Posted: 01 September 2008
Overall: We got this tent as something light-ish and low-bulk enough to cycle tour with but which we'd have lots of living space in and be reasonably sure it would take a lot of flak. With those requirements in mind I've not seen any other tent I'd rather have, I've been most impressed with the Kaitum 3.
Fabrics are very good, as is the workmanship holding them together. The outer is the lighter of Hilleberg's two flavours of high tenacity ripstop nylon with a silicone elastomer coating on both sides, but though it's light it's still very strong and shouldn't let you down. The groundsheet is also the lighter gauge that Hilleberg use but it's still a sensible thickness so can be used wild camping without excessive contrivances or the necessity of a footprint (though one is available, if you are habitually camping in rougher places or out of a car or boat where the extra weight doesn't matter. With typical Hilleberg attention to detail the footprint can be attached to the tent and deployed as one with the rest of the tent, and it covers both porches as well as the groundsheet). All the fixtures like zip covers, tensioning buckles and ties for doors etc. are well thought out and do their job well, with nothing about the tent feeling half-baked in any way.
Being a Hilleberg it's designed to be easy to put up: peg one end, insert the poles (all go in from one side, no need to have two hands 2 meters apart, the mid pole is longer than the end ones but is marked both on pole and at the end of the sleeve), pull the other end out and peg that, peg the guys, tension everything, job done). Inner and outer go up together, though you can unhook the inner (or just part of it) if you want extra party space, bicycle/kayak repair garage out of the weather or whatever. Each of the three poles has two guying points at each side with good strong lines with high quality plastic runners attached. There are also guys on the porch vents that anchor at 3 points around the vent and lead to a single pegging point. Though Hilleberg's marketing points out you only need 4 pegs to pitch the tent, in practice you'll probably want to guy it out as it makes the tent enormously more stable in any sort of wind. The pegging set provided has 9 square-section skewers and 9 light V-stakes, enough for a full pitch (4 end corners, 6 pole-ends, 6 double pole guys, 2 vent guys). The skewers are very good, the V-stakes a bit bendy, but they work well enough. As with all tents, a user may wish to fettle the peg selection a little according to conditions and preference, but what you get is enough and it works.
Once it's up, you have a choice of a door at each end, both accessing a generous porch that is roomy enough to store a good pile of gear and cook in reasonable safety out of the elements. The tent is symmetrical with each end the same. Each porch has a vent in the end panel (the flysheet doors open on one of the side panels of the porch) which is covered by a good sized hood with a wired stiffener to keep it in shape. The vent is closed by zip, with a breathable panel for some venting even when it's closed. Unlike it's heavier and tougher cousins in Hilleberg's line of tunnel tents (Keron and Nammatj) the vents are not mesh backed so insects can get in when they're open. That's a shame, but it also helps keep the weight down and shaves a little off the price too. If the weather's nice it's easy to keep the door open with a provided tab and loop, if it's nicer still you can roll back the vent panel too, or even nicer and the whole porch can be rolled away (though you'll need the end-pole guys in place to keep the tent up if you do this). Each or the three panels that make up the porch has a retainer so you can easily tie it back when rolling panels away.
That's the flysheet, now the inner... the doors cover the whole ends of the inner and have a full-size mesh screen which can be covered completely with a zip-out "solid" panel. Open them up (and optionally tie them back with the hook and loops provided) and you find a *lot* of space. Enough for 3 full-size sleep mats side by side, with generous height all through from end to end (a little more in the middle, and a little extra width there too as the mid pole is bigger). It's a nice cheery yellow which helps keep the interior light and bright. There is a mesh pocket in each corner just above the bathtub groundsheet to help organise things.
That was the tour, now for impressions about living in/with it. All the fixtures provided are genuinely useful, with tabs and loops to tie back anything you might want to tie back with a minimum of fuss. Peg and pole tensioners are easy to operate and work well, and everything that's been added is there for a reason that forgives its weight and any extra complexity. The vents work well and being a twin-ended design you've got a lot of option on what to open up so condensation can be minimised. The amount of space is quite exceptional for a tent of this weight and bulk, with plenty of room for the occupants to not get in each others' way and generous height close in to the walls and right the way to the doors. The combination of usable space with the flexibility of twin-ended porches and entrances to give comfortable convenience is what really sets this tent apart from its peers at the weight in my opinion.
It's not perfect of course, as no tent is. Put the Kaitum in a brisk wind and it is certainly noisier than a similarly sized (but much heavier!) geodesic with the large spans of unsupported fabric along the tunnel moving quite a bit. When we had our tent in a ca. Force 6 light gale with no shelter there was no apparent danger of the tent failing, but the unsupported fabric did move around enough in gusts to set up small drafts inside from the fabric motion, a little disconcerting at first! So if you like your tents quiet and static, then the Kaitum is probably not for you: get a tent with more supporting poles, but you'll pay for it with more weight or less convenience and/or space; you choose, you lose!
The Kaitum is also available in a 2 person version, which is 40 cm narrower at a (still generous) 140 cm max inner width, but 300g lighter. 300g doesn't seem much for the extra space, so we opted to get the 3 person version though it's typically only 2 using it. As a 2 person tent it is a palace. There should be a GT version available in 2009 with one standard and one extended porch and extra forward pole to support the extension, like the Nallo GT's. It is worth noting that the porch space is generous as it is and that the porches have plenty of clearance and ventilation for cooking, so the GT will be something if you want a real superabundance of space rather than something you'll need to make the tent practical at all.
Aside from the wind noise and movement the only real downside is the cost, which like all Hillebergs is considerable. I think you can get tents well towards this good for a lot less money, but if you have the money and are more interested in outright performance than performance/cost then it's well worth a good, hard look. You can get lighter, but they won't be as nice to live in, and you can get tougher and/or quieter, but it'll be heavier to carry. All tents are compromises, if the one you're looking for priorities space while giving good strength and reasonable weight then the Kaitum should be on the short list.