Hilleberg Unna – more thoughts on this tent

So,

I managed to get out again with the Unna last weekend as per my previous post and this time with very strong winds. So having used it in harsher conditions and also with a bivvy bag instead of an inner, what do I think of it now?

.

Short answer still impressed.

.

To elaborate, I can break it down into areas of use and functionality with comments against each:

.

Weight

Well, I managed to ditch around 400g by using the bivvy bag instead of the inner. This brought the the total weight to around 1800g. Still heavy? By other lightweight tents…yes but it cant be taken in isolation of just weight, other factors as described below are important. Having said that, 1800g is not that heavy especially when taken together with the rest of my packweight. Would I like to lighten that some more? Yes but I think we are talking 100 or 200 grammes max extra savings. Still for a bomber tent that isnt bad

.

Livability?

Easy one this….extremely. The use of a bivvy bag really opened up the interior of the tent and it felt huge inside. I reckon you could easily get a 2nd person inside without the use of the inner. The ability to fully open up the front of the tent is also extremely desirable to make the tent more liveable. It was really nice to completely open the front of the fly up so that Icould have a super view of the world outside. I had oodles of space to spread out (and the ability to sleep in the middle of the tent without a fear of billowing tent outer buffeting me in high winds). The head height, already good with an inner at 100cm, becomes cavernous at 105cm without the inner. Cooking inside the tent without the inner is also extremely easy. I had no fear of lighting myself up with the alcohol stove as I could retreat quite far into the tent and thus shelter from the wind

.

Stability/weather proofness

As I posted previously, the Saturday was very windy (being on an escarpment) with gusts up to 50mph. I found that the Unna coped really well with the wind and the gusts, although it is fair to mention that the large back panel did deform inwards under the pressure of the wind. The fly also flapped a little in the gusts. I would like to see if faffing about and getting the fly pitched a bit tauter next time would improve the performance in high winds. I suspect that this is where the Soulo scores better in having the extra pole and thus 6 panels of fly as opposed to 4 larger ones on the Unna. Having said that the performance in high winds was good and at no time did I fear the tent would collapse or deform badly

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Enjoyment

Often overlooked but the simple joy of using a particular tent is an important factor (certainly for me). Did the sum of all the attributes give me a nice feeling about using this tent? Yes, absolutely. I really enjoyed taking the lightened Unna out in high winds and having loads of room for once to spread my stuff around in

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To summarise, I can see me using this in the summer as well as in the winter because it gives options and flexibility. In other words…….I had fun

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About Saddlebags and Backpacks - a brewer's outdoor adventures

I am a keen hiker, camper, cyclist and general all round gear addict..... I also manage to be a professional brewer in my non-spare time :->
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27 Responses to Hilleberg Unna – more thoughts on this tent

  1. andy says:

    Interesting to read of your experience in high winds. I’m still wondering whether I should get the Soulo for winter days where you’re not quite sure what to expect.

    I once spent a rather uneasy February night in a storm and my Unna did flap a fair bit. In the strongest gusts the frame really shook and even bent a bit. The difficulty of course is that in snow it’s not always easy to achieve a perfect pitch. But I too felt the back panel was moving inwards a bit too much.

    One thought I had was adding an extra pegging point in the middle of the short panels. That should help a bit.

    I’ve since got myself the Fliegfix scandium poles and they seem to offer greater resistance (I think they’re either 9.5 or 10mm poles).

    I’ve also wondered whether one could use the points where the vent cover is secured to add extra guylines. I may be wrong but the long poles seem to be guyed at a lower level than on the Soulo and I wonder whether that too makes a difference.

    If I swapped it for the Soulo I’m sure I’d miss the huge space inside. In winter you want to have a bit more space to spread your gear and relax in the long nights and the Soulo looks a little smaller than the Akto (I used to own one).

    I’ll be interested to read your further experiences!

    • backpackbrewer says:

      Hi Andy,

      interesting to hear the thoughts of another Unna user.

      I was pondering the guylines as well on my trip. I pegged mine out in line with the poles whereas with a strong wind hitting the back panel maybe I should have pegged them out straight front and back. This would potentially give more resistance agains the pushing wind.

      Interestingly, the Soulo has more space than an Akto and is certainly taller. I have now owned all three tents and its hard to pick out the clear winner.

      For horrendous conditions I think the Soulo will win over the Unna (and the Akto in third)
      For flexibility, space and liveability I think the Unna wins
      For weight alone obviously the Akto wins

      I am still undecided which is the better allround tent…more testing required!

      • andy says:

        It’s me again! I was actually thinking that the main problem I had that February night was that there was a lot of snow on the ground and I reached camp a lot later than I thought. It was getting dark, it was certainly stormy and there was so much snow around that I could not dig down to ground level to secure the pegs properly.

        I had the MSR blizzard stakes, which are very good indeed. But I could only get proper purchase on the ones securing the guys. Away from the tent it was relatively easy to dig out a hole, bury the stakes horizontal and tying the guy around them. That worked well.

        But I had real trouble securing the metal hooks at the base of the fly. I couldn’t compact the snow hard enough round the pegs with the tent sitting on them. Or rather, it is a lot harder to compact snow around vertical stakes than ‘dead man’ ones!

        So what I’m thinking of doing next time (you see, I’m still dreaming of winter!) is take a length of shock cord for each hook, place the blizzard stakes horizontally and thread the shock cord through the tent hook and the stake. That should work.

        So it might very well be that the Unna wasn’t as stable as I hoped that night because the tent itself wasn’t properly secured (although the guys were rock solid).

        • backpackbrewer says:

          Hi Andy,

          good info re the winter camping. In the few times I have been out in snow, I must admit to perservering with nailing the pegs into the ground whenever possible.

          It could very well be that there was a slight loss of stability due to snow pegging in your example. Am tempted to get some of the long snow pegs myself this year. The Unna is certainly a very capable winter tent and I am keen to try this out sometime this year.

  2. andy says:

    What’s wrong with having them all???

    Seriously… Guys: I always angle the guylines 45 degrees off the poles away from the centre, so the ones into the wind are angled that way and the one at the other end, away from the wind. That seems to keep the tent nice and taut. So yes, pegged them out front and back and that’ll make a difference.

    So, the Soulo is more spacious than the Akto? I’d read comments from people saying that the end corners give more space in the Akto because they go up straight, whereas in the Soulo they go up at a slope. That makes it tempting…

    I think I’ll try the extra pegging point along the short sides first, and then see how the Scandium poles do in high winds when I start using it again in the autumn. In the summer I use a Solar Elite, 860g, quite cramped, but it does me fine at this time of year.

    I’ve got this notion of braving a winter storm in the Cairngorms one day and the Soulo is probably the one you want to have in those conditions…

    • backpackbrewer says:

      yeah, the Soulo for the cairngorms in winter sounds pretty sensible to me Andy!

      extra guys should always work, they did on my Laser Competition.

      I am going to have a play around with guying on teh Unna as well i think, just to get it that little bit tauter

      • andy says:

        Well, I played around with the guying arrangement a bit more and I think I’ve now ‘bunkerized’ the Unna!!

        I’d been trawling the ‘net (again!) to see what folks say about the Soulo and the Jannu as bunker winter tents. I think the Soulo is great for stability but really too small for winter. If you get snowed in, the outer will press on the inner and reduce space even further. The Unna gives you such luxury inside that it’s hard to give that up for extra stability. The Jannu would offer more stability still, with a big weight penalty, and the option of sleeping by the door which means you never get fabric on your face no matter how much it snows (well, almost…). But that porch looks really ungainly and it seems very difficult to enter the tent without getting the inner wet.

        So I’ve been modding the Unna in this way:

        1) I’ve lengthened the corner guylines. The story behind the Unna is that it was developed specifically for Swedish kayakers. They wanted a tent with a small footprint, self-standing and spacious inside. They didn’t need a porch because they stow their gear in their boats overnight anyway. Stability was not a top priority because you can always find boulders on islands where you can pitch with some protection. And they kept the guylines much shorter than on the Soulo. So, I’ve bought some Hilleberg 3mm Dyneema guys, same as the standard ones, and lengthened the four corner guys to 6m. The difference in stability is already remarkable. Weight hit is about 60g in all.

        2) 11mm Scandium poles. These I bought last year and they completely transform the tent. The snow-loading capabilities increase dramatically (the top of the tent doesn’t budge at all, not an inch), gives more tension to the fly and the inner (even more space!) and makes side-deflection less of an issue. Weight hit is 127g.

        3) The instruction manual says that in strong winds you could add additional guys to the corners and orient them sideways. Well, here’s what I did. I prepared two 6m long guys with double-up loops with line-locks, just like the standard corner guys. The extra 2 guylines are secured to the vent cover tensioners with Alpkit mini-karabiners. They are pegged on the same peg as the short side guy at the bottom of the fly on the long side of the tent, if you know what I mean. I’ve seen that guy arrangement on the Exped Polaris and the Rab Superlite Summit Bivi and sometimes it is done with the Jannu as well. Access to the door is unimpeded. Weight hit is 103g.

        So with 290g extra weight you get a rock solid porcupine! I’m 100% confident the modded Unna is at least as solid as the Soulo and with way more space inside. The Soulo benefits from the Scandium poles anyway, so I think the weight difference is only about 100g.

        There’s only one remaining advantage for the Soulo and that’s the clip arrangement that allows you to fully stake out the tent in a howlie and put it up in full safety. With the Unna you can only stake out one side and when you raise the first pole up the tent is flying all over the place, so raising it in a howlie is definitely not as neat as on the Soulo.

        Other than that, I think the modded Unna is the best solo winter tent around!

        Cheers!

        • backpackbrewer says:

          Blimey Andy,

          you really have been busy! So increasing the length of the guylines makes a big difference then? Makes sense to me and when I pitched mine last they didnt seem as long as the Soulo’s so I might just do as you have done and increase them.
          The extra guylines is a given I think to give extra stability to the planes of wind shear that arent already covered. If you think about the Soulo the extra pole effectively acts as 2 extra guylines just a long heavier. So its also one for me to do.
          On the pole side of things, I dont already have any extra poles or larger ones so i might pass on this but obviously if you already have the weight penalty isnt that bad for the benefit achieved.
          All in all, the extra refinements above would appear to make the Unna superbly winterized. Ok the weight will be around 2.4kg but if theres a storm….. I still might be tempted to try the uprated fly with a downrated inner though to counterbalance the weight. A lightweight bivvy would drop the total weight of the above set up to just below 2kg

          cheers, Dave

      • andy says:

        Longer guylines definitely improve stability, Dave. Difficult to quantify (although I remember reading some calculations somewhere on the web before!) but apparently it’s one of the most important factors in tent stability. Obviously it increases your footprint, but with the lock-lines it’s easy enough to shorten the guys quite dramatically (which then makes up for the shorter length by making the doubled-up guy very strong indeed).

        The fact that the extra two guylines are secured with karabiners means it’s not a permanent change. The only permanent weight increase is the 60g or so of extra corner guylines.

        So I can decided which poles to take (11mm or 9mm) and whether to take the extra guys depending on the forecast.

        I’m pretty sure that even with the 9mm poles and extra guys the tent would already be much stronger. But if a big dump of snow is expected, then I’d take the Scandium ones.

        I’ll report back this winter once I take it to the ‘Gorms (and here’s to another great snowy winter!).

        For winter use, I’d keep the unmodified inner (unless Oookwors can come up with a lighter fabric). I was amazed how much warmer it was inside the tent. Outside the temperature was plummeting and I was getting really worried whether with my light bag I would survive the night. Once inside the warmth was so reassuring! And I ended up having a cosy night, despite the storm outside. So for winter I’d say keep the inner. But on a summer howlie I suppose a bivi is an interesting option.

        One thing that I’m wondering about regarding your experience is whether removing the inner takes away some structure from the tent. Maybe it moved more than you expected because the inner helps keep the poles tensioned. It might be worthwhile pulling the ribbon along the door side a little harder?

        • backpackbrewer says:

          Hi Andy,

          yes, unsurprising that the longer guylines are more effective and as you say there is a calculation somewhere that quantifies it. The principle is the same as suspension bridges, multi long supporting lines radiating out from upright support pillars.
          I reckon with the full on set up, its a must that you try the Gorms in the winter!
          On the subject of warmth, obviously a full inner will be better than mesh although I reckon a bivvy bag will be quite warm as the airspace within it is quite restricted. Obviously though if moving about in the tent with only an outer, it may be a tad cold! Still keen to try it though.
          The observation about the inner giving extra stability is something I will have a look at. I think its marginal but obviously it will add something to the stability.
          Let us know any further thoughts or post trip reactions to the Unna’s use and I will do likewise! 🙂

  3. R MacE says:

    The one thing you mentioned that most struck a chord with me was the ‘Enjoyment’ factor.

    If you’re not content with how a tent pitches or can’t look forward to actually ‘living’ in it regardless of what the conditions are like then a few hundred grams saved is of little benefit. Obviously everything else being equal less weight is better but for me it isn’t the be all and end all.

    Regarding the height with/without the inner, it’s surprising how much bigger a tent feels simply by having a couple of inches more headroom, as you say it can make them feel cavernous.

    Richard

  4. backpackbrewer says:

    Hi Richard,

    I really do believe in the “enjoyment” factor, thats why I got rid of the Akto. It just didnt do it for me (I know looks arent everything but it is an ugly tent 🙂 )

    If you remove the inner from a lot of outer pitch first tents I reckon all the weights would be reasonable for 1 or 2 man tent size

  5. andy says:

    Aha! My thoughts exactly on the ugliness of the Akto! I have a Lightwave T0 too, and that’s a really beautiful tent to look at when you walk around camp. There’s a famous comparison made about the Akto (it involves Nora Batty and I’ll leave it at that…) and it struck a chord with me when I first heard it. In fact, I decided to sell it there and then!

    I suppose I went for the Unna rather than for the Soulo on aesthetic grounds too. The Unna looks better proportioned. But I don’t like the asymmetrical vent cover on either tent. It always looks like an unmade bed at the top…

    And the Unna seems easier to pitch taut than the Soulo.

    • backpackbrewer says:

      I had a Lightwave T0 and it does look very sleek and streamlined, very easy on the eye 🙂

      The AKto even when well pitched is wrinkly but poorly pitched and Nora Batty springs to mind 😀

      The Unna does look very well proportioned and I am also with you on the vent covers…why are they off-centre? There must be a good reason for it but it looks a bit odd…moere so on the Soulo than the Unna

      On the tautness, I managed to get my Soulo absolutely wrinkle free but having said its easy to achieve that on the Unna too

  6. andy says:

    I think you had T0 Ultra, didn’t you? I have the standard one and I think it’s a classic.

    Talking of bombproof, did you see this video? I so wish they did one of the Unna to compare performance:

    I would have repegged the end into the wind to properly tension the tent, but even so it is rather impressing.

    • backpackbrewer says:

      yes, I did have the T0 ultra and in retrospect, I wish I had kept it as a quick lightweight bombproof snatch it and go tent…

      The video is good. The one feature I really like on the Soulo that I wish the Unna had is the easy on pole clips. far easier than threading through a sleeve

  7. andy says:

    Played around with the Unna in the garden this afternoon. Now, with the Scandium poles, the roof of the tent is incredibly strong. You really can’t bend it if you press it down with both hands! Amazing. Really really strong. I’ve no doubt as to its snow-loading capabilities with those poles. They’re about 160g heavier than the standard poles but if the weather is iffy, they’re worth considering.

    Where the tent is weak, I think, and probably it is intended to be weak, is in along the short ends. If you press the poles where the highest guyline loop are, then it gives way rather easily, even with the Scandium poles.

    I have, ahem, a Lightwave G1 Ultra and that tent is rock-solid at the back, because the poles cross very low and they back end doesn’t budge an inch even if you press hard.

    Looking again at the Soulo video above, it doesn’t seem as if the back end of the Soulo is much stronger than the Unna. The poles cross very high, so at the half-way point they will give way just as much as on the Unna. You can see the back panel is bending a fair bit at the half-way mark, which is what I had experienced on that stormy February night!

    The Soulo would be better in cross-winds clearly, but I think that with the Scandium poles the Unna can hold its own in terms of snow loading and wind from the back.

    And the space inside is enormous! I always forget how much space there’s in there. And it’s so quick to create a porch by disconnecting three of the toggles.

    I think I’ll stick with the Unna, all things considered!

  8. backpackbrewer says:

    nice work Andy 🙂

    Thats the beauty of playing around with your tent to see what is possible and what isnt. Adding scandium poles has obviously given a bit more rigidity to the tent
    What I want to find out from Hilleberg is if they design their tents specifically to “give” somewhat under strong winds so that they bounce back rather than sit there unmoving…?
    The T0 is definitely a sit there and take it tent…rock solid in a hard wind although the only thing that lets it down is the large unsupported side panels on the fly
    Going back to the Soulo vs Unna thing re strength in wind, I dont think there is much difference other than the method in which the poles go up (thread through fly or clip on fly).
    Either way, the Unna is a sound tent and I think that under harsh conditions its a tent you want to be in and not looking at enviously from a storm battered “also ran” tent 😀

  9. andy says:

    I think you’re right. Given that Hilleberg tents are designed for Arctic use, in those conditions you want a tent that gives way to absorb the strength of the wind rather than standing there like a fortress until the wind just tears the fabric apart. It makes for a more ‘interesting’ night, but it must be better for the tent long term.

    Yes, the clip system is great (the Solar Elite has got it and I was amazed how quick it is). Today I did struggle a bit sliding the second pole through. The Scandium ones are a fair bit thicker than the standard ones so they do snag a bit more. I wonder why they didn’t redesign the Unna after they came up with the Soulo and Allak system.

    Can’t wait for winter to come back! Mind you, today the weather up here in Eastern Scotland is so bad that it could be winter!

    • backpackbrewer says:

      Andy,

      clip systems seem so obvious to me as a means to quickly erecting tents. With regards to the Unna, perhaps they feel that the effort was better spent on the design of the Soulo. In other words the Soulo is an evolution of the Unna (which it is if you think about it). I would like to thinkthat Hilleberg would redesign but I am guessing not. Hilleberg do make minor mods to their tents but not that often.
      Terra Nova on the other hand seem to redesign and update frequently most of their tents. They seem to take on board feedback from customers quite frequently
      I’d love to see an Unna with a clip system and also a smaller inner but I dont think it likely.
      I might make a mod to the Unna guying system the next time I take it out. You were saying about attaching guys to the top vent area, I was thinking of adding extra guylines to the existing attachment points. Then I would be able to have a pair of guylines at 90 degree angles to each other on each pole thus redistributing the wind pressure. Dyneema 2mm wouldnt be too heavy. I’ll let you know

  10. andy says:

    Well, I look forward to hearing about your experiments!
    Also, if you and Sean at Oookworks come up with some ingenious solution to the modified inner issue, I may get one myself!

    • backpackbrewer says:

      I certainly will Andy just as soon as I can get out again! I’ll also keep you up to date with the modified inner.

      If I could just lay my hands on a wind machine like in the Soulo video, I’d be sorted! 🙂

  11. Thanks for the post. Good info. With my Power Lizard for summer use I am not sure that there would be much point in reducing the weight for my Soulo, which I use for winter/early spring. However, if it was my only tent then I would look to go down the same route as you.
    Mark

    • backpackbrewer says:

      fair enough Mark. If you have a summer tent and a winter tent, as you say, then no especial need to lighten the Soulo.

      In the winter, carrying 2kg of tent is a small price for the knowledge of security. And I do still like the Soulo! 🙂

  12. R says:

    Great thoughts and discussion, I admit I’m a bit late to the party.

    I’ve got a Jannu, and it rocks. Now I’m thinking about a solo tent. I’m liking the Soulo, it’s unlikely I’d ever get around to modding the Unna and most of my use will be in summer. It’ll still end up in very windy, very rainy (as in monsoonal), and snowy, places from time to time.

    I hear the Unna is the go for exceptionally tall, but what about an ordinary 6 footer in a Soulo? Comfortable? At the moment I have a XL bag (235cm) as I wanted a bit more length after having a too small (205cm!) bag. My thermarest is a regular size though, and I’m quite happy with it (6′ / 183cm). I tend to sleep on my side legs knees slightly up, only stretching out when awake. Soulo is 7.2 feet, gut feeling is 6′ is a normal height thus I’d expect to fit in the Soulo fine enough. Thoughts?

    • backpackbrewer says:

      blimey, at a relative short-arse I fitted very nicely in both tents. Would say that the Unna is roomier obviously but can remember how close the sleeping bag was to the inner in the Soulo. The dimensions say that the Unna is 10cm longer at 230cm than the Soulo at 220cm but how that translates into usable length for a tall person…I am not sure but hazard at a guess that is should be ok for a 6-footer!

  13. Lingonberry Zulu says:

    I’m 6’3″ (190 cm) tall and have tested both the Unna and the Soulo in the supine. The Soulo was an immediate no-go as I had fabric touching both my head and toes–that wouldn’t fly come winter sleeping bags.. Decisively (imho) more functional length in the Unna. (and I can get a porch/vestibule out of my Unna that, acreage-wise, compares competitively with the fixed size of the Soulo’s vestibule–and this without going ‘virtual vestibule’ per way of untoggling a portion of the inner tent, though this is also a viable option.) Also (see below), I can further increase the functional length of the inner tent by temporarily shortening the length of appropriate inner-outer tent elastic connectors. This is great when sleeping in/on lofty winter gear.

    I’ve noticed that all the instructional videos I’ve found on Youtube for pitching the Unna conveniently 😉 neglect to show that awkward stage of the pitching procedure that begins with the insertion of the second pole and includes the subsequent transition of the tent from a two dimensional flat object to its erected 3 dimensional stature – it is always a messy/floppy/choppy transition that feels rather less than ‘surgical’ in its execution. I too would’ve preferred the Soulo’s or Jannu’s clip system.

    Still, it’s a fantastic tent and can be ‘transformerized’ into many a functional rendition. E,g., I’ve improvised the use of small plastic clips for the inner-outer tent elestic bands that allow me to adjust their lengths according to fluxing circumstsnces/needs. The Unna also works well as a module in a tarp+tent combo.

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