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hilleberg tents

Written by George Fisher


To backpack in the mountains of northern Sweden is to enter a fairytale world. The terrain is somehow both vast and intimate, rugged and inviting. It beckons you to wander, in all directions, promising magic. No two trips to the same place are ever the same, and every season offers a different kind of wonder, from the impossibly green lushness of summer, to autumn’s cool nights, crisp days and luminous light, to winter’s short days and frequent wild storms, and the enthralling stillness and silence of the snowy landscape.

Hilleberg tents were born from this palette of land and weather. Bo Hilleberg, forest ranger by training and lifelong outdoorsman by inclination, started Hilleberg the Tentmaker in the early 1970s. Shortly after, he and his wife Renate moved to Jämtland, 550 km north of Stockholm, both to start a family and to build their fledgling company.

Their first tent, the Keb, was introduced in 1973. It was the first commercial tent with connected outer tent (rain fly) and inner tent, allowing for a singlestep setup. In 1975 Hilleberg was the first in the industry to use silicone-coated material in their outer tents, after discovering that it was far stronger than traditional PU-coated fabrics. This fabric, which Hilleberg dubbed ‘Kerlon’, has undergone constant development and today, in four different weights, is still the cornerstone of Hilleberg quality and dependability.

After the Keb, Hilleberg has continued to release iconic tents, including the Keron models, which quickly became (and remain today) standard equipment for polar expeditions; the fully freestanding Staika, and its lighter ‘brother’, the Allak; the light yet strong Nallo; and the very light yet remarkably strong three-season Anjan, Rogen, Niak and Enan models, among others. One of the most storied tents was the one-person Akto, introduced in 1995.

“One-person tents were relatively rare in the early1990s,” recalls Bo Hilleberg, “but I had a feeling there was a demand for such a tent, and I personally wanted one!” He set out to create an all-season strong solo tent with a vestibule that was roomy enough for one person to move around inside it, and that was still very light. Bo and Renate began developing this new tent in 1993, and they quickly settled on a single pole design. Creating the ideal single pole construction, however, was no small feat. Over the course of 17 different prototypes, all handsewn by Renate, the pair tried innumerable combinations. In one version, they ‘squared off’ the design by adding two lightweight rods into each end. “The two rods kept the form of the tent much better than the hoop alone, but it was a lot of work getting it right,” recalls Bo. Revolutionary in 1995, the Akto’s shape – and function – remains just as iconic today.

An instant hit, and still today one of Hilleberg’s most popular models, the Akto has since been used with great success all over the world including North and South Pole expeditions, something Hilleberg does not necessarily recommend! From backpackers to bikepackers to trekkers and paddlers, users of all stripes who simply want to have a room of their own in the backcountry have found the Akto the ideal balance of strength, roominess and light weight. Indeed, more than 20 years on, the Akto is still as innovatively functional today as it was in 1995, and Hilleberg has made only a few changes to it, seeing no reason to fix what is not broken.