Purchased July 2015, reviewed August 2017
The Nammatj 2 is a four-season Swiss Army Knife of a tent from Swedish tentmaker Hilleberg. Weighing in at between 5 and 6.5 pounds depending on setup, the Nammatj 2 is both reasonably light and unquestionably stout. It has been across Antarctica, breezed through wind warnings in the British highlands, and bikepacked across the scorching hot American southwest. Hilleberg has produced the Nammatj line for over 30 years, and its versatility has earned it a dedicated following. As OutdoorGearLab put it in their review, “If we were to have one two-person tent for everything we would choose the Nammatj. In short: its AMAZING.”
I bought my Nammatj 2 after several experiences with other tents failing. While crossing the North Slope of Alaska in 2013, a sudden windstorm flattened our fancy ultralight tent and our entire group took refuge in an aging Stephenson Warmlite tunnel tent. In 2015, a windstorm in Katmai prevented us from putting our tents up at all, and we spent a night bivied above one of the Knife Creek Glaciers in the rain fly of my Marmot Aura. At a point, enough is enough: Alaska serves up four-season conditions year-round, and I needed a tent that could handle it.
Hilleberg is a relatively little-known company in the United States. Their tents aren’t sold through the standard outdoor retailers like REI or EMS, and their products are startlingly expensive. But after reading page after page of praise from Hilleberg-for-lifers online, and researching the competition, I was willing to put my outdoor comfort (and wallet) on the table and take the plunge.
Materials and Design
The Nammatj 2 is a tunnel tent. It is supported by two nonoverlapping 10mm DAC aluminium poles, which form half-ovals at either end of the tent. The poles are then held in place by six guylines that radiate out from the tent and up to ten additional stake points at the base. The tent fly is made of Kerlon 1800, a proprietary siliconized nylon (aka “silnylon”) that Hilleberg uses in its most robust four-season tents. In the hand it has a slightly waxy feel and a springiness that is characteristic of silicone-coated fabrics. The inner tent is made of 40-denier nylon with mesh vents, and the bathtub floor is an extremely robust 100-denier black polyurethane-coated nylon. To set up most tents, you erect the inner tent and then throw a fly over it at the end. The Nammatj 2 is a bit different–the inner tent and outer tent (fly) are attached, and both go up at once. The inner tent is always covered by the fly during setup, keeping it protected even in bad conditions.
The Nammatj 2 is a non-freestanding tent, meaning that it will not stand up when it isn’t guyed out. For reasons that I suspect have to do with marketing, there seems to be a persistent bias against non-freestanding tents in the US. “Freestanding” is often listed as a feature on tent ads, and I’ve heard several people dismiss tents outright because they will “only buy freestanding tents.” I suspect that many people equate “freestanding” with “strong” under the assumption that more poles means a stronger tent, but this association is simply false–and the Nammatj 2 proves it. If you grab the top point on a guyed-out Nammatj 2 and shake it, you’ll find that it barely budges. This is not true of the vast majority of freestanding tents, which will shake back and forth easily. The Nammatj 2 can be guyed out to stakes, ice screws, deadman anchors buried in snow, rocks, trees, or any other object. It is hard to imagine a any scenario in which you have nothing to guy the tent out to, and harder still to imagine that you’d want to camp in such a location in the first place.
To be sure, non-freestanding tents aren’t perfect. They won’t shed heavy snowfall as effectively as a mountaineering dome tent, for example. And their design seems suspiciously simple next to the wild geometry of contemporary tents. But the tunnel design works. It isn’t an accident that tunnel tents like the Nammatj are common sights in the polar regions, and remain popular in Scandanavia. The efficient tunnel design allows the Nammatj 2 to roughly match the weight of an average freestanding tent, while vastly exceeding its robustness.
Pitching the Nammatj 2
Unrolling the tent the first time can be intimidating. The fly and attached inner tent roll out together, along with a daunting mess of guylines. But don’t be put off–setting up the Nammatj 2 is actually simple. There are two thin black lines that run perpendicularly across the tent, one between the front corners and one between the back corners. The trick is to make sure these lines are on the bottom of the tent–all other lines can remain loose on the top. Stake down the corners of the tent; in bad weather start with the end facing into the wind. Then assemble the poles, slide them through the pole sleeves and all the way to the bottom of the pole pockets. Once the poles are inserted, simply go around the tent guying it out. I often guy all the points out and then do a second pass to make minor adjustments.
The Nammatj 2 includes a bag of good-quality aluminium Y-stakes. I’ve shattered or bent several stakes pounding them into frozen winter ground, but for general use they are perfectly fine. Switching to titanium or carbon fiber stakes will save a bit of weight, and titanium stakes work better in cold weather because they tend to flex instead of bending or breaking.
Tent bags often fail before any other part of a tent because cinching them shut is hard on stitching and fabric, and bags often get scratched, scraped, and torn from outside objects. Not so with the Nammatj 2, which includes one of Hilleberg’s burly “XP” line of tent bags. The bag is well made out of a tough fabric and the same high-quality cord used for the tent’s guylines. It includes several overbuilt grab loops that make attaching the tent to the outside of backpacks or bikes easy and secure. I have no doubt that the bag will last at least as long as the tent. In fact, when the flimsy bag for my old Marmot camping tent failed I replaced it with one from Hilleberg. If you do want to save weight, Hilleberg also offers a non-XP version built out of lighter fabric and without grab loops.
Inside the Nammatj 2
The interior of the Nammatj 2 is roomy and comfortable to sit up and sleep in, even for two athletic people over 6 feet tall. When sleeping, your head rests adjacent to the vertical door of the tent. This means there is no sloping tent wall behind your head to flap into your face during high winds, and your breath can rise and vent without condensing against a shallow ceiling.
The fly on the Nammatj 2 extends all the way to the ground in order to improve wind resistance and prevent snow or sand from blowing into the tent. The Nammatj vents via a large mesh door and mesh flap on the inner tent and two half circle-shaped mesh windows on both ends of the tent fly. In short periods of extreme weather, the fly vents can be bent shut from the outside or zipped shut from the inside, and the mesh panel and door on the inner tent can be zipped shut and then completely covered.
Though it vents well, the Nammatj is a winter expedition tent at heart and it tends to hold heat. If you plan on using the Nammatj 2 frequently for especially hot or humid conditions, Hilleberg offers an all-mesh version of the inner tent for about $200. The all-mesh inner tent includes pole attachments so that it can be pitched on its own without the fly. The mesh inner weighs about the same amount as the solid inner tent–it’s designed for venting, not for gram-pinching.
I have used the Nammatj in all seasons in Alaska, from pitching on the summits of mountain peaks in the winter to camping by the ocean in summer. It has never failed to hold up to high wind or bad weather, and I have no doubts about its ability to do so in the future. I wish I’d known about this tent (and had the money to buy it..) years ago. Several near-crises could have been avoided.
Beyond its weather resistance, the Nammatj 2 is simply comfortable. Despite the relatively small size of the vents the Nammatj effectively circulates air and prevents condensation, even in fairly humid conditions. Its generous interior size and large vestibule provide plenty of sleeping and storage space. In a pinch you could even sleep two people inside the tent and a third under the vestibule with their legs covered by a backpack or trash bag.
So where is the Nammatj 2 the wrong tent for the job? If you’re setting up an alpine base camp, I’ve been told that you might want to consider a more bombproof dome tent that can handle all conditions while you’re off climbing. On the other end of the spectrum, the Nammatj 2 is simply too much tent for most people most of the time. I love that I can pitch the Nammatj 2 into the mouth of a quasi-apocalyptic storm, but if you don’t camp in exposed environments the Nammatj 2 is overkill. You can save a significant amount of weight–and likely money–by buying a lighter-duty tent and seeking out protected campsites.
Cost and Availability
As of this writing in 2017, the Nammatj 2 retails for $775. Hilleberg is famously strict about pricing, and forbids retailers from offering sales or discounts on Hilleberg products. The price history website camelcamelcamel.com shows the price of the Nammatj 2 increasing in steps over the last several years, seemingly obvlious to Black Friday or any other sale event. If you want a Nammatj 2 be prepared to buy used or pay full price. You may be able to find retailers that do not discount prices but do offer “reward points” or other promotion that includes some extra gear or other benefits.
$800 seems like a lot to pay for a single tent. But when you consider its design, materials, durability, and range the Nammatj 2’s high price is arguably very reasonable. It’s a lot of money, but it’s also a lot of tent.
When I asked a Hilleberg representative how to pronounce the word “Nammatj”, she told me “it’s naa-match, as in ‘there’s naa-match this tent can’t do.'” It’s common for outdoor gear companies to overstate the versatility of their products, often with frustrating or even unsafe results for the consumer (I’m looking at you, “waterproof” DWR fleece). But Hilleberg is right. To be sure, the Nammatj makes different compromises when placed next to feathery 3-season tents or burly 4-season tents. Compared with 3-season tents it’s a little heavy but vastly more robust. Compared with 4-season tents it’s very light but a bit vulnerable to heavy snowfall. What’s amazing about the Nammatj 2 is that–though for different reasons–it remains an attractive choice for exposed camping in any season. The Nammatj 2 isn’t the best tent in every dimension, but it really can handle anything.