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Hilleberg Niak Tent Review

manufactured by:
Philip Werner
Version:
1
Price:
795.00

Reviewed by:
Rating:
5
On June 12, 2017
Last modified:July 28, 2017

Summary:

The Hilleberg Niak is a bomber, 2 person, lightweight tent designed for three-season use in remote wilderness conditions. Weighing 3 lbs. 5 oz. it is made using extra waterproof fabric with a dome style architecture and two cross-poles that slot into sleeves, making it much more wind and weather worthy than most lightweight and ultralight tents sold today.

The Hilleberg Niak is a lightweight, two person with an inner tent that can be hung under the fly so it doesn't get wet in rainy weather
The Hilleberg Niak is a lightweight, two person with an inner tent that can be pitched after the fly so it doesn’t get wet in rainy weather.

The Hilleberg Niak is a bomber, 2 person, lightweight tent designed for three-season use in remote wilderness conditions. Weighing 3 lbs. 5 oz. it has a dome style architecture with two cross-poles that slot into sleeves, not clips, making it much more wind and weather worthy than most lightweight and ultralight tents sold today. While it is a double-walled tent, the outer fly can be pitched first in rain to prevent the inner tent from getting wet, which is a nice perk when you’ve had a really bad day in stormy weather (you don’t need an added footprint for this, either).

Specs at a Glance

  • Weight: 3 lbs 5 oz.
  • Capacity: 2 People
  • Dimensions (Actual living space): 86″ long, 47″ wide, 38″ peak height
  • Fabric: Kerlon 1000 (tear strength of 8 kg, hydrostatic head, walls: 5000mm, floor: 12,000mm)
  • Minimum number of stakes: 2, 6 recommended, 8-10 for maximum wind anchoring
  • Color: Red or Green
  • Inner Tent: Solid but breathable walls; full mesh, also available
While not designed for winter use, the Hilleberg Niak handles spring conditions with ease
While not designed for winter use, the Hilleberg Niak handles spring conditions with ease.

If you’re not familiar with Hilleberg Tents, they’re a Swedish manufacturer with an international reputation for beautifully-made, expedition-class tents. The Niak is one of their lightest weight models, built for people taking serious multi-week trips in wilderness locales like Alaska, British Columbia, Scotland or the Alps, where the wind and weather require a tent that has a high tear strength and superior waterproofing.  While you can use the Niak for thru-hikes or weekend trips, it’s a bit overkill, although it may be the last tent you ever need to buy because it’s so well built.

While the Niak can fit two people who want to travel as light as possible, Hilleberg recommends using it as spacious 1 person tent because it has just one door and front vestibule. That extra space makes it possible to wait out storms in bad weather and to cook under the vestibule or by unhooking part of the inner tent to create more space under the fly. While cooking in a tent is not recommended in North America because the odors can attract predatory animals, it’s commonplace in the UK and Scotland which have no large animals except cows.

The Niak is virtually freestanding, and hangs from two cross poles which provide support
The Niak is virtually freestanding a very convenient property when trying to find the flattest campsite for sleeping.

Design

The Niak has a dome-like shape and hangs from two cross-poles that slip into sleeves on the top of the fly. The cross poles keep the fly fabric tensioned even as it relaxes after being pitched, so you have a drum tight outer skin. Ingenious, really.

One end of each pole terminates in a reinforced boot and the other in a cup, that you tension close to lock the poles in place. The fact that the poles are on the outside of the fly, means that the inner tent can be hung from the fly using wooden dowels, or removed in bad weather and stowed away separate from the wet fly. The poles sleeves are also much more resistant to high winds than tents with inner tents or flies that attach to a pole using plastic clips, which are more likely to come undone in buffeting winds.

The Poles are held in place using an end cup that is tensioned with a webbing strap
The Poles are held in place using an end cup that is tensioned with a webbing strap.

When pitching the Niak, you stake down the four corners or the tent and vestibule, a back vent, and an additional four corner tie downs, if needed. This gives the tent excellent stability in strong and shifting winds.

The tent poles slide into two sleeves at the top of the tent.
The tent poles slide into two sleeves at the top of the tent.

The tent fly is made with a fabric called Kerlon 1000 which is a 20d nylon that’s been dipped three times in silicone and has a hydrostatic head of 5000 mm. The floor is a 50d nylon, double coated with polyurethane, with a 12,000 mm hydrostatic head. For comparison, many other lightweight tents have a hydrostatic head of 1200-1500 mm, and are therefore far less waterproof.

Inner Tent

The Hilleberg Niak is available with two different inner tents, one with solid walls shown here, and another which is all mesh. The solid wall inner tent is best when you want more interior warmth such as spring or winter, while the mesh inner tent best for ventilation in summer and autumn. Since they hang underneath the fly and attach with wooden dowels, you could buy both and use them in different seasons.

Catenary cut walls help channel air through the tent while helping to reduce weight.
Catenary cut walls help channel air through the tent while helping to reduce weight.

The breathability of the solid inner tent is excellent and I haven’t had any internal condensation transfer from the outer fly to the inner tent on any of the trips I’ve taken with the Niak. In addition to the big gap between the fly and inner tent, the bottom walls of the fly have catenary cuts (curves) that help channel air through the tent. The solid inner also has a deep bathtub floor, so there is little risk of leakage if rain is blown under the tent’s sidewalls.

The space in the vestibule is adequate for one person, but is cramped for two given the single front door.
The space in the vestibule is adequate for one person, but is cramped for two given the single front door.

The interior of the tent is also quite comfortable, with steep walls and good head room. There are numerous hang loops overhead to hang gear form and two mesh side pockets to store personal items. However, while the area under the vestibule is adequate for one person, it’s not really sufficient for two given the single front entrance.

Recommendation

The Hilleberg Niak is an exceptional lightweight 2 person tent, designed for challenging weather conditions. While it’s probably overkill for thru-hiking and more casual backpacking trips, it is a remarkably comfortable tent with great interior space, steep walls, durable construction, and excellent livability. While the Niak is large enough for 2 people, it’s best used as a palatial single person tent, due to the limited vestibule space and single front door. For longer duration trips, the added space and ability to comfortably wait out stormsis a plus.

Disclosure: Hilleberg lent the author a tent for this review but he had to return it. 

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10 comments

  1. It is worth mentioning that deadly carbon monoxide gas can accumulate in sealed tents while cooking ,even if there are no large predatory animals about.

  2. Is the interior protected from drips when entering the tent. It looks like from the angles that when you open the vestibule the interior will be exposed to vertical rain so you couldn’t leave it open in a light rain like say on a tent like the hubba hubba nx or many of the current sierra design tents? Can you comment?

    • You can sleep with the other half of the front door zipped down about 50% in the rain provided it’s not blowing hard outside. There’s also a thick zipper protector covering the door zipper, with extra material at the top so that rain doesn’t pour onto you if you open 1/2 of the vestibule in the rain. Good question.

  3. I have a Hilleberg Anjan 3 that I have used on many backpacking trips across Northern Ontario. It is an awesome tent for two people and the build quality is outstanding. I really like how the fly and tent are integrated, especially when setting up in the rain.The biggest negative for me is that the Anjan is not free-standing, which has resulted in some creative pitching on the rocky expanses of the Canadian shield.

    • Great tents. Eye opening when compared to Big Agnes and other expensive brands. You see what you’re missing when it comes to a truly durable and functional tent!

      • “Eye opening when compared to Big Agnes and other expensive brands.”

        How would you summarize those differences/comparisons?

  4. I have a couple of Hillebergs (a Nammatj 3 GT for winter and a Staika for paddling) and I have been happy with them. They are bomb-proof and you can see that a lot of thought has been put into the design. Pitching the outer first (and keeping the inner permanetly attached) is a typical Nordic feature, around here we always assume it will rain and there is no dry season, so on any trip longer than a weekend rain is likely. Hilleberg is also known for paying attention into how the tent is pitched in hard weather, the first ones were designed for the open fjells where there is no protection from wind. They are pricey, but provide decades of use and I have not regretted my purchases.

    Timo Kiravuo (from Finland)

  5. Does having the exterior crossed poles keep the fly tensioned any better than “American” style tents with crossed poles ?
    Ie: the poles cross, the inner hangs from them with clips, and the fly is laid over the crossed poles and clipped / tensioned to the bottom of the poles ?

  6. I love the Niak and just took it to Vancouver Island as I wanted something that was mostly freestanding and could deal with serious rain.

    It is a delight to pitch and you can have complete confidence in it. Mine is a bit tubby though, coming in 2-3oz overweight (minimum), which is incredibly annoying. The lowest I’ve been able to get things is 3lb 10oz and that is with cuben stuff sacks and carbon stakes.

    Having said that it is still worth the weight.

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