Hands-on Gear Review
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Street Price: Varies from $610 - $740 | Compare prices at 2 resellers
Pros: Bombproof in high winds, very comfortable, lightweight, highly versatile, extremely durable, pitches quickly from outside, 3 color options.
Cons: Not as strong as dome tents (not as good for basecamping), only two pockets.
Best Uses: Everything: mountaineering, ski touring, backpacking, bike touring.
The Hilleberg Nammatj is arguably the single most versatile tent we have ever tested. It's strong enough to cross polar regions and scale tall peaks, yet it is also light enough (5.5 lb.) to join you on summer backpacking trips and comfortable enough to live out of for extended periods in campgrounds. If we were to have one two-person tent for everything we would choose the Nammatj. In short: AMAZING.
Check out our Four Season Tent Review to see how this tent compares to the 23 other models tested. 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
There are four different versions of this tent. We tested the Nammatj 2, described below, as well as the Nammatj 3 GT, which is slightly larger and has an extended vestibule. See the bottom of this page for a discussion of the different versions.
Ease of Setup
All Hilleberg double wall tents pitch from the outside first. Their inner tents are suspended from the pole structure and outer tent. This design is faster to set up than most double wall tents that pitch inner tent first. It also helps to keep the inner tent drier.
The Nammatj has two poles that insert into reinforced sleeves. Slide them in, secure each with an adjustable strap, then stake the front into the wind, then the rear, then the other tie-outs. After a bit of practice one person can have the tent pitched in less than two minutes. In calm conditions it’s possible to pitch the tent with only the four corner points, which is extremely quick. The Nammatj is also reasonably easy to pitch in high winds by yourself. The pole sleeves and quick-adjust guy lines make the Nammatj dramatically faster to set up than two-person dome tents such as the Mountain Hardwear Trango 2 and North Face Mountain 25. However, the tent is not easy to pitch in very rocky terrain or on rock slabs, locations where self-supporting or freestanding dome tents go up faster and easier. See the video at the bottom of this page for pitching instructions.
Tunnel tents offer the ultimate blend of comfort and strength. The Nammatj has steep walls and a spacious interior; it is more comfortable than dome tents that have low angle walls. For example, the Nammatj is much more comfortable than the company's Jannu, which has only a small area in which to sit up. The critical difference here is the Nammatj’s flat roof and relatively steep side walls, which dramatically increase interior volume and make the tent less claustrophobic.
The Nammatj vestibule is more spacious than that on many other tents that weigh a similar amount. For example, although the vestibule floor area is the same as the Hilleberg Jannu, the Nammatj vestibule has more volume, making it much better for gear storage and cooking.
Ventilation is another key factor that influences comfort. Here, too, the Nammatj does very well. Both ends of the tent have a massive vent that ties out with three self-equalizing guylines. Each vent can be opened fully or closed with either mesh bug netting or a solid nylon fabric. These options allow you to adjust airflow according to what’s going on outside. For example, you can close the windward end (Hilleberg recommends that this be the front of the tent) and leave the leeward vent open. The rear of the inner tent also has a vent that can be opened fully (to reach out and adjust the outside vent) or closed with either bug netting or a solid nylon fabric. Overall, the Nammatj has superb ventilation. It is dramatically better than the vast majority of the tents tested, and virtually every other tent from other brands.
Partially due to the ventilation, cooking in the Nammatj vestibule is more pleasant and likely safer than in many other lightweight two-person tents because the vent is right above the stove. You can exhaust carbon monoxide even in foul weather without opening the door. Bonus: moisture vapor from cooking also escapes, thereby reducing condensation.
If you want more space, consider one of the other versions of this tent, discussed below.
The Nammtj uses 10.2 mm DAC Featherlite NSL Green poles, arguably the best aluminum poles found in any mountaineering tent we've tested. If you think the world might end you can add another set of poles, sold separately, to the tent — just insert them into the oversized pole sleeves. But, we’ve never done this with any of the nine Hilleberg tents we’ve tested and would only recommend it for extended basecamping.
The Nammatj's low profile, aerodynamic design slices through wind like a hot knife cuts into butter. Our testers used the tent on Mt. Rainer, Washington; Denali (Mt. Mckinley, Alaska); basecamping in the Mohave desert (where there are often high winds and blowing sand), and for scores of trips across the United States and Canada. Tunnel tents are often the best choice for polar expeditions where high winds whip unrestricted across miles of ice and snow. Felicity Aston, a UK-based explorer, chose the Nammatj for her epic 59-day solo journey across Antarctica; she became the first woman to ski across that continent alone.
The Nammatj’s fabric is a super strong silicone coated nylon that breaks at 40 pounds!! (That's up to five times stronger than many backpacking tent fabrics and roughly twice as strong as the average fabric in the winter tents we've tested.) Result: if the fabric gets punctured it is less likely to tear.
All Hilleberg All-Season tents have walls and vestibules that extend all the way to the ground. Such is not the case with many other winter tents from other brands. The extended length serves to reduce spindrift and splashback; the tent is much more weather resistant as a result. The only fly setup we’ve tested that is more weather resistant is found on the SlingFin HardShell, a four person expedition basecamp tent with a snow skirt that can be extended out from the tent or clipped tight underneath the tent.
Although the Nammatj excels for the vast majority of winter conditions it does have two limitations that could be potential drawbacks for some people.
(1) The tunnel design is not as resistant to snow loading as dome tents that have a web of intersecting poles. Our testers reach for tunnel tents for the vast majority of winter trips because they balance weight, strength, and comfort well. However, for extended winter basecamping or alpine climbing dome tents performs better. In fact, dome tents are often mandatory if you plan to leave the tent unattended for an extended period of time in foul weather (such as in an alpine/glacial basecamp). Then, the static strength of a dome makes the tent more likely to stay intact while you launch off on a multi-day summit bid and aren’t near the tent to remove snow from it or check on the tieouts.
(2) Alpine climbing demands a tent that is as light and compact as possible. The Nammatj is too big, too heavy, and its tunnel design would be a nightmare to pitch on a small ledge. We find that tiny tents perform best when you need to chop a tent platform with an ice axe or perch on a ledge.
Although these potential drawbacks can be significant we feel they do not exceed the benefits of low weight, comfort, and versatility. Our Nammatj models have proven themselves on a host of North American mountaineering classics. If you are looking to move beyond Rainer and the West Buttress of Denali to technical, harder high altitude climbs you'll likely want a double wall dome tent (like the Hilleberg Jannu or superlight freestanding single wall tent (like the Mountain Hardwear Direkt 2). But for most applications the Nammatj performs very very well.
For further testimony to the many benefits of tunnels tents and their capabilities in extreme conditions see Roger Caffin's fantastic "Tunnel Tent Tutorial and State of the Market Report" article on BackpackingLight.com.
Hilleberg has been building tunnel tents for more than 40 years. The Nammatj is part of their “Black Label” line, which hosts their toughest tents. All of the tent’s materials and features are super burly. The top-tier silnylon is both very resistant to tearing and also highly resistant to hydrolysis (the chemical breakup of the coating). Many companies such as Mountain Hardwear, North Face, etc. use a silicone coating on the outside of the fabric and a polyurethane (PU) coating on the inside. This cuts cost because PU is cheaper — although PU formulations vary widely — and because it allows the tent to be seam sealed in a factory. Hilleberg tents use top-tier materials and a construction technique that eliminates the need for seam sealing, thereby saving weight. The combination of the poles and fabrics makes for a bomber setup.
Many other small features also contribute to durability. For example, a flat piece of webbing lies across the vestibule opening and serves to keep the vestibule in the proper shape and reduce tension from the zipper. The ends of the pole sleeves are reinforced with a super durable material and, unlike on most other tents, the ground level adjustments are made of metal, not plastic. Hilleberg even adds small metal rings to the ground level tieouts so vibrations from high winds don’t wear out the webbing loops, which are already very tough.
Just how durable is the Nammtj?
That’s hard to estimate. Despite extensive use for more than two years our models have not experienced any significant problems. (Someone stepped on the side wall with crampons once, but that was a quick patch with Sil Fix). We have heard from mountaineering guide services and NOLS instructors that the first point to break on the Nammatj (and Keron) is usually the seam above the center toggle that connects the outer and inner tents. Supposedly, the stitching fails there before anywhere else.
A brief note on the tent's fantastic stuff sacks:
The large one for the tent is made of a very durable fabric and has a multi-loop handle that runs the length of the bag. The handle makes the tent easy to carry and also provides attachment points if you want to fill the bag with rocks, sand, or snow and use it as an anchor point. The loops can also be used to strap the tent to things such as a yak, the roof of a vehicle or to a duffel bag that’s attached to something else. The pole stuff sack has a hidden interior pouch that holds an extra section of pole and a large diameter splint. The hidden pouch is subtle and well designed. No other tent manufacturer includes an extra section of pole, nor does any other tent hide it so effectively.
All Hilleberg tents have removable inner tents that are suspend from the outer tent. You can pitch the outer tent by itself to save weight any time of the year. This is a critical feature missing on many winter tents from other companies. We like to use just the outer tent for summer backpacking trips and shorter winter trips where saving weight is a top priority. Because the Nammatj's walls and vestibule extend all the way to the ground, the tent is remarkably effective at resisting flying insects. We find that separate bug protection is rarely needed. For this floorless setup Polycro plastic is our preferred groundsheet because it’s cheap (~$10) and lightweight (only 4 oz. for a two-person size). You can buy polycro from Gossamer Gear and elsewhere.
Big mountain guide services use outer tents of the extended vestibule versions of the Nammatj and its larger sibling, the Keron, for cook and group tents: they dig deep into the snow so clients can sit down on benches. This is a much lighter alternative to colossal dome-shaped group tents and it’s a popular technique used on many high altitude peaks across the globe. Although the tent does not have a colossal vestibule you can do the same with the Nammatj 2.
The above praise for the tent’s livability, weather resistance, durability, and adaptability become much more impressive when you consider that the tent weighs only 5.5 lb.!
The Nammatj 2's inner tent, outer tent, poles, and guylines weigh only 5 lb. 7 oz.
Each component weighs:
Inner tent: 30.9 oz.
Outer tent with guylines: 41.4 oz.
2 Poles: 15.1 oz.
Pole stuff sack + extra pole section: 2.0 oz.
18 stakes + stake sack: 8.9 oz.
Stuff sack: 3.1 oz.
The Nammatj is extremely light when compared to other double wall winter tents. For example, the Mountain Hardwear Trango 2 weighs four pounds more. Although these tents aren't technically in the same category (the Trango has greater static strength for basecamping) they are often used in the exact same conditions on the same big mountains. Saving four pounds is tremendous!
Options for reducing weight
There are several ways to further reduce the weight of the Nammatj. The most significant one is to use only the outer tent for a savings of 30.9 oz. This is an excellent option for fast and light travel in any season or to use the tent as a group hangout shelter (just clip the inner tent back in when you want to sleep).
The next most significant way to reduce weight is to upgrade the stakes. The Nammatj comes with 18 DAC Y stakes, which are moderate quality, heavy all-purpose stakes. Upgrading to 12 Ruta Locua 9” Carbon Stakes saves 5.5 oz., provides more holding power than the stock stakes, and are more durable than the stock stakes. Our tests show that the stock Y stakes bend relatively easily, especially in the compact, rocky soil typically found in alpine camps. Pointy tubular stakes like those from Ruta Locura or 8” Easton Nano Nail stakes offer the best performance for use in bare ground. In winter we like to use ice axes, snow pickets, skis, crampons, snowshoes, poles, and other things for stakes. Dedicated snow stake, such as the Hilleberg Snow and Sand Peg, are essential if you run out of other things to use as stakes or are basecamping.
Hilleberg does not use reflective cords on their zipper pulls because they find that the small and difficult to grab metal tabs 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 find that reflective cord can cut through guyline attachments easier (such as a loop of cord used to extend a line). Durability!
Forget the Footprint
Unless you are basecamping for months at a time on sharp knives we feel there is no need for a footprint for the Nammatj or any other tent. The majority of the 24 winter tents tested use 70 denier fabrics for the floor. These are much more durable than backpacking tent floors, most of which use 15 to 30 denier fabrics. The Nammatj goes above and beyond by using a 100 denier fabric!!
If you want a footprint for basecamping and car camping consider cutting your own from Tyvek Home Wrap, available at hardware stores for around $10. Tyvek is likely more puncture resistant and much cheaper than Hilleberg’s optional $70 footprint, which also covers the vestibule floor – a feature that we do not find useful on a tent with one vestibule. The weight of the tent and your sleeping bag hold Tyvek in place.
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 (easier for people, planes and helicopters to spot the tent), green for primarily three-season use and bike tours (it's stealthy and harder to be seen), and sand for desert dwellers or military applications.
Everything from car camping and backpacking to mountaineering and polar expeditions.
The Nammatj 2 retails for $610. This is a phenomenal value for a tent that can do just about everything. Seriously, it is an absolute screaming deal. A lot of the other "world's best" two-person tents cost $800 to $1400. For a more convincing illustration of the Nammatj's value see our Price Versus Value Chart.
The Nammtj is the most versatile tent we’ve tested and we recommend it to anyone that wants comfort, low weight, and high performance in heinous conditions. However, its tunnel design requires that you be inside or near the tent to remove snow from it and it’s too large to fit on tiny bivy ledges. However, the Nammatj is our top choice for every winter activity except alpine climbing and extended basecamps in exposed terrain.
Choose from Four Versions
Nammatj 2 - described above, $610
Nammatj 3 - preferred by 6' + tall testers because its 4” of extra peak height adds more space for sitting up. Adds six sq. ft. of interior floor area and four sq. ft. of vestibule area for an 11 oz. weight penalty and $40 additional cost. Great for three people or a palace for two.
Nammatj 2 GT - 8 lb. 2 oz., $740, adds an extended 28 sq. ft. vestibule with large door. Great for basecamps and expeditions where comfort in camp is more important than low weight.
Nammatj 3 GT - 8 lb. 13 oz., $795, adds an extended 30 sq. ft. vestibule with large door
— Max Neale
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Most recent review: September 19, 2013
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