<Hiking stuff

Hilleberg Nallo 3 GT improvements

I have a Hilleberg Nallo 3 GT tent which I'm using as a two-person tent when hiking in Lapland with my wife. When I bought it, I had hiked a couple of thousand kilometers in utter wilderness, living in my Hilleberg Akto through all kinds of weather. It had proven itself so thoroughly and impressed me with its quality, that when I needed a two-person tent, I did not even consider anything but Hilleberg. I still use my Akto as it came from the factory (it is perfect as-is), but the Nallo has seen a few extremely minor improvements and additions.

Groundsheet for the vestibule

I made a groundsheet (or a "half-footprint") that covers the vestibule only. This effectively keeps the vestibule dry even when the tent is pitched in the rain on ground that's already wet. It connects to the tent's existing attachment rings through elastic straps with toggle beads, just like the authentic Hilleberg footprint. But unlike the Hilleberg footprint, mine does not extend underneath the inner tent. To me, that would seem stupid, as any rainwater that gets onto the footprint (e.g. via an open doorway) could easily flow underneath the tent, increasing the dampness of the floor! There's also some 10 cm gap between the edge of my groundsheet and the tent walls, so there's no way for rainwater running off the outer tent to get onto the groundsheet (except at an open doorway, of course).

The full footprint sold by Hilleberg (which seems to cost some 140 eur!) is marketed as protecting the floor of the tent from wear and tear. I've heard rumors (unconfirmed, of course) of Hilleberg engineers themselves stating that the footprint is stupid—the floor of the tent is by far strong enough to survive normal use, and they only make the footprints because people request them regardless!

It's also convenient to cook in the vestibule when the weather is terrible. When cooking, it's easy to detach and fold back one corner of the groundsheet. This way the Trangia stove can be placed directly on the ground, so its possibly hot burner (either gas or spirit) won't damage the fabric. (With the full footprint, you could detach a corner only at the very end of the tent, not near the center doorway.)

I do not use my wood-burning campstove in the tent vestibule, as that would be more of a fire hazard, and the smoke would stink up the tent big time.

In exceptionally fine weather, the vestibule of the Nallo 3 GT can be rolled back, effectively leaving the front of the tent open, with just a short "hood" above it (as detailed in the tent's instruction manual). To do that, I just need to detach the groundsheet from the two front corners, and fold part of the groundsheet underneath itself out of the way.

Here are the dimensions for the groundsheet, in case you want to make your own (not that they're really critical). It is made of "raingear fabric" ("sadetakkikangas" in Finnish)—that's what they called it at my local Eurokangas shop. It sold there originally under the brand name "Autex", now it's called "ALU-suojakangas M100", and it is 73 g/m² polyamide (also known as Nylon), aluminized on one side, with some 1000 mm water column rating.

The width of the fabric initially, including frayed edges, was 155 cm. I sewed turned hems on all edges, which used up some of the total width—that's where the final maximum width of 145 cm came from. That left a gap of just over 10 cm to the outer tent wall on either side, so I maintained that same gap all around—that's where the rest of the final dimensions came from.

Elastic straps, made from some 5 mm wide elastic band just over 20 cm long per strap, extend as loops from each of the six corners of the groundsheet. The band passes through the toggle bead (an ITW Tactical toggle, no less, as I happened to have those in shelf—don't ask), and both ends of the band are sewn to the groundsheet inside the hem. Thus the bead is at slightly less than 10 cm distance from the edge of the fabric (again, not too critical). That places just a slight tension on the straps, so the groundsheet settles in place smoothly.

The cost was something like 20 eur total—and that's including the overpriced toggle beads.

Split rings for the ground loops

The lower edge of the tent is held against the ground by tent pegs placed at the four corners of the tent, and at three places along each side, at either end of the three curved poles that keep the tent up. The corners have metal rings on them (as well as straps that can be tightened), but the six other ground loops are just fabric. That worried me somewhat, should the tent pegs, rubbing against the fabric when being pulled carelessly out of the ground, eventually fray the fabric after extended use. Especially as these loops cannot be loosened prior to pulling out the peg.

So I placed stainless steel split rings (i.e. key rings) on them. That adds some peace of mind without adding practically any weight. I would have preferred simple solid rings of metal (that is, not split rings), preferably of aluminum, but that would have involved sewing, which I deemed too much hassle for its purpose. Had I decided to sew, I would also have replaced the simple loops with longer, tightenable straps, like the ones in the corners of the tent. That would give a bit more outward reach when needed, e.g. when there's a rock directly underneath the loop. But in that scenario, I use a short extension guy line (see below).

Extra guy lines

My Akto has stood up to terriffic winds with no extra help, but the Nallo, being much bigger, seemed like it might benefit from a couple of extra guy lines now and then. So I obtained a length of authentic Hilleberg red-white 3 mm guy line and a bunch of 3 mm Clamcleat Line-Lok runners (the same as used by Hilleberg, model nr. CL260 which is specified for 2–5 mm diameter cord). I made four pairs (eight pieces total) of adjustable guy lines in various lengths from 0.5 m to 3 m, which have a fixed loop tied at one end, and a runner adjustable loop at the other.

The extra lines live in a small pouch and weigh practically nothing, yet they have saved the day a few times, and do give extra peace of mind when the wind is strong. They can be attached to the same spots where the tent's own guy lines are connected, to give extra support in multiple directions for the poles in high wind. I've also used them as extensions to the tent's guy lines, e.g. if I want to tie one to a tree instead of using a tent peg. The shortest ones can be used to extend the ground loops of the tent, if there's a rock directly underneath, or to add another peg a short distance away for extra support when the ground is especially soft.

This could, of course, all be accomplished with just a length of rope in the backpack (which I do have regardless). A taut-line hitch could be used instead of a runner to tighten the lines. To have these ready-made lines always packed away together with the tent is just a matter of convenience. Especially as I do sometimes take the tent as accommodation to places where I don't carry a backpack with its full complement of supplies.

And yes, any old line and runners would do just as well, but the Line-Loks happen to be the best there is, and the Hilleberg high-visibility line wasn't really that expensive either. Although later I did find extremely similar red-white 3 mm cord at Motohelvete at a much lower price per meter.

Extra tent pegs

The Nallo 3 GT comes equipped with 20 aluminum V-profile pegs made by DAC. These are normally quite sufficient (I typically only use 18 of them when pitching the tent) but for soft ground it's good to have a couple of slightly larger pegs. Extra pegs are also useful with the extra guy lines in strong wind conditions, and again, they weigh practically nothing.

I ordered four cheap Y-profile red anodized aluminum pegs from eBay and have been quite happy with them. 23 cm pegs just fit in the peg bag, and compared to the standard ones (which are 16 cm long) they do give that much better grip in soft earth. (But, mind you, in any normal soil the provided pegs are absolutely enough—the longer ones won't be needed in anything but soft sand or moss. And, on the other hand, if the ground is too hard to sink the standard pegs into, these won't help a bit!)

The tent itself has seen no real modifications (i.e. no cutting and sewing on my part, other than minor repairs when a mouse chewed through the inner tent wall to access a chocolate bar I had put in the side pocket—never again!) and I see no need to modify it either. It is quite a fantastic tent, a real hotel in the wilderness for two people. Roomy, also, as it's actually marketed as a three-person tent (and it certainly would easily fit a third person, but there would be no extra room inside for personal belongings, which would need to remain in the vestibule). With all the extras (vestibule groundsheet, split rings and extra guy lines and pegs) mine weighs 3.5 kg precisely (the nominal packed weight according to the manufacturer is 3.2 kg).

Pro tip: Leave a piece of terry cloth (say, a small hand towel or an orphan sock) inside the tent when you pack it away. It will absorb a lot of fine sand, dust and other pollution from the tent with no extra effort. Just dust it off when you pitch or collapse the tent, and throw it back in. That's all.

Antti J. Niskanen <uuki@iki.fi>