Swedish 'Tunnel Tent' offers Unusual Space

My daughter referred to our Scandinavian-designed tent as “the caterpillar.” A kid hiking by one afternoon noted the “neat Hilleberg” pitched in our campsite, referring to the brand name stitched on the side. It was a family camping weekend at a state park in Wisconsin, and papa Gear Junkie was testing tents.

In addition to new products from Kelty and REI, we pitched the aforementioned “neat Hilleberg” next to our car. By far the most unique of the bunch, the company’s Nallo 4 GT is a tunnel-like shelter supported by arched aluminum and stakes in the dirt.

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Long and low, the Nallo 4 GT “tunnel tent” from Hilleberg

The Nallo’s design has roots that reach decades back and across the ocean. Based in Sweden, Hilleberg AB has been an innovator in the world of shelters since its founding in the early 1970s.

The brand popularized tent technologies and designs, including the early adoption of a lightweight silicone-coated fabric that’s almost ubiquitous in the outdoors today.

Hilleberg tents are not cheap — the Nallo goes at a sky-high $868. But for that fee you get a tent that, with care, will last for years and years of wilderness use.

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The Nallo is made to be a wilderness basecamp tent, not a fast-and-light shelter for backpacking

What sets a tent like the Nallo apart is its materials and its design. The company’s special silicone-coated fabric is almost magical. It’s a slippery, ultra-thin waterproof sheen that protects from all things rain, wind and snow.

The Nallo’s tunnel design is highly mutable, changing from an enclosed cave with a giant front vestibule to an open format where you fold back an end for access or a view. Details like zipper covers, mesh pockets, hidden vents, stout V-shape stakes, and Spectra guy lines are all standard.

Our family weekend in Wisconsin was no serious test — we were simply previewing the Nallo GT design. But I have used Hilleberg tents for years, and the company’s signature “tunnel” design, on which the Nallo is based, debuted literally before I was born.

My family and I — wife, three small kids, and a dog — slept tight and cozy in the four-person Nallo. Our gear and the dog took over the vestibule, which is a huge, floorless 34 square feet of space.

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Ample vestibule space for stowing gear (or a dog) for the night

Inside, mom, dad, and the little ones were snug on the 46-square-foot floor. The tent’s ceiling, at about 4 feet high, let us sit and shuffle around, but this is no family-camping castle; the Nallo is made for sleeping in and little else.

Really, the Nallo has no business car camping. It’s hard to vent on a hot night in a state park site. It trades performance for comfort and headroom. This is a wilderness tent made to withstand snow and stiff wind, not humid nights in Wisconsin.

At 7 pounds, 8 ounces, the tent is not ultra-light. But divide its contents among a couple backpackers and the weight is manageable for a sweet basecamp setup.

If you’re shopping for a tent that will last for years and stand up to storms, the Nallo is worth a look. The main vestibule offers crazy storage capacity to keep all your gear out of the rain. It can be used year-round, too, including in snow. For what it is, this expensive “caterpillar” of a tent has little compare.

—Stephen Regenold is founder and editor of www.gearjunkie.com.

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Winter trip: End of tent opens wide

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