Review: Hilleberg Soulo Tent (red label)

Hilleberg Soulo wild camp in the Cairngorms

I will start this review by saying that I am a big fan of Hilleberg tents. They are certainly expensive, but well looked after will last for hundreds of nights and are generally superb in poor weather conditions. However, no tent is perfect and this includes the Soulo. I’ve owned mine for several years and have used it all across the UK and in Iceland in conditions ranging from calm, warm summer nights to raging snowstorms and everything in between. Here is my real-world review.

Firstly, at the time of writing Hilleberg are releasing a ‘black label’ version of this tent. This means more robust fabric and 10mm poles instead of 9mm poles. This review is for the red label version of the Hilleberg Soulo tent.

This is a one man tent, renowned for it’s strength but also for it’s relatively poor weight/space ratio. I use this tent when I know it’s going to be gnarly outside. In winter it excels, but it’s complete overkill when the weather is calm. With the footprint it weighs over 2.5kg! I’ve stopped using mine in the summer altogether, not least because being a ‘four season’ model, the fly sheet is all the way to the ground and it can be uncomfortably warm and quite a condensation trap in the summer. But also because it’s a lot of weight to lug around all day when you don’t need to. This really is a bad weather tent, a sanctuary when things are raging.

So let’s start with some of the features. The tent is completely free-standing. There are three poles, one of which is shorter than the other two and has red tape on the ends to distinguish it. The tent has colour-coded pole sleeves, which terminate with reinforced areas. The red marked pole goes in the red sleeve, the other two can go in either the blue or white sleeves. I like to put one long pole in, followed by the short red pole, then a long one. This way you get a nice interlock with the poles.

Once you have the poles in, you clip the tent to the poles using plastic clips. I worried about whether these might break, but nearly five years in I have had no issues (more on wear-and-tear below). It takes only a few seconds to clip the tent up to the poles, and it goes nice and taught as you work up.

As you put the tent up, watch very carefully for any areas where the pole does not seat correctly, as in the below photo. You must sort this out before you clip up, or you risk breaking the pole.

The tent goes up as a single unit, the inner being connected to the fly sheet by elastics. This means you can put it up in the rain without the inner getting wet. Once you have clipped it up, you will find you have a ‘hood’ that’s hanging down one side of the tent. This covers the black, triangular vent at the top of the tent. This apparently vents when closed, the fabric being breathable. However I’ve never seen any reason to leave it zipped up, as once the hood is clipped down and tightened using the straps there’s almost no chance of any rain or snow entering the tent.

Once you’ve tightened the hood up, you can start guying the tent out. Guying out takes 6 pegs, with a further 6 being needed to hold the tent to the ground. Being completely freestanding you can put it up without using any pegs and then move it around until you find a spot that is completely flat. If it’s really windy I recommend clipping one or two guys to your pack until you’ve got a few pegs in to avoid watching your expensive tent disappear across the landscape. The upper guys wrap around the poles, providing additional structural strength. I’ve not seen this on any other tent and it really does add to the stability.

The guys are robust and don’t seem to absorb water. They also haven’t frayed in the years that I’ve had it. The guys have runners on them that hold well and enable you to easily tighten the them if needed.

Hopefully, if you’ve done everything correctly, you’ll end up with something looking like this pitch from the Lake District. In total I reckon I can pitch this tent in 4 or 5 minutes. It really is child’s play.

Hilleberg Soulo wild camp in the Lake District

The fabric of the tent is known as ‘Kerlon 1200’. This is basically a 30D silicon nylon fabric, with a very high tear strength. If you order a Hilleberg catalogue they include some sample fabric for you to try to tear. I bet you can’t! It’s stated as having a 12kg tear strength, and I believe it. Mine shows no signs of wear or damage after many years of use. The tent comes in red, green (which looks almost black) and sand, which is probably the best option if wild camping in the UK. Unlike most other tent manufacturers the seams are not sealed, with a claim this is not necessary with the method of construction. I have not had to seal any of my Hilleberg tents, so this does seem to be the case.

Inside there is a sleeping area that is actually quite spacious. It’s not symmetrical and is designed so that one end is wider than the other. This is usually the end you will have your head when sleeping, athough I’ve had to sleep the other way around on occasion when I’ve got in and realised I’ve made an error of judgement on the slope of a pitch. It’s fine in either case but better if you can sleep with your head at the wider end. This is a minor irritation, but one that you don’t find on the tunnel style one man tents that Hilleberg produce, such as the Hilleberg Enan. There is however a decent amount of room for you and some kit, and there are pockets that you can use to store your phone, head torch, etc. There are some loops in the tent to put a drying line in, but curiously no actual line. However it’s quite a small space and I’m not sure I’d particularly want steaming socks hanging over me. The bathtub floor is nice and deep, and has protected me when I pitched in an area that literally became a river overnight in the Cairngorms (lesson learned!).

View inside the Hilleberg Soulo

I have the footprint, which stays connected to the tent all the time and keeps your gear clean and dry. It does, of course, add yet more weight. Supposedly it will help to prevent condensation, but in my experience condensation can be an issue. There is something of a myth that condensation can entirely be solved through ventilation. Anyone who camps under tarps, which are as ventilated as it’s possible to be but still frequently collect condensation, will know that this is rubbish. However, it certainly doesn’t help that the fly sheet is straight to the ground and there is only one vent. I have at times woken up to a soaking fly sheet, although the inner does a good job of keeping it from you.

Another drawback is the vestibule. It really is small, and also very narrow. If you are using this tent, you’re probably out in winter, and if you’re out in winter the you are probably carrying quite a bit of gear. I find there just isn’t enough room and sometimes your pack is touching the outer, which if it’s windy always leaves me worried that it will rub holes through the fabric. When I’ve used this tent whilst out packrafting, gear is literally piled up everywhere and I’d say it just isn’t big enough for this. I would be more comfortable in a two man tent under these circumstances.

One side of the inner has a mesh door. This can be helpful in warmer conditions, although in warmer conditions I’m simply not going to take this tent. It clips neatly to two plastic clips and the mesh feels quite robust. I caught it once with the sharp legs of my Optimus Vega stove whilst camping in Iceland, and it didn’t tear. The doors can all be clipped back when you are relaxing in the tent and the weather is good. The doors can also be zipped down from the top, which helps with ventilation and also with views out of the tent in inclement weather. You can also clip the zip to a toggle at the base of the pole sleeve, to stop it from unzipping in very windy weather. The zip is covered by a heavy duty flap to prevent any water ingress.

I’ve owned this tent for a few years. Initially it was my only one man tent and I used it year round, but now I would not dream of carrying such a heavy tent in the spring or summer. As I’ve already said it’s just too heavy and a lot more tent than you will need. In that time, there have been two ‘wear and tear’ issues. The first was the bag that the poles and the tent came in. You will doubtless do what I did and put the tent straight in your pack. Within two trips holes had worn through both the pole bag and the tent bag itself. This fabric is not designed for any sort of chaffing in your pack. I quickly replaced both with the more robust ‘XP’ bags that Hilleberg offer, but you could equally have put the tent inside a dry bag or similar. This all just adds more weight, but as this is an expensive tent you’ll want to make sure it lasts as long as possible.

The second issue, which has occurred on another Hilleberg tent, is that the elastics in the tent poles have stretched and don’t hold them as tight as they used to. This increases the likelihood of the poles not being seated correctly and breaking. New elastics are available for purchase and they haven’t, in my opinion, worn prematurely. I will probably replace them soon. Other than those issues, the tent is pretty much as good as new and I expect a lot more nights in it yet.

Summary

This is an excellent tent, with amazing build quality and a cult following. However, it has quite a narrow ‘use case’. Really, this is a one season tent. That season being winter. I wouldn’t use it the rest of the year as it’s overkill. Condensation can be an issue, the vestibule is small, the tent is heavy and it’s expensive. It’s also amazingly good at shedding poor weather and in those conditions I wouldn’t want to be in anything else. I love my Soulo, and I wouldn’t ever sell it, but it’s a specialist tool for particular conditions. If most of your camping is in the summer months or in good weather, this probably isn’t the ideal choice for you. If you enjoy waking up in a foot of snow or lying smug in your sleeping bag whilst strong winds batter your tent, you’ll love it.

Related Post

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.