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Hilleberg Kaitum Tent REVIEW

With a massive total area of 58.3 square feet and a weight of less than 6 pounds, the Hilleberg Kaitum delivers serious livable space for the weight. But how does it stand up to the rough alpine and winter environments it was designed for?

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by Doug Johnson | 2006-10-04 03:00:00-06

Hilleberg Kaitum Tent REVIEW

Introduction

The Hilleberg Kaitum is a tunnel tent that delivers excellent livable space for its sub-6-pound weight. With dual doors and vestibules, an effective ventilation system, and serious storm and wind protection, it is a tent that will help you not only survive the storm but enjoy your time there. But is there a weakness to the design of the Kaitum?

What’s Good

  • Total area to weight ratio of 0.64 ft2/oz is outstanding for a bomber tent and a sub-6-pound weight is very respectable for a tent in this class
  • Vertical sidewalls offer excellent usable space
  • Dual doors and dual 13 square foot vestibules are great for two climbers getting ready on summit days or having separate areas for gear storage and cooking
  • Eight V-guylines and 10 stakeout points provide rock solid wind stability in the highest winds
  • Ventilation system is very effective in humid conditions or when cooking
  • Excellent product quality and light, durable fabrics

What’s Not So Good

  • Tunnel design creates a flat top that can pile with snow and needs to be cleared often during heavy snowfall
  • Not cheap at $595, but in the ballpark for a bomber tent of this quality
  • Requires the use of multiple stakes and guylines for a strong pitch
  • Overall length of nearly 14 feet makes it difficult to pitch in tight quarters

Specifications

  Year/Model

2006 Hilleberg Kaitum

  Style

Two-person double wall bomber tent

  Fabrics

Rainfly: 1.47 oz/yd2 (50 g/m2) Kerlon 1200 silicone nylon
Inner tent: 1.03 oz/yd2 (35 g/m2) nylon
Floor: 2.65 oz/yd2 (90 g/m2) PU-coated nylon

  Pole Material

DAC Featherlite aluminum, 3/8 in (9 mm) diameter

  Weight Full Package
As supplied by manufacturer with all included items

Measured weight: 6 lb 2 oz (2.78 kg); tent body (including attached guylines) 72.1 oz (2.46 kg), 3 poles 17.6 oz (498 g), 16 stakes 6.7 oz (190 g), 3 stuff sacks 2.2 oz (63 g)

Manufacturer’s specification: 5 lbs 15 oz (2.7 kg)

  Weight Manufacturer Minimum
Includes minimum number of items needed to erect tent

5 lb 10.4 oz (2.57 kg) measured weight

Manufacturer’s specification 5 lbs 8 oz (2.5 kg)

  Area

Floor area: 32.3 ft2 (3.0 m2), vestibule area: 2 x 13 ft2 = 26 ft2 (2 x 1.2 m2 = 2.4 m2), total area: 58.3 ft2 (5.4 m2)

  Floor and Vestibule Area to Minimum Weight Ratio

0.64 ft2/oz

  Dimensions

Inner length: 87 in (220 cm), Inner width: 55 in (140 cm), Inner height: 40 in (100 cm), Overall length: 167 in (420 cm)

  MSRP

$595

  Options

Footprint - $50, Pole holders (for pitching the inner tent only) - $1.80, Extra pole set (for extreme conditions) - $85

Performance

The Hilleberg Kaitum is a fine example of the Scandinavian tunnel design, using three DAC Featherlite aluminum poles and stakes for non-freestanding support. The tunnel design minimizes the weight and length of poles required. This saves a lot of weight compared to other bomber tents while still providing good storm worthiness. It uses a blend of proprietary Hilleberg fabrics including Kerlon 1200 silicone nylon for the outer tent and more abrasion resistant PU-coated nylon for the floor. The package includes the tent body, poles with one repair sleeve, 16 stakes (eight V-shaped Viper and eight needle-type Square stakes), and three stuff sacks for the tent, poles, and stakes.

Over 30 years ago, Hilleberg was the first company to produce a commercial tent that had linked inner and outer tents and the Kaitum is the latest example of this design. To pitch the Kaitum, you first stake out one end of the outer tent. Poles (one is longer for the middle and is marked) are inserted into sleeves in the outer tent, placed in plastic pole pockets, and tightened. The tent is then pulled into shape by pulling at the opposite end and staking it to achieve a minimum pitch. Eight guylines and a total of 10 stakeouts are available to ensure a bomber pitch - using the side guylines is recommended for wind stability and increased interior space. Guylines and end stakeout points are adjustable for a taut pitch. The process of pitching the Kaitum can easily be done in less than five minutes, even in moderate winds and when wearing gloves.

I didn’t mention pitching the inner tent because, like most Hilleberg designs, the inner tent is attached to the outer tent via elastic toggles and the two are pitched simultaneously. The beauty of this design is that the inner tent is fully protected by the fly during setup in pouring rain or during a snowstorm. The inner tent can easily be detached from the outer fly, allowing you to move sections of the inner tent out of the way for increased vestibule space. The inner tent can also be completely detached. With this system, the inner tent can be carried separately from a wet outer tent to keep it dry, or left at home completely for a bomber floorless shelter.

With a set of Hilleberg’s Pole Holders ($1.80) it is possible to attach the poles directly to the inner tent, allowing the inner tent to be pitched by itself. This adds versatility, making the Kaitum more comfortable to use in warm conditions, and the water-resistant nylon of the inner tent stands up well to an occasional sprinkle. With a cost of only $1.80, I think the Pole Holders should be included with the tent.

Hilleberg Kaitum Bomber Tent REVIEW - 1
Kaitum details: the nylon/mesh doors easily tuck out of the way (left), and adjustable pole pockets accept dual pole sets in extreme conditions (right).

Other usable features include four interior pockets, an adjustable tension clothesline that runs the length of the inner tent, dual nylon/mesh zippered doors, a large vent at each end, and two large vestibules. An optional footprint ($50) is available.

For truly extreme conditions the pole sleeves and pole tensioner cups are wide enough to fit an additional pole set ($85). Despite serious winter storms and wind gusts over 60 mph, I never had a need for the dual-pole option but it may be useful in brutal conditions such as winter Arctic treks and the like.

Hilleberg Kaitum Bomber Tent REVIEW - 2
With an overall length of nearly 14 feet, the Hilleberg Kaitum is a mothership among tents.

The Hilleberg Kaitum is a very long tent, measuring nearly 14 feet in overall length (over twice the length of an Integral Designs MK1 Lite). While this excludes the tent from being pitched in tight spots, the tradeoff is an incredible amount of living space for its less than 6 pounds of weight.

The inner tent is long enough for climbers well over 6 feet tall sleeping end to end and is wide enough to be comfortable with high-loft down bags. In a pinch, the Kaitum could reasonably accommodate a third climber, although not very comfortably. With an inner tent area of 32.3 square feet, the Kaitum never feels cramped. Further, the nearly-vertical sidewalls maximize usable space and the interior height (40 inches) is tall enough to sit up and move around without sacrificing the tent’s ability to deflect side gusts. A slightly taller center pole makes the tent more spacious in the middle while also improving fabric tension, rain shedding, and creating a more aerodynamic wind profile.

Hilleberg Kaitum Bomber Tent REVIEW - 3
The tunnel design provides nearly vertical sidewalls and the vestibule can be easily rolled out of the way for excellent views.

The dual doors and vestibules are outstanding features of the Kaitum. Each vestibule measures 13 square feet for a total area of 26 square feet, nearly doubling the overall area of the tent. With side-entry doors on the vestibules, it’s easy to enter and exit the tent without tripping over gear or stoves and the vestibules can be easily rolled away for excellent views. While I initially thought the dual vestibules would be overkill, I quickly saw their utility: on a gear-intensive climbing trip, we each had our own personal closet and door, making organization and early morning prep fast and easy, and on winter trips we used one vestibule for storage and the other as a dedicated cooking area. During a winter climb that ended in a torrential downpour, all five guys were able to spread out in the tent with feet in the vestibules of the Kaitum for a game of cards, turning a miserable trip into great fun. I LOVE the dual vestibules.

Hilleberg Kaitum Bomber Tent REVIEW - 4
When a winter climb was rained out, the Hilleberg Kaitum became headquarters to a five-person card game by sticking feet into the dual vestibules. When the weather turns bad, the Kaitum is very comfortable to live in.

The Hilleberg Kaitum features two large zippered vents, one on each end. A 20-inch wide wired awning covers each vent and has its own guyline that attaches to the vent at three points. The large 17 inch wide by 14 inch tall zippered vent flap can be opened partway or rolled at the bottom and secured with a toggle. Even when fully closed, the upper 7 inches of the flap (made of a tightly woven nylon mesh) ensures that there is always some airflow without allowing any water or spindrift to enter the tent. The inner tent doors are dual ripstop nylon/no-see-um mesh, allowing you to regulate airflow into the inner tent. The doors zip almost completely off and conveniently tuck neatly into the interior pockets.

To avoid condensation in the Kaitum, it is important to use the ventilation options. When closing up the tent completely, I did experience significant condensation on the inner tent. However, by cracking the outside vents and the inner nylon doors, the cross-tent airflow quickly dried things out. By fully opening the system, it is possible to have a strong cross-wind breeze; this was especially helpful during a winter trip on Mt. Hood in Oregon when we were able to hang damp clothes on the clothesline and dry them out through the night (yes- actually DRY them!).

A nice feature of the water-resistant inner tent is that any condensed water that splashes from the wet outer tent easily beads up and runs down, keeping the inner tent totally dry. The tradeoff is that the fabric of the inner tent doesn’t breathe quite as well as other nylon fabrics, sometimes leading to condensation on the inner walls that can freeze and “snow” on you when hitting the tent walls. Again, by leaving the vents open a bit, the steady airflow cuts down on this condensation dramatically.

Hilleberg Kaitum Bomber Tent REVIEW - 5
Dual 13 square foot vestibules with side entrance doors provide tons of storage space or a dedicated cooking vestibule - VERY nice in stormy conditions. Dual vents offer good cross ventilation for stove exhaust and condensation-resistance.

The V-guylines are very effective at providing even tension on the side walls of the tent and give double the attachment points for extra security. When pitching the Kaitum, I typically used all eight guylines plus the four stakeout points at the end for a total of twelve stakes. With this setup, it is easy to achieve a drum-tight tension that stands up well to high winds and is extremely secure. During winter storms, the Kaitum didn’t flinch with wind gusts over 60 mph. When winds hit the vestibule ends of the tent, they spilled over and were hardly felt inside the tent. Similar winds hitting the side walls occasionally produced a loud “rumbling” sound which was caused by vibration of the taut sidewalls, but wind spilled over the top causing no problems other than a little noise. I would fully trust the Hilleberg Kaitum in windy conditions that exceed those found during testing.

Hilleberg Kaitum Bomber Tent REVIEW - 6
V-guylines are separately adjustable on the top or the bottom and add tremendous wind stability.

Snowstorms that bring serious accumulations of snow, especially the wet variety, highlight the compromise of the tunnel design: a flat roof. While the roof of the Kaitum is slightly angled, allowing it to quickly shed rain and sleet, it allows snow to pile much more quickly than wedge or dome-style tents. During times of high snowfall, such as the foot of wet, heavy snow that dumped on the tent during one storm, it was important to frequently slap the sides of the tent to clear accumulated snow. This is typically not a big deal and worth the tradeoff of lighter weight and better usable space that comes with a tunnel design. However, if left alone in a major storm there is a real possibility of accumulations that can lead to ceiling sag and, in the worst conditions, pole failure and ceiling collapse. In Washington we have some of the greatest snow accumulations in the country and after several major storms in the Kaitum, I am very comfortable with its performance; that said, I wouldn’t leave it alone for several hours during a major storm.

I enjoyed living with the Kaitum during conditions that delivered heavy snow, high winds, frozen rain, torrential downpours, windblown sleet, and hail that was painful to stand in. Despite these conditions, the Hilleberg showed no durability issues and looks as new as the day I got it. All materials used to build this tent are top quality.

Sweden-based Hilleberg is a family-owned and operated business and each of their tents are built by hand at their factory in Estonia. Each tent includes a sewn-in label that says who built the tent - mine says, “made by Sirje Hansen,” and I can tell you that his workmanship is top-notch and on-par with the two other Hilleberg tents I’ve had the joy of using. Sure, $595 is a lot to pay for a tent, but in the case of the Kaitum, you certainly get a lot for your money and will have a tent to last many seasons.

What’s Unique

The package of dual doors, dual vestibules, effective ventilation system, outstanding usable space for the weight, solid wind stability, and good storm protection make the Hilleberg Kaitum a bomber tent that is a joy to live with in the hardest winter and alpine conditions.

Recommendations for Improvement

For those looking for a tent that can handle greater snow loads, Hilleberg and other manufacturers make wedge and dome tents that fit the bill. However, if you are willing to make the compromise of snow load maintenance for lighter weight, better usable space, and a giant living and vestibule area, the Kaitum delivers a nearly-perfect design. I’m not a fan of needle stakes and would have preferred titanium skewers or Easton aluminum pegs which are stronger, lighter, and easier on the hands. Also, for a tent at this price, it would be nice if the $1.80 Pole Holders were included. Besides these nitpicks, though, I wouldn’t change a thing.


Citation

"Hilleberg Kaitum Tent REVIEW," by Doug Johnson. BackpackingLight.com (ISSN 1537-0364).
http://backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/hilleberg_kaitum_bomber_tent_review.html, 2006-10-04 03:00:00-06.

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Hilleberg Kaitum Tent REVIEW
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Carol Crooker
(cmcrooker) - MLife

Locale: Desert Southwest, USA
Hilleberg Kaitum Tent REVIEW on 10/03/2006 20:47:53 MDT Print View

Companion forum thread to:

Hilleberg Kaitum Tent REVIEW

Stephen M
(stephenm) - MLife

Locale: The Great Lakes Bay Region
Hilleberg Kaitum Tent REVIEW on 04/09/2014 17:09:08 MDT Print View

Folks,

I know this is an old review, but felt it needed bumping.
Since getting the 3 person model a couple of years ago I can easily say its my
all time favourite shelter. I have used it on at least a dozen winter trips with two buddies and
its a bomb proof palace. It splits easy for carrying between 3.

I am sure fellow Kaitum owners will chime in.

:-)