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Hilleberg Tarra Review

   

Four Season Tents

  • Currently 5.0/5
Overall avg rating 5.0 of 5 based on 4 reviews. Most recent review: December 8, 2013
Street Price:   $975 | Compare prices at 2 resellers
Pros:  Fortress-like strength for worst conditions, 2 doors, 2 vestibules, good ventilation, extremely durable.
Cons:  Significantly heavier than Hilleberg Nammatj and Jannu.
Best Uses:  Extended basecamping, expeditions.
User Rating:     
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 (5.0 of 5) based on 3 reviews
Recommendations:  100% of reviewers (2/2) recommend this product
Manufacturer:   Hilleberg
Review by: Chris McNamara ⋅ Founder and Editor-in-Chief, OutdoorGearLab ⋅ August 17, 2013  
Overview
The Hilleberg Tarra is the strongest two-person tent we have ever tested. It pitches quickly and sticks to the ground like a suction cup. We’ve camped in 60+ mph winds that collapsed, ripped, or blew away other tents while the Tarra stood strong, arms folded, laughing at the wind. We recommend this tent for basecamping in very exposed terrain or for extended expeditions where you fear the worst possible weather and want more space than the Hilleberg Jannu.

For most applications the Tarra is overkill; our often testers reach to lighter tents, like the Hilleberg Nammatj 2 or Hilleberg Jannu. But if you want the comfort of two doors and two vestibules, and have the cash to push the performance envelope, the Tarra can't be beat.

Check out our complete Four Season Tent Review to compare all of the models tested.

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  • Photos
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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review

Performance Comparison
Ease of Setup
The Tarra sets up from the outside. After staking out the base of the tent, the poles insert into color-coded two-foot long sleeves, alternating plastic clips then attach to the poles. Stake out the vestibules and guy lines and you’re good to go. Unlike most double wall tents, where the poles support the inner tent and the fly attaches on top, all Hilleberg tents have an inner tent built in. It connects to the fly with dozens of elasticized toggles. The inner tent can easily be removed and pitched by itself with an optional kit, or the outer tent can serve as a lightweight and very strong single wall shelter for fast and light trips year-round.

Click to enlarge
The Hilleberg Tarra's pole structure is incredibly easy to setup even with one person, in high winds, while wearing gloves. After staking the base of the tent out, the poles insert into partial pole sleeves (shown here) that stand up by themselves!!
Credit: Max Neale
This design is superior to the traditional for several reasons: one, it’s significantly easier to set up even with one person (no grommets also means you can keep your gloves on); two, always having the fly on top protects the inner tent from rain and snow; three, if the weather is nice, a fly, and therefore a tent, is likely to be unnecessary- when pitching a tent we almost always pitch the fly too, so why not have it connected? Another benefit of this system is that the poles stand up by themselves once inserted into the sleeves. This make setup easier because you don’t have to balance or hold one pole while you try to set up another. This is a minor detail, but it makes setup faster and much less burdensome, especially in high winds.

Weather Resistance
The Tarra’s four 10.25mm DAC Featherlite NSL Green poles (the best and strongest available) create a large symmetrical dome with tremendously strong sidewalls and ultra burly snowloading capabilities.

The tent uses the strongest fabric found on any winter tent we’ve tested. It’s tear strength is 40 lbs., yet weighs only 1.91 oz./yd. This is partially due to the fact that each side of the fabric is impregnated with three layers of 100% silicon, a coating far superior (and more expensive) than traditional polyurethane formulations used on most other tents from other brands. This is better because a stronger fabric is less likely to be punctured by a broken pole and less likely to tear if punctured. A better coating is also more resistant to the sun’s harmful UV rays and therefore will remain its waterproofness for longer.

Another very important detail: the Tarra’s outer tent extends all the way to the ground. This reduces splashback (when driving rain bounces off the ground and sprays the inner tent with water and dirt), and blocks snow and wind. Again, a critical feature that’s not found on other similar tents like the Mountain Hardwear Trango and North Face Mountain 25.

The Tarra’s adaptable pole design is another reason for the tent’s superior strength. As is, the Tarra is the strongest two-person tent we’ve ever tested. But it can get even stronger!! The short sleeve-alternating clip combination allows you to insert not one, but two poles into each sleeve and clip both poles into the tent (alternating clips allows this, see photos). This system makes for an insanely strong tent. Double up on the poles if you’re pitching in extremely high winds. Though the Tarra is already very strong, we feel the ability to add more poles is a key feature (unique to Hilleberg and rarely necessary) that makes the tent worthy of being pitched nearly anywhere in the world. Extra poles, available through Hilleberg, sell for $52 each.

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The Hilleberg Tarra's alternating clips are not only very strong, but can also accept two poles (one facing one way, the other facing the other way). Two poles make the Tarra a hurricane proof fortress.
Credit: Max Neale
The Tarra has a myriad of smaller features that further contribute to its strength. First, three ground straps run perpendicular to the length of the tent and serve to 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. Two, door bands lie at ground level of the vestibule opening and absorb tension to keep the zippers running smoothly. No other tent has ground straps or door bands. Three, all guy points are heavily reinforced; the vestibule adjusters are made of metal not plastic. Four, the guy lines are made of a Spectra-polyster blend that absorbs no water and doesn’t stretch. The fact that they don’t absorb water is key. With 8-10 guy points and 8+ ft. of cord at each point, wet lines can make a tent significantly heavier. With no sheath to separate from the core, they’re also more durable. The Tarra’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 over the trucker’s hitch knot. Of all the tents we’ve reviewed, the only other one that comes close to equaling the quality of the Tarra’s guy lines is the North Face Mountain 25, but it has smaller diameter lines and smaller camming adjusters. Furthermore, the Tarra’s guy lines attach to the tent with a six-inch loop of webbing. This wraps around the pole once and transfers the majority of the tension from the stitching to the pole. This, too, is a unique feature, and we love it.

A brief story of the Tarra’s strength
Perhaps the time where the Tarra’s exceptional strength stood out most was during a rock climbing trip to Red Rocks, Nevada. We base camped with a big group of friends on an exposed hillside location during a week of very high winds. The wind held steady at 20-30 mph during the day and gusted up to 70 mph at night. A serious desert storm. During a four-day period one tent blew off into the desert only to return ravaged and irreparable. Two collapsed, one with a broken and the other with all three poles broken. Most people in the group slept poorly or not at all, or moved to car seats. The author and friend in the Tarra, however, remained comfortable, slept well, and thanks to the tent's solid nylon walls, remained almost dust free. During high speed gusts the Tarra remained steady while other tents bellowed and buckled. The Tarra became a refuge from the storm- providing a space for reading, conversation, and games for four people.

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The Hilleberg Tarra standing strong in high winds, Red Rocks, Nevada. (The tents at left are deformed or broken.) The Tarra has four 10.25mm DAC Featherlite NSL Green poles, the strongest available, and a silynon fly fabric with a 40 lb. tear strength.
Credit: Max Neale
Livability
The Tarra is more comfortable than the Hilleberg Jannu because it has more interior volume, two doors, and two large vestibules. More specifically, each vestibule is 14 sq. ft. in area-- the largest vestibules of any two-person tent we’ve tested. The total covered area is nearly as large as the tent’s interior floor area!! All of this space is ideal for base camping or for enduring a storm because one vestibule can provide shelter for gear while the other serves as an entrance and cooking area (two people can fit in the door and cook together). Four large pockets and a built-in adjustable clothesline allow you stash accessories and hang wet clothes. We give the Tarra 9 out of 10 points in this category; the Mountain Hardwear Trango 2 is larger and more comfortable. Note, we've comfortably slept three people in the Tarra. Doing this is a great option that helps to reduce the weight per person.

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The Hilleberg Tarra can fit three relatively comfortably.
Credit: Max Neale
Ventilation is a key component of tent design. A well-vented tent will bring in cold air below while letting hot, humid air escape from the top. The Tarra does exactly this with its large customizable top vent. There are numerous options: the inner tent has solid nylon or mesh doors; the fly has a breathable solid nylon panel (not waterproof) above the inner tent’s vent, and above that lies a large waterproof covers made from the fly material. All zippers are accessed from the inside. The cover attaches with two toggles on one side and two hooks on the other. The hooks allow you to easily remove the vent for setup and take down (to allow access to pole clips). The vent cover is substantial in size and ties out in four places. This provides excellent ventilation during bad conditions and, when coupled with partially open doors, effectively combats condensation. Simply put: best-in-class ventilation.

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Note the Hilleberg Tarra's large vent cover (top) that shields a large opening that increases air circulation and reduces condensation. Most dome tents from other companies do not have this feature.
Credit: Max Neale
Durability
The tent is phenomenally durable. We give it 10 out of 10 points in this category. See the Hilleberg Nammatj 2 Review for specifics or take our word that durability is a non-issue with the Tarra.

Weight/Packed Size
Without the stakes the tent weighs just a touch under 9 lb. This is very light considering its strength and spaciousness, but also 3.5 lb. heavier than tents that frequently go to Antarctica, like the Hilleberg Nammatj 2. If you need the two doors and two vestibules the Tarra's weight is well worth carrying. We've comfortably slept three people in the tent and if you do that the 3 lb. per person is reasonable and in line with larger 3-4 person dome tents like the SlingFin Hardshell.

Adaptability
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. Becuase the Tarra’s walls and vestibule extend to the ground the tent is remarkably effective at resisting flying insects. 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.

Features
Hilleberg does not use reflective cords on their zipper pulls because they find that the small and hard 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 find that reflective cord can cut through guyline attachments easier (such as a loop of cord used to extend a line). Durability!!

The Tarra’s stuff sack is excellent. It’s 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 truck, 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.

Three Color Options!!
The tent is available in three colors: red, green, or sand. If you plan to use the tent for its ideal application—camping on snow and ice—we suggest red so you can be seen easier if you need a rescue.

Best Application
Basecamping in very exposed conditions.

Conclusion
This is our highest rated two-door tent and the strongest two-person tent ever tested. We highly recommend it for basecamping and extended mountaineering expeditions.

Value
The Tarra’s very high price is worth it if you need the absolute greatest strength and reliability for extended trips. We feel that other tents like the Hilleberg Nammatj 2 and Hilleberg Jannu offer a better value because they are more versatile.

Video

Chris McNamara and Max Neale

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OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews


Most recent review: December 8, 2013
Summary of All Ratings

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:   
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 (5.0)
Average Customer Rating:   
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 (5.0)

100% of 2 reviewers recommend it
Rating Distribution
3 Total Ratings
5 star: 100%  (3)
4 star: 0%  (0)
3 star: 0%  (0)
2 star: 0%  (0)
1 star: 0%  (0)
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
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   Aug 25, 2012 - 12:52pm
I thought about simply saying "you get what you pay for" but decided to explain. I figure with a cheap tent like a MSR Fury you can say you get what you pay for in that you have assigned certain expectations as to the function and durability of the tent related to the price you've paid. I guess that can be said with almost everything you buy. Except some things - there are some things that are made so well they are almost "over-built." With those things, you can't really put a price on them because they don't fit into the standard mold of cost to performance. You see, the Tarra exceeded all my expectations and I felt as if the $885 price tag was an easy price to pay for the performance. The tent is so well made and the components are such high quality that it is difficult to place an actual price for the tent. How do you value something that will last forever? Gold, Diamonds, Platinum, a priceless painting? You charge whatever someone is willing to pay. I gambled on buying a Tarra because I've never known anyone who owned one - I guess they were cheap. But I can tell you this is the last tent I'll ever need to buy.

You can have your yellow and gray tent, orange tent, whatever you want - but don't come to me when your tent collapses because I've told you the Tarra is the best tent on the market - if your life isn't worth $885.00, well maybe you should take inventory again.

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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   Dec 8, 2013 - 09:27pm
Jedi5150 · Backpacker · CA
I've owned a number of Hillebergs since I discovered the company. The Tarra was my first, and started the addiction. In all, I've owned the Tarra, Saitaris, Nammatj 2, Nammatj 3GT, Unna, and Saivo. I've also had a chance to see in person the Keron 4 GT, Jannu, Soulo, and Staika.

They are all great tents in their own regard, however, the Tarra and Nammatj 2 stand out above the rest for me. When I went to buy my first Hilleberg, I intended to get the Nammatj, Jannu, or Saivo. The Tarra was barely even on my list. Statistics in catalogues and photos online simply can't do justice to interior space that can be seen in person, sitting inside a tent. The Tarra, with it's vertical doors and near-vertical walls, has so much live-able room inside, it really borders on a 3 person tent. The vestibules are also massive thanks to the height of the doors (accomplished by the pole configuration).

After owning the Tarra, I decided the Saivo would be cool to try, since after all, a "bigger dome" could only be better right? I was mistaken. The slanted walls and doors of the Saivo (and to a certain extent even the Saitaris), make the space inside seem much smaller than stated on paper. The Saivo, both inner tent and vestibules, feels decidedly smaller than the 2 person Tarra, and at a weight of 2 lbs more. The Saitaris is a big tent, don't get me wrong, but for a "dome" tent nothing comes close to the space/ weight ratio of the Tarra.

The Nammatj 2 similarly has space and strength that far overshadow the weight for what you get. The Tarra will always have a place in my arsenal of tents. It is not light, and it is the unsung hero of Hilleberg's line, but after owning and seeing many, I can say for certain it is the best designed tent the company has made. If the cost and weight are manageable for your given purposes, you will find nothing better on the planet.

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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Aug 30, 2012 - 11:20pm
 
Lemmy · Backpacker · Alaska
I found some postings about the Tarra saying the zipper pulls were too small and noisy. I guess I knew this would be a problem and mitigated it as soon as I saw them. First, I dipped the zipper pulls in Plasti-Dip which made them easier to grasp and reduced the noise. I also got some reflective cord and looped the zipper pulls with it. I guess that's my personal customization. I love the colors and functionality.

The Plasti-Dip cost $9.00 (Lowes)
The reflective cord cost $10.00 for 10 feet at REI. It's actually a cloths-line and comes with all sorts of clips and attachments. It's not located with the bulk rope/cord, but with the tent repair stuff.
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Click to enlarge
Hilleberg Tarra in green.
Credit: Max Neale
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