By Robert Hanneman, August 2013
As with all of my hunting gear I am always trying to find the best equipment for my upcoming season. I am not a one tent kind of guy as I will be sleeping in the backcountry on scouting and hunting trips from June through December. This year will be no different, and I decided to test out some of the better tents, tarps, and shelters on the market. My main concerns were weight, breathability, and being able to stand up to anything Mother Nature sends my way. The five tents that I reviewed were Hilleberg Allak, Hilleberg Kaitum 3, Brooks-Range Foray, Easton Kilo 2P, and the Big Agnes SL2. The tarps and shelters reviewed were the Kifaru SuperTarp, Kifaru MegaTarp, Hilleberg Rajd, and the Hilleberg XP 10 and UL 10 tarps. All of the weights listed for the tents, tarps, and shelters are weighed as I would pack them into the backcountry. I only carry the tent, rainfly, poles, and stakes.
Easton Kilo 2P
I was absolutely amazed by the weight of this tent at a little over 2 pounds. This is one of the lightest weight two-person tents that I know of on the market. It has one door and can be set up without the fly for better ventilation in good weather. The tent uses two carbon fiber poles, which are extremely light and save a lot of weight. It has waterproof construction with a bathtub floor and taped seams. The floor is made out of 2500 mm rip-stop nylon, and the fly is made out of 1200 mm rip-stop nylon. This tent had the smallest vestibule of any tent tested. For one person the vestibule is adequate but would be very tight for two people’s gear. The tent was very easy to set up. After spending a night in it I decided that it would be a tent I could see myself using for summer scouting trips in protected areas.
I think it is a good tent, but with the lack of vestibule space and a limited number of tie-downs it would not be my choice for the fall hunting season. The tent is rated for two people and will accommodate two people without their gear. This tent would also be great for one guy and all of his gear for summer backpacking trips in good weather.
I was really impressed with this tent, except that it has a small vestibule. Weighing in at a little less than 3 pounds, it was still an extremely lightweight tent. This tent has roughly the same footprint as the Easton Kilo 2P. The Brooks-Range did a great job at waterproofing this tent as all the seams are fully sealed and the fly and floor are both made out of 1200 mm nylon. The Foray has a three aluminum pole design where all the poles are permanently attached together. This makes for a lot more stability in the foot end of the tent. One feature I really liked is that this tent is loaded with tie-downs (tie-down ropes included) that will allow the user the extra stabilization needed for windy and stormy conditions. Another nice feature is the venting in the rainfly, which really helps with ventilation. The tent also has a no drip front door so rain won’t drop into the tent when the fly is open.
It is rated as a two-person tent and would work great for a spike camp tent for a few days for two guys, but with the smaller vestibule it would be a better one-person tent for a solo hunter on an extended hunt. I would not want to use this tent for a 10-day backpack hunt with another guy. If a solo hunter was looking for a backpacking tent, I would recommend that they look at this Brooks-Range Foray or the Hilleberg AKTO, which I have used for several years.
Big Agnes Seedhouse SL2
I have used Big Agnes gear with good luck in the past, and this lightweight tent will always be a hit with backpackers. This tent weighed in at just under 3 pounds and was very quick to set up. Their aluminum pole system consists of three poles that are all permanently attached together, which makes for a very easy setup. Like the Brooks-Range and Easton, this tent is rated for two people but would be a tight fit for two people on an extended trip. This tent would work well as a solo tent for an early season hunter. It has the biggest vestibule of any two-person, one door tent that I tested. If you are planning on taking this tent in windy weather conditions, I would recommend buying four additional stakes to be able to stake out all the guidelines.
A cool feature of this tent is the reflective guy-line and webbing on the tent corners that make finding the tent easy in the dark. The fly and floor are made of silicone treated nylon rip-stop with a 1200 mm waterproof polyurethane coating. All the seams are taped with a waterproof, solvent-free polyurethane tape. This is an all-around good, lightweight tent that would be a good fit for someone looking for a summer backpacking tent or someone only hunting early season. I would not recommend using it on any late season hunts with the potential for really bad weather.
The Allak has plenty of room for two people and all of their gear. This will be the tent I will be using this year on all of my hunts that are not solo hunts. One of the biggest bonuses for me with this tent is that it has two different entrances and two vestibules. It is nice not to have to crawl over your hunting buddy to get in and out of the tent. I also really like having my own vestibule to organize my gear. This tent is a little on the heavy side, weighing in at over 6 pounds, but the added weight of this tent makes it bomb-proof. This free-standing dome style tent can be set up in tight and uneven areas and is a good choice for goat and sheep hunts. With the bathtub floor and fully taped seams, this tent will keep you dry in all conditions. The fabric for this tent is the Kerlon 1200, which is Hilleberg’s expedition grade fabric. The poles are 9 mm and are made of high grade aluminum.
Another great feature of this tent is that it has several vents to aid in breathability and eliminates condensation. This is a great tent that I would not be afraid to use year-round in any weather conditions. I would recommend the footprint as it covers the area of the vestibules so your gear does not have to sit on the ground. Even though this is only a two person tent, in a pinch you could sleep an extra person in the vestibule. It would be tight, but at least he would be out of the weather. This is a great tent for two people hunting the backcountry in any weather conditions.
Hilleberg Kaitum 3
This is the only three-person tent I reviewed. I decided to cover this tunnel design tent because it is a great option for someone looking for a roomy tent for two guys. It weighed in at a little over 6 pounds and was incredibly easy to set up. This is not a free-standing tent and must be staked out to set up. If hunting a lot in the snow, you would want the snow peg kit. In rocky areas I tied off the tent to large rocks. I always carry extra cord to tie down this tent in areas where staking is difficult.
This tent is extremely roomy and has two entrances and two vestibules with multiple vents for ventilation. The high bathtub floor and fully-taped seams keep all of the ground water out. The fabric for the Hilleberg Kaitum 3 is made out of Kerlon 1200, which is Hilleberg’s expedition grade fabric. The poles are 9 mm and are made of high grade aluminum.
This is a good option for three hunters on a backpack hunt. With all of the room in the vestibules it makes this tent feel a lot bigger than it really is. This is the tent that Huntin’ Fool consultant Dave Loescher is taking to Alaska this year on his self-guided float moose hunt. If you are in the market for a two-person tent but you like a lot of the extra room, you do not like sleeping shoulder to shoulder, or you are over 6'2", then you should definitely consider looking at this tent. I would have no issue using this tent in any weather conditions on any hunts. This would also make a great base camp for two guys hunting in the high-country.
Of everything I tested, this shelter is what I was most impressed with. This shelter is not for everyone, but for my style of hunting in Montana it is going to work perfectly. I plan on carrying this shelter for my November and December hunts, as you never know when you will need a solid shelter to get you through a Montana snowstorm. This shelter comes with 10 stakes, and you can either use trekking poles, sticks, or the pole kit that can be purchased from Hilleberg to set this shelter up anywhere. After you have set it up once and learned the ins and outs of the Rajd, it is very easy to set up again. I usually use my trekking poles to stabilize the front and rear of the tent then stake down and tighten all the tie-downs.
With a full floor this shelter is extremely waterproof, but with its single wall design it is much more prone to condensation than a double wall tent. The Rajd does have two vents to aid in breathability, but you will still be dealing with more condensation with this shelter than any other in this review. The Rajd is also made with Hilleberg’s Kerlon 1200 nylon fabric with fully sealed seams. This shelter does have two doors so you are not crawling over your buddy to get in it. This shelter is designed for two people, and it does not have vestibules over the doors.
The MegaTarp is really more of a shelter than it is a tarp, but with its universal design and amount of tie-downs it can be used in any way necessary. This shelter is made from rip-stop nylon and is not seam sealed, but Kifaru sends the products to seam seal the shelter with every purchase. There is plenty of room for two people and all of their gear. With two trekking poles and a handful of stakes this turns into a great shelter where you are protected from all areas, except for the ground. The velcro door is a nice touch as it allows you to close the shelter up and keep the wind and rain from blowing in. This is a great option to have in your pack for day hunts where you may be caught in a storm. Within minutes you could be out of the elements, waiting out the storm. It is also a good choice for people who enjoy sleeping in a bivy sack as it adds another layer of protection. I enjoy using it on my scouting trips, but there are some guys who use them all year long. I personally like a tent for late season hunts.
The SuperTarp can be pitched as a flat tarp or a shelter. It is a lot like the MegaTarp, except that it does not have the door and is designed for one person with all of their gear. It will accommodate two people but will be tight with all of their gear. It is easily set up with trekking poles or tree branches and a few stakes. The SuperTarp is also made from rip-stop nylon and not seam sealed, but with a purchase from Kifaru you will get the products to seam seal the tarp. Kifaru also sells an annex and wood stove for both the Megatarp and the SuperTarp. The best use for the SuperTarp would be for a solo backcountry hunt. One thing I really like about the SuperTarp is that there is enough room for one guy, all his gear, and enough firewood to last him a few days. It is a good option for the solo bivy sack hunter who is looking for an extra layer of protection from all the elements.
Hilleberg Tarp UL 10 and XP 10
These two Hilleberg tarps are designed for solo or two-person use. Both tarps are the same size. The difference between them is that the XP 10 is made of Kerlon SP, which is polyester, and it is a more heavy duty tarp. The UL 10 is the lighter weight of the two and is made out of the Kerlon 1200, which is nylon and Hilleberg’s expedition grade fabric. Both tarps have eight anchor points with 10' of cord attached to each point. With the quality construction of the Hilleberg tarps you should not have any issues with an anchor point pulling out. As with any tarp they can be used in any configuration imaginable; that is what makes tarps so versatile. The best use would be for anyone wanting to experience the backcountry and who does not want to be confined to a tent. I personally really like the Hilleberg UL 10 tarp, and I feel it is the best tarp on the market because of its weight, price, number of tie-downs, protection, and quality. With all of its tie-downs your imagination is the only thing holding you back from finding different ways to pitch the tarp. You can make a lean-to, a tent, throw it over your bag, make a larger vestibule off your tent, or anything else you come up with.
There are more tents, tarps, and shelters on the market today than ever before, making your options limitless in selecting a tent. One thing to always keep in mind when selecting a tent is how often you will use it, what weather you expect to camp in, how many days a year you will be using it, and what your budget is. The truth is that not everyone needs a high-end tent, but if you plan on a lot of backpack style hunting, buy the best tent that you can afford because it most likely will be the last tent you purchase. Tents are like optics in that you get what you pay for, so don’t skimp on your tent or you will pay for it with the first bad weather you encounter. That is a lesson I had to learn the hard way!