Thursday, May 26, 2011

My tents and shelters

My first tent was a cheap ridge tent bought from a super market sometimes in latter half of the eighties. It was light, small and mostly kept the rain on the outside. Due to the singlewall construction and lack of proper ventilation it was very prone to condensation.

Halti Tunturihaukka 3

In the middle of the nineties I bought a three person Halti dome tent from Partiovaruste in Turku. It belonged to the Tunturihaukka series of gear specifically made for the scout shops in Finland. It was very much tent for the money. The weight was not entirely horrible, 2.8 kg, and it offered plenty of space for two persons, though it was slightly short for my 192 cm. The vestibule was small. The tent had fiber glass poles and was certainly not made to endure severe storms. Still, it served me well for a couple of years.

Hilleberg Nallo

The next tent, a Hilleberg Nallo 3, was also bought locally from Partiovaruste. It was the old model with two equal length poles. Again it had plenty of space for two persons and weighed 2.5 kg. It proved its worth in Lofoten when it rained continuously for five days and it was completely dry inside all the time. Like all tents of this type, it needed a little wind in order to avoid condensation. The details and usability of this tent showed the Hilleberg quality. I sold the tent when the family no longer consisted of only two persons. Now I definitely regret selling this one, but I needed the money at the time.

Hilleberg Akto

For solo use I bought a Hilleberg Akto in 2002. It was the first model with the lighter material and highly placed vent. This tent also showed the Hilleberg attention to details and good solutions. It was big enough for me and at the time 1.5 kg for a fully storm proof four season solo tent was a good weight. The Akto is an excellent tent if you spend a lot of time in exposed areas, but for forest trips it was much too enclosed. I sold it in 2010 when I wanted a lighter, roomier and more open shelter.

Tarptent Double Rainbow

After having sold the Akto tent I started looking for a replacement. I found a good solution in the Tarptent Double Rainbow. It was light, roomy and could be opened to provide good bug free views. A five year review of it can be found here.

Halti Alfa XPD 3

A couple of years ago I found a Partiovaruste special version of the Halti Alfa XPD 3 for a very good price (at Partiovaruste). The tent has the high quality outer tent of the ordinary Alfa XPD 3 and a cheaper inner tent from the ordinary Alfa tent. This is a three person tunnel tent with an extended vestibule and it should very storm proof due to the aerodynamic shape, top notch outer tent material and lots of guy lines. It has proved to be completely waterproof without any extra seam sealing. This tent weighs 3260 g, including 23 tent pegs and a heavy (110 g) stuffsack. This was actually a very nice tent for the money, but I sold it when I got the Fjällräven Akka Dome 3 tent.

Golite Shangri-La 5

Despite having the Alfa XPD 3 tent I still wanted something that could fit the entire family of two adults and two boys currently aged six and seven. Locally the Hilleberg Nallo 4 GT was available, and a weight of 3.4 kg for a very capable and roomy four season tent is not too bad. It is expensive, though. I also checked out other lightweight alternatives: The Big Agnes Copper Spur UL4 would be under 3 kg, but the inner first pitch is not really compatible with Nordic conditions. Tarptent Hogback sleeps four at the smallest possible footprint and 1.9 kg (!), but does not seem that roomy inside. I finally chose the the Golite Shangri-La 5 with a bug inner tent, since it offered both modularity and a good amount of space for a fairly good weight while being very different from the Alfa XPD 3 tunnel tent.

The Shangri-La 5 is a pyramid tent with a separate bug inner tent. The inner tent can be pitched afterwards inside the outer tent, a necessary feature since in rainy weather you want to keep them separated in the backpack to avoid getting the inner tent wet (been there, done that). It fits the entire family and feels very roomy inside due to the height. With the inner tent, there are two very long sleeping positions (lots of space left even for my 192 cm), one slightly shorter and one very short. Three long persons could also fit, but it is too small for four adults. The space does come at a cost: The footprint is big and will limit the available tent spots.

The first night with the Shangri-La was very promising: There was not a single drop of condensation anywhere, despite no wind and a temperature a few degrees above freezing. It remains to be seen how it performs in rain and heavy wind. Some reports show it to be very capable in high wind, though I think it needs to be staked down very good for that purpose.

The Shangri-La 5 has taped seems, but I applied some extra sealant on a few places with more stitching. The weight was close to the specs: Outer tent with extra guylines 880 g, tent pole 350 g, inner tent 1325 g and the 8 standard pegs in a bag 94 g. With 4 extra large ground pegs it weighs 2.7 kg, which I think is ok for the space. Two light two person tents would be a lighter solution, but I think the social aspect of the bigger tent is more important for family use.

Fjällräven Akka Endurance 4

For a while I also had the Fjällräven Akka Endurance 4, a large 4-person tunnel tent with one ordinary and one extended vestibule. It provided plenty of room for three persons in a truly stormproof configuration. It was quite heavy and didn't see much use, since shortly after getting it I started the Vigu studies and was left with little time for own adventures. I sold it after having bought the Fjällräven Akka Dome 3 tent.

Fjällräven Akka Dome 3

In 2015 I bought a Fjällräven Akka Dome 3 tent used from a Vigu buddy. Having started to do more kayaking, I wanted a freestanding tent, and this one just fit the bill. With a width of 180 cm it is 20 cm wider than typical 3-person tents, and thus actually fits three persons without problems. The ventilation is excellent with good possibilies to open and close vents. It is a four season tent, but can still be opened up to provide bug free views during the summer, something which I nowadays consider mandatory.


I do basically like the idea of using a tarp, but in practice I've found them of quite limited use for overnighting. During the bug period, which generally lasts from the middle of May to the end of September I prefer a fairly open but still bug proof shelter such as the Tarptent Double Rainbow, since I think rigging up a separate bug nest under the tarp just isn't worth it. And during the winter a tarp just doesn't provide enough shelter in situations when a shelter is needed. I originally had the Alpkit Rig 7 tarp, but found it a tad short when it rained with its 2.4 m x 2.8 m dimensions. The DD Superlight 2.9 m x 3.0 m tarp is long enough for me and also fits more than one person. A tarp does have other uses, though, and I generally bring one when kayaking.  e.g. as a lunch shelter when it is raining.

Bivi bag

Finally, I'm quite fond of sleeping in a bivy bag outside the bug season and when there is low probability for precipitation. It really gets you closer to the surroundings. I use a cheap bivi bag from, which have been good enough.


  1. Have to say that the Tarptent Rainbow Double's open side panels seems to be a really nice feature. I found one more alternative for my future tent: McKinley Compactlight 2. Not really a 4-season tent but could be good enough for me...

  2. Great information. That double rainbow looks like just what I am looking for.