Hands-on Gear Review
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Pros: Strong sidewall, highly resistant to snow loading, pitches quick from outside, great ventilation, three color options.
Cons: Less comfortable than Hilleberg Nammatj.
Best Uses: Alpine climbing, high altitude mountaineering, expeditions.
The Hilleberg Jannu is the panacea for worst-conditions mountaineering and alpine climbing. Due to its fast setup, bombproof storm protection and low weight (6 lb. 1 oz.), the Jannu is our highest rated self-supporting dome tent. We highly recommend it for high altitude alpine climbing and mountaineering. However, it is considerably less comfortable than the Hilleberg Nammatj 2 and roughly $175 more expensive. We feel the additional cost and decreased comfort is worthwhile if you need world-class strength for basecamping or high altitude technical climbing.
If basecamping is your primary objective, consider the Hilleberg Tarra, which has two doors. See how the Jannu compares to all other tents tested in our Four Season Tent Review. Also consider a floorless tent—our testers' favorite type of shelter for 99 percent of fast and light trips—found in our Ultralight Tent Review.
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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review
Ease of Setup
The Jannu sets up from the outside in four easy steps: (1) stake out the base of the tent, (2) insert the poles into color-coded, two-foot long sleeves, (3) snap the poles into alternating plastic clips, and (4) stake out the vestibules and guy lines. Unlike most double wall tents, where the poles support the inner tent and the fly attaches on top, all Hilleberg tents have a built-in inner tent that suspends from the outer tent. This connects to the fly with dozens of elasticized toggles and can easily be removed and pitched by itself with an optional kit. The outer tent can also serve as a lightweight and exceptionally strong floorless single wall shelter.
The Jannu's pitch-the-outside-first design is superior to traditional double wall tents because it's significantly easier to set up even with one person (you can also keep your gloves on), having the fly on top protects the inner tent from rain and snow and the poles stand up by themselves once inserted into the sleeves, which makes setup easier because you don't have to hold one pole while you try to set up another. These details make setup easier than with nearly every other double wall dome tent we've tested. The difference is significant regardless of the conditions but becomes greater as the weather worsens. Two people can have the tent pitched and tied out in super strong storm mode in under five minutes. See the video at the bottom of this page for setup instructions.
The Jannu's primary advantage over the Hilleberg Nammatj 2, which wins our Editors' Choice Award, is its static strength. This tent's web of intersecting poles makes it capable of handling severe snow loading and winds that batter it from all sides. The Nammatj's tunnel design performs phenomenally well in high winds, but primarily in winds that vary little in direction. In open areas, like on big glaciers and in polar regions, the wind tends to change little over the course of a night so the Nammatj does very well. In high mountain conditions wind patterns can be chaotic and unpredictable and, depending on your "campsite," might demand a tent with a stronger sidewall.
When exactly might the Jannu's extra strength be necessary? Answer: Our testers prefer the Nammatj for North American mountaineering classics like Rainer and the West Buttress of Denali. If you are moving up from those climbs to more technical routes then we suggest the Jannu. The Jannu's self-supporting design is also a better choice for basecamping if you leave the tent unattended and aren't there to remove snow from it or check on the tieouts. These are situations where the Jannu excels.
The two greatest characteristics that make the Jannu viable for terrible conditions are its aggressive pole design and use of top-tier fabrics.
The vestibule pole is usually the first thing to break on many mountaineering tents. Once that pole snaps the front of the tent can catch wind like a kite and damage other areas. We've seen this happens on tents like the Mountain Hardwear Trango. Fortunately, the Jannu does not use an additional pole for the vestibule; it is much stronger and less likely to break as a result. This is one thing that makes the tent bomber. Another is the tent's generally low profile shape that allows wind to pass over it easily. Other tents that are taller and/or larger catch more wind and require many more poles or heavier poles to provide the same amount of strength.
If you are paranoid about the world ending, fear an instantaneous 10-foot snow dumping, or want to camp on top of Everest you can add an additional set of poles to further bolster the Jannu's strength. The tent's combination of pole sleeve and alternating clips enables this (put both poles in the wide sleeve and use right-facing clips for one pole and left-facing clips for the other pole). This system would make for an insanely strong tent. We feel it is rarely necessary. Even when using the Jannu on a backcountry ski expedition in Greenland, our testers did not bring extra poles. If you fear the worst, an extra pole set is available from Hilleberg for around $150.
After pole design, fabrics are arguably the most important part of a tent. Here, too, the Jannu is world class. It uses a tip-top 1.47 oz./yd. silicone impregnated ripstop nylon with a 26.5 lb. tear strength. This is the second strongest fabric used on any of the winters we've tested. (The strongest is found on Hilleberg "Black Label" tents like the Nammatj and Tarra.) Strong fabrics are important because if they are punctured by something like a broken pole or a crampon, they are less likely to tear.
The Jannu has a myriad of small features also contribute to its strength. (1) Three ground straps run perpendicular to the length of the tent and absorb stress during high winds and keep the pole arcs at the proper height and tension. They can also be used as guy lines if needed. This is a unique feature found only on Hilleberg tents. (2) All tieout points are heavily reinforced. For example, the vestibule webbing adjusters are made of metal, not plastic. (3) Two strong metal clips remove stress from the vestibule zipper. (4) The guy lines are made of a Spectra-polyester blend that doesn't absorb much water and doesn't stretch as much as lower quality nylon cord. The fact that they don't absorb water is key because moisture can dramatically add weight in wet conditions. The Jannu's guy lines come pre-rigged with camming adjusters. No, you don't have to spend an hour cutting and attaching lines! The camming adjusters are super easy and very fast. We much prefer them to the trucker's hitch knot when we are wearing gloves. (5) The Jannu's lines attach to the tent with a six-inch loop of webbing can wrap around the pole once and transfer tension from the tieout stitching to the entire pole. This, too, is a unique feature, and we love it.
The Jannu is a palace when you consider how light and strong it is. But it is considerably smaller and less comfortable than many other two-person double wall tents. The Hilleberg Nammatj 2, for example, is much more comfortable both in its interior and vestibule.
The Jannu's floor area (36.6 sq. ft.) is the second largest of any two-person four-season tent tested. This specification is somewhat deceiving, however, because the low angle of the rear end and sides dramatically reduce interior volume. There is enough space to sit up in the front of the tent but not in the rear. The 13 sq. ft. vestibule extends at a low angle above the door, providing storage space for gear or a small cooking area. The Hilleberg Nammatj has a larger vestibule that is easier to enter and exit and better for cooking. Again, there is a tradeoff between strength and livability; a vestibule with a dedicated pole would increase comfort but decrease strength. On the bright side, our testers love the vestibule's zipper design, which uses a continuous zipper that hits the ground in two places, making a large arc. The zipper starts at the lower left corner by the front left pole and curves up, around, and back down to the front right guy point on the vestibule. There are multiple configurations for opening; the left side is best for getting in and out quickly and the center is best for loading up gear or for periods of good weather. See the photo below.
The Jannu balances a tricky tradeoff between low weight and multiple expedition durability. Our model has holding up well after three years of use in the Lower 48, Alaska and Greenland. We are glad that Hilleberg does not use their toughest, heavier fabrics on the Jannu; the tent is super tough already and the low weight is critical.
The major factor that makes the Jannu so durable is its use of top-tier silnylon fabrics. The polyurethane (PU) coated fly fabrics found on most other expedition tents (such as the Mountain Hardwear Trango and North Face Mountain 25) are more susceptible to hydrolysis (chemical breakup of the coating) and last for far less time than silnylon. For example, the author used a Trango for 90 consecutive days in Patagonia and, near the end of that time, the interior PU started to flake off, thereby eliminating the fly's waterproof properties. The Jannu has been proven on many epic expeditions all over the world. We are confident that it is wildly durable.
Luc Mehl et al. chose the Jannu for their 30 day, 370-mile UNSUPPORTED traverse of Mt. Logan (Canada's tallest peak, 19,551 ft.). That trip involved packrafting, skiing, and mountaineering while carrying 130 lb. packs. The Jannu's reliability provides the confidence that enables trips likes these to happen.
We give the Jannu 3 points in this category, the maximum possible, because the ability to remove the inner tent greatly increases versatility. Some of our testers like to remove the inner tent (saving 30.5 oz.) for fast and light trips in all seasons. Due to its walls and vestibules that extend all the way to the ground, the tent is remarkably resistant to bugs. For this floorless setup Polycro plastic is our preferred groundsheet because it only costs $10 and only weighs 4 oz. for a two-person size. You can buy polycro from Gossamer Gear and elsewhere.
The Jannu's default setup (inner tent + outer tent + poles) weighs 97.3 oz. or 6 lb. 1.3 oz. This is extremely light considering the tent's strength. It is 10 oz. more than the Hilleberg Nammatj 2. Here's a detailed breakdown of all components:
Inner tent: 30.5 oz.
Outer tent with guylines: 45.5 oz.
3 Poles: 21.3 oz.
Pole stuff sack + extra pole section: 2.2 oz.
18 stakes + stake sack : 7.1 oz.
Stuff sack: 1.2 oz.
There are several ways to reduce the weight of the Jannu. The most significant is to use only the outer tent for a savings of 30.5 oz. The next most significant way to reduce weight is to upgrade the stakes. The Jannu comes with 18 DAC V stakes, which are good quality but heavy all-purpose stakes. Upgrading to 12 Ruta Locua 9" Carbon Stakes saves 4.5 oz. and provides more holding power than the stock stakes. If necessary the remaining guy points can be tied out with sticks, rocks, logs, etc. When camping on snow we like to use ice axes, skis, crampons, snowshoes, poles and other things for stakes. Occasionally, we'll use a dedicated snow stake, such as the Hilleberg Snow and Sand Peg.
Hilleberg does not use reflective cords on their zipper pulls because they find that the smaller and harder-to-grab metal pulls they use are more durable in the long-term (because cords can be pulled at different angles and may derail the zipper sliders). Similarly, they also choose not to use reflective cord for the tieouts because they claim that none are as durable as the proprietary cord used on their tents, and also because they say that reflective cord can cut through guyline attachments easier (such as a loop of cord used to extend a line). Durability!
Alpine climbing and high altitude mountaineering.
Three Color Options!!
The tent is available in three colors: red, green or sand. We have experience with all colors and prefer the red for winter use and other colors for three-season applications.
The tent is a total steal if you need its world-class strength and durability, or just have the cash for the best. For most people we feel theHilleberg Nammatj 2 is a better value because it is nearly as strong and $175 cheaper. If you want the best value consider the REI Arete ASL 2.
The Jannu is our highest rated self-supporting tent. We recommend it for high altitude alpine climbing and mountaineering applications that demand the ultimate static strength.
The Hilleberg Anjan 2, $600, wins our Editor's Choice Award, as it is our highest rated backpacking tent and, though it isn't ultralight, it's stronger, more durable, and more comfortable than the majority of the 23 other backpacking tents we've tested.
The Hilleberg Nammatj 2, $810, is arguably the single most versatile tent we have ever tested.
The Hilleberg Tarra, $975, is the strongest two-person tent we have ever tested.
— Chris McNamara and Max Neale
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Most recent review: August 17, 2013
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