I love my Warbonnet Blackbird hammock (video), but for bugging out I need a tent. Sure, with a hammock you don’t need flat ground. Sure, you can hang it in a thicket. Sure, it is far and away the most comfortable way to sleep in the bush. But the problem with a hammock, as I recently discovered, is that I can’t fit myself, my wife, and my two little girls in it, so if I have to bug out — or go camping — with the family, I need a tent.
Hilleberg is, in terms of design and build quality, the Warbonnet of tentmakers. Based on my hands-on research, I rate this tent the best in its class using a very general, subjective scale. At $735 (plus $88 for the footprint), it’s expensive, but it’s not by any means a ripoff because you’re getting full value for the dollar.
Note: In the first half of the video I mispronounced it “Helleberg.” It’s “Hilleberg.” My apologies to Petra and the rest of the family.
Hilleberg Nallo 3 Design Features
I chose the Nallo 3, a three-man tent. It also comes in 2-man and 4-man versions, and a “GT” variant of each model adds an extended vestibule. They make several models, including some solo tents like the famous Akto.
Hilleberg offers Black Label, Red Label, and Yellow Label tents. Black Label tents are the most rugged, and Yellow Label are the lightest. Nallo is a Red Label model, an all-season design that is a little lighter and less rugged than the Black Label models. There’s also a Blue Label series of special purpose tents.
The Nallo is a tunnel design, which maximizes both structural integrity and usable interior height; you get a strong tent with the greatest usable volume for the weight.
Light Weight — But Not “Ultralight”
Speaking of weight, the Nallo 3 tips the scales at 5 lbs 12 0z, and the footprint adds 1 lb. This is the actual “pack weight,” which includes everything the tent ships with; inner and outer tents, stakes, poles, stuff sacks, guy lines with line runners, spare pole section, repair sleeve, and instructions. If you’re dividing your gear between three people, that’s only 2 lbs 4 oz per person, which is less than if they were each carrying a Warbonnet Blackbird and Superfly.
Anyway, “ultralight” is not the only consideration. I do pay close attention to weight, simply because the lighter my stuff, the farther I can go comfortably. But some things are worth packing even if they have lighter alternatives, as long as they return on the investment.
Integrated Rain Fly
What we usually call the rain fly is what Hilleberg calls the “outer tent,” and it is completely integrated. When you pitch the tent, you’re also pitching the fly at the same time. You don’t have to pitch the tent and then drape the fly over it. As a result, you can set up in a driving rain and never get the interior wet.
Hilleberg uses Kerlon, a proprietary ripstop fabric that is up to six times stronger than competing fabrics. It comes in various weights; they include a sample of it in a catalog that ships with the tent. It already has a slit cut in it, which they invite you to tear — or try to tear — claiming it’s up to six times stronger than competing tent fabrics. It’s tough, for sure. I was unable to tear even the lightest fabric they use; the “common” ripstop was easily torn. Now, if you grabbed a fistful of tent fabric, instead of the little piece you have grip with two fingers, you could tear it. But there’s no question this stuff is exceptionally tough.
The outer tent fabric is triple-silicon-impregnated on both sides for complete waterproofing, and the inner tent is air and water-vapor permeable but liquid-water repellent. I can tell you from personal experience that these so-called “breathable” fabrics are not really breathable in any way that’s relevant to your comfort. Technically, they will pass water vapor, but only after the vapor pressure gets high enough on the inside to make you sticky and uncomfortable.
Hilleberg addresses this with a smart ventilation design. You can unzip the entire front door panel to reveal a no-see-um mesh, and on the opposite wall is a triangular porthole where you can do the same. At the front, the vestibule door unzips at the top, where a “porch” prevents the infiltration of rain, and at the back two outer tent flaps near the ground roll away to create a cross-breeze inside.
The floor pan is a tub design to prevent flooding. The footprint adds waterproofing and puncture resistance.
The inner tent is warm yellow. If you’re stuck inside all day during a blizzard, this will be a mood-saver. The outer tent comes in red, green, and sand. I chose the sand, because I think it blends in with the most environments. If you’re on an organized expedition, you want to be seen, so red is a good choice.
They use a flat fell-seam, so every stitch goes through four layers of fabric. The sewing machines have cooling jets on the needles to counter friction-induced heat that would otherwise enlarge the holes in the fabric.
The section connecting inserts are nearly the same diameter as the pole itself, which increases strength at each joint. Some sections are pre-curved to improve structural integrity. Pole sleeves are roomy enough to add a second pole for additional strength in extreme winds. An extra pole section comes standard with a repair sleeve and repair instructions.
Guy lines use a light proprietary synthetic blend that absorbs little water and has very little stretch. Adjustable peg attachments let you fine-tune the tension on the tent without moving the stakes. Reflectors help you find the tent after a dark-of-night trip to the camp latrine.
Superior Hilleberg Build Quality
Hilleberg has a factory in Europe where each tent is manufactured from start to finish by a single individual, who puts his name tag in the tent he made. That builder knows that you’re going to unpack the tent and read his name. That’s accountability. Every tent is erected and checked before being sent out. All the zippers work, every strap, flap, fixture, and feature does what is intended.
This is a family-owned and operated company founded in Sweden in 1971. The US subsidiary has been located in Redmond, WA, since 2000.
The Hilleberg family makes the best tent I’ve seen, and this kind of quality is expensive. Certainly it’s possible to buy excellent tents that cost less, but I don’t think it’s possible to buy a better one at any price, and you sure can’t find one this good for less.