Strength. Reliability. Low weight. Durability. These are the qualities we demand from all the materials that go into our tents and shelters, and we have rigorous standards that every material must meet. Such materials are almost always more expensive, but they also yield a final product that substantially outperforms one made with even slightly lower quality materials. It is that kind of exceptional performance that is the hallmark of Hilleberg tents. We are also constantly testing that performance, from the strength and durability of our fabrics and poles to the reliability of our zippers, guy lines, line runners and fittings. We use lab tests and field tests, and we are always seeking better material solutions.
A tent’s fabrics are the barriers between you and the elements. In a Hilleberg tent, those fabrics must perform to exacting criteria in a number of areas – criteria we check both in lab settings, with standardized tests, and in the field.
Hilleberg Kerlon outer tent fabrics, arguably the strongest, lightest available (see “The Importance of Tear Strength” on the next page) must also have a minimum waterproofness rating, or “hydrostatic head,” a minimum tensional strength – the amount of force required to pull an uncut piece of fabric apart – and a minimum color resistance to light.
The outer tent’s fabric is crucial to keeping the elements out, but the inner tent fabrics are just as instrumental in keeping the occupants as comfortable as possible. Our inner tent fabrics are very lightweight and highly breathable, meaning that they let moisture vapor escape while keeping actual water drops from penetrating. These fabrics must also have a minimum tensional strength as well as a certain air permeability.
Floor fabrics, too, are vital to the tent’s performance. We use materials that are not only extremely waterproof, but are also highly puncture and abrasion resistant, as well, and that stay flexible even in the coldest temperatures.
The fabric of a tent must be strong, yes, but it must also be supported properly. In other words, a high performance tent must have a skeleton worthy of the strength of its skin. For this reason, we use DAC poles, because we believe they offer the same sort of superior performance that our fabrics do, and on most models, we use the DAC Featherlite NSL poles. Because the section-connecting inserts are nearly the same diameter as the pole section itself, NSL poles are significantly stronger than standard-style poles, and are lighter, as well.
The pole lengths and diameter on every model is the result of careful calculation. Each of our tents has the optimal poles for the tent’s size and shape, and poles are individually fitted and, if necessary, pre-bent. We use 9 mm poles on our Ultralight tents because, like these models’ Kerlon 1200 outer fabric, they offer plenty of strength at a very low weight. We match stronger 10.25 mm poles – we refer to them merely as “10 mm” poles for convenience – with our Kerlon 1800 tents, since these are designed to handle the most extreme conditions. Color coding helps when pitching dome tents or models with different length poles. And whether they are paired with continuous pole sleeves, short pole sleeves and clips, or a combination of both, the poles on all of our tents are situated to provide the easiest handling and greatest security.
Small things can have a big impact. We consider the details on our tents – the zippers, the guy lines, the pegs, and the other fittings – with the same rigor we apply to fabrics and poles.
We use YKK zippers, which are the perfect choice for our tents, since they are the strongest and most reliable available.
Our guy lines are a proprietary cord that interweaves super strong Spectra fiber with polyester. Very light and very strong, this line absorbs almost no water, and has miniscule stretch. And, because of its unique construction, there is no sheath to separate from the core.
All of our tents come with the appropriate aluminum pegs: ultralight yet strong pegs with our Ultralight tents, and very robust yet light pegs with our Kerlon 1800 models.
Even the fittings are well-considered. The simple, strong and effective polymer line runners on our guy lines will not crack in extreme cold, will hold tenaciously even on wet or frozen cord, and yet can be easily adjusted. Similarly, the polymer pole clips and pole tensioner cups, and the metal ladder lock buckles on pole and peg tensioners – we use metal because these buckles must be as strong as possible – and the adjustable peg loops are immune to wet and cold, and can be operated easily, even while wearing bulky mittens.
The Importance of Tear Strength
Greater strength equals greater safety. It is that simple. The stronger the fabric on your outer tent is, the less likely it is to tear because of bad weather, rough handling, or inadvertent mistakes.
And Hilleberg outer tent fabrics – the Kerlon family – are arguably the strongest, lightest tent fabrics available. Our Ultralight tent fabric, Kerlon 1200, has a minimum tear strength of 12 kg/26.5 lbs, and Kerlon SP, our unique polyester fabric, and our premier Kerlon 1800 have minimum tear strengths of 15 kg/33 lbs and 18 kg/40 lbs respectively. Yet all weigh less than 80 g/m2 / 2.8 oz/yd2. In real life – using the tent in the field – that strength (and light weight) translates into tents that, in our opinion, outperform those made with other fabrics.
The Silicone Connection
In 1975, Bo Hilleberg received a sample of a new, lighter, more waterproof fabric. When Bo cut the edge of the sample and tried to tear it, he couldn’t. The fabric, Bo discovered, was coated with silicone, rather than the usual polyurethane. And while this new fabric was indeed very light and waterproof, it was also exceptionally strong. It was exactly what Bo had been looking for, and our Kerlon fabrics were born.
Not all silicone-coated fabrics are created equal, however. Our Kerlon fabrics are coated, on both sides, with a total of three layers of 100 percent silicone. Certainly they are completely waterproof and very light, but our process also imparts a strength to the base material that is an order of magnitude greater than is possible with the more common polyurethane coating process. Perhaps more importantly, our coated Kerlon fabrics are, far, far stronger than so-called “siliconized” materials, which typically employ a coating mixture of silicone and other compounds.
This means that we can start with a lighter weight base fabric and still produce a material – Kerlon 1200 – that is four to five times stronger than most so-called “expedition grade,” heavy duty tent materials. It also means that if your outer tent does suffer a puncture, our high tear strengths make it far less likely that the puncture will develop into a trip-ending rent.
Such high tear strength is like insurance: It is much better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it, especially since this “insurance” adds no extra weight, and also increases the durability and longevity of your tent.