn't get over the price differential between the Exped, which was already expensive, and the Hilleberg. Given the amount of use, we definitely had value for money from the Exped. It will be a while until we can say the same of the Hilleberg but so far we are very impressed.
Exped Gemini 2 user. I have had lots of Exped gear over the years. Best customer service you will ever find and the quality is very high compared to REI and BA tents which seem to be made cheaper and cheaper over the years. They cost a little more though. Now Hilleberg is another level higher too but there is a price jump here as well. Seeing a trend?
I've used in a Exped Orion II in Patagonia, and the tent did great in sustained 30mph winds, with gusts into the 40's. The tent did better than my nerves.
How you pitch and position the tent in windy conditions often gets overlooked, but is mucho importante for getting the best performance from it. While it might seem obvious, if it's windy, fully guy it out. You be surprised how many broken pole situations one sees camping are because the tent was only staked. Also, position the tent correctly. On the Orion II, for example, one side of the tent has yellow loops on the bottom of the fly, versus the black of the other side. The yellow side is meant to be pointed into the wind (windward vs. leeward) for best stability - the fly is actually longer on this side so wind cannot get underneath the fabric. The slightly shorter length on the other side allows for, among other things, improved ventilation inside the tent during these conditions. If you don't have this feature and aren't sure what to do, don't position the tent so that the wind hits the broadest part of the fabric (usually the side); this just allows all of that surface area to transfer magnified force onto the poles. Position it 45 degrees to the wind so the pole is cutting that wind force. And again, fully guy it out. Combine this 45 degree turn with a windward side like the Orion, and you have a very good-performing platform.
Anyway, I could go on and on. What it boils down to is Hilleberg and Exped both make excellent tents. Pick the one that has the living space you like best and just go for it.
I wish they made the terra and saivo like the saitaris. I want freestanding with a big vestibule. Still can't buy until after we close on the other house though.
do you really have 5 tents?. Wait, sorry, you said "(always rotating, buying/selling/trading)". I'm wondering why you are so dissatisfied seemingly so often. I have owned 3 tents and a cheap plastic tarp+poles===in 45 years. One tent (a vintage REI 6 man expedition that was my rally tent) died of smelling bad. I have it's single pole around somewhere. The next, an excellent Walrus got stolen by a homeless person. The current one a Mountain Hardware does everything I want except have a vestibule but I've never missed one and if I do I'll bring the plastic tarp and poles along.
I have way more than 5. I have 5 Hillebergs. It has nothing to do with being dissatisfied - quite the opposite in fact. If that wasn't clear from my post, you may have missed the point. BTW, if you want to see for yourself, I'm currently in sell mode (see my post in the gear forum)
I stand corrected. I missed the word "addictions". I'm a nicotine addict, so I guess I know what it's like.
Here is my highly qualified recommendation for a tent that may become a big hit in our community.
My search for a tent for an upcoming 90 day journey has led me to join the ranks of those who 'wear out YouTube', create incomprehensible spreadsheets, and have multiple carts full of unresolved convictions. I have spoken with product folks at Redverz, Exped, REI, Campsaver and many more all in the name of finding the perfect solution. I somehow wandered to the Wikipedia page for "analysis paralysis" and noticed a new graphic that looks remarkably like me.
In a brief loss of impulse control I went back to one of the many open tabs on my browser and bought the Exped Orion II. I set it up in my living room and before even entering the tent, one of the loops for tying back the vestibule fell off in my hand. Ouch. Campsver was great about the return and the folks at Exped could hardly have been more apologetic. In discussing my experience, and what I was looking for in a tent, the Exped rep told me about their new Outer Space tent that would soon be available at REI. It was effectively a backpacking version of a Redverz solo without the garage door. With Exped quality in mind (Orion experience not withstanding) I ordered an Outer Space from REI and counted the days until it became available. With little to do while I waited I read and reread the one and only independent review of this tent online to convince myself of the brilliance of my early adopter status. The review was pretty solid with very few dings other than a caution that the tent "makes a big wind target when there's a breeze". But with big dose of self administered optimism obtained from I don't know where , I resisted remorse.
The tent arrived as promised and I couldn't wait to set it up. It is a free standing beauty but as it was a bit big for my living room so I took it outside to get a feel for my new treasure. With clear skies and a 17 mph breeze I continued my atypical approach to this tent... and read the instructions. There was nothing special other than the sensible caution that if there was much wind I should stake down the windward end of the tent and open the vestibules lest I turn the tent into a "balloon".
Now before I go further let me tell you that this is indeed a marvelously designed 2 walled exoskeleton tent by a well respected company. The single pole magically assembles to look like a stick figure with short legs, long arms and an extended neck with no head. Instantly we were friends. Its clip on design means there is no need to thread poles through sleeves and so after staking out the body of the tent (and opening the vestibules) I simply laid my new buddy over the tent and up it went in no time at all. And there it stood for all of 10 seconds until all of the stakes were ripped from the ground and my new pal twisted in anguish on his way to going airborne with me chasing down the hill after him. I grabbed him by his scrawny neck and did the best I could to distribute the stress across his other extremities until I could unclip enough of the fabric to shape shift my friend from kite to rag doll.
I took apart the poles and found that 2 had been seriously bent. With my second Exped disaster I was more than dejected. I began to doubt myself and reran the assembly over and over in my mind to (surprise) no conclusion. I am sure that if I had time to stake out the numerous guy lines the tent would have been fine but that was just not an option and I resolved that this experience was my sign that I needed to look elsewhere. Feeling really guilty, like I must have done something wrong, I returned the tent to REI who were, as always, gracious.
I began to think about Redverz and Hilleberg but just couldn't get past the relative enormities of each (size and cost). Moreover for the life of me I just couldn't believe that Exped had built a tent that couldn't withstand a 17 mph breeze. So I swallowed my pride and hit my speed dial for Exped and spoke to their rep who, again was great. He was as surprised to hear about the wind issue as he was the tie back loop, but said that the Swiss Piranha stakes that ship with the Outer Space are new for them. He encouraged me to pick up another tent at REI, assuring me that I could take it back to REI within a year if I wasn't satisfied (like I would dare to?) and he would send me some new stakes to try in return for a report back on how they fared compared to the Piranhas.
So...how's that for a sad story?
Well I ordered the new Outer Space and am eagerly looking forward to trying it out with the new stakes.
Now on the expectation that this thing is going to perform as expected I would like to take this long winded way of saying that I will not be surprised to see this tent starts popping up in the ADV touring community. It has good room for 2 (30 sq ft), a marvelously spacious 40 sq ft vestibule that can be configured many different ways and sports close to 5' of headroom, weighs all of 6.3 lbs and packs down nicely.
If the tent is as good as the customer service, it should be a winner.
Here's to hope
Re the pitch size question: For our 6 wk annual base camping we use a large tipi type tent. Our most used camp site was made by roughly bulldozing a few trees down in a forest on a stony ridge. No soil, but at leas the rocks aren't huge, but then the pitches vary in pitch and yaw and altitude. We never have any difficulty in finding reasonably level space for the 10' diameter lavvu.
We camp in the south of France - while that may envision images of warm days and balmy evenings, the reality is that most weeks you will experience the Mistral. Several days of constant gusty winds - pegs or as I mostly use, rocks - along with guys need frequent checking.
A few years ago the Guardien came round, warning all of us that a severe storm was imminent. There was an offer from the Mayor or bed down in the village hall. Most of us stayed - the only leavers were a young couple with brand new gear who abandoned mid way through the night. They left their tent, never to return.