Hilleberg has set the bar high, creating some of the most finely tuned and well built tents on the market. Therefore we were extremely excited to test the Allak, a 2-person freestanding tent that falls into Hilleberg’s “Red Label” category. This means that it’s designed to withstand 4 season weather but weighs less than their expedition-grade “Black Label” tents. We took the Allak on several adventures in British Columbia, including backcountry skiing and coastal hiking in a range of conditions. After subjecting it to some truly nasty weather, we believe that it’s an excellent choice for nearly all winter conditions and one that we would trust on any backcountry trip. Below we break down the Allak’s weather protection, interior space and comfort, ventilation, build quality and durability, and more.
Typically, the first time out with a new tent in stormy conditions causes concern, but not so with the Allak. Hilleberg’s stellar reputation, a sample sheet of their fabric (described below), and our observations while pitching (we all know that quality feeling), had us feeling extremely confident even on our first night. The peace of mind that comes with believing that your shelter is fully waterproof, tear proof, and strong enough to withstand heavy winds and snow cannot be overestimated. It allowed us to hunker in and actually sleep through a heavy snowfall.
Hilleberg created their own fabric for their outer tent called Kerlon, which is a nylon with three layers of silicone coating. In addition to being “tear proof” and waterproof, this coating allows the tent to be much lighter than one would expect for the strength and protection provided. For Hilleberg’s Red Label line, such as the Allak and Nallo 2, they use Kerlon 1200, which is 30D for their outer tents, as well as a DWR coated 30D ripstop nylon for their inner tent and 70D nylon for the floor.
This combination creates an extremely strong and waterproof shelter that is able to withstand sustained winter winds and precipitation. Hilleberg is rather modest, suggesting that red label tents are for all but gale force winds, which leads us to believe that Swedish expectations are different than North American. The Allak originally was built for kayaking expeditions in Northern Sweden, an area known for its brutal arctic conditions. We would happily trust the Allak in the harshest of conditions, but depending on one’s tolerance for weight, one of Hilleberg’s Black label tents might be even better for base camp settings.
In addition to the Kerlon, the Hilleberg Allak is packed with features that contribute to its overall weather protection. The outer tent walls extend all the way to the ground, providing exceptional coverage from drifting snow and rain and helping to keep the wind from blowing in all night. Importantly for us, there are 2 doors and 2 large vestibules, allowing entry and exit without inviting wind, snow, or rain into the inner tent. The high bathtub-style floor is a triple-coated polyurethane that has not wetted out on any of our snowy adventures (we suspect it would work equally well in boggy or tidal conditions without soaking the tent and gear). For further protection and peace of mind, a 14-ounce nylon footprint can be purchased separately.
If you know you’re going somewhere particularly windy or more extreme, you can opt to double Hilleberg’s DAC featherlight poles. Red Label tents pole sleeves are designed to accommodate 2 sets—the second set of poles must be purchased. Additional details such as the sturdy zipper flaps, 2 solid guy lines per pole—the top one of which can be wrapped around the pole for extra stability—and a built-in flap of fabric covering the vents add to the feeling of security and shelter from the elements.
The Allak offers 30 square feet of floor space and a generous 41-inch dome style ceiling. On paper, the floor area is slightly smaller than the competition: The North Face Mountain 25 offers 32.3 square feet, MSR’s new Remote 2 has 33 square feet, and Hilleberg’s own Red Label Jannu beats the Allak at 34.4 square feet. In use, however, we have few complaints regarding space. The configuration is enough for a few pieces of gear and 2 large sleeping mats with the option for tent mates to sleep in either direction. And the gently sloped dome shape of the tent allows 2 people to comfortably sit up at the same time.
One of us is 6-feet tall, yet we found the space to be more than adequate. That’s not to say that it’s spacious—a 3-person tent would be required for that—but in addition to the floor space and headroom, there are a few features that help create more roominess. Most important are the 2 doors—any tent feels much smaller when one is required to crawl over one’s tent mate to exit, but the Allak provides a door on each side rather than at the head and foot. This allows each camper to have their own entrance and exit if winds and conditions allow. In addition, the 2 vestibules add almost 20 square feet of space for gear storage and easily house 2 backpacks and boots (remember to remove damp gear if temperatures dip below freezing) and other bits of gear. If the footprint it added, it covers the area under the vestibules as well, turning this into additional dry, livable space.
Two interior mesh pockets are handy for headlamps, books, and maps, but seem a little sparse after being spoiled by a tent like The North Face Mountain 25’s almost ridiculous number of mesh pockets. There are, however, several interior tabs—used to put poles through if you choose to pitch the tent without the exterior fly—which you can use to hang a light or lantern.
It is no secret that 2 people breathing in a small space can create serious condensation, which is further exacerbated by the presence of wet gear. The best way to reduce condensation is to increase ventilation. In cold weather, however, there always is a balance to strike between staying warm and maximizing airflow. The more control occupants of the tent have over ventilation the better, and the Allak shines in this domain with extremely flexible options for ventilation. Both doors can be zipped open from the inside to reveal mesh fabric. The outer tent also has vents covered with a flap of fabric to keep the elements out, which further allows humid tent air to escape and fresh air to enter. If the temperature warms enough, the doors can be completely unzipped and the vestibules can be left open to allow maximum airflow (and views) while the mesh protects still from insects.
Further, the outer and inner tents are connected, keeping a fixed and taut distance from each other. This creates a reliable and consistent airspace that insulates without concern that the fly will sag and flop onto the inner tent, even with significant snow load. Despite use in inclement weather, we have had absolutely no condensation on the Allak’s inner walls. Other than “dew” on our sleeping bags around our heads, which did not permeate either our Thermarest Adara or the Brooks Range Drift 15, we and our gear remained entirely dry.
Set up and Take down
Truthfully, the Allak is perhaps the single easiest tent we’ve set up to date. It’s intuitive and simple even for one person. “Allak” means “lake” in Sami (the indigenous language of northern Scandinavia), and the tent originally was designed for kayakers who often are faced with only sand or rock slabs on which to pitch their tent. As such, the Allak can be completely freestanding and therefore is ideal for tough pitching conditions. No pegs are needed even for the vestibule, which can be glorious. We are accustomed to hunting for large rocks when the ground cannot be staked, often a frustrating task and especially at the end of a long day. That’s not to say that the tent cannot be staked (and it’s typically recommended to do so) as Hilleberg provides 12 hardened aluminum V pegs to secure the guy lines.
Along with three identical (and thus interchangeable) poles, and the outer and inner tent are attached together so pitched simultaneously. To add to the ease of set up, Hilleberg opts for a short pole sleeve and clip system for their Red Label tents. The partial sleeve adds stability and support while the clips are simple and efficient. To avoid any confusion, the pole sleeves are color coded to ensure each pole is connected to the proper ends of the tent, and the integrated approach is welcome after long days of exertion when blood sugar is dipping. Another major advantage is that the inner tent stays dry even when pitching in the rain. All for all, for such a serious tent, setting it up and taking it down is a cinch.
Hilleberg’s experience really shines in the quality of their fabric, and it would be easy to gush about every choice their designers have made. Flat out, Kerlon is worth bragging about. As mentioned above, it’s coated with three layers of silicone rather than polyurethane or “siliconized” products (which merely contain silicone). The difference is that even if the material were to be punctured, it would not continue to tear. To demonstrate this, with the tent Hilleberg included a sample of the materials so that we could try to destroy them. It truly was an exercise in futility—they seem to be completely indestructible. Even when the Kerlon was cut, it was not possible to continue the tear. We recently completed a backcountry trip and managed to rip a bivy (the Outdoor Research Alpine Bivy). Once that bivy’s tear initiated, it took considerable effort (and ultimately a patch) to stop it from continuing. Think about a run in a nylon stocking—once the integrity has been compromised, the rip will grow—and this is what the silicone coating prevents.
As mentioned above, the silicone coating also allows the fabric to be waterproof and abrasion resistant without adding significant weight. Further, the seams are stitched using a flat-fell seam (each piece of fabric is folded over before being stitched), which means that the stitches go through 4 layers of fabric. This creates a tighter seam that reduces the entry points for water, and increases strength.
Kerlon is truly impressive, but Hilleberg did not stop there—the Allak comes with 9mm DAC Featherlite poles, which offer the best balance between strength and weight, and every tent comes complete with an extra repair section and aluminum sleeve. Features like guy lines often are overlooked, but Hilleberg is particularly proud of their 3mm cord made of interwoven Vectran and polyester, which is designed to be strong with negligible stretch and minimal water absorption. Guylines become particularly important when winds pick up, and they are key in keeping the outer tent snug and secure.
Finally, the dome construction consists of multiple poles that cross at the top of the tent to provide strength and help combat snowfall, rain, and wind. The dome shape also reduces the build-up of snow as it tends to naturally run off the tent due to its convex shape.
With a minimum weight of 6 pounds 2 ounces, the Allak is light enough to pack on most winter or alpine adventures. You can save weight with a single wall tent like the Black Diamond Eldorado (4 pounds 8 ounces), but you compromise a lot: ventilation and comfort in milder temperatures, interior space, and convenience as that tent has only 1 door and 1 vestibule. A better reference point is the much heavier The North Face Mountain 25 (8 pounds 8 ounces), which shares the dome-style construction, 2 door and vestibule design, and roomy interior. Considering the Allak’s strength of construction and full feature set, its weight is downright impressive.
What We Like
- An extremely impressive 4-season tent at just over 6 pounds. Hilleberg clearly favors quality and durability over weight, yet still manages to include a host of features while keeping the overall weight low.
- Excellent ventilation—condensation was not an issue on our trips.
- 2 doors and vestibules, which make the tent feel even roomier.
- Extras include a footprint that covers entire space including area under the vestibules. For long backcountry excursions, this would be an awesome option to increase fully protected floor space significantly.
- The inner and outer tent is connected but still has the ability to be separated for simultaneous pitching.
- Hilleberg uses bright colors for their inner tent (bright yellow in the Allak’s case), making spending time in it is less dreary.
What We Don't
- Very expensive for a 4-season tent at over $950.
- A few more interior pockets would be nice.
|Hilleberg Allak||$955||Double wall||6 lb. 2 oz.||41 in.||30.1 sq. ft.||2|
|MSR Remote 2||$800||Double wall||6 lb. 8 oz.||43 in.||33 sq. ft.||2|
|The North Face Mountain 25||$589||Double wall||8 lb. 8 oz.||41 in.||32.3 sq. ft.||2|
|Hilleberg Nallo 2||$735||Double wall||4 lb. 7 oz.||39 in.||30.1 sq. ft.||1|
|Black Diamond Eldorado||$700||Single wall||4 lb. 8 oz.||43 in.||30.8 sq. ft.||1|
4-season tents vary widely in style, from base camping in brutal conditions on a mountaineering trip to sub-alpine ski traverses where weight is a top consideration. The Allak does a great job bridging these categories with a reasonably lightweight design that gives up very little in weather worthiness. Stacked up to the competition, The North Face Mountain 25 is another trusty base camp option, and at $589 it’s a really good value in a 4-season tent compared with the $955 Hilleberg (for more information see our in-depth review). But the Mountain 25 weighs over 2 pounds more than the Allak, and other than a few more interior pockets, isn’t noticeably more comfortable inside. In all but the worst weather, we prefer the more versatile Allak.
MSR’s all new Remote tent is an intriguing option in the 4-season field. The tent is designed for mountaineers and puts a high priority on strength and comfort with burly Easton poles, tall walls, and a spacious interior. Its minimum weight is also very competitive at 6 pounds 8 ounces vs. 6 pounds 2 ounces for the Allak. Given that the MSR was just released early in 2017, it still has a lot to prove, but we’re excited to see how it will compare long term to the Allak.
The build quality and attention to detail often mean that Hilleberg tents are in a class of their own. Within Hilleberg’s Red Label line, the Jannu and Nallo 2 are formidable competition. The Jannu is a dedicated alpine tent for climbing and mountaineering trips, so it’s the burliest of the 3 and compromises in liveability with its hunkered down shape and single door and vestibule. As such, we think the Nallo is the closest alternative to the Allak for most 4-season adventurers. To start, these 2 Hillebergs differ in shape: the Nallo is a non-freestanding tunnel-style tent while the Allak has a freestanding dome construction. This means that the Nallo is a little stronger in wind and the Allak does better with snow loading. Importantly, the Nallo saves you nearly 2 pounds, which means it’s better for the weight-conscious backpacker. But the Allak is more comfortable for 2 people because the Nallo only has one door and the roof and floor taper pretty dramatically at the feet. In the end, it’s about priorities, and we think convenience beats out weight in this instance, which is why we prefer the Allak.