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Hilleberg description:

The Akto is ideal any time you need the lightest weight, all condition solo tent. It is especially good for long trips of any kind, in any season, where light weight is a very high priority. And while it was not designed for extreme above tree line use, the Akto has proven itself on extended polar expeditions, and so will stand up well to all conditions. This is, in part, because of the Akto�s roomy configuration � it will easily accommodate you and your gear � and because of its remarkably strong Kerlon 1200 outer tent fabric. Its single pole Tunnel Tent construction, very light (yet very strong) Kerlon 1200 and 9 mm pole make it best suited for mobile trips, where you pitch and take down your tent every day.

Hilleberg Specs

Total Weight: 1.5kg / Inner height: 90cms / Inner length: 2.2m


Introduction

I bought the Akto for my first venture into solo backpacking, based on numerous reports of excellent quality and 4-season capability (the other contender was the lighter ~1kg Terra Nova Laser Competition). The Akto seemed a pretty good tradeoff between weight and robustness/stability, and at 1.5kg is the maximum I would consider for a solo tent.

I checked the weight myself: as supplied it weighs 1.49kg including the stuffbag, pegs + peg-bag and pole repair sleeve, but excluding the spare pole section. On first inspection the quality of construction and materials were immediately reassuring.

Update: I have sold the Akto and bought the Terra Nova Laser Competition.

Test pitch

Akto on Buttermere Moss

Pitching

I�ve seen so many photos and forum threads about the Akto that I felt I knew it already, and I did a quick trial pitch in the back garden with no surprises or difficulties - except perhaps the pegs. I�ve only ever used the standard J-shaped pegs (like a walking-stick shape) which is obvious: the curved-over bit secures the eyelets and guylines firmly down and they can�t come off. The Akto straight pegs only have a tiny cutout near the top end, a small movement and the rings / guylines can flirt off even when optimally pegged at about 45 degrees. Anyway it didn�t matter because I decided to use a subset of the Voyager titanium J-pegs and will probably continue using those.

The guyline structure is excellent: at each corner a guyline is threaded through the material to form a triangle with the peg at one vertex. The four triangles of cord are splayed out at a wide angle to give maximum support to the tent structure and each is adjustable by a sliding tensioner. Two further long guylines add support at the front and back of the tent in the plane of the pole.

Space

The internal space was surprisingly long: I�m 5ft 7½ins and had lots of room to spare, considerably more than I need. This is great for tall people but rather annoying for me, it could be quite a bit shorter and reduce the weight!.

By contrast the headroom was less than one would expect given the length, only just enough for me at the highest point and a potential problem for anyone taller. I had to sit precisely at the centre and keep my head very still to avoid it touching.

Despite the profusion of Aktos out there and online discussions about them, there is still much about this tent that is poorly understood. One fundamental point came to light when two people pitched their Aktos side by side, and noticed that one was very significantly taller than the other but less wide, a result of the different curvatures of the poles. This is determined by the length of the transverse horizontal cord directly below the pole and parallel to it, which was different for the two tents. A forum thread was posted to discuss headroom in relation to this point and several owners measured their cords, in the meantime Hilleberg were emailed for their 'correct' length.

I did my own measurement: I pitched the outer by itself and fully tightened the adjustment strap next to the pole cup, then measured the length of cord between the black plastic rings that hold it - it was 164cm (as a further check the total horizontal length including the black rings and attachment tabs, i.e. green-nylon to green-nylon, was 170cm). An email eventually arrived from Hilleberg giving an approximate cord length of about 165cm, making mine pretty well spot-on, compared with the longest cord measured which was 182cm resulting in a lower height.

Then I attached the inner and measured the available height inside, as best I could judge it was 91cm. While sitting inside, I tried pulling the loose strand of the cord inwards a bit (it does slide quite easily) but I'm not sure what it achieved, it didn't seem to make any noticeable difference.

Doors

Both outer and inner doors can be rolled up and secured in the open position with loops and toggles. The inner door toggle worked very effectively, but the outer door toggle is positioned well off-centre near the lower end, and the high end kept unfurling and dropping down. This could be dangerous when using a stove in the porch. There must be a knack to the way it is rolled, more practice and experimentation required here.

When the outer door is zipped down and closed, the bottom edge is slack and billows in and out in the wind. This too would be a problem when using a stove in the porch with the door closed in windy conditions, and I would need to find a method of holding it back securely, maybe a small rock.

Field trials

Trial 1 - Dolwyddelan Hills (03 Sep 07)

I first used the Akto on this 2-day backpack in early September. On this trip there was merely a pleasant breeze blowing which didn�t test the tent in any way, ideal camping weather really.

There were two major points I noted:

Trial 2 - North Pennines (01 Oct 07)

Trial 3 with mod: Wast Water Fells (18/19 Oct 07)

On this trip the conditions were not cold enough to give a really good condensation test but the initial results were very encouraging.

I�m happy to report that the mod worked very well, as expected really since the idea came from our Voyager inner which has always been excellent. For the test I kept the outer flysheet vents unzipped as usual and the inner door closed. I also closed off the standard triangular mesh panel in the door: the physics involved is not obvious (to me): having a side panel open as well could improve the ventilation due to a greater area of mesh, or worsen it by interfering with the end-to-end flow.

Trial 4 with mod: Buttermere Fells (16/17 Dec 07)

Akto on Fleetwith Pike

Conditions:- light breeze, temperature below freezing throughout the night and morning. Initially in the evening the air was quite moist judging by the thick frost on the grass and the hazy views, but it became drier during the night with a thin frost and clear sky by dawn.

On this pitch I used the stove in the porch to boil some water for a hot drink, a very quick operation but of course it did briefly add a lot of water vapour to the air. Although the mesh panels improved the ventilation very well as expected, there was still a disappointing amount of condensation inside the inner for the rest of the evening, despite having the door partly open as well. To give some idea of the amount, the inner roof felt like a well steamed-up window but not enough to drip when I patted it. The condensation was still there as I closed up the tent for the night, and as I stretched out I noticed that the foot of the sleeping bag was almost making contact with the sloping inner, so I draped my waterproof over it as insurance against soggy down.

I can only compare this with our TN Voyager: in winter we have boiled a lot more water in the porch in similar and colder conditions, with the porch briefly resembling a turkish bath, but never had a trace of condensation in the inner. I strongly suspect this is largely due to the nature of the airflow in the Voyager which is much easier to visualise than the Akto: it is simply rear-to-front, which always moves water vapour away from the inner and out the door.

I was keen to see how the situation developed overnight, but unfortunately the weather conditions had changed markedly by morning. I was hoping to assess the condensation effect under near-constant conditions for a whole evening and night, but the air became a lot drier which prejudices the results. At dawn the inner was bone dry and there was very little moisture inside the flysheet, no doubt attributable to the drier air generally. Nevertheless it showed that a condensation-free inner was possible overnight in temperatures below freezing, at least in those dry conditions.

Conclusion

Once I had the mesh panel modification done, I was pleased with the overall performance and comfort of the tent on the first few undemanding trips. It felt solid for a one-pole tent and the excellent guyline arrangement would be reassuring in windy conditions.

As noted above, in cold damp conditions condensation inside the inner could be a significant problem even with all vents open, especially when cooking in the porch.

With the advent of very light solo tents like the 3-season ~1kg TN Lasercomp, I feel that Hilleberg may come under pressure to reduce the weight a little without compromising performance or durability, maintaining true 4-season confidence. Instinctively I think it could be trimmed to the 1.3kg mark without damage. I noted in a blog comment that tents should ideally be offered in different lengths, certainly in my case at least a foot could be hacked off the length and save a very useful amount of weight.

Footnote:

Regarding the ventilation of the inner, one reader has explained an alternative view whereby internal condensation is eliminated by keeping both the flysheet vents and inner flap closed, relying on a temperature differential between the breathable inner and the outside. I can't comment on the efficacy of this idea, but a closed unventilated inner would be intolerable to me regardless of any condensation issues, I want some throughput of fresh air for its own sake.