The Hilleberg Allak by the CIC hut below the North Face of Ben Nevis (Photo credit Alex Slipchuk)
The Hilleberg Allak is a 2 person, free standing (reasonably) lightweight dome tent. For this review it was put to the test below the north face of Ben Nevis providing accommodation for 3 days climbing on the mountain.
The first thing that you notice with the Allak is that although is comes in a large bag it is pretty light (3.3kg) and very packable. This in part is due to the number of segments that the poles break down into, making them relatively short and compact, as well as the super strong Kerlon 1200 material that the tent is made from. The tent material is very compressible. Together this make the tent easy to pack, a feature that was very much appreciated when carrying winter camping and winter climbing equipment up to the north face of the Ben.
The tent packed down much smaller and weighed less than similar sized mountain tents that I have used before in similar circumstances – namely Terra Nova Quasar and Mountain Hardware Trango 2.
The compact size and light weight did prey slightly on my mind because the weather up at the CIC hut below the north face can be somewhat extreme! Only the week before there had been reports on the web of a climber being struck by a tent blowing up the valley. It was only when he stopped to try and secure the tent that he realised that there were rucksacks inside the tent as well! Clearly you need to pack a “bomb proof” tent if you are heading up there in winter.
On arrival at the CIC hut we carefully pitched the tent. The tent is supremely fast and easy to pitch with 3 identical length poles that slot easily into colour coded sleeves, providing a stable and free standing structure. The outer fly sheet and the inner tent cleverly pitch in one go together which helps avoid the inner getting wet in the even of rain or snow falling. We had shrewdly taken a shovel and some snow anchors to help with pitching. The pegs that came with the tent, although lightweight and strong were completely redundant in snow.
In use, the tent provided a perfectly useable but slightly compact sleeping area with two vestibules that were large enough to store kit and to cook in.
Enough space in the vestibules for storage and cooking. (Of course cooking in tents should be avoided if possible!)
The length of the inner area was only just long enough for my 6’5’’ dimensions when sleeping but certainly high enough to sit up in. The first night in the Allak was both snowy and windy, putting the tent to the test with both its stability and its ability to stand up to a degree of burial. It shed the wind well and provided ample piece of mind in this regard although we had done our best to firmly anchor it, dig it in and provide as much shelter as possible using the snow. In the morning there was a bit of digging out to be done!
Perhaps the best features of the tent in the conditions that we used it, are the superb options for venting. There are vents in the roof and the excellent door zip configurations allowed us to minimise the condensation build up – despite substantial amounts of spindrift blowing around outside the tent.
The tent colour (called “sand” by Hilliberg) ensured that it blended in exceptionally well with the rocks and landscape – no visual pollution of a “dayglow” tent.
The Hilleberg Allak blending in well below the North Face of Ben Nevis
So what were the downsides? Well, there were very few but the two things that niggled me were;
1. The storage pockets in the inner tent were very small and I felt that they could certainly have been bigger without adding much weight but helping with organisation when living in the tent and ;
2. The dimensions of the inner meant that I barely fitted in but I’m somewhat larger than average!
When it came to striking camp, the tent was easy to take down although digging out the anchors took a fair bit of time. The large bag that the tent comes in meant that packing it up was easy for the journey out.
Digging out the Hilleberg Allak after two nights of snow and wind
The Hilleberg Allak did everything that we needed it to do. We particularly liked its light but strong construction and the excellent venting options that really helped with condensation. In general we were impressed.
It should be noted that this test was in a specific set of circumstances (i.e. winter camping) and that in other locations and climates the tent features would have performed differently. For example, due to the amount of equipment and clothing being carried when we tested the tent, it meant that we had a lot of stuff in the inner tent which correspondingly made the inner feel quite small and the storage pockets slightly inadequate. In summer, with less equipment, clothing and a smaller sleeping bag, I’m sure the inner would have felt perfectly spacious. We also very securely anchored and dug the tent in meaning that it wasn’t overly exposed to the wind although I’m sure that it would stand up to a fair battering on its own in different pitching situations. I also feel that in a warm climate the venting options would prove just as useful to allow some airflow through the tent.
• If there is any chance of snow, take a shovel and store it inside the tent. They are (nearly) worth their weight in gold.
• If camping in snow go equipped with anchors that will work! – We took MSR Blizzard Tent stakes (didn’t work that well), MSR Tough Stakes (worked pretty well) and tough carrier bags which we filled with snow and then buried in a hole with the guy line wrapped around them (by far the best anchor!).
• Take fuel that will work in the cold – canister stoves can struggle below 0oCelcius. Liquid fuel stoves work better in colder conditions but are considerably more dangerous. We used a canister stove - a Soto MicroRegulator stove with Primus Wintergas fuel (upon which the temperature seemed to have no discernible effect).
• If cooking with a canister stove, insulate the canister from the cold snow/ground.
• If possible, avoid cooking inside tents. Not only is it dangerous but it also adds considerably to condensation levels.