By Dave at Appalachian Outfitters
Who is Hilleberg?
Hilleberg is a 45 year old, family owned, Swedish tent manufacturer who specializes in lightweight, all season tents using only the highest quality materials and manufacturing methods. Hilleberg AB was founded in 1971 by professional forester, Bo Hilleberg. Later that same year while skiing in Austria, Bo met and fell in love with Renate Neuner. A few years later, the two married and moved in together in Stockholm Sweden. Before Renate, Bo’s primary focus was foresting equipment and the thought of tent making was a back-of-mind idea that he had hoped to venture into one day. As an avid outdoorsman, Bo was frustrated with tents that required pitching the inner tent followed by covering it with a loose, kite-like rain fly. He envisioned a tent where both the inner tent and fly could simultaneously be set up but he lacked the sewing skills required to achieve such a tent. Bo and Renate’s marriage was the last ingredient for what is now Hilleberg the Tent Maker. While Bo handled design and sales, Renate took charge of sewing and the company was off to the races. Today, the company is run by Bo, Renate, daughter Petra and her brother Rolf, all of whom make up the board of directors.
Nice history lesson, but let’s talk tents!
So what makes Hilleberg stand out? Well for starters, the materials and craftsmanship used to make the numerous tents in Hilleberg’s line, will likely make them the last tent you’ll ever need to buy. Every Hilleberg tent is designed and manufactured based on six core principles, Reliability, Adaptability, Ease of Use, Durability, Comfort and Low Weight. In an industry where details make the difference, Hilleberg’s attention to detail is unmatched. You will find clever, industry leading design ideas that make Hilleberg’s tents what they are.
Design and Manufacturing
Hilleberg’s tents are manufactured at their ISO9000 certified facility in Rapla, Estonia. Starting with the pre-production stage, materials are ordered well in advance to allow the team to test and inspect the fabrics for proper color, abrasion resistance, waterproofness, tear strength and weight. In addition to fabrics, zippers, webbing, poles and other hardware are closely inspected for quality assurance. Moving on to the production phase, fabrics are cut using CAD designed templates and moved along to the sewing department with the necessary hardware components. Once sewn together, tent inspectors fully assemble and set up each tent for further testing, inspection and quality control. If any mistake is discovered during the inspection process, the affected part goes back to the production area for correction. Once the tent is completed, it is packaged into its lightweight stuff sack and hangtags, as well as hand initialed quality control labels are attached.
Hilleberg warehouses their tents in Sweden as well as the United States. From there, they are distributed to the dealers like Appalachian Outfitters. One of my favorite design elements that Hilleberg uses is the ability to pitch the tent with the rain fly already attached. This is awesome when you’re pitching your tent in the rain, snow or heavy winds. Another design element that was well thought out was the ability to purchase a second set of poles and “double pole” your tent. Your style of backpacking may have led you to purchase a Red Label tent but you have the opportunity to go on a trip where a Black Label tent is probably the better option, simply double pole your tent and you now have the added strength and structure to make that trip worry-free and enjoyable.
Materials and Hardware
Hilleberg knows that a tent’s fabrics are what keep you safe and comfortable, that’s why fabrics are chosen with care and awareness. Hilleberg Kerlon outer tent fabrics must meet specific tear strengths and waterproof ratings in order to stand up to their specific uses. While the outer fabrics are keeping you safe, the inner tent fabrics are what keep you comfortable. The inner tent fabrics must be strong and durable but at the same time be air permeable and highly breathable to allow moisture vapor to pass through while keeping water drops out. Hilleberg Kerlon Fabrics start with their lightest weight Kerlon 1200 and increase in strength, durability and waterproofness, up to their Kerlon 2500 found in their Blue Label tents. To truly understand the durability and tear strength of the materials found on Hilleberg’s tents, stop into Appalachian Outfitters and have a go at our sample fabrics, you will be surprised how these fabrics compare to other fabrics used throughout the industry.
The Hilleberg Labeling System
Hilleberg categorizes their tents into 4 groups, Yellow Label, Red Label, Black Label, and Blue Label. Each category is unique in offering the user a specific type of tent for a specific application or environment.
Yellow Label Tents: Yellow Label tents are Hilleberg’s lightest weight options for use in warm weather trips when snow is not in the forecast. These tents are for the user who is willing to give up a little bit of comfort in order to help keep their pack weight down. Yellow Label tents are engineered to have a lightweight inner tent with large mesh panels for increased ventilation and an outer tent with shorter walls to provide warm weather air movement. The interiors are designed to maximize light weight while providing adequate roominess. Yellow Label Hilleberg tents are available in 1, 2 and 3-person models. These are great for three season backpackers and thru-hikers that require the most from their shelter. The outer tents use the Kerlon 1000 fabric with a minimum hydrostatic head or “waterproofness” of 5,000mm. The inner tent is made with a 10D or 20D ripstop nylon. All Yellow Label tents have a floor made of a puncture and abrasion resistant 50D nylon that has been double coated to have a hydrostatic head of 12,000mmm. The use of 9mm pre-bent DAC Featherlite poles give the tents their structure and strength.
Red Label Tents: Red Label tents are made for longer or shorter trips that require less demanding four season protection. By upgrading the outer tent fabric to a Kerlon 1200 and bringing the outer tent walls to the ground, Red Label tents are a great choice for a backpacker that expects to encounter heavy rain or snow during their trip. While the hydrostatic head of Red Label tents doesn't increase over Yellow Label tents, their tear strength does increase for added durability and protection from strong winds and driving snow and rain. Inner and outer tent fabrics increase to 30D ripstop nylon and inner tent mesh ventilation can be completely closed off. Following suit, the floor fabric increases to triple coated, 70D nylon with a 15,000mm hydrostatic head. Just like the Yellow Label tents, the use of 9mm pre-bent DAC Featherlite poles give the tents their structure and strength. Red label tents are available in various 1, 2, 3 and 4 person models. Many of the Red Label tents have the option of replacing the inner tent with a mesh inner when you need the extra breathability or ventilation in the hot summer months.
Black Label Tents: Black Label tents are Hilleberg’s strongest, most adaptable and most comfortable all-season tents. These tents can be used on any trip, anywhere and in any weather condition. Designed and built to withstand the world’s worst conditions, Black Label tents are the choice for many high-altitude and long expedition users. Black Label tents earn their merit buy using 40D Kerlon 1800 ripstop nylon that boasts a 5,500mm hydrostatic head for the outer tent, 40D ripstop nylon for the inner tent and a 100D triple coated nylon floor that keeps you dry with a 20,000mmm hydrostatic head. Just like Red Label tents, inner tent ventilation can be sealed off when required. The use of 10mm pre-bent DAC Featherlite poles give the tents their structure and strength. Black Label tents come in various models ranging from 2-4 person occupancy.
Blue Label Tents: Blue Label Tents are designed for larger groups and are generally set up at base camps. These tents are built with a certain objective or use in mind. Whether they are providing shelter for 6 people to cook and dine in, or they are being used as a field medical center for up to 14 people, Blue Label tents are the burliest available shelters from Hilleberg and are able to be customized to fit a specific users needs.
Why Should I Invest In a Hilleberg
One of the most common questions we hear is “why is it worth paying double the price of another brand’s tent for a Hilleberg?” The answer is quite simple, like many of our customers, you are probably okay with spending a little more money on your gear if you know it is not going to fail you during use, and it's going to last a lifetime. How many times have you heard “our camping trip was great until it started raining in the middle of the night and we had water coming through our tent fly and seams in the floor” or “we had to set the tent up in the rain and by the time we got the rainfly on, the inside of the tent was soaked”. We hear it all the time and cringeworthy stories like these are what ruin what could be an amazing experience out in nature. Hilleberg tents are made to perform the way you expect them to. Like I’ve told many of my customers, when it comes to gear that is going to keep me safe and comfortable, I’m willing to shell out the extra money to ensure it will do just that. If I spend $250 on a tent, I already have the expectation that I am probably going to have to tape the seams, re-apply a DWR (durable water repellent) and deal with busted zippers and tears in the fabrics. When you invest in a Hilleberg, a lot of those concerns are no longer applicable and with proper care, I can expect it to outlast that $250 tent for a lifetime without the worry of having to replace it.
For a complete Hilleberg experience, stop by Appalachian Outfitters where we can set up one of the various stocked Hilleberg models and you can see what makes them The Tentmaker. Check out the Hilleberg products we currently stock here.