User Review: Hilleberg Soulo
Source: bought it new
Price Paid: $560+cost of footprint/optional (MSRP was increased in 2012 to $598 USD)
Pricey? Most certainly; but when I want a bomber 4-season solo shelter that I have to depend on to shield me from when Mother Nature decides to throw a tantrum this is the shelter I want.
- Strength, durability, and weather resistance of Kerlon 1200 fabric.
- Hilleberg customer service goes above and beyond.
- Cheerful yellow inner tent.
- Quality, attention to detail of the product as a whole.
- Small things such as the zipper toggles, and gutter.
- Very user friendly.
- Ridiculously easy to setup.
- Setup options (ie outer alone.)
- Good ventilation.
- The only con that I can honestly think of is the price. Not because the shelter is not worth the coin but more for the fact that I think it will send some into sticker shock before they actually take the time to look at the product more in depth.
Tent Model: Hilleberg Soulo
Intended Use: 4(all) season/ harsh weather
Occupancy Rating: 1/Solo
Design Type: "Truly" free-standing dome
Date of initial purchase: November 2011
I am an avid 4-season solo backpacker that has a great appreciation for late winter solo trips. Typically this is around the time of year when the worst of what winter has to offer makes itself present. With that comes different needs in regards to gear. When I am on the trail in January and February here in SW Pa. the weather can take an unexpected nose dive real quick as it did on me during my trip last February .
I am a stickler when it comes to using gear for what (and when) it is intended to be used. I have 3-season gear that I use for 3-season conditions and 4-season gear that I use for 4-season use.
I personally feel that some (notice I said some) have a tendency to use gear outside of the parameters for which it was intended to be used and when it doesn't perform admirably in these conditions the user deems the product as a catastrophic failure when in fact it is not the gear's fault; it was user error.
Now granted I could use my BA Copper Spur 1 during winter.
Would I want too? No.
As I have stated many times here on Trailspace I am not a big fan of spindrift sandwiches nor am I a fan of waking up to a blizzard inside of my tent. The Copper Spur 1 is a 3-season tent that is primarily mesh. The fly on the Spur is elevated from the ground. This is to provide ventilation by creating a chimey effect which is great for the warmer seasons but not so much when the white stuff starts flying.
Using a tent such as this in winter conditions kind of defeats the purpose of having a shelter in the 1st place. If what you are using doesn't protect you from the elements it is nothing more than dead weight in your pack.
I think most of you out there can put the rest together w/o my having to go much further on this subject.
So... here we are with the whole "different tools for different jobs" logic.
With that being said for my week+ trips in winter I believe I have found the perfect solo shelter for my use/needs.
Hilleberg has a reputation for producing high-end, quality products. I have to say the respect, recognition, and admiration that Hilleberg has received over the years from my own personal experiences with the Soulo, and the Akto (as well as with Hilleberg as a whole) is very well deserved.
Hilleberg describes the Soulo as; "a completely free standing solo tent that is both expedition-ready and ultralight."
Now before I get into the review of the tent itself lets cover the technical specs of this shelter.
Minimum: 3lbs. 15oz. (inner, outer, and poles)
Packed: 4lbs. 14oz. (complete tent with guylines and stakes)
(diagram provided courtesy of hilleberg.com)
My actual interior measurements:
- Peak height: 36"
- Length: 87"
- Width (as follows:)
- Head: 28"
2. Middle: 41"
3. Foot end: 23.5"
What is included with the initial purchase of the Hilleberg Soulo:
- you get the tent (inner/outer)
- 3-9mm DAC Featherlite NSL tentpoles (1 marked red)
- 12 DAC V-stakes
- a spare section of tent pole
- repair splint
- 3 stuff sacks (1 small for stakes, 1 for the poles, and a larger one for all items including the tent itself)
- all guylines attached by the manufacturer
An overlook of the Hilleberg Soulo:
The outer (green as seen in the photos) of the Hilleberg Soulo is constructed of Hilleberg's Kerlon 1200 material. While being lightweight it is also very weather resistant and extremely strong.
How strong you ask?
Well, Kerlon 1200 has a tear strength of 12kg/26.5lbs.
Now some may say "that's great" but take into consideration that many companies utilize fabrics that are rated at 2 kg/4.4 lbs to 3 kg/6.6 lbs for their expedition model tents.
Pretty substantial difference huh?
I would strongly suggest that anyone out there that may be interested in the Soulo (or any Hilleberg model for that matter) to contact Hilleberg and get your hands on their catalog.
With the catalog and price sheet you also get samples of the various Kerlon fabrics (1000, 1200, & 1800) as well as a sample of the ripstop nylon that is commonly used through-out the industry for tear strength comparison purposes (as seen in the photo below:)
If you are interested in getting your hands on the handbook(free) you can do so through the provided link below:
Okay, back to the outer...
Kerlon fabric is coated 3 times with 100% silicone. This fabric is rated at a hydrostatic head rating of 3000mm (as seen in the table below:)
(Table courtesy of www.hilleberg.se)
I thought that I would provide the table for those out there that are interested in the technical specs of the fabric without me actually having to get too in depth and drawn out with it.
The inner tent of the Hille Soulo is a nice "cheerful" yellow. This is to put a damper in the whole "gloom and doom" perspective one can experience when hunkered down in a tent for extended periods of time due to bad weather.
The inner is constructed from a lightweight 30 denier ripstop which is water resistant. Now mind you the inner is not waterproof. For inclement wet weather I would strongly suggest the use of the outer unless you want to turn the inside of the tent into a "kiddie pool."
The inner also utilizes a bathtub floor to keep the water at bay if you find yourself in a washout. The bathtub floor extends 4.5" from the ground up as seen in the following photo:
The floor on the Soulo is rated at 70D with a triple coating of polyurethane resulting in a 5000mm hydrostatic head rating.
The Soulo has 2 interior pockets that are located on the sidewall opposite of the entry at the head end of the inner(pic below:)
The pockets easily swallow whatever small items I need close at hand such as my phone (ugghhh,) watch (alarm,) and whatever other small items you would like to keep in the shelter with you such as a headlamp, cough drops, or maybe a few red spotted newts that ya may have made friends with that want to have a sleep over. :p
Poles, stakes, guylines & runners:
There are 3-9mm poles that come with the Soulo for pitching the shelter. The poles are DAC Featherlite NSLs and as I stated on my BA Copper Spur 1 review they are pretty nice sticks. I am not a professional judge of tent poles nor do I have any idea of what the difference is in regards to strength but I will go on the record to say that the DAC NSLs are pretty tough and really light. I have had absolutely no problems with these poles as far as my Spur or the Soulo goes.
You get 3 poles with the Soulo:
Two of the poles are of equal length which are the main poles that span from corner to corner. There is a shorter pole that is marked red which is the spanner pole that extends from the entrance end of the tent creating the vestibule to the backside of the Soulo.
You get a total of 12 DAC V-stakes with the initial purchase of the Soulo. Other than them being a gold tone they are the same exact stakes that came with my Copper Spur 1:
They have spectra line loops attached to them which is a nice addition when trying to get them out of the ground. It is alot easier on the ol' digits than grabbing the stake itself plus it makes yanking them with gloves on alot easier.
The guylines on the Soulo is strong and light 3mm sprectra guy line as seen in the photo below.
Spectra is interweaved so there is no outer sheath to slip. The cord also has nearly zero stretch, water absorbtion, very good uv resistance, and a breaking strength of 300lbs (135kg.)
Some have stated that theses lines will slip. I have not experienced this phenomenon personally. At the same time I am not saying that it isn't a possibility.
Hilleberg uses their own guyline runners on the lines (see pic:)
They are simple to use and from my experiences in various weather conditions they have stayed where I set them.
I was going to get into the various clips and half sleeves but I will save that for the setup which I will get into now.
Now before I get into the whole ease of setup here is a video courtesy of Hilleberg in regards to the process (for familiarity purposes:)
Looks pretty simple huh? Well let me reaffirm just how simple setting up the Soulo really is.
It is ridiculously simple. I have set this tent up in snow, rain, wind, sunshine, etc, etc...
I have never had a problem getting the Soulo up regardless of what weather was being thrown my way.
The Soulo utilizes a half sleeve and clip system to erect the tent as seen in the video above. You have 3 poles. 2 of equal length and one marked red which is shorter. This pole(red) goes into the matching half sleeve which is also marked red as seen in the photos below:
Matching half sleeve:
You have a choice in regards to when you want to set the ridge pole (marked red.) The instructions that are included with the shelter state that it is the last pole to be placed on the shelter (on top of the 2 equal length poles.)
Well if you have noticed in the above video the gentleman setting up the Soulo placed the ridge pole up first which results in it being on the bottom of the 2 equal length poles..
I was confused when I first watched this video so I decided to contact Hilleberg via email and ask what the deal was.
I received a response from Petra Hilleberg stating that either way is fine so that cleared that one up. I just wanted to make sure being I didn't want to cause any unnecessary stress on the shelter which may result in premature wear and tear and possibly a failure later on down the road.
The remaining portion of the unattached poles that are not secured by the half sleeves are secured by alternating clips:
The reason for the alternating clips is so if one were to encounter really harsh conditions the Soulo can be double poled which will increase the shelter's rigidity dramatically. I have been in some pretty hairy weather with the Soulo and I have yet to have a need to do this.
One of the really interesting design attributes (well at least as far as I am concerned) is the fact that you do not need to have the tent pegged out in order to utilize the vestibule.
The vestibule on the Soulo is created by the pole structure and cordage that spans the floor of the tent from the entrance to the opposite side.
The vestilule on the Soulo is ample for one and I have no problem keeping my 85L pack, boots, and other assorted items in this area.
There are a total of 12 guyout points on the Soulo (6 for the tent itself then there are 6 for the guylines.)
Technically there are 12 separate guylines on the tent but they piggyback each other in 2s which means you only utilize 6 stakes for the attachment points (for clarification keep reading under stability.)
The Hilleberg Soulo utilizes an "exo-skeleton" design which means the whole tent goes up in one shot. This is a great attribute for a few reasons:
- If you get caught in rain when you set the tent up you are not dealing with a wet tent like one would with a tent where you have to set up the inner & poles, then secure the fly.
- On the flipside if you are taking the tent down in a storm you are not left with a sobbing wet inner tent from being exposed to the elements during the tear down process.
- If your tent is wet; you can disconnect the inner and place it in your pack separately from the rest of the soupy mess so when you get to your next destination on trail you can pitch the outer and then reattach the inner so you have a nice cozy dry area to climb into(see pic below:)
(On a side note; I purchased the footprint for the Soulo so I could basically pitch the tent as a single wall shelter while still having protection from the ground. The footprint also covers the vestibule area of the shelter. I would also like to note that you do not have to remove the footprint from the tent in order to pitch the shelter or take it down.)
The inner and outer tent is connected via elasticized toggles and receiver hoops (see pic:)
Now with this I can see the potential for the previously discussed "incredible shrinking tent" phenomenon due the the fact that the elasticized webbing could lose some of its ability to "contract" over time. If this happens I will either harass the good folks at Hilleberg for a fix or just tie a knot in the webbing to compensate for the difference.
As I mentioned a few second ago the Soulo utilizes a plethora of guylines (12) and when these lines are all secured the Soulo is about as stable a tent as I have ever encountered (pic below:)
The upper guylines on the Soulo wrap around the poles which transfers the stress from the stitched webbing to the actual pole as seen below:
I have been in windy conditions (50mph+ sustained with stronger gusts,) wind with rain, wind with snow and I have to say the Soulo is a bomb shelter. The tent didn't budge. I have made it a practice to fully guy this tent out (as well as my others) regardless of how calm the conditions are when I set it up. Too many times I have gone to sleep and all was calm only to wake up in the middle of the night to howling wind, rain, and snow.
It just seems alot easier (not too mention more convenient) to "err on the side of caution" and guy the tent out during the initial setup as opposed too climbing out of my nice, cozy, warm bag in the middle of the night to guy the tent out in bad weather.
Weather resistance (wet:)
The Soulo is most certainly a mortal enemy of moisture. On my last trip in June I got hammered with heavy rains for the latter part of my trip. Fortunately the Soulo didn't let a single drop of it in anywhere.
Now keep in mind this is without seam tape by the manufacturer or me taking the time to seam seal the tent at any stitch points or seams.
Hilleberg utilizes machines that have cooling jets incorporated into them that actually cool the needle as it is making its stitch which negates the need for seam tape.
I was a bit skeptical of how well this worked at first. I mean lets face it; there are a bunch of holes generated by the stitching process.
I suppose you can understand the logic behind my skepticism...
Well, whatever they are doing at Hilleberg works and it works very well.
In all of my experiences with the Soulo I have yet to experience any type of moisture from the outside making it's way to the inside of the tent.
The floor is just as resistant to moisture as the rest of the shelter... Maybe even more so being it is quite a bit thicker than the outer material not to mention the higher hydrostatic head rating.
I have to say that ventilation in the Hilleberg Soulo has been pretty good so far regardless of the conditions it has been subjected too.
The outer on the Soulo goes completely to the ground as seen in the photo below:
Now while this is great for keeping spindrift at bay it puts a real dent in the chimney effect that is created when a fly is elevated off the ground a bit.
One could open the main entrance a little to add a bit of airflow in nasty weather but I have yet to experience the need to do this. I suppose if I were in really hot & humid temps this would work well in combination with the roof vent but I do not intend on using this tent in those types of conditions.
The Hilleberg Soulo has a roof vent that is incorporated into the design of the tent (pic below:)
This vent can be easily accessed from the inside of the tent when one needs to do so and is adjusted by 2 zippers.
The vent (when opened) is protected from the elements by what I refer to as an "umbrella fly."
View from the inside:
This vent seems to be well placed and does a great job of expelling any condensation that may be present inside the tent. I have woken up in the morning to the inside of the outer having moisture on it from my breathing throughout the night but it wasn't anything that caused any concern inside the tent.
I do make it a point to roll down the fabric on the door and utilize the no-see-um mesh on the door as seen in the photo below:
This works well to increase moisture transfer from my lungs to the outer tent where I want it to be as opposed to it saturating the inner tent and maybe me, and my sleeping bag where I don't want it to be.
Since we are on the subject of ventilation and condensation I would like to mention when I use a higher loft bag such as my -20 degree bag the footbox of my bag does make contact with the tent inner. So to negate the possibility of moisture causing me any grief I put my waterproof pants over the end of my bag.
Some say to utilize a shell but the problem I find with that is that I usually end up kicking it off sometime during the course of the night so it really isn't doing me any good.
I have found that the elasticized waist keep the pants secure to my bag regardless of how much tossing and turning I do.
I would like to first say that I do not utilize a small pack for my trips. I use an Osprey Argon 85 (aka Big Blue.) I just wanted to point that out in regards to the packability aspect of the Hilleberg Soulo being that this is somewhat dependent upon what volume your pack is.
My basic on trail setup for carrying the Soulo is as follows:
- the tent (inner/outer and footprint) is at the bottom of my pack on top of the sleeping bag compartment horizontally.
- the poles and stakes are in the pack either to the right or left of my bladder vertically.
Being I use an 85L pack the Soulo really doesn't put much of a dent in usable interior space in my pack.
Ease of use:
I am going to keep this rather brief(not like the review wasn't long right?)
The Hilleberg Soulo is probably the most user friendly tent I have ever used. The way the tent is designed... I mean it just makes sense.
I really do not have to put much thought into setting the tent up(for me that is a good thing.)
Everytime I set this tent up I just kinda shake my head at the whole process.
It is just that simple.
One can also pitch this tent without the inner(here is the pic again:)
In a pinch this would be suitable for 2 but I would strongly suggest you are comfortable with the other occupant you are sharing your real estate with. It will be tight but doable.
Other than what I have covered throughout this review there are a few small but substantial things that I would like to add in regards to features of the Hilleberg Soulo that shine to me.
- For 2012 Hilleberg beefed up the zipper toggles on the main entrance of the shelter. They are more glove friendly for the most part (see pic below:)
- The "gutter" on the umbrella fly does a great job of channeling water away from the entrance so it doesn't make its way down the back of your neck when entering and exiting the tent in inclement weather (by inclement I mean wet and cold.)
- The storm flap that covers and protects the main zipper works very well in regards to keeping the water out:
Construction & durability:
Hilleberg has built a reputation for making top of the line quality products and it is quite apparent why with the Soulo.
All of the stitching is uniform, there are no loose threads, and there are no blemishes in the fabric anywhere. The over-all quality of the Hilleberg Soulo is about as high as one could expect in a tent. Even if I were to "nitpick" I still couldn't find something to gripe about.
Hilleberg has a quality control practice that I admire.
One individual sees the product through from start to finish and that individual's name is placed on a tag which is stitched to the inside of the tent outer:
Now that is what I call quality control and accountability.
Valve Nigul, I do not personally know you but I want to thank you for your attention to detail as well as the effort you put forth into making such a great, quality product. I will be thankful of your efforts for many years (and adventures) to come.
I have used the Hilleberg Soulo during the fall & winter months here in SW Pa. as well as a recent trip this past June. I would not typically use this type of tent during the warmer months being I have other tents that are more geared towards warmer conditions but I wanted to do so for the purpose of this review just to see how the tent fared when the temperatures were a bit warmer. Temperatures ranged from below 0 in winter to the mid 70s in June.
Regardless of what conditions and temps I subjected the Hillberg Soulo too the tent performed admirably. I personally would not recommend this shelter for use in very hot temperatures (mid 70s would be my limit) due to the fact that it would be quite "warm" inside the shelter.
Just to give you an idea of what I mean; during the winter months when this tent was all buttoned up there was a 15-20 degree difference in between the inside temperature of the shelter and the outside temperature.
I suspect that this would most certainly carry over in the warmer months here is SW Pa. as well as the warmer climates throughout the world.
There is a mesh inner that is available for this model:
There is also a pole holder kit available for this tent which gives you the ability to pitch the inner alone:
Hilleberg also offers options in regards to pegs:
A special mention:
I want to take the opportunity to share with you an experience that I had with Hilleberg in regards to customer service.
During my winter trips I was experiencing an issue with my Soulo where the inner and outer was detaching itself at random during setup and tear down. It was somewhat annoying when I set the tent up and all I wanted to do was climb in my bag and check my eyelids for holes.
More times than not the toggles on the opposite side of the entry would be the ones that detached. To make matters even more frustrating it wasn't obvious until I got the tent completely staked out, pitched, and climbed on in.
To fix this problem I had to get out of the tent, go to whatever various area(s) that detached, pull the stake, lay in the snow, and reconnect the toggle.
Well, I emailed Hilleberg in regards to this issue at which time I received a response from Petra Hilleberg requesting that I send the tent in.
So I did.
A short time later I received a package on my porch.
Well, inside the package was a brand new complete tent (with tags attached,) as well as a letter from Petra stating that there was a mistake made in the stitching of the corners of the tent.
I was somewhat surprised by this.
I personally would have been satisfied with a replacement for whatever portion of the tent had the mistake (inner/outer.)
Hilleberg sent me a brand new Soulo.
I now understand why Hilleberg has the reputation that they do in regards to them going above and beyond in regards to customer service.
The recognition is well deserved as far as I am concerned.
Lets face it. Hilleberg products are not cheap. They are high end, premium products, constructed with high end, premium materials, which are intended to last you a long time with proper care. Their 4-season tents are designed to handle harsh conditions, make it through, and come back for more.
Are there other viable options out there? Absolutely.
But from my own personal experiences with not only the Hilleberg Soulo but Hilleberg as a whole there is no reason for me to look elsewhere when I want to spend my money on a top of the line shelter.
No point in changing what works right?
Especially when it works extremely well.
I am going to be a happy hiker for many years to come.
As always I want to personally thank you for taking the time out of your day to read my review of the Hilleberg Soulo.
I hope you found this review to be informative and I hope this information serves you well.