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Hands-on Gear Review
Hilleberg Tarra Review
Cons: Very expensive, significantly heavier than many tents in our review, bulky
Bottom line: Of all the 2-person tents we've tested, this is the strongest.
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 this one stood strong, arms folded, laughing at the wind. We recommend this tent for base camping 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, this model is overkill; our testers often reach for lighter tents, like the Hilleberg Nammatj 2, Black Diamond Eldorado, Mountain Hardwear EV 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.
RELATED REVIEW: The Best Four Season Tents of 2017
Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
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, which 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.
This design is superior to the traditional for several reasons: one, it's significantly easier and quicker 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. Bottom line, this model is one of the easiest tents to setup in our review and is easier than its closest competition The North Face Mountain 25, Mountain Hardwear Trango 2, and Black Diamond Fitzroy.
This award winner's four 10.25mm DAC Featherlite NSL green poles (likely 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 extend its waterproofness capabilities for a longer period of time.
Another very important detail: the 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 feature that's not found on other similar tents like the Mountain Hardwear Trango 2 and North Face Mountain 25.
The 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 this tent 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.
Of all the tents we've reviewed, the only other one that comes close to equaling the quality of the Tarra's guylines is the North Face Mountain 25, though[ it has smaller diameter lines and smaller camming adjusters. Furthermore, the Tarra's guylines 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 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, with the wind holding steady at 20-30 mph during the day and gusting 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 pole and the other with all three poles broken. Most people in the group slept poorly or not at all, or transitioned to sleeping on 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, this model remained steady while other tents bellowed and buckled; it became a refuge from the storm - providing a space for reading, conversation, and games for four people.
This award winner 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, as 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 this four season tent a 9 out of 10 points in this category; the Mountain Hardwear Trango 2 is larger and has slightly nicer vestibules to cook in, even if its dimensionally smaller and is a little more comfortable overall. Note, we've slept three people in this tent, and it was okay, but it's a great option that helps to reduce the weight per person.
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 cover made from the fly material. All zippers are accessed from the inside and 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.
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 over 9 lb and features a packed weight of around 9 lbs 8 oz. Lightweight is not why you buy the Tarra, you buy it because of its strength, durability, and spaciousness. For trips in the lower 48, it's overkill. It's still 3.5 lb. heavier than tents that frequently go to Antarctica, like the Hilleberg Nammatj 2 and two pounds heavier than tents like the Black Diamond Fitzroy or Hilleberg Jannu. It's also around a pound heavier than the very comparably strong North Face Mountain 25 (8lbs 8 oz). If you need the two doors and two vestibules and are going to be logging some time in an extreme environment, the Tarra's weight is well worth carrying. We've 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.
This tent is surprisingly adaptable at a wide range of conditions for an extreme weather worthy four season tent. It was among the higher scoring tents for use in lower elevation 3 season backpacking trips or just warmer and wetter alpine adventures. All Hilleberg tents have removable inner tents that are suspended 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 walls and vestibule extend to the ground, the tent is remarkably effective at resisting flying insects.
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). They report choosing not to use reflective cord for the tieouts, as they claim that none are as durable as the proprietary cord used on their tents. They also report that they find that reflective cord can cut through guyline attachments easier (such as a loop of cord used to extend a line). Durability!!
The stuff sack for this award winner 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 that 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.
This award winner excels in base camping 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 base camping 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.
— Ian Nicholson, Chris McNamara and Max Neale
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