Over my years of hunting, I’ve learned that if you cut corners on your shelter, it’s more likely your trip could end prematurely. I spent a few years filming hunts professionally, and on one trip, I was caught in a massive rainstorm in Alaska. The flimsy lightweight tent I had brought leaked like a sieve, and I spent the next 10 wet days huddling in my buddy’s tent. It was a painful and valuable lesson. When you’re riding out a storm raging in the middle of nowhere on the trip- of-a-lifetime, you never regret the extra strength, security, or any extra ounces of a high-quality, utterly reliable tent. I swore I’d only use tents I could trust completely, no matter the weather or terrain I’d be in. A short time later, I discovered Hilleberg. I bought my first Hilleberg tent, a Staika, in 2014, and it’s one of the best things I’ve ever done.
Hilleberg does not make a specific “hunting tent,” nor do they make tents specifically for backpacking, climbing, paddling, or the like. What they do make are tents that are strong enough for anything and everything. All their tents have the best poles, fittings, and fabric, and their build quality is unsurpassed. Their inner and outer tents are linked (and separable), offering both greater overall strength and simple one- step pitching, which ensures your inner tent stays dry, even when you’re setting up in a heinous rainstorm or snowstorm. Also, their proprietary Kerlon outer tent fabrics have exceptionally high tear strength, which is something that can mean the difference between being able to weather a storm or having to abandon a hunt. There’s a reason why Hilleberg tents are the first choice of explorers, adventurers, and military units, not to mention sheep hunting guides and mountain hunters, across the globe. I’ve used my Staika, and most other Hilleberg tents since joining the team as the Hunting Manager, for late-season backcountry hunts just as enjoyably as on summer paddling and fishing trips.
Hilleberg offers over 40 models, nearly all well-suited to a hunter’s needs. Choosing the right Hilleberg for you comes down to understanding your needs (what you must have) and your wants (what you’d like to have) in a tent and being honest with yourself about that relationship. The big “need” on any trip is comfort. Not luxury comfort, but the foundational comfort that comes from knowing your tent will handle whatever you encounter and keep you dry and secure. Other factors, including weather suitability, tent shape, access, and size, can rank as either “need” or “want,” depending on what your trip entails.
All-Season vs. Snow-Free Models: The Hilleberg Label System
Hilleberg makes all-season tents, those built to handle any type of weather, and snow-free adventure models, those constructed for the snow-free times of the year. In Hilleberg all-season models, the outer tent goes completely to the ground for maximum weather protection, all mesh areas can be covered to keep out spindrift, and vents are both up high and fully adjustable to deal with any weather situation. Snow-free adventure models have permanently open mesh areas, and venting is integrated into the construction to take maximum advantage of air flow while still offering complete weather protection from rain.
Hilleberg Black and Red Label tents are all-season, with Black Label models being the most robust, capable of handling any weather anywhere. Red Label tents can handle all but the worst conditions and give up a small amount of strength for a lighter weight. Yellow Label tents are for snow-free use and are Hilleberg’s lightest, since they’re not engineered for snowy conditions. Nearly as strong as the Red Label models (they use the same 9 mm poles found in Red Label tents), they will handle unexpected storms quite well.
If you expect snow, choose a Black or Red Label tent. If you don’t expect snow, say for summer scouting, early season, lower altitude hunts, then the Yellow Label models are excellent. If you’re unsure, I recommend going “up” a label. Red Label tents are arguably the best choice for any hunt as they will handle winter storms yet still offer excellent venting for hot hunts.
Tunnel or Dome
Hilleberg makes different “shapes” of tents, each with its own advantages. If your hunts involve constant camp moving, tunnel tents are quick to pitch and take down a n d offer the best space to weight ratio. Lest you think tunnel designs aren’t strong, Hilleberg Black Label tunnel models like the Keron are the de facto choice for polar expeditions, and they are often the best choice for late season hunts where it’s not about if you get snowed in, but for how long.
If you prefer to establish a base camp and range out on shorter trips, then a dome tent’s static strength, multiple pole-crossing points, and ability to handle snow loading when left unattended may be the best choice. My Staika, a Black Label dome, has been superb in the often ugly winters of Washington’s Cascades.
Access: One vs. Two Vestibules
Hilleberg’s single entrance models are generally lighter, while dual entrance/ vestibule tents offer greater comfort and convenience, more storage, more useable interior space. and typically, more venting options. Since I’m a six- foot-six guy, when I’m sharing a tent, I nearly always put dual entrances/ vestibules in the “need” column for that extra space. Each of us having a dedicated entrance is a great bonus! For general, all-around trips or early to mid-season hunts, I love the Yellow Label Helags tunnel tent. It’s strong, it’s super comfortable, and if the weather changes from cool to hot, I can fully roll back both of its vestibules for exceptional venting. If snow is likely, I often opt for the Red Label Kaitum, essentially the Red Label version of the Helags, which offers the same spacious layout but with full, all-season weather protection.
If you often hunt hunt alone, or if you just prefer sleeping alone, you’ll likely want a solo tent. I’ve used both the Yellow Label Enan and its Red Label counterpart, the Akto, quite a bit. Their single pole tunnel construction has venting built into the head and foot ends, and both are remarkably lightweight. The Akto has long been a mainstay with mountain hunters, and it’s plenty strong for Alaska and similar. It’s even been used successfully on both North and South Pole expeditions.
All Hilleberg tents are built to accommodate their stated number of occupants plus gear. That said, I often recommend that people “size up” and use a three-person tent for two and a four-person tent for three, or even a two-person tent solo, something I do frequently. This provides extra interior space with very little weight penalty. A case in point is the two-person Yellow Label Niak, which I often take in warmer weather. While my wife and I have used it together quite happily, it is simply outstanding as a palatial solo tent. It’s very light yet strong and has a self-supporting dome tent structure for strength and a single vestibule.
If your hunts involve a lot of gear, consider one of the “GT” tunnel tent models which boast an extended (“GT”) vestibule. This extra room, especially when combined with the possibility found in all Hilleberg tents to detach and roll away part or all of the inner tent, allows you to create an impressively spacious gathering area out of the weather, which is a welcome thing when the wind, rain, and/or snow are coming in hard.
Risk vs. Reward
We typically don’t think twice about the weight of our rifle because it must perform, no matter what. I feel the same way about my tent, and I don’t take risks with either my rifle or my shelter choice. I learned early on that choosing a tent by its weight alone rarely works out. The lighter the tent often means the less strength and consequently the less security, the “comfort” I mentioned above. Choosing a tent can be daunting, but being honest about what you need is the best way I know to get what you want. If you honestly determine the lowest level of strength and comfort you’re willing to accept, you’ll make a good choice. If you hunt above tree line, in big mountains, in all seasons, you need something more than the guy who only hunts in forests in the early season. Extra security means a bit more weight, but if you need it, you need it.
I’ve been using Hilleberg tents exclusively for nearly a decade. I started doing so long before I joined the Hilleberg team. I’ve experienced firsthand that thanks to the quality of both materials and construction, Hilleberg tents have such an impressive amount of built-in “margin of safety” (think insurance against unexpected weather changes or unforeseen user mistakes) that I trust all their models completely. I’ve never had a bad night in a Hilleberg!