Hands-on Gear Review
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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.
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.
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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Basecamping in very exposed conditions.
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.
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.
— Max Neale
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Most recent review: December 8, 2013
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