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
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 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 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.
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