Hilleberg’s Kaitum 3 Backcountry four-season shelter for party of three
By Rick Shandley
Leave it to the Swedish sense of quality and functionality to design Hilleberg Kaitum 3 four-season tent. With almost 40 years of backcountry tent making knowhow, Hilleberg tents are wilderness shelters built to endure, comfort, and protect. If you’re the kind of person who owns the best gear you can get your hands on. You want enough room for two or three people. And you know there’s going to be at least one trip where the shelter you invest in now will pay for itself keeping you safe for just a few days, or one night, then consider the Kaitum 3.
Like most of the gear we review, this Hilleberg Kaitum 3 went on several pack trips in the backcountry. From the first time we pitched this rectangular tunnel design, the Kaitum 3 proved to be a quick set-up and sturdy weatherproof tent. Three DAC tent pole hoops run through continuous sleeves to create the skeletal framework that is anchored with DAC pegs and guy lines.
Kaitum 3 is not free standing, but it requires only four DAC, V-shaped, stakes to erect. In all but the mildest conditions, even free-standing tents are pegged out to secure them and prevent them from taking off like a tumble weed in a wind gust during set-up. Any tent that incorporates vestibules must be pegged out, free-standing or not.
Hilleberg’s own Kerlon 1200 nylon tent fabric is used for the Kaitum 3. With a tear strength of 26 lbs., the Kerlon 1200 is coated on both sides with three applications of pure silicon. In addition to being extremely light, waterproof, and strong, Kerlon 1200 is also resistant to UV light. At 1.4-ounces per square yard, a swatch of Kerlon 1200 with a ½-inch scissor cut could not be torn asunder. It would fray slightly, but the slit length would not travel. Conversely, the same sized patch of standard ripstop nylon could be halved with the same human fingers doing the shredding.
Pitching the Kaitum 3 goes like this: peg one end of the tent into the wind with one stake at each side. Slide the DAC poles through the continuous sleeves, longest pole in the middle, then peg the other end of the rectangle to the ground. Your basic shelter is pitched. Each pole sleeve has only one open end. The other end is a closed pocket; which leads to efficiency in set-up time and provides a pole capture point that allows the tent pole to take its shape with the tent fabric immediately. We didn’t have to work on both sides of the tent when inserting the tent poles because of the closed ends making set up fairly rapid.
This Kaitum 3 is a thing of beauty when it’s fully staked out taught with the Spectra guy lines shoring up a structure that’s ready for serious winds, rain, snow, and freezing weather. When you anticipate heavy snow and high wind conditions, you always have the option of running a second set of DAC poles through the pole sleeves to double-down the structural support.
A total of 18 DAC V-stakes come with the Kaitum, and we found it to be little extra effort to have both vestibules in action and both vertical doors at each end available. The vent system is located high-up on the vestibule crowns and found to be totally functional regardless of the time of year or weather conditions.
On one trip in the Gila National Forest in New Mexico, our Kaitum 3 housed three medium-sized adults on a long-mile overnighter that got down into the low 30’s. All three reported they had ample room to sleep soundly through the night without feeling packed together. Two backpacks where housed in the rear vestibule, (facing the wind), and the third pack occupied the forward vestibule. During the night and early morning, the guy sleeping in the middle spot would enter and exit through the vestibule housing two packs. The two guys sleeping next to the tent walls would enter and exit through the vestibule housing the single pack.
The Kaitum 3 ventilation system did not allow condensation to build up inside the tent even with three souls sleeping in overnight temperatures that dropped down to freezing levels. With both vestibules fully-pitched, both entries fully zipped up, and ventilation hoods at both ends open, the airflow through the tent was more than adequate. The snow-panel ventilation hoods on each vestibule can be adjusted from inside the tent. Zippered, full no-see-up mesh panels on the inner-tent doors and full zipper-adjustable fabric panels allow you to tailor ventilation requirements in warm, cool, and cold weather.
In mild weather, where bugs are more a threat than rain or snow, you can use the Kaitum 3 inner tent by itself and pitches with the use of six additional pole holders. We did not take the opportunity to use the Kaitum 3 in this configuration, as all of our overnight stays where in late fall and at upper elevations where weather fronts could move in overnight and without advanced warning.
Packed trail weight for the full Kaitum 3 with inner/outer tent walls, stakes, and guy lines is 6 lbs. 13 ounces. On the high-country trips we used the Kaitum 3 for the weight vs. comfort was an acceptable tradeoff. For a person who hikes solo, or your tent requirements involve four or more people, there are smaller and larger tent options in the Hilleberg line-up of four-season tents to consider. As for the Kaitum 3 we tested, even when just two people are to occupy the Kaitum 3, the floor plan, tunnel design and headroom make it a shelter that justified its place on the pack.
KAITUM 3 Interior
Your reward is when you slip inside the Kaitum 3. The late afternoon, high country winds can kick up all they want. Mountain shadows will bring on the dark before you’re tired bones are ready. But once you’re on the interior, you’ll find yourself in a very cool backcountry Townhouse. No kidding. There is more available room in this tunnel design than you’d think possible. It’s because of this tunnel shape that the double tent walls rise up vertically and carry the vertical rise into a gentle arch towards the top of the tent. You get 42 vertical inches in the center of the tent and 42 square feet to move around in.
Storage pockets are situated at four positions inside the tent for easy access even in low-light or utter darkness. These storage pockets are integrated into the inner tent wall and above the bath-tub shaped tent floor. With the bath-tub floor running the full diameter of the tent, ground water, melting snow, or muddy conditions shield the interior from intrusion.
It is this sense of having more than enough room inside the tent which all but eliminates the potential cloud of claustrophobia a person could feel when hunkered down for a couple days of serious wet or icy weather. For tall and large-bodied people, the ability to move around without bumping your head on A-framed tent walls and having enough room to sit up and play a game of cards or read a book are immediately notable.
Large vestibules at each end offer 14 square feet of storage area, enough to store your gear and allow plenty of room for entries and exits. You can pitch the Kaitum 3 with one fully closed vestibule into the wind, and leave the opposite end of the tent completely open to the down-valley view. Leaving one end open, with the vestibules rolled back out of the way opened up to the cavernous interior and allowed us to hang out in the tent and sit for a while just sipping morning coffee and think about the day ahead.
On our first trip with the Kaitum 3, we noticed that the workmanship, hardware, and the dense multi-pass stitching of the Kaitum 3 appeared to be flawless. Every stress point was bolstered gusseted heavy nylon webbed fabrics. Because the Spectra guy lines were positioned at critical support points on the tent, they attached at two points, and they were easily adjustable, the stability of the shelter was impressive.
Set-up is very straight forward and gets quicker and more efficient each time you pitch it. One person can pitch the Kaitum smoothly and with confidence. Once pitched, the Kaitum 3 is second to none in the roominess the tunnel design creates. At night, the Kaitum can be seen in the headlamp or flashlight beam on reflective strips at either end of the tent, but larger illumination panels would be easier to see from a distance. You’ll have no idea, until it happens to you, how much you rely on those illumination panels to find your way back to the tent on a black-on-black night in the wilderness.
Take down and pack out of the Kaitum is just as smooth and trouble free as pitching the tent. The materials, including the tent floor, Kerlon tent fabrics, the stakes and pole system, all packed down quickly and rolled up tight. Both tent walls and guy line system, all pack into the center of the collapsed tent. The fabrics are so pliable you can prevent any bulky spots just by smoothing and quickly adjusting as you roll up. The snow-proof vents at each vestibule do have a wire-like bracing structure to keep them open and rigid; these flatten out and blend with the roll-up.
For a tall, gangly, person stooping or crawling to get in or out of the Kaitum with either or both vestibules fully erected can be a challenge. But that’s a trade off for the full protection this shelter creates. Ease of entry and exit is a subjective decision each one of us makes in our research of a tent purchase weighed against the protection, strength, comfort, and the environments you’ll use the tent for.
Although our backpack trips were not in heavy winter conditions or wicked ugly thunderstorms, we did get overnight freezes and very stiff mountain winds in the evenings. And compared to other four-season tents we’ve owned or experienced, the Kaitum is a top-end shelter. The Hilleberg Kaitum 3 is a seriously well built, comfortable tent that is good for many years of use in all weather conditions. At a MSRP of $775, this tent is a long-term investment that just might beat expectations.
- High strength to low weight
- Unmatched weight to space
- High reliability with “worst-case scenario” construction
- High usability: easy to pitch and pack out
- Original Hilleberg design
- Linked inner and outer tents for simultaneous pitching
- Durability for years of use
- IS0-9001 Certified
Kaitum 3 Specifications
Minimum weight: 5.15 lbs (2.7 kg)
Packed weight: 6.13 lbs. (3.1 kg)
Inner Height: 42 inches (105 cm)
Interior tent area: 42 square ft. (3.9 square meters)
Vestibule area: 14 square ft. x 2 (1.3 meters x 2)
9mm DAC Poles: Three
DAC tent stakes: 18 V-shaped
Min. stakes to pitch: Four
Product of: Sweden
Color Options: Red or Green