Friday, November 2, 2018

Hilleberg Enan Review

This month Backpacker Magazine kind of published a review I wrote on my Hilleberg Enan backpacking tent. I say kinda because once a publisher edits a piece down to a paragraph or two, what survives are a couple of original thoughts and a few things you never said. So here is a more indepth look at my tent for those who may be interested. 

The Enan is not the only tent that interests me, or that I would consider owning and carrying. I like innovation and I love the shelters and designs coming out of Zpacks. But when I think of overall performance to meet the extreme weather I often have to deal with, I could not find a better choice than the Hilleberg Enan. 
When you make a buying decision you really have to decide how you are going to use your tent. If I knew I would never have to deal with severe wind conditions I would probably haul a Zpacks Duplex. But after talking to dozens of thru-hikers on the PCT this summer, I know that in severe wind they just are not reliable no matter how well they are pegged out. 

PCT March 2018
The Enan has gotten me through a few nights when the wind was clocking in at 60+ m.p.h. I don't think Backpacker believed me because they reduced my wind speed down to 40, although I know they were not there with me. I am not talking about gusts, I mean wind that was flattening my center pole down on my legs most of the night. This was partly my fault, I removed the two center pole guy lines to save weight. With them the tent would have held its shape much better. Without them it still stood the test and kept me safe and dry all night. That wind was proof that this tent is Bombproof. Let me tell you some other pluses this tent holds for me and things you might want to consider in your buying decision.

Thru-hiking, I often walk until dark then find a small hidey hole to spend the night. As odd as it may seem in the big, wild, open spaces of our long trails, it is often hard to find a flat, debris free place to set up a tent. The nice thing about the Enan is the small amount of real estate it takes up. This opens up many tent site options that larger footprints will have to pass on.  
Think about setting up your tent in adverse conditions. This will happen often. Even in a wind storm I can pitch the Enan quickly and efficiently. The inner tent is hooked into the fly. I never separate them, although it is easy if you have a need. I snap the center pole together, unroll the tent, insert the pole, stake out one end, stretch the tent out and stake the opposite end. Basically, I'm done. Four more stakes stretch the ends wider, and two more sturdy the center pole if you use them. This insures the inner tent is tight, and guarantees all the room the tent was designed to offer.
Two large screened vents on each end give it great circulation and cut down on condensation. Condensation is a given in many weather conditions. Anything that helps alleviate moisture through better ventilation is a plus.  
Hilleberg would consider this a 3-season tent, but I would argue after my testing it would fit into the 4-season category.
Enan is a one person solo tent with just enough headroom in the middle to sit up. It has an equal amount of real estate in the vestibule for gear, but not something to spend a lot of time in.
If you spend a lot of time in your shelter you would be better off with a larger tent made of material which would allow much more outside light in. For stealth camping I prefer a color that blends into my surroundings.
Quality workmanship: I used a Hilleberg Akto for 17 years and sold it in like-new condition. I expect the same from the Enan. I have had to send the Enan back to Hilleberg one time for a rip repair at a seam point when it was new. I think this was a construction flaw that has given me no issues since. I also put a couple barbed wire points through the floor the first night I used it--Murphy's Law. But a piece of Gorilla tape patched it perfectly. 
Where both tents shine is in build quality. I don't think you can find a better made tent. You're paying for sewing detail, fabric choice and metal fasteners. That adds up to years of use compared to a few seasons or one thru-hike. 
This tent dries very quickly with a bit of wind or a short period of sun. I would often pack it up at dark-thirty with rain, frost or ice still clinging to the tent. If I found a short burst of dry weather during the day, I could pitch the tent quickly and let it completely dry out during a snack break.

Drying gear during a sunny lunch break
Enan has a lot more wind action because of its lightness, but still performs flawlessly, keeping the weather madness, just a ripstop nylon away, at bay.
The Enan packs up very small. I carry it in my water bottle pouch on the outside of my pack. I use a piece of Tyvek 1443R for a ground cloth. I wrap the tent in the Tyvek, slip it into the carry bag, then strap it into the bottle pouch. The Tyvek protects the tent from catching any passing vegetation and ripping. Carrying the tent on the outside of my pack enables me to completely pack everything else up while still protected inside. When I step out of the tent, in inclement weather, I only have to deal with quickly tearing down the tent and stuffing it into my side water bottle pouch. 

Does your tent have a tag with the name of the person who sewed it together? You might laugh, but that pride in workmanship is one reason a Hilleberg becomes a life-long piece of gear.
Both Akto and Enan tents use the same sturdy 9mm center pole. Enan also uses two less stakes to strike the same tent footprint.
The fabric is amazingly tough for its super light weight. 
I consider the weather worthiness of this tent to be cheap insurance when I compare it to other lighter weight options. It is not until you have to deal with constant wet cold conditions that you truly come to appreciate the protection a product like this offers.

The outer tent strikes tight to the ground. Even during windy snow conditions I have no snow in the vestibule.
The vestibule zips closed tightly compared to competitors that snap or button closed. The zipper is two way which allows opening top down, allowing more ventilation in good weather. If opened during rain, water would only drop into the vestibule area.
On the PCT I had a blonde, black bear, stick his head inside my tent. The fly was completely zipped. The zipper is very taut at the pole location. The bear pushed against the zipper and ripped it open. I woke up nose to nose with this bruin, just a bug screen away. Black bears are like black labs, all they think about is food, and if you yell at them you hurt their feelings. This bear ran off as soon as I screamed in wakeful shock. At first I was really upset thinking that furball ruined my tent, but as it turned out I just zipped it up and down, the zipper came back together, and it was all good. I turned over and went back to sleep. 
The inner tent has two-way zippers on the bug netting opening. 
The outer tent opening is designed to be rolled up and fastened open with elastic strap and toggle. It's comfortable to sit under the vestibule opening to cook and eat, and the area will accommodate a full size pack and boots.

The tent guy lines stay amazingly untangled. Adjustable tensioners make it a simple task to tighten all the angles. I really appreciate the metal stake rings and zippers. I believe whatever extra weight this may create makes this tent a bit more bullet-proof than competitive products with plastic fasteners.
The inner tent can be easily removed, although I never do this. For those that want to use only the fly, it takes just a minute to unfasten the inner tent from the fly. Mesh pockets make for easy access to small gear you want at hand.
The tent is not free standing, but I have yet to find this a problem in almost two decades of use and many long trails.

The design of these two tents is a tight outer tent fly with the inner tent suspended inside. In a wind-driven rain, the two shells can eventually stick together as condensation accumulates and the wind slaps the material against each other. Moisture is still directed down to the outside of the tent leaving the sleeping space as dry as can be expected in severe conditions. 
The tough, double coated, urethane bathtub floor, is durable without a footprint, but I prefer to protect my investment and keep my tent clean with a light-weight footprint.

I used the Enan during the winter on the Arizona Trail and on the first 650 miles of the PCT during the month of March. Severe drought in California during the winter season of 2018 turned quickly into what they call a "March Miracle." The Pineapple Express brought subtropical atmospheric rivers through California during the whole month. Below normal temperatures turned much of it into snow and sleet. Those who thought this would be a great year to start the PCT early, like myself, were sorely disappointed and would label this event not as Miracle, but Madness. Many people who carried less than adequate shelters dropped out very early. In my case, I was able to test the weather worthiness of my Hilleberg Enan striking it in snow, cold, driving rain, and heavy wind. In these conditions you are never going to be completely dry and comfortable, but this tent is as close as I have found to adequately keeping the elements at bay.

The time and method of setting a tent up and tearing it down doesn't get a lot of thought at point of purchase, but wait until the sky is falling, or your hands are frozen at dark thirty in the morning, and you want to get moving and stoke your internal combustion circulatory system. My system becomes muscle memory. Pull the stakes and center pole, start at one end and roll the tent and guy lines up as tight as possible, not worrying about dirt, snow or moisture. Roll the tent into the ground cloth, again as tight as possible. Slip it into the stuff sack along with the poles and stakes in their own sacks. When setting up, the tent unrolls the same way with all the hardware at hand. With practice this can be done in three to five minutes.

Recap and Repeat:
As the Akto and Enan tents are so similar, let me start with what I like about both models, and what I look for when making a buying decision on any backpacking tent. Some of these traits will be subtle points many first-time buyers never consider. 

Small Footprint: If you do a lot of stealth camping (stopping for the night wherever you end up), you realize quickly that you often lack the real estate you need to guarantee a level night's sleeping. The small footprint of each of these tents gives ample options to squeeze into tight vegetation.

Easy setup:  I have deployed and packed these two in severe wind, snow and rain. Both are quick and simple. I never separate the tent from the fly. In a storm I simply pull out the tent, insert the center pole, peg out each end and the tent is secure enough to then take my time stretching the sides out with the remaining pegs. This insures the inner tent is tight and guarantees all the room the tent is designed to offer.

Investment: If you think of a tent purchase as a long-term investment you will depreciate these models over many more years than a less quality brand. Both tents have the name of the person that assembled and sewed them as proof of pride in workmanship. Where both tents shine is in build quality. I don't think you can find a better made tent. You're paying for sewing detail, fabric choice and lasting hardware. That adds up to years of use, compared to a few seasons, or one thru-hike. 

Protection: I consider the weather worthiness of a tent to be cheap insurance when I compare it to other lighter weight or cheaper options. It is not until you have to deal with extreme weather conditions that you truly come to appreciate the protection a product like this offers.
When both tents are set up the outer tent is tight to the ground. Even during windy snow conditions the vestibule stays well-sealed from the chaos just a ripstop away.
Vestibule zips closed tightly compared to competitors that snap or button down. Zippers are two way which also allows opening top down, allowing more ventilation in good weather. If opened during rain, water only drops into the vestibule area.

So, is there a downside to either the Akto or Enan? In my opinion there is not. The lighter Enan offers the same amount of weather protection, but does yield a bit more to wind. The slight difference in wind performance can be almost eliminated by taking care to pitch the tent straight and taut. Will the lighter material hold up as well as the Akto? Only time will tell. I have put a 1000 miles on this tent in harsh Arizona desert conditions where Edward Abby reminds us that everything either “bites, stabs, sticks, stings or stinks.” I have also used it for the first 1500 miles of the PCT, half of that during the wet, 2018 "March Miracle." 
What first draws attention is the fact that the Enan has all the qualities of its heavier predecessor with incredible weight savings. Hilleberg was able to accomplish this by using a much lighter Kerlon material. They also re-configured the footprint, eliminating two pegs, and using less material without sacrificing the design's utility. This new configuration also added more ventilation.
The Enan is lighter, packs smaller, has improved ventilation, two less stakes to deal with, and a slightly smaller footprint. When dealing with wind-driven rain, snow, sleet and cold temps, I found the Enan to be just as reliable and weather-resistant as the Akto. 
Bottomline-- in my experience the only thing you lose from switching from a Hilleberg Akto to a Hilleberg Enan is weight.  --Keep Smilin', Dick E. Bird


ReviewBlogDraw said...

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Unknown said...

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helpful resources said...

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Anonymous said...

Thanks very much for all this valuable information. I'm tossing up between the Niak and Enan. I'm 186cm/6'1" and can't try one out for size, so am probably leaning towards the Niak, which I also like for it's almost-freestanding ability.

Anonymous said...

@Anonymous, I'm also 186cm and returned a Niak recently because it was about 5cm too short for me. This was partly because I use the new STS Etherlight mat which is 10cm thick, plus a 10cm thick STS pillow. The sloping end walls combined with the 20cm thick bedding platform meant the head end of my sleeping bag touched the inner tent, but so did the foot end of my bag because I use the long sized bag suited for people up to 6'6.

Anonymous said...

Forgot to say - fantastic review. Thanks Dick. I'm still considering an Enan even though I returned the Niak. The Enan is only 215cm long (vs 220cm for the Niak) but the ends are vertical.

The Weston Front said...

Helpful, thanks.

PeterGilbert said...

Very interesting! I’m considering Akto v Enan. One thing I thought might clinch it for Akto in UK weather conditions is its rain peak/beak/viewing/venting portal. Is that not a big plus for the Akto, the ability to leave it open at night or to gaze out from secluded security?! Might I ask whether you found the Enan’s vestibule smaller (I’m interested as I know a folding Brompton bicycle fits the Akto but I haven’t yet seen one in an Enan.) thanks, Peter

Anonymous said...

Thank you very much for this review! I just got the Enan.
But the fiberglass rods are so long! About 41″!
How does this fit in one’s backpack?
It would get crushed inside. Do you pack it outside?

Thank you!