Hilleberg Kaitum 2GT

Having been spoilt by the spacious interior of our old tent, the MSR Hubba Hubba HP, we found it a real challenge to find a suitable replacement. Everything we tried felt cramped, with sloped walls and headroom limited to just one ‘sweet spot’. We also really wanted to keep the two-door set-up but also wanted to have bigger vestibules and better ventilation. Oh, and we wanted all this to come in at under 3.5kg if possible.

We looked at a number of tents, but in the end it came down to a toss-up between another Hubba Hubba with the addition of a Gear Shed extension or the Hilleberg Kaitum 2GT. We were also rather intrigued by the design of the more budget-friendly Wild Country Aspect 2.5, which met our criteria for good headroom and two entrances, but we weren’t sure if the vestibule space would be adequate and were unable to view one in the flesh.

In the end we chose the Kaitum as it combines two vestibules (one being enormous) with an airy interior that has good headroom throughout, and it seems to be very well-made and will hopefully be a little more durable than the Hubba Hubba. We also like the way the end portion of the Kaitum’s extended vestibule can be rolled up to give an awning-style cover to protect the inner tent from rain whilst retaining good ventilation through the two full-mesh doors. When the doors are all closed up, ventilation is still available through two high-level openings that are protected from rain and snow by large hoods, so hopefully this will mean the tent is less stuffy than the Hubba Hubba in the rain. It’s much heavier than the Hubba Hubba, and has a larger pack size, but we think it’s a price worth paying for the extra vestibule space, and other features.

We’ll write a proper review when we’ve used it out in the big wide world. Our biggest concern is that at over 5 metres long we may find it challenging to find places to pitch it.

Home sweet home and over 5m long

Home sweet home and over 5m long

Review after six weeks

Conditions of use:
We’ve been using the Kaitum 2GT every night for six weeks now (7 May to 19 June 2012 in Holland, Germany, Poland and Lithuania). The weather has been mixed with everything from torrential rain, thunderstorms and hail to some very nice days with temperatures up into the high 20s (Celsius). We have moved camp most nights, but there have been two or three occasions where we’ve remained in one place for 2-4 days, and at the time of writing we’ve been at the same site for 5 days now waiting for Keith’s bursitis to subside. We have usually been able to pitch the tent in the shade, so it hasn’t had much UV exposure yet, but the current site has few trees so we’ve rigged the tarp that usually covers the bike over the tent to provide additional cover against the midday sun. We’ve got the main body of the tent fairly well covered but cannot shield both vestibule areas.

Tent, tarp and Keith on his beloved blanket

So has it lived up to expectations?

For the most part, yes.

The more space you have, the more your kit spreads out to fill it.

The cavernous interior certainly holds all our gear and still gives us plenty of room to relax in, and most importantly, to cook in when there’s bad weather (of which we’ve had plenty). This was the main thing we wanted from the tent and we’ve been very pleased in that regard. The inner tent is just as good for headroom as our old Hubba Hubba, and is also slightly longer and wider, which is nice for arranging your personal items.

Organised storage in the tent is good. The tent has four pockets, one at each corner of the inner and these are nice and deep – big enough to poke a map into – and the washing line is great for drying the tea-towel and flannels overnight, and will hold quite a few clothes if the weather turns inclement unexpectedly.

The two doors are particularly useful as the tent is so damn long it’s often easier to nip round the outside and access something at the far end from the other door rather than try to scramble through the tent; but for general ingress and egress we only use the larger vestibule as this is where our shoes are kept.

Two enormous panniers, two helmets, and still room to spare in the small vestibule.

It’s quick and easy to pitch and it’s a nice touch that the poles slide in from one side only into a closed pocket so when only one of you is pitching it you don’t have to run back and forth around the tent seating poles into grommets on both sides.

Whilst it can be erected with just 4 pegs, we usually use 10 of the 22 available: the 4 corner bases, the 2 guys on the vent hoods, and the 4 guys on the end poles. If it’s noticeably windy we will add the 4 guys on the middle poles. On one occasion, when it was blowing an absolute hooley, we also used the 8 remaining pegs to secure the base of each pole. We’ve had no concerns about it blowing away, and so far, luckily, had no problems with stony or sandy ground.

Our fears of it being difficult to find places to pitch in the wild (on account of its 5m+ length) have been unfounded…but in saying that it should be borne in mind that the terrain we’ve been travelling in has been particularly easy to camp in, with lots of flat woodland, so the size of the tent, which is obviously one of its biggest attractions, may yet prove to be a frustration too.

Despite it being a much larger tent than our old one, with careful packing we can fit it into our old Hubba Hubba’s bag, which is great as it doesn’t take up as much room in our trailer as we’d initially expected.

The kitchen, some spare tyres (bike’s not ours!), and still plenty of room to sit in the large vestibule.

We haven’t had any really hot nights yet so can’t comment on the adequacy of the ventilation in those conditions, but on warm days (high 20s but pitched in a shady locale) it’s remained comfortable inside. The full mesh doors which can be covered with a zipped panel are great for moderating the temperature and we regularly sit in the tent, looking out at the mosquitoes whilst eating dinner, and then zip the panels up to keep some warmth in as the night draws in and the temperature falls.

There are a few minor niggles, which we don’t want to dwell on too much as they mostly arise as a result of otherwise excellent features and we think they’re a small price to pay, but for the record in case any of these are important to you:

Features we like Niggles
The tent can be pitched outer-first or all in one, including the footprint – this is great for speedy pitching and de-pitching. Despite a vigorous shaking, if you’re packing the fly and inner away all as one, any insects trapped between get squished into the fabric. After just a couple of uses the ceiling of our inner had a number of blotches on it and we feared it would soon resemble a Rorschach test. Thankfully the fabric seems to be quite dirt resistant and the blots don’t seem to have got much worse after those first few days.Due to the inner being hung on elastic from the fly, the inner-tent zips need to be used with care and two hands are often required to ease them round corners against the stretch and tug of the fabric.We can’t shake out the inner as easily we could with our ‘inner first’ free-standing tent, where a quick shake-out was part of our tent-dismantling routine. To keep the Kaitum inner free of the inevitable debris that gathers in it we have to either unhook it all and turn it inside out, or wipe it out regularly with a cloth.
A wide rubber flap stops rain and dirt being blown into the zip. It can be fiddly to get your fingers in to open the zip.

Has anything really disappointed us?

The one thing that’s really been a let-down has been the amount of condensation. We had hoped that the large vents, placed high on the wall and covered with a large hood so that they can remain fully open even in torrential rain, plus our use of the footprint to reduce moisture coming up from the ground, would mitigate against this; but on cold, wet nights it can be absolutely dreadful.

The first few nights we used the tent it rained heavily and each morning, as we awoke to continuing rain, we found that everything in the vestibule was decidedly damp. The footprint was covered in small pools of water and if you held out your hand you could feel a fine mist in the air inside the vestibule.

For a couple of days we thought we’d been sold a duff tent and that the flysheet wasn’t even waterproof, but then early one evening a few days later, as we sheltered from a sudden downpour, we realised to our relief, that the fly is in fact extremely waterproof. We could even press our hand against the fly and still nothing would come through: really impressive. We realised then that our problem was one of condensation: the overnight rain forms cold spots that attract condensation on the inside of the fly and the ongoing rain bounces the condensation off the inside of the fly and onto our gear. On cold, wet nights we now unzip the doors a little at the top to add further venting (obviously not much or rain would get in), and even on the coldest of nights we leave the zip-up vent panels completely open (even though this means that Tamar sleeps in her clothes and with her down jacket wrapped around her feet in the bottom of the sleeping bag to keep warm). I guess we’ll just have to keep experimenting to see if we can improve matters.

Why grandma, what big vents you have!

We should point out that the Hilleberg user manual does state that the fly is not breathable, so perhaps this state of affairs shouldn’t have been so much of a surprise to us.

One positive thing we noted during our investigation of the dampness, was that at least the gap between the inner tent and fly is easily wide enough to keep the two apart and we never had any problem with a damp fly sticking to the inner, something we experienced with our old Hubba Hubba, especially after a few months of use.

One minor disappointment is the impracticality in reality of a feature that initially was a big attraction for us: the roll-away vestibules. The small one rolls aside completely and the large one rolls aside at the end to leave an awning that we’d envisaged sitting under on rainy evenings with the stove outside. We’ve done this on two or three occasions, but the reality is that if it’s raining you don’t want to go out, un-peg the two corners and the vent-hood guy, relocate your kit inside the vestibule to enable you to detach and roll back the footprint, unhook the tensioning strap, and, finally, roll aside the flysheet…and then reverse the process to secure it all again before retiring to bed. Even in better weather and at a campsite for an extended period, it still doesn’t seem worth the bother because it leaves all our kit on display and we then feel loathe to leave the tent even on short trips to the kitchen or toilets. Maybe we’ll find circumstances to use this feature in the future, but for the moment it seems like a nice idea in theory which we haven’t found useful in the real world.

Another minor disappointment is the appearance of a few small holes. There are two in the inner tent, one in the roof and one on the side a few centimetres above the seam with the groundsheet. To our knowledge we have not poked anything sharp into the tent and have no idea what caused the holes. There is also a small hole in the groundsheet that looks more like it’s been burnt than pierced. We check the ground for thorns, sticks, stones and other sharp items, and have never had anything inside the tent that could have burnt it so we’ve got absolutely no idea what caused it. All tents suffer from wear and tear, and lightweight tents are not as durable as their heavier counterparts; we understand and accept that….but when you take good care of something it’s vexing to find damage that you can’t explain. This tent is very expensive so we really want it to last a long time.

The verdict after six weeks?

On the whole this is a really nice, spacious, and for its size, an impressively lightweight tent. It has a host of well-executed features that make it a pleasure to live in under most conditions we’ve experienced to date – unless it’s cold and wet at which point the condensation is a major pain in the ass. We’re also slightly uneasy about the durability given the few holes we’ve acquired. Only time will tell on that though.

Of course we’d be complaining even more bitterly if the tent wasn’t waterproof – but surely there must be a tent out there that’s waterproof AND breathable? Or are we just futilely seeking the holy grail of tents?

Wear and tear update after 56 nights of use

We noticed a worn patch caused by the clip that holds the larger vestibule door open…

…and fixed it with duct tape.

Wear and tear update after 140 nights of use

Zip replacement time. It’s disappointing to say the least, that on such an expensive tent the zips don’t last very long. The zips on our old MSR Hubba Hubba were still going strong after a similar number of nights use, including camping on beaches, but after 140 nights Hilleberg zips are definitely on their last legs. The problem is obviously (but most annoyingly) with the zips you use most often; the primary zip on the main vestibule door and the door on the inner-tent that opens from the larger vestibule. We’ve tried to keep the zippers clean and brush the dirt out of them from time to time (although not every day as per Hilleberg’s care instructions … as if every day would be feasible anyway), but despite this the zipper teeth frequently come apart behind the slider. It’s very annoying but didn’t come as a huge surprise to us as we’d read a number of negative reports about Hilleberg zips when we first researched the tent.

It’s actually not a problem with the zip teeth, but with the slider, as the metal within the slider has worn down, so the gap in the slider is bigger, and so it does not mesh the zip-teeth as completely as it should – thus as you run the slider along the line of the zip, the teeth just come apart behind the slider.

We were in China when it started to become unreliable and initially we hoped to get the entire zip replaced, but sourcing a suitable zip proved difficult and in the meantime we’d read on Travelling Two’s blog that replacing the slider can be just as effective. We weren’t able to get the exact double-sided sliders that we need, but have put new single-sided ones at the top of the zip where we tend to only open it from the inside for ventilation, and then have moved double-sided sliders from doors we don’t use so often to the main doors which were failing. My seamstress skills are clearly not as good as Travelling Two’s Friedel’s, as it took significantly longer to unpick and then re-sew the inner tent around the end of the zipper than she suggested it would, but all in all it seems to have gone quite well.

Wear and tear update after 180 nights of use

The replacement zippers are doing OK…just about…the flysheet zipper for the smaller porch is getting quite stiff to close near the bottom where it is at most danger of dirt and dust. This is small beans though compared to our biggest gripe at the moment and that’s with the footprint and groundsheet. They are no longer waterproof and they are just 1 year old. We have to dry the floor of the inside of the tent most mornings as moisture comes up through both the footprint and the groundsheet of the inner and collects below the silver liner we use to protect our inflatable mats from punctures. Also in the large vestibule area, where we have items placed on the groundsheet such as our kitchen things, moisture will soak up through the footprint and soak the underside of everything. We carry a picnic blanket as well, and we used to lay it out in the vestibule, but underneath it will be completely soaked by morning, so now we have to make sure to only cover as little floor-space as possible to minimise the amount of wet floor we have to dry in the morning. We have also started to put all the kitchen stuff on top of a big heavy polythene bag to stop everything getting wet, but of course now just the underside of the poly-bag gets soaked. To say that we are not impressed is an understatement – the footprint I think cost about ?100 and to think that after 1 year that the waterproofness has broken down, is horrendous – our ?300 MSR Hubba-hubba never sucked up the moisture in the same way and it was a good bit older. I have to think back 3 or 4 old tents to the last one that I had which let the moisture through.

These are not the reasons for why we spent nearly £800 on this tent.

Update at 2½ years old and after 230 nights of use
It is now January 2015 and during 2014 our tent did not get used at all until mid November. Between then and the end of the year, it got used just 13 times. So what condition is it in now? Disappointing really.

Like stretched knicker elastic

Like stretched knicker elastic

It still collects condensation like that’s its main purpose in life (but I guess that’ll never change) the footprint & groundsheet let moisture come up through like you were camping on a puddle, and now the elastics that are part of the inner-tent and are used to hang the inner in the outer, are like the elastic in your 10-year old knickers hiding in the back of your underwear drawer – stretched and no longer displaying any elastic properties whatsoever.
Small vestibule rolled back for more air - this approach wasn't so good when it rained overnight

Small vestibule rolled back for more air – this approach wasn’t so good when it rained overnight

We pretty much stopped using the tent when the overnight temperature in tropical south-east Asia just wouldn’t go below 26°C – with that temperature outside, inside the tent would be 29°C or above. At 28°C Keith could sleep just mildly sticky, but at 29°C he was damp with sweat and at 30°C he just lay in a puddle of sweat all night and there was just no way we could ventilate the tent. We had already been rolling up the small vestibule (beside our heads) every night to let more air flow inside and trying to point the tent at any breeze that may exist, but any daytime breeze would disappear as soon as the sun went down. We even bought a little USB-powered fan which did make the camping experience a little more bearable but not enough, and when you also consider that you can get cheap accommodation for about £10 per night in Thailand and Malaysia, the tent just held no appeal, thus didn’t get used. So when we put it up for the first time in over a year in November, it was disappointing that we had the stretched elastic to add to the list of failed features.
This is one of the most expensive tent brands that you can buy and yet the zippers fail, the groundsheet & footprint remain waterproof for little more than 12 months, the ventilation doesn’t do much in terms of moving air or minimising condensation, and the elastic is of such quality that it goes like your granny’s old knickers in just 2½ years. It is a well designed tent with useful features that you won’t find on cheaper tents but it shouldn’t be the clever features that make it expensive, it should be the high quality materials that are used in its construction, and well that just isn’t the case. So all in all, I would say we are disappointed owners.

10 responses to “Hilleberg Kaitum 2GT

  1. Ahhh, home sweet home x
    Hope the knee is improving as you type x

  2. I was interested to read your blog as I am considering buying a 2-person Hilleberg tent and am looking at various options. I have a Hilleberg Akto for most of my trips which are solo, which I have used for about 6 – 7 years now. Reading your article there was a lot of talk about condensation and I am really of the opinion that there comes a point where you really can’t do much about it. If it is wet and windless it doesn’t make much difference how much you ventilate. Your problem with leaking broadsheet surprised me as I have not experienced this, however I do get condensation on the groundsheet underneath things left on the floor during the night when it is cold, I suspect that this is the issue you are experiencing.

    • Hi Ashley, you could be right about it being condensation underneath things left on the floor of the tent, but without the option to suspend us and our belongings in mid-air it remains a bit of a frustration. 🙂

  3. Hilleberg tents are bombproof and dont forget have a lifetime warranty, i’d be letting them know about the zippers!
    With regards to condensation on the floor, its simple physics called “the heat transfer coefficient”, look it up.
    I am looking at a Kaitum for solo backpacking. Although 3kg seems a little on the heavy side, I kind of need the room due to my 6ft5inch height 🙁
    Look into hammock camping. I have been into it for years and the variety of available sites is brilliant!
    Its super relaxing and a solid setup can be as light as 1-1.5kg, with no condensation issues,.. however not as secure as the architecture of a tent.
    Safe happy travels! 😀

    • Hi Tim,
      Thanks for visiting our blog and our review of the tent.
      A few things however – Hilleberg know about their zippers. There are forums, other blogs and numerous other accounts of travellers like us having the same zipper problems as us, and they all get the same response from Hilleberg, “you must have used your tent in the wrong dusty environment and not brushed your zipps out daily with a toothbrush, like we told you to, so it is all your own fault.” So not exactly helpful

      Regarding the lifetime warranty – you normally need to return the failed item to them and they will indeed repair or replace. The problem is returning it to them and knowing where you want them to send it back to when you’re on the road continually. Lots of travellers report a similar hiccup with the lifetime warranties offered by other gear manufacturers such as Thermorest.

      Regarding our condensation problem – sorry you’ve hit a raw nerve with me on this one – I didn’t pay £100 (about 120Euros) for an extra groundsheet (or footprint) for it to allow moisture to pass up through it. If your heat-transfer-coefficient thing is anything to concern me, then why didn’t the moisture pass through the footprint when it was new? When new, the footprint worked exactly as it should, and it kept the moisture down and stuff in the tent dry – that’s what the ground-sheet in a tent is meant to do – but as it got older, it behaved just like other “old” tents that I’ve got and it let the moisture come up. Thing is, I didn’t pay £800 for my old tents – they were cheap and behaved like cheap tents – the Hilleberg is not a cheap tent, probably one of the most expensive on the market, and yet it’s behaved just like my old cheap tents.

      Hammock camping is probably great for certain areas of the world, however there aren’t many trees in the Taklamakan Desert, or the Kazakh Steppe for that matter, not to mention a whole list of other places that we’ve camped, so I don’t see your hammock suggestion as being very useful for us with our particular route – thanks none the less for the suggestion though.

      Finally – safe & happy travels to you too, wherever you may find yourself. And don’t forget to pack your extra toothbrush for the zippers if you choose to buy a Hilleberg.
      Best wishes,

  4. I also read about the zip issues, and that lead me to buy the heavy duty 4 season tent, the Staika over the lighter duty 4 season tent. The main reason for this was the heavy duty zips they used. I pitched it 120 times cycling from Cairo to cape town, most places we camped were pretty sandy, and never had an issue with the zips, and a toothbrush never went near it.

    Admittedly I don’t think I would want the weight penalty of the Nammatj. I might have to think twice about my next tent choice.

  5. It’s a couple of years since the last post but decided to add a few thoughts . In particular I wanted to say thank you for posting a detailed long-term review. So many reviews are based on a first-time tent pitch in the backgarden – useful for getting a feel for a tent, but gives no insight into the real world use and longterm durability of a tent. It’s so helpful to follow your experience through time and get a sense of how your opinions shift as problems begin to emerge over time. I have looked at many reviews of Hilleberg tents and most (not all) just rave about them, so it’s interesting to discover that your experience suggests that the high price tag does not equate to long-term durability (at least with the lighter weight Red Label Kaitum). Admittedly your tent had a lot of use, so it’s not typical of the usage many people will be subjecting their tents to, but still, I was shocked to see the elastic ‘collapsing’ after some two years. And I’d expect a footprint to stay waterproof for many years, it’s an expensive item, not something you pick up for a few pounds. As for the ground sheet – for me, a strong and durable groundsheet would be a primary reason for buying a Hilleberg, so I find your experience hugely disappointing.

    I find condensation a tricky issue. Tent reviews often take completely opposite views on the condensation-attracting abilities of the same tent. I guess so much varies depending on the weather conditions. I wonder if part of the problem you’ve experienced is simply the size / length of the tent, meaning that despite good ventilation options built into the tent, there will be a lack of through-flow in certain conditions that it is impossible to do away with. That said, I take your point about the footprint letting moisture through which made condensation worse over time.

    I’m sure that the high reputation of Hillebergs is based on many peoples genuine experiences, but it’s important that other perspectives such as yours get wider exposure, otherwise underlying design issues will not be taken seriously and addressed. I have a lot of sympathy for you, after spending that amount for a tent, you expect much better than that. I would be interested to know if Hilleberg have seen your review and have made any comment on the points you raise.

    • Hi Andy, Thanks for reading our review. I have no idea whether Hilliberg have seen our review – certainly on the issue of wearing out the zippers, they were completely un-interested and just told us that we needed to clean our zippers with a toothbrush every day. Hilliberg just didn’t seem to live in the real everyday world in relation to their recommendations. I would never buy a Hilliberg again – the design features may be clever but the lack of longevity in the product is hugely disappointing and unacceptable.

  6. I completely agree with Andy, you’ve done a great job of compiling 180 nights of experience instead of this love-at-first-sight reviews that are systematically enthusiastic. Here in France, Hilleberg tents are also famous, but never a French comment ever approached issues such as zip or condensation, or the uselessness of the opening porch in real-life, or the leakage of the groundsheet, so I’m deeply grateful for the “real-life” information you provided. Last but not least, I really appreciate your writing style, “so British” as we say here on the continent, you explain clearly what happened. The 5 meters long issue Andy raised seems quite rational to me to explain the low efficiency of the vents. Question now, but of course I’m adressing it to myself : would the Nigor Didis 2, that plays on the same turf, be concerned as well ? here it’s basically half the price (600 euros versus 1200 euros) of the Kaitum, for a similar profile (long vestibule).

    • Hi Florence,
      Thanks for reading and commenting on our tent review – much appreciated – and I’m pleased you found it helpful. Good luck with your own buying decisions!!

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