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Reviews > Shelters > Tents > Hilleberg Unna > Owner Review by Richard Lyon
Hilleberg Unna Mountaineering Tent
Owner Review by Richard Lyon
January 30, 2007; updated March 28, 2010
Personal Details and Backpacking Background
Male, 63 years old
Height: 6' 4" (1.93 m)
Weight: 200 lb (91 kg)
Email address: montana DOT angler AT gmail DOT com
Home: Dallas, Texas USA
I've been backpacking for 45 years on and off, and regularly in the Rockies since 1986. I do a week long trip every summer, and often take three-day trips. I'm usually camping in alpine terrain, at altitudes 5000 to 13000 ft (1500 - 4000 m). I prefer base camp backpacking, a long hike in with day trips from camp, but I do my share of forced marches too. Though always looking for ways to reduce weight, I'm not yet a lightweight hiker and I usually choose a bit more weight over foregoing camp conveniences I've come to expect.
Unna, which means "small" in Sami, a native Scandinavian language, is a double-wall, single-door, exo-skeletal, freestanding, dome-style, one-person tent from theSwedish manufacturer Hilleberg the Tentmaker. Hilleberg describes the Unna as "A fully free standing ultralight solo tent that can be pitched anywhere, anytime."
Manufacturer: Hilleberg the Tentmaker AB, Frösön, Sweden
Websites: www.hilleberg.com (North American site); www.hilleberg.se (European site).
Year of manufacture: 2003 or 2004
Year of Purchase: 2005 (I bought it used.)
MSRP: $405 US; €499 (See Company note and Addendum below.)
Length, listed 91 in/230 cm*; measured 90.5 in/230 cm*
Width, listed and measured 44 in/110 cm
Height, listed 40 in/100 cm; measured (at peak) 40.5 in/103 cm
Floor area, listed 27.0 ft^2/2.5 m^2
"Minimum weight" (inner and outer tents + poles), listed 4 lb/1.8 kg, measured 4 lb 2 oz/1.9 kg
"Packed weight" (tents, poles, stakes, stuff sacks, instructions), listed 4 lb 7 oz/2.0 kg; measured 4 lb 8 oz/2.0 kg
Packed size, measured: 19 x 7 x 6.5 in/48 x 18 x 17 cm
(*Note: All metric conversions in listed sizes and weights come from Hilleberg's website, all conversions in measured units from me.)
Colors: Red outer tent; also available in dark green. Yellow inner tent with black sewn-in floor.
Materials: Kerlon 1200 outer tent; DWR-treated 30 d high tenacity rip-stop nylon inner tent.
Includes: Tent, two shock-corded poles, six viper pegs, six square pegs, separate stuff sacks for poles, stakes, and entire tent, instruction manual (in English, Swedish, and German).
Warranty (from the North American website): "All items are covered by a lifetime warranty. Damages from accidents, inappropriate handling or lack of care are not covered under the warranty. All repairs not covered by the warranty will be carried out at a minimal cost.
You can never buy the 'wrong' tent from us. You have the right to return the product to us within 15 days provided it is in new condition (not pitched outside). As soon as we have received and approved the returned goods, you will be credited within a few days."
Hilleberg, much better known in Europe than in the United States, is a family business that is now run by the children of founder Bo Hilleberg. Rolf Hilleberg runs the company's European operation and Petra Hilleberg the United States subsidiary Hilleberg USA, based in Seattle, Washington. The Hilleberg.com website has separate pages, with different formats and different prices but comparable product information, for North America and Europe. The European site is accessible in Swedish and German as well as English. Each site includes a large amount of helpful information (fun reading, too) about Hilleberg's history, design, manufacture, materials, and philosophy; additional information about tents in general; and photo galleries of the tents in various field locations around the world.
The North American website lists its dealers in the United States, and notes that Hilleberg will ship any tent free to any US location. Elsewhere Hilleberg will ship (not free) to any country in which it does not have a dealer.
Hilleberg manufactures all its tents in its own factory in Estonia.
The Unna is the only shelter designed as a one-person tent that I now own. For several reasons – preference for base camp backpacking, mild claustrophobia, high satisfaction with my Bibler Ahwahnee two-person tent, and force of habit – I'll often pack a larger tent even when camping solo. Though I've owned double-wall ("twin-skin" in Imperial parlance) tents in the past, the Unna is also the only such shelter now in my gear closet, a direct consequence of my experience with Bibler's Todd-Tex fabric. I had seen Hilleberg tents occasionally while sailing in the Stockholm Archipelago some years ago, and decided to augment my roster of shelters when I found one for sale online.
The Unna, like almost all Hilleberg tents, employs an exo-skeletal design. Instead of a tent body over which a lightweight fly is stretched an exo-skeletal tent takes its shape from a floorless "outer tent" made of heavy-duty waterproof material that is clipped to a slightly smaller, identically shaped "inner tent" made of lighter-weight breathable fabric with a sewn-in floor. The ripstop fabric Hilleberg uses for the inner tent is DWR-treated to repel condensation that may build up between the tents, but is not claimed to be waterproof. The two tents are connected by means of toggle-and-loop connectors; the Unna has three of these on each corner wall, along the underside of the pole sleeves.
In my opinion the greatest advantage of an exo-skeletal tent is ease of set-up. When I have packed the Unna with the inner and outer clipped together, all I have to do is lay the tent out flat, insert a pole into the open end of a pole sleeve (these are located in the two right corners of the outer tent), pull the fabric over the pole until the pole is seated in the closed end in the diagonally opposite corner, and repeat with the second pole. If it's windy I'll stake out a tent corner first. After I've set both poles, I adjust them with another Hilleberg innovation, the pole tensioners. Small bucket-shaped plastic pockets are attached to the outer tent body at the open ends of the pole sleeves with a ribbon that can be pulled (one-handed) through a guide to lighten or add to the tension of the poles. Stick the end of the pole into the pocket and I can a micro-adjust the tension to take account of variations in the ground. I complete the pitching process by staking out the corners and guy lines. Even in rough weather this entire process doesn't take much longer than a couple of minutes, I can accomplish all steps without taking my mittens off, and with the two tents clipped together I can set my shelter up in the rain without getting the inside of either tent wet. As Hilleberg claims, "supremely easy to pitch."
If it isn't wet the tent is similarly easy to strike and pack: I just push the poles out of their sleeves and fold up the tent. Tents, poles in their stuff sack, and stakes in their stuff sack all fit easily into the large stuff sack supplied by Hilleberg.
The Unna has no vestibule. I can improvise a small one by unclipping the two tents in a corner by the door, making a small area adjacent to the door that is large enough to store wet boots or camp shoes.
Hilleberg advertises that either the inner or outer tent may be used separately as a very lightweight shelter. After unclipping the inner entirely I can pitch the outer as above for a floorless tarp, or by using four pole holders (an accessory not included with the tent) pitch the inner as a fully floored but not waterproof single-wall tent. I've only practiced this at home – it is very easy to pitch either - and so can't comment on field performance of either such standalone shelter.
Each of the inner and outer tents has a large door with double zippers and a tie-off to allow the doors to be rolled up in good weather. Standard equipment on the inner is a top third of no-see-um mesh with a zippered fabric panel on the inside. The previous owner of my tent replaced most of the lower (fabric) portion with a panel of tulle fabric, a mesh so fine as to appear transparent, certainly better visibility than any no-see-um I've ever seen in a tent. This also has a zippered fabric panel on the inside.
A rectangular protective cover in Kerlon 1200 attaches to the dome of the outer tent. Zipping or unzipping the doors is the only direct ventilation adjustment, but I can unclip the two tents at the top in the rear to increase the dead air space between the two tents, which aids evaporation somewhat. The protective cover serves as a small awning over the front door – not large enough to keep out blowing rain when the doors are open but enough to divert rain falling on the tent down the front and sides when the doors are closed.
I've taken my Hilleberg to the Rockies in every season but spring: a winter overnighter in Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming last March (camp at about 8000 ft/2500 m); three-day trips in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming in September and October 2005 (7000 ft/2200 m), and a two-night trip in the Belly River area of Glacier National Park, Montana in July 2005 (5500 ft/1700 m). Clear weather in July and October, a foot of snow overnight in March, and rain squalls and one spectacular but brief thunderstorm in September. Temperatures ranged from 0 F (-18 C) at night in winter to 85 F (30 C) during the day in Glacier in July. Nighttime temperatures on the autumn trips dipped slightly below freezing.
I've never used a ground cloth with my Unna. Hilleberg sells one as an accessory but when I called Hilleberg USA to inquire if it was necessary the friendly customer service representative informed me that none of the company's employees ever uses one.
Observations and Comments
Durability. Hilleberg makes tough tents. The company prides itself on its Kerlon fabrics, offering samples to allow prospective customers to try to tear them apart. While the 1200 grade used in the Unna is the lightest weight and least strong of these, I've found it completely adequate for bad weather camping. I had no sagging from that foot of snow last winter even though it fell after I fell asleep and before first light, meaning that I didn't get up to brush it off during the night. I've not owned this tent long enough to subject it to serious abuse, but the man from whom I bought it had used it on two extended solo expeditions in the Yukon and Northwest Territories, Canada, and the tent looked almost like new when I received it. Hilleberg notes in its catalog that the pole sleeves on the Unna are wide enough for double-poling if that's needed for extra stability, something I haven't found necessary.
Design. I rate ventilation in this tent as adequate but not great. On my winter trip I awoke to considerable frozen condensation on the ceiling, heavier near my head but visible throughout, despite the insulating snow on top of the tent. I had a small amount of condensation in September, somewhat more in October, in the dry climate of Yellowstone. As noted, the only adjustable "vents" are the tops of the tent doors, which I must keep almost completely closed when the temperature approaches freezing. The small overhang of the outer tent and dome cover mean a risk of rain if I leave more than a few inches of both doors open at the top.
Once I'm out of the tent, however, the condensation evaporates quickly, including condensation that's built up between the two tents. If it's rained on a morning when I'm breaking camp, I'll unclip the two tents and carry the outer on the outside of my pack where, if it's not still raining, it dries quickly.
On fair days I really like the almost full-side door for views and breezes. I like it for ingress and egress anytime, as I'm a big guy who's at his clumsiest when crawling into or out of a small tent. I think I've mastered a technique for slipping in and out when it's raining so that only a few drops get inside.
Twenty-seven square feet (2.5 m^2) make the Unna a very spacious solo cabin. I selected the Unna over Hilleberg's other solo tent, the Atko, for the extra room and because I can sit up comfortably inside. With its generous sizing, high side angles, and large doors, it's the least confining solo tent I've seen, perfect for a claustrophobe like me.
The trade-off of more inside space at the expense of a vestibule suits my own preference and experience. Most of my summer hiking is in grizzly country, so I usually hang my pack, and with two large Bibler tents I've gotten used to storing things in the tent. A vestibule in which to brew coffee on that cold winter morning would have been nice, though, and the "virtual vestibule" (Hilleberg's term) I describe above is too small to do that safely.
The Unna hasn't erased my preference for single-wall tents but it has reminded me that a double-wall tent has advantages, most notably warmth in winter. The exo-skeletal design greatly reduces two single-wall advantages, an easy pitch and easy storage.
Details. Hilleberg also prides itself on details, as evidenced by a holdover custom from its pre-factory days. Each tent includes a small tag with the individual tentmaker's name. Silje Hansen, who sewed mine, has a right to be proud; all her stitching and workmanship is first-rate.
Functional details abound. I've mentioned the pole tensioners; I can't understand why all other tentmakers haven't copied this simple, really useful feature. Double guy lines (one on each corner and one at the center of the front and rear walls) are sewn in and each has a small plastic slider for easy tension adjustment. Each stake has a small loop of twine to facilitate pulling it out. The floor of the inner tent comes up four inches (10 cm), enough to keep dew out but not so high that I trip over it.
Details are not static at Hilleberg. The website and 2006 catalog illustrate several improvements, including a zipper to permit opening or closing the vent on the outer tent and small clips on the outer tent sleeve to add stability to the poles.
Weight. Using titanium stakes I can get the weight of my Unna down to just over four pounds (1.8 kg). That's perhaps "ultralight" in comparison with other Hilleberg tents, and not bad for a fully-floored winter tent by any standards.
What I Like
Plenty of room
Easy to pitch and take down
Small footprint and freestanding – I can pitch it almost anywhere.
Stable and sturdy
The mesh layers are on the outside, so I don't have to open the screen to close up the tent as I do on my Biblers.
The no-see-um panel on the inner tent door is almost opaque. (Compare it to the tulle panel in the photo above.) Without that tulle addition I'd have difficulty seeing out.
Adjustable vents on the outer tent might help ventilation. As noted, Hilleberg has addressed this on newer models.
The viper (V-shaped) stakes bend easily. No longer a problem for me, however, as I've replaced the standard issue with my own preferred stakes all around.
I've had to add reflectors on the corners and guy lines. Hilleberg has fixed this too; according to the 2006 catalog reflectors are now standard on all tents.
Hilleberg sells the pole holders for the inner tent for sixty cents (US) each, so it strikes me as a bit cheap not to include them as standard issue.
The Unna is not an inexpensive tent. Price is only one component of value, however; I believe I got my money's worth and would have had I purchased it new.
An excellent all-season solo shelter. I really like my little red tent.
Addendum – March 21, 2010
I am supplementing my Review to report on two noteworthy developments on the Unna since posting my Owner Review.
The Mesh Inner. On the performance front, Hilleberg now offers a useful accessory for the Unna: a Mesh Inner Tent. This is made of mesh on all sides, with a C-shaped door (just like the standard inner tent), and a black Kerlon bathtub-style floor that come 5.5 inches (13 cm) up each side. A tag inside the tent proclaims that the fabric is not fire-resistant and warns the user against any exposure to a stove or other flame.
Like the standard inner tent, the Mesh Inner attaches to the outer tent by means of small plastic toggles on the inner that fit through loops on the outer located along the underside of the pole sleeves. There are seventeen toggles in all, three along each of the four seams, one at each corner for a pole holder (these are unnecessary when using the Unna outer tent), and one with a smaller loop at the peak of the tent. Actually it’s eighteen – the final one is larger and sits on the left front seam on the outside of the Inner. It mates with a loop on the inside and holds a fully opened door in place, as shown in the photograph below.
Again like the standard inner tent, the Mesh Inner may also be pitched on its own as a freestanding mesh shelter, using the Unna’s poles. These are inserted into the pole holders at the corners after threading the poles through the twelve fabric loops that hold the toggles. This configuration gives a freestanding, bug-free cabin that may be used on its own in dry weather or with a tarp as a lightweight overnight shelter. Here’s a picture of the Mesh Inner on its own.
Mesh Inner Specifications
Weight, listed: 700 g/25 oz
Weight, measured: Mesh Inner only, 660 g/23.3 oz; stuff sack 18 g/0.6 oz
Year Purchased: 2009
MSRP: $120 US
Includes: Mesh Inner, four detachable pole holders, and a stuff sack. A customer who doesn’t own an Unna and who wishes to use the tarp option described above must purchase poles (MSRP $42 US).
Mesh Inners (which are also available for four other Hilleberg tent models) are listed only in Hilleberg’s online catalog for North America.
I have used the Mesh Inner to replace the Kerlon inner tent that is included with the Unna on two camping trips last summer, a total of nine nights. On a weeklong service trip along the Doctor Lake Trail in the Bob Marshall Wilderness Area, Montana, in August, we had wonderful weather – highs about 80 F (26 C) during the day down to 35-40 F (2-5 C) at night, and no rain. We camped at about 6500 feet (1800 m) in a forested area adjacent to Gordon Creek.
In mid-September 2009 I participated in a three-day packrafting course along the Yellowstone River in Paradise Valley, Montana. This course was done in a backpacking format; we camped along the river for two nights and rafted during the days. On Friday and Saturday daytime highs were in the mid-80s (~30 C) and warm nights, not below 50 F (10 C). We had clear skies until a cold front blew through very early Sunday morning, with accompanying thundershowers that continued off and on until mid-morning when it cleared again. We camped on sand the first night and at the edge of the woods, on forest duff, the second.
The night following the course I camped near McLeod, Montana, in the Absaroka Range. The cold front had settled in, as my final night was at 30 F (-1 C), and it was very blustery all day and night.
Except for use on its own with a tarp the Mesh Inner isn’t offered as a weight saver. An email inquiry to Hilleberg’s US office brought a reply that the Mesh Inner weighs the same as the standard Kerlon inner tent. The Mesh Inner does save me 5.5 ounces (156 g) over my customized Kerlon–tulle inner tent. That’s probably due to the extra zipper and storm flaps that the prior owner added.
In my Review my only mediocre marks for the Unna came on ventilation. Having a full mesh inner tent markedly improved things in this department; I didn’t consider the combined tent too warm even in the late afternoon sun. Visibility isn’t aided but it would have been if I didn’t have the custom tulle panel in my Kerlon inner. Hilleberg has definitely upgraded its mesh, as the Mesh Inner gives good views when the door is open. Correcting another demerit, there was no condensation on any night, even after the thunderstorms.
On both trips I attached the Mesh Inner to the outer tent before reaching the trailhead and thanks to the fine weather didn’t have to unclip the two until the final morning of the packrafting course. I did so at a time when it wasn’t raining and stowed the two pieces separately, the dry Mesh Inner in the tent’s stuff sack and the damp outer in another stuff sack that I had brought along. Both of these went into a dry bag stowed on the bow of my raft.
All told I consider the Mesh Inner a worthwhile investment for this particular Unna user, even considering that I don’t need it for visibility. The improved ventilation that it furnishes makes the Unna truly a four-season tent; with the Mesh Inner its hot weather performance matches that in other seasons.
Price. The second update is unfortunate news for any reader I’ve convinced to try the Unna. It’s not performance-related. The MSRP for the Unna has risen to $515 US in North America and €549 in Europe. Especially at this price I’d like to see Hilleberg offer a buyer the option to buy an Unna with either the standard or the Mesh Inner, rather than offering the Mesh Inner only as an accessory.
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