Checking Out Hilleberg Tents for Denali 2010

Post by blogger | October 20, 2009      
Denali Ski Expedition 2010

We really like the way Hilleberg Tents combine wind performance and reasonable weight in their double wall tents (which can be converted to single wall, breathable, for super lightweight travel at high altitude.) The Nammatj 3 and 3GT seem to be what we’re after for our three week Denali camporee. They’re simple, quick to set up, and have beefy poles combined with confidence inducing construction details.


Jordan checking out the Hilleberg Nammatj 3, it was agreed he fits the tent with a larger vestibule much better.

Our favorite design feature is the huge vestibule of the Nammatj 3 GT, which once combined with a snow pit would provide a comfortable cooking space for two people, or a place to dress while standing up. The vestibule also works as a double door “spindrift trap” system that could make for a much nicer environment during a raging storm as people enter and leave the tent for their chores. The regular model 3 vestibule is also quite nice, but significantly smaller.

Hilleberg Nammatj 3

Jordan checking out the Hilleberg Nammatj 3 in the WildSnow HQ back yard.

Our dilemma is how to tent the best with the least weight — not an unfamiliar mental exercise to anyone who’s ever planned this sort of trip. It’s tempting to just sprawl out our eight guys and their toys in four of the larger Nammatj 3 GT, and with the extra tentage we could leave one in a cache or set up at 14,000 feet if we decide to overnight up at the 17,000 foot camp and ski a circuit from there (which requires leaving some sort of camp set up down at 14,000). On the other hand, we could just take two Nammatj 3 GTs and one regular model 3 (without huge vestibule), for quite a bit less weight but a lot less versatility and comfort. I have a feeling it’ll be the former plan, but we’ll get the boys over here talking about it and see.

Claimed weights are 6 lbs 13 oz for the 3 and 8 lbs 7 oz for the 3 GT, so the weight penalty isn’t all that great for the larger tent. Besides their simplicity, another reason these tents are light is their mitered back end takes less fabric, but may cause the tent fabric to touch the foot of your sleeping bag. Correct pitching of the guy lines prevents this, and since this is a double wall tent, touching the sides while you’re sleeping is not a big deal.

Like everything else we’re taking with us, if the Hilleberg tents make the cut we’ll be doing a more detailed product review during this winter’s on-snow testing and eventually from up on the Kahiltna Glacier. For now, this is just a glimpse into our ongoing planning and decision making process.


Hilleberg Nammatj 3 GT has a cabin that's about the same length as the 3, but a huge vestibule that would make life on a snowy glacier much easier.


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28 Responses to “Checking Out Hilleberg Tents for Denali 2010”

  1. Chris October 20th, 2009 9:14 am

    My family has two hilleburg tents. I have slept in my Unna quite a few nights and love the easy pitch, bright interior colors, low weight and large space. I don’t like how light the fabric is sometimes because in wind you have to get it pitched pretty taught to keep from flapping and it seems to stretch in moister weather and contract in sun. Jim Nelson at Pro Mountsin sports in Seattle had a bunch of them setup in the back of his shop for years on end to show the long term resistence of UV degredation in the fabric. A great product for sure. Hit him up for more info as he’s an alpinist badass.

  2. Jordan October 20th, 2009 9:14 am

    As a 6’4″ guy I think I am about the limit for the height in these tents. But that big vestibule sure is sweet. My vote is for the 3 gt.

  3. Clyde October 20th, 2009 9:17 am

    With that much manpower, you might as well take an Icebox and build igloos too–way nicer than any tent if you have to sit out long storms. I have the Nallo GT3 and agree that Hilleberg makes some of the best tents on the market. One gripe is the paucity of interior pockets.

  4. rod georgiu October 20th, 2009 9:30 am

    I used the Namatje 3 during a year-long mountain climbing trip around the world, and it is great. Lots of room, super easy to set up, and durable.

  5. harpo October 20th, 2009 10:39 am

    Since your are talking about these H. tents, self supporting must not be that important to you in choosing tents. I like them because they are easier to set up, especially to make them resist wind without flapping. I have a couple of BD(one Bibler an one Superlight), and having been ogling Nemo tents. I am not sure how much of a weight penelty there is the self supporting feature. I have had not-self-supporting tents (but not the H.) and it was always hard to set them up tight enough to not flap in the wind.

  6. Joe October 20th, 2009 11:37 am

    I appreciate Hilleberg letting us check out the Namatje. If Jordan can fit through the door it looks like a great option for taking on Denali.

  7. Louie Dawson October 20th, 2009 1:02 pm

    Harpo– the weight difference between free standing tents and non free standing tents is quite significant, usually more than 1 pound, and even up to 5 with some heavier mountaineering tents. It is even bigger when you consider that the Hillebergs are double wall, while the light freestanding tents are single wall breathable fabric.

    If only somebody would make a tunnel style tent that was single wall breathable fabric, that would be crazy light!

  8. Caleb October 20th, 2009 1:05 pm

    The Nammatj 2 looks roomier than I would have guessed, even with Jordan’s big carcass in it. The specs on the Hilleberg site states that the inner tent space is only about 20% great in the Nammatj 3. It appears that the vestibule is much larger though.

    Are these the regular Nammatj’s or the GT’s?

  9. sf October 20th, 2009 1:40 pm

    Note that the weight of the 3GT is actually 8 lb., 6 oz. (you’re quoting the weight of the regular 3 with the normal vestibule).

    Great tents, though – I have a Jannu and Saivo.

  10. William Finley October 20th, 2009 1:43 pm

    These are great tents – and the people I climb with who have them love them. That said – the area vs weight ratio shouldn’t be the sole factor in choosing a tent. While the Hilliberg tents are super light and bomb proof they also require tons and tons of digging. This is fine up to 14 – but 17 camp is notorious for tiny platforms of solid ice. Digging (or rather cutting) out a spot for a Hilleberg at 17 could take hours – whereas a tiny Integral Designs or BD tent could be set up in a fraction of time. Not only that but in the event of a storm I can dig out my ID tent in minutes whereas clearing a Hilleberg requires a bit more work.

    I prefer tiny tents for sleeping and a communal cook tent if the group is larger than 3. A cook tent is way more comfy then a vestibule and is a great place to hang out (and cook). Plus how much are you going to hang out? The skiing is great at every single camp!

  11. Lou October 20th, 2009 1:48 pm

    I got some names and weight wrong, apologies, am fixing now.

    They’re both Nammatj 3, the one known as 3 GT has the huge vestibule. Both have the same size cabin. So I’m still thinking of bringing 4 instead of 3, but perhaps not all GT models so we save a couple of pounds.

    Too much gear around here, I’m loosing my mind!

  12. Lou October 20th, 2009 2:13 pm

    We’ll be building igloos and snow caves if the weather gets truly bad, and will have the tools to do so. I’ll be teaching these guys how to build igloos this winter. Once you do it in the Colorado snow (without the Icebox mold), you can build a quick igloo anywhere.

  13. Tom Gos October 20th, 2009 2:41 pm

    Lou, hope to see an online post, and perhaps video, of your igloo building lesson. I’ve always been intrigued with the Icebox tool but have never plunked down the $150+ to buy one. The Icebox seems heavier than it ought to be, I bet one could make something similar out of carbon fiber sheets that uses an avy probe or joined shovel handles and weighs much less. A Wildsnow project perhaps? Anyway, I am interested to see your igloo method for Colorado snow.

  14. Lou October 20th, 2009 3:03 pm

    Tom, no big tricks, you just pack down the snow as much as you can or try to find a good layer, then do as good a job as you can with the type of blocks you end up with. The results are frequently less than ideal, and indeed that’s when the Icebox system is the ticket. On Denali, you can usually cut perfect blocks, which makes the build much easier and faster.

  15. Mark October 21st, 2009 12:15 pm

    North Face used to make a tunnel-style, single-wall tent. I think it was called the Northwind.

  16. Clyde October 21st, 2009 12:52 pm

    The Marmot Taku was a classic single-wall tunnel tent that was years ahead of its time. They tried bringing it back once but screwed up some features IIRC. Garuda made a knockoff that was also lacking. I replaced my old Taku with a 2-door Bibler Eldorado; for the same weight the former had a lot more space but there are always tradeoffs.

    Note that if you go with single wall tents, you do need warmer sleeping bags–it’s easily a 20°F difference between a full-coverage double wall tent.

    For the record, the real world weight of a Nallo GT3 is 6.65 lbs (w/o the groundsheet) but I consider it a 2 person tent. Trade out the stakes for Bibler soft stakes.

  17. Thomas B October 21st, 2009 8:53 pm

    Curious Lou how much your choices evolve around who is willing to give, er I mean TEST gear? Totally understand if this is part of the wildsnow mystique and cannot be divulged for national security interests…but this curious mind wanted to know.
    A big ol’ Kiva,megamid ,Shangrila,whatever cook tent is a must on Denali, especially with a crew the size of yours. You can dig out a full castle kitchen and lounge below one of those and go with a lighter tent for just sleeping. It’ll probably come out lighter and more comfortable in the end. It is reasonable to think of 1 guy cooking in a vestibule, passing food back to his tent bound buddies but a whole different trip with 7 or 8 guys in the cook tent, cooking,laughing , BSing andnot spilling food all over their down gear. Just my experience. BTW when you say “spring ‘ I’m assuming you mean summer right, the Alaska range is a wee nippy in March -April-most of May… Maybe we’ll cross ski tracks.

  18. Lou October 21st, 2009 9:25 pm

    Thomas, in all honesty we can get a selection of tents from a number of different manufacturers. Louie studied it pretty hard, and liked the Hilleberg tents the best, so we contacted them first and they said they’d set us up so we’re going that route for now. Of course it’s not a done deal till the tents are in our baggage on the way to AK, but for now that’s where were headed.

    For something as serious as Alaskan mountaineering, we’ll take what we think is best. Fortunately, we’ve got a lot of support so we can be a bit picky (though not to excess). As the gear blogs progress over the next weeks and months, it’ll all be obvious. I haven’t published a sponsor list because much of it is still up in the air at this early juncture.

  19. Matt S October 22nd, 2009 1:01 pm

    Hi Lou,

    Per Thomas’s other point, I’d love to here your/Louie’s reasoning behind going with a full tent, rather than an open floor ‘Mid or similar for your cook tent. Obviously an open floor would be a lot lighter, and roomier once it is dug out, but they can be a pain above treeline when you need to use the internal pole instead of hanging them. It sounds like you guys put a lot of thought into those questions, and it would be interesting to hear how you weighed them.

  20. Lou October 22nd, 2009 1:38 pm

    Matt, we’re just talking tents for sleeping, with space for cooking in a bad storm or for brewing up in the morning… we’re still thinking of carrying a ‘mid or something like that, but remember we’re 8 guys so a lot of the standard stuff for this is a bit small… I’m not even convinced we need to cook for all 8 at once, but thinking we might cook as two groups of 4…

  21. Peter Clinch December 7th, 2009 7:52 am

    One thing I like about Hillies is the way you can unhitch the inner quickly and easily for more communal party/cooking/whatever space. It’s good having a tent you can use either way rather than having to decide on your setup before you start.

    8 into a 3GT for a communal meal would probably be feasible, if you take down the inner first.

  22. Tom M January 10th, 2010 8:53 pm


    Any concern about the ability of a tunnel tent to stand up to a big dump from an Alaskan storm? Elsewhere I’ve heard concerns about their snow load capability. We’re trying to make our tent decision for Denali as well and like a lot of things about Hilleberg you’ve chosen but are weighing this issue. Thanks!

  23. Lou January 11th, 2010 3:16 am

    Tom, I did test a Hilleberg to failure under a snow load this fall. It held an amazing amount of snow, and so long as the wind was blowing and the snow was of average density, it didn’t tend to build up. Without wind and with sticky snow, it did tend to build up, especially if the guy lines and setup got slack, which due to my lazy attitude during the test, did happen. I’d say it’s not an issue higher up on Denali, but if you were out carrying loads for the day and did get a fairly large amount of snow, it could be an issue if you were not careful. Dome tents can have the same problem. I’ve used all sorts of tents, and I think my favorite overall is still the tunnel design. My least favorite are the dome tents. I dislike how they shake in the wind, and they always seem too complicated to set up in the dark in the middle of a howling storm. Hilliberg is still our choice for Denali, and we do have several companies that would sponsor us with tents. For cooktents we’ve got both the BD Megamid and the 6 person Shangrala from Golite. Both are good, depending on the size of your group. I’m in Austria at the moment, but the boys back in Colorado did do some testing this weekend, so I expect a report from them fairly soon.

  24. Ben February 10th, 2010 8:04 pm

    Hey Lou-

    Great pick with the Hilleberg tents. I have been guiding and climbing on Denali for a few years and would have to say yes they are great for weight and very functional. It takes a few days to get used to getting guy lines just right, and uhber important for wind on Denali. So all hands on deck must be devoted to getting those things in the snow in the best configuration possible.

    After large storm totals it seems to actually do well with the snow load. Obviously good snow walls are the key to happiness. Our guide service uses many models of these tents, and after using a few on the mountain I would have to say the Nammtj 3 is good. I liked the Keron 3 & 4 also. We really dislike the model (not remembering all the names at the moment that coincide) that has an extremely sloping rear wall. Nallo maybe? Last trip we went to 4 person tents for 3 guides and were super happy. Found that these tents are a little crammed with the Denali sized bags, puffy jackets, etc stuffed in there.

    It should be a blast up there! Literally. Have fun!

  25. TJ June 5th, 2010 9:53 am

    why did you choose the Nammatj over the Nallo? is it because of the “extremely sloping rear wall” as mentioned above? just curious. cheers.

  26. Jim March 18th, 2011 7:21 pm

    Lou, Could you do a post on how to make an igloo and or snowcave?. I tried a couple times with the icebox igloo maker without success in soft snow . I couldn’t get the top to close right without snow collapse. The angles have to be just right at the first layer. Thanks

  27. Louie March 18th, 2011 8:51 pm

    The Nammatj has stronger fabric and poles than the Nallo, so we figured it would hold up better to the storms of Denali. The light weight of the Nallo was tempting though.

  28. Lou March 19th, 2011 7:42 am

    Tent failure on Denali in a bad storm is not an option, so we took the stronger option. No ideal tent for that sort of thing, as anything strong enough and with enough room is quite heavy. I still believe a combo of igloos, snowcaves and tents would be a better way to go than just tenting. But going that route is very different than just tenting and takes agreement and training within the group. Much easier to just tent and figure you’ll use caves for emergencies.

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