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).
Hilleberg Niak Tent
Ease of Setup
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
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 a 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 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. The fact that the poles are on the outside of the fly, means that the inner tent can be 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.
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 inner tent has a system of elastic webbing and high strength polymer toggles that connect to rings on the outer tent, which allows the tent to be pitched in one step, and that keeps optimal space between the outer and inner tents.
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 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.
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 toggles, you could buy both and use them in different seasons.
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 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.
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 storms is a plus.
Disclosure: Hilleberg lent the author a tent for this review but he had to return it.SectionHiker is reader-supported. We independently research, test, and rate the best products. We only make money if you purchase a product through our affiliate links. Help us continue to test and write unsponsored and independent gear reviews, beginner FAQs, and free hiking guides.
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.
Good reminder. Keep your vestibule door open as wide as possible.
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.
The Terra Nova/Wild Country Porch Tarp in green is a good solution giving a protected area over and outside the door in which to cook.
Using this I can even leave the door open in the rain to ventilate the tent.
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?
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)
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 ?
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.
This is the perfect tent for 3 seasons in the mountains of New Zealand’s South Island (no snow conditions, but often hard cold rain). More tent than you really need, until you really need it. Sold the hubba hubba nx and got the Niak for about the same weight, but much easier to use and much more sturdy. Best part us the set up of both inner and outer at the same time. Pricey but well worth it.
I have a Niak and am disappointed that if you leave the vestibule open in the rain then the rain will enter the inner (as Mike above suggests). That’s poor design (if you can call it design). Cannot believe they actually tested the tent, in real conditions, before releasing it on the market. Very disappointed.
I don’t think it’s that big of a deal actually. You simply lower the zipper an inch or two and you’re well protected.
Regarding the vestibule / door open question. There is a problem in all of the similar designs from Hilleberg and others, that the vestibule is not really useful as a place to cook, enter then tent or store gear when it is raining. Although Philip points out that you can partially zip the door, that’s not really practical for entry and exit. Also, I’ve rarely enjoyed a gentle vertical rain. It’s most often windy, gusting and does not cooperate with the design of this or any other manufactures dome style tent vestibule, and I’ve used a bunch.
Since the vestibule is not really going to work in rain, I converted to an Una, which is hugely spacious but has no vestibule. I carry a HMG DCF tarp that weighs next to nothing. Some lines and a few stakes, or just rocks and sticks, and I’ve got a huge vestibule that allows me to enter and exit, hang out, cook, mess with gear. I can angle it to suit the wind, set up a tunnel entry or pull it down. Tied to the Una poles, staked out securely, its pretty bomb proof.
No matter 1p tent, I can always yearn for more vestibule space when the weather keeps me from wanting to move. A tarp solves that problem and the HMG 8 by 10 is super versatile with tons of tie out locations, and is really well made. Ive got no affiliation with HMG. Just a plain old Registered Maine Guide who likes to hike and hunt all over the country.
This is genius. Can you post/send some photos please?
i second that, especially since 8 of the last 10 of my backpacking trips have been in rainy or snowy weather.
I still don’t understand why so many American tents are designed for inner first pitches. It makes absolutely no sense for backpacking. I also don’t understand why reviewers don’t simply flag them as Fs and tell the designers to go back to the drawing board for forgetting about the part that rain happens…
My first backpacking tent was an inner first pitching tent, and the first time I realized that there were companies that made tents that didn’t require an inner first pitch, I decided to never buy another tent that I wouldn’t be able to either pitch all at once, or fly first in case of rain.