As you may know, Hilleberg Tents -- based in Northern Sweden -- has been providing high-quality tents and service in Europe for the past 25 years or so. What you may not know is that Hilleberg now has a presence in the U.S. and is currently based in Redmond, Washington.
Always on the lookout for high-quality, lightweight products, I became interested in testing Hilleberg's award-winning, one-person, all-season Hilleberg Akto tent. I recently gave it a workout during a week-long excursion into the Enchantments region of the Central Cascades. The weather for testing was excellent. We had hot summer-like and cold winter-like weather. We had a 13-hour wind storm which brought ice and snow and much wind-driven rain. All in all, I learned a great deal about the tent's capabilities and performance in various weather conditions.
I hope that you will find the following review of the Hilleberg Akto both informative, helpful and entertaining.
FEATURES / HIGHLIGHTS:
The tent package includes:
- Pole : 1 x Easton 7075W T9, 8,6 mm (shock corded) most sections are approximately 17 inches long (which is also the longest length).
- Pole length: 115 inches
- Pegs : 10
- Stuffbag - pole bag - peg bag - guy lines - line runners - spare
pole section - pole repair sleeve - repair patches - seam sealer -
- excellent size/weight ratio = 1 person + gear + kitchen / 3.75 lbs
- one main pole easily installed into outside pole sleeve with adjustable pole boot which virtually eliminates the all-to-frequent tent-pole wrestling match.
- inner tent attached to fly making setup more convenient. Inner tent is easily detached so that fly may be used separately (possibly as a two-person shelter).
- inner tent fabric is water impermeable yet allows rising vapors to pass through.
- inner tent has a mosquito netting window on the inner tent door flap. The window can be accessed by pulling back the velcro-attached section of the inner tent door flap which covers it. The netting helps control ventilation, yet still filters out the bugs.
- factory attached double-line guylines - two attached to each end of the tent - one for each corner required for tent structure and stability - and two attached to the pole sleeve - one on each side for optional added stability and storm worthiness.
- requires minimum of four tent pegs to setup - the four corner double-line guylines.
MATERIALS / QUALITY:
In general, the overall quality of materials and construction is obvious and much appreciated. My Akto was made by Aime Kallas and a job well done.
The Stitching is straight and tight. All seams are double stitched and strong. Stitch ends are well secured and non-dangling.
Fly Sheet Material = Kerlon 1500. Although this waterproof and UV resistant fabric is similar in appearance to most other silicon-treated, ripstop nylon fabrics -- e.g., Stephensons, Wanderlust Gear, etc. -- it is not the same. The Kerlon 1500 fabric is a high-tenacity ripstop nylon, wherein a square pattern of thicker threads is woven into the material to increase its strength. This, in combination with an expensive siliconelastomere coating on both sides of the fabric results in an increased tear strength beyond that of the other tent materials (per Hilleberg statistics, approximately six times stronger than ordinary ripstop tent fabric). I attempted to tear some of the material and succeeded, but it was not easy. Even when torn, it is difficult to continue tearing it. Whereas, the regular ripstop nylon to which I compared the Kerlon 1500 tore more easily. The Kerlon 1500 material is twice treated for UV protection. Initially, the fibers are treated and then the dye is supplemented with a protective agent.
The Tent Floor is treated with waterproofing (multiple coats of polyurethane) and did not leak even though water was running under it during stormy and rainy nights. The floor has a bath tub shape, so except for the reinforced corners, the seams are well above ground level.
The Inner-Tent fabric is "breathable", that is, condensation doesn't occur within the inner tent. It is also water impermeable, at least until you touch it. Hilleberg says in their marketing literature that you can carry water in it and this is true, but once you touch or rub the material, leakage occurs. I poured about a gallon of water into the inner tent fabric and formed a ball of water. I waited about 15 seconds and didn't observe any leakage. However, when I rubbed my fingers across the bottom of the water ball, water virtually poured out thru the fabric. I can't explain the physics of this, nor will I try, but this does explain why my head got wet upon touching the inner tent ceiling.
--tent fly, body & sack
--poles & sack
--10 stakes & sack (1.1oz lighter than 10 titanium pegs)
Akto stated weight:
= 3 LBS, 12 OZ
Akto tested weight:
= 3 LBS, 12.64 OZ (1719 grams) (unmodified)
= 3 LBS, 10.87 OZ (1669 grams) (modified-see NOTES below)
Modified Weight Breakdown:
pole = 169 grams
pole sack = 16 grams
tent pegs = 100 grams (10 ea @ 10 grams ea)
tent peg sack = 10 grams
tent body & fly = 1337 grams
tent sack= 37 grams
Total actual packed trail weight = 1669 grams
NOTES: I reduced the net weight of the Akto by removing all metal zipper pulls (4 large main door, 4 medium inner tent, 8 small (4 each for the two end vents)) and replacing with Kelty Triptease LightLine. Not only are the LightLine pulls lighter in weight, but they are also easier to grasp with mittens. In addition, of course, in response to my overall weight-reducing neurosis, I was obliged to remove the Hilleberg logo patch from both the tent and the tent sack.
I also removed all six guylines (4 end & 2 side) and replaced them with Kelty Triptease LightLine. Each of the four original corner guylines weighed 12 grams. Their LightLine replacements weigh 7 grams each. Equally as important, I did a water absorption test. I let both the original guyline and the Kelty LightLine soak in water for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, the original guyline weighed 16 grams and the Lightline 8 grams. Bottom line, in a continually wet environment, my four Kelty LightLine corner guylines will absorb 75% less water (and the corresponding weight) than the original guylines. I similarly replaced the two longer side stabilizer guylines. They weighed 17 grams and their replacement LightLines weigh 9 grams. The water retention test results for these lines were consistent with the earlier test.
The illustrations on the Hilleberg homepage are helpful. Here's the link:
Hilleberg Akto Diagrams
I found the headroom in the inner tent to be about 34", a little less than the Kelty Clark. I can sit upright -- exactly under the apex of the tent -- without my head touching the inner tent fabric. Everywhere else my head touches the fabric (which isn't an issue except when the fabric has condensation resting on it from the tent fly - at which times my head gets wet).
What the Hilleberg homepage (or the Akto's accompanying documentation) doesn't emphasize is that the tent's effective length and width are extended by its dependence on guylines. These overall dimensions are important to consider when planning and/or searching for campsites.
The above dimensions suggest that each end of the tent is 56 inches wide and its length is 150 inches. This, of course, includes the measure of each of the four corner guylines that the tent requires. So, in terms of effective dimensions -- those you must take into consideration when selecting a campsite -- the tent is, indeed, 56" wide at each end with 150 inches of guyline and tent in between. In addition, if the weather is nasty, you may want to plan for an extra wide campsite in order to secure the center guylines - one double-line guyline attached to the pole sleeve on each side of the tent. This will require another 24 to 36 inches or so of width on each side. The end result, with all guylines in use, could be a requirement for a tent site at least 150 inches long, with a 56" wide space at each end and a total width of 142 inches.
- Inner tent: 17.8 sq ft
- Vestibule: 8.9 sq ft
- Height (inside tent, at apex) approx 34 inches
- Inner tent length: approx 87 inches
- Overall tent length: approx 150 inches (see NOTES below).
- Akto Width:
- at center: 70 inches
- between two corner guyline stakes at each end: approx 56 inches
- inner tent:
- at center: 41 inches
- at ends: 24 inches
- vestibule: 28 inches at center
Potential Tent Site Requirements (if side guylines are used):
These measurements are approximate. The Akto can be successfully and securely erected with more or less space. Also, the guylines can be secured in several ways, the tent site doesn't have to be all dirt. The guylines can also be secured by attaching to trees and/or with rocks.
- Total length: 150 inches (12 feet, 6 inches)
- Total width: 142 inches (11 feet, 10 inches)
- Width between guyline stakes, at each end of tent: 56 inches (4 feet, 8 inches)
PACKSIZE / PACKING / UNPACKING:
Fly Sheet & Inner Tent = 15" x 8" x 6.5" (14" if you pack the end-vent rods at an angle)
Pole = 19" x 1" x 1.5"
Pegs = 6" x 2" x 1.5" (approx.)
Although the tent material is strong, it is nonetheless prudent to use precaution whenever packing or unpacking the tent. Due to the frustration associated with my initial experience unpacking and setting up the Akto, I quickly developed a process to make it easier.
I find it helpful to first prepare the tent for packing by folding up each guyline and wrapping a rubber band around it. This only takes several seconds and makes a big difference when unpacking -- unless, of course, you delight in untangling tangled guylines. This actually makes packing easier, also, by eliminating all the dangling lines that don't want to enter the stuff sack. Although not necessary, I also zip-up all the doors. That seems to make a more compact package that's easier to deal with when unpacking and setting up the tent.
When packing the Akto, I first gather the two ends, putting all four of the 15"-long end rods (two from each end) together and placing them firstly into the stuff sack. The rest of the tent follows very quickly. I felt that stuffing the rods in a careless way could damage the tent as well as make for a less compact and manageable package. This technique also makes unpacking and tent raising much easier.
The following may be a little confusing, so I'll begin by making clear that this setup configuration uses up to 10 tent pegs.
Four tent pegs (one for each corner) may be used to secure each corner of the tent. There is a small metal ring at each corner for use with the tent pegs. These four pegs are actually positioned at the four corners of the inner tent, thus they help to define and secure the inner tent floor, but they are optional. I find that using them makes setup time faster and the end result more uniform. If you don't use them, the tent will not be standing erect when you are trying to secure the guylines.
Four tent pegs (one for each corner) must be used to secure the double-lined corner guylines. These guylines give the tent structure and stability and are required.
Two tent pegs (one for each side) may be used to provide additional stability. These double-lined guylines are attached to the pole sleeve and their use is optional.
As previously mentioned, my initial experience of setting up the Akto was frustrating. I'm used to the Jalan Jalan, Divine Lightning, Clark, Clip Flashlight and others which are not dependent on guylines for their structure. The Akto depends on the four corner guylines for both structure and stability.
However, as mentioned in the previous section, by organizing the guylines and tent end rods in the stuff sack, it became very easy to unpack the tent by first grasping the four rods, extracting the tent and easily and uniformly spreading it out. Next, tack down one end with two tent pegs, slip the single pole into the external pole sleeve, pull the other tent end taut and tack down each corner with a tent peg. If necessary, adjust the tent pegs. (Note: at this point, your tent is standing erect and your inner tent living space should have a fairly taut and unwrinkled floor).
Next, remove the rubber band from each rolled-up guyline, tack down each corner guyline with a tent peg and finally, adjust each corner guyline to provide uniform tautness over the entire tent. If additional stability is required, also stake out the side guylines located on each side of the center pole sleeve.
Important to note that each double guyline has two sliding cord locks. It is prudent to use their locking function. Otherwise, winds can cause slippage and the result is loose guylines and tent fabric flapping in the wind.
I can attest to the Akto's storm worthiness.
Our base camp was at about 7000 feet on a knoll overlooking Leprechaun Lake. There were a few trees and rocks which acted as a wind break, but we soon discovered that our protection from the weather was inadequate. The day began with a cloudless, blue sky with a hot September sun. One of my friends went for a swim in Leprechaun and my other friend and I went fishing. We brought back to camp about 13 ten-to-twelve-inch trout and were just starting to cook them. I knew we were in trouble when I looked up and saw those ominous looking black clouds billowing up and over the ridge and moving directly toward us. We had enough time to choke down about six half-cooked trout before we hit shelter. Twelve hours later we felt like we had been hit by a Mack truck.
The tent easily shed heavy rain and high winds (60 -70 mph gusts estimated). One of my friends had a tarp tent. He didn't sleep - but rather stayed awake all night hanging on to his tarp and praying (really). My other friend had a Walrus Micro Swift. With the Swift's low profile and with its low end properly facing the wind, it easily shed the wind but the snow and ice practically flattened it. He also had puddles of water inside the tent. I, on the other hand, was snug as a bug. At first, until I got used to the stability of the Akto, I found myself bracing when the wind - roaring like a diesel locomotive - came charging down the mountainside prior to slamming into our campsite. Eventually I rather enjoyed the storm.
For the most part, the rain, snow and ice just slipped off the tent fabric. The wet snow did accumulate a little on the ends but eventually either slid off or I would knock it off from inside the tent. In the morning, I inspected the guylines and found them to be a little less taut - to be expected given the stiff wind and the colder temperature. There was zero water seepage into the inner tent compartment (note: per Hilleberg's advice, I did not seam seal the tent prior to using - nor do I plan to). Also, I might add that I did have the side guylines secured.
One thing that I will say on behalf of Hilleberg, they don't sidestep this issue. They straightaway indicate that you will experience some condensation and provide practical field tips on how to minimize it (see below).
Because the Akto has only the two end air vents (one on each end) and because they are both at ground level, there isn't anywhere for warm air to escape. Consequently, condensation is inevitable.
If weather permits, it helps to leave the main door open or at least half open, unzipped from the top down. This allows some warm air to escape. In inclement weather you may have a varying degree of condensation. I awoke one night to wet tent walls and condensation laying on top of the inner tent where it had accumulated from falling off of the flysheet. Later that night, a strong wind arose and continued for several hours. I awoke the next morning and the walls were dry - no condensation. The strong wind had dried up the condensation.
Another night, there was no wind and I made the mistake of pitching the tent close to a lake. Big mistake. Lots of condensation when I awoke in the morning. My nylon bag was wet and I also got wet when I sat up and began moving around. (By the way, I've decided to use one of my water resistant bags next time I use the Akto).
Bottom line, condensation happens. Because of the design of the Akto (no upper vent for warm air to escape) condensation will occur more frequently and be more problematic than in a single-wall tent with "breathable" fabric like the Jalan Jalan, ITent, Divine Lightning, etc.
Is condensation in the Akto manageable. A matter of opinion, I suppose, but my opinion is yes. To begin with, we can take precautions to minimize condensation (see tips below). I am dealing with it simply by wiping down, as necessary, the areas that are nearest my "living quarters" and by shaking out the tent real well before packing.
I had a hard time deciding whether to take the Akto or my Divine Lightning to the Enchantments. It's a long climb and the one pound weight difference in the tents was a consideration. I made the right choice and the Akto was a pleasure - that is, it was a pleasure to be tent bound in the Akto.
In fact, that was the deciding factor in my overall assessment of the Akto. The Akto's combination of comfort, functionality, and weight cannot be matched by the other lightweight tents that I've used.
I quickly developed a process inside the tent that was very comfortable. In the inner tent was my sleeping bag, fleece jacket/pillow, headlamp and other items like TP and reading glasses (which I stored in the small netting pocket located near the inner tent door). Outside in the vestibule area, I made allowance for a small open area between the main tent door and the inner tent door for storage of boots/shoes and also for cooking. To the right of the main tent door, in the vestibule, I put my rain cover on the bare ground and my pack on top of that. The remainder of my gear, I organized on top of the pack where it was easily accessible to me, from inside the inner tent. To protect the gear from dropping condensation, I covered all the gear on top the pack with my rain parka.
During the storm, I was able to sit upright in the inner tent with a leg outstretched into the vestibule area resting on my backpack while cooking, eating and/or reading. This was significant because my back quickly gets tired sitting in a cross-legged position. Bottom line, there was room to move around and change positions from time to time.
The inner tent is plenty long enough for a long sized sleeping bag without plugging up the air vents. It's also wide enough for an extra-wide bag.
The following is a quote from the Hilleberg catalog & website:
"We offer a lifetime guarantee on materials and workmanship. Excluded from this guarantee are damages from accidents, inappropriate handling or lack of care. Ordinary wear and effects from UV exposure are not covered. All repairs not covered by this warranty will be carried out promptly and at minimal cost."
More so than not, my initial reaction to a new product has been gee whiz this is great and then moderate that enthusiasm as I actually use it in the field. In this case, however, my initial reaction wasn't so good, but thru spending some time with the product and actually living in it in inclement weather conditions, I am very pleased with it.
Overall, it is lightweight, has excellent packing size, quality materials with proven longevity, and durability well-beyond expectations, based upon appearances.
The frustrations that I initially encountered, however, are very real and had to be dealt with. Specifically, (1) the unruly guylines (2) condensation and (3) the large space required to setup the tent.
The guylines problem I solved to my satisfaction by folding them and securing with a rubber band prior to packing. This makes unpacking and tent setup much easier. The condensation problem became a personal, philosophical, mental-gymnastics session which lasted about a week before I became reconciled within myself. I'm now willing to live and deal with a limited amount of condensation in exchange for a very comfortable living environment where I can cook, stretch out my legs and relax during hours or even days of inclement weather. The large footprint of the tent is also something I've decided that I can live with. In one campsite, I was able to setup in a smaller space by attaching the guylines around large rocks. Bottom line: the tent remains in my gear closet as a favorite, to be used under certain conditions, especially if there is any chance of inclement weather.
I'd like to get another one.
If you can deal with the three things that I previously mentioned -- (1) the unruly guylines (2) condensation and (3) the large space required to pitch the tent -- then this tent is well worth the investment and I highly recommend it.