My Favorite Tents for Wilderness Backpacking

My favorite tents for backpacking adventures into the wilderness are the Hilleberg Soulo and the Hyperlite Mountain Gear Ultamid 2. Both are great tents but they are quite different so I thought I’d explain the differences in this post (and don’t miss the video above).

Over the years I’ve used many different types of tents and I’ve used them a lot. I’m now on my second Soulo as the first one has been retired after many years of service in the mountains.

Magnus Lindbom showing the differences between the Hyperlite Mountain Gear Ultamid 2 and the Hilleberg Soulo.
My go-to tents for summer and autumn adventures deep into the backcountry pitched in Helvetesbrännan Nature Reserve – close to home here in Jämtland.

Hilleberg Soulo vs. HMG Ultamid 2

Looking at the construction these are two very different tents. The Soulo is a freestanding dome tent with a solid inner tent. The Ultamid is pitched with a center pole in a pyramid style and by default comes with no inner tent.

They couldn’t be more different and that’s why I own and use both. They are good at different things.

Hilleberg Soulo in a fog covered alpine landscape in Sarek National Park.
The high alpine terrain in Sarek National Park is where the Soulo feels most at home.

High Winds, Rain & Snow

The most important aspect of any shelter is how it stands up to the elements; wind, rain, sleet and snow. This is especially important on long adventures in exposed terrain.

Both tents handles wind well and the Ultamid, with its pyramid shape, is holding up really well even in high winds. There’s a learning curve to get a good pitch, you have to get the four corners anchored down securely. Together with the center pole they are what’s giving a pyramid tent its stability. When you get it right it can take a lot of wind.

The Soulo with its three crossing tent poles and excellent guy lines can handle almost anything that the weather gods throws at it. In my experience it’s better in strong winds than the Ultamid. Actually, it’s the most stormproof tent I’ve ever used.

The Ultamid that I own does leak a little bit in heavy rain which I’m not too concerned about. The Soulo on the other hand is 100% waterproof.

Photographer Magnus Lindbom and Hyperlite Mountain Gear Ultamid 2 at the lake Virihaure in Padjelanta National Park.
Overlooking the large lakes of Padjelanta National Park. On this packraft adventure I used the Hyperlite Mountain Gear Ultamid 2.

Comfort & Space

The Ultamid has one major advantage, it does have enough room to comfortably fit two people and is a palace on solo adventures. The Soulo, well, it’s a solo tent.

I like to have a good vestibule area to cook and store wet clothes and gear in. The Soulo has a small but useful vestibule. The Ultamid in comparison is very spacious and for one person there’s a lot of room.

The Hilleberg has a solid inner tent that adds a few degrees of warmth inside which comes in handy on cold nights. The Ultamid on the other hand comes with no inner tent but you can buy a mesh inner separately.

The Ultamid does have better ventilation and you can adjust it by pitching it high or low to the ground. This is great for warm and calm days, but when weather turns really cold and windy the Soulo is where I want to be.

Hilleberg Soulo with glacier in the background in Sarek National Park.
A wet and cold day in the high mountains during a two week adventure in Sarek National Park. I chose the Hilleberg Soulo this time.

Ease of Use

A tent should be easy to pitch. Exhausted after the end of a long day the last thing you want to do is mess around setting up a complicated tent.

Both tents are really fast to pitch. With some experience the Ultamid is the fastest of the two. Its simple construction makes it, once you get used to it, a breeze to set up.

The Soulo requires some more work but being a freestanding dome tent it has the benefit that you can move it around after you’ve pitched it. It makes life easier in difficult terrain.

Hyperlite Mountain Gear Ultamid 2 campsite during sunset in Sarek National Park.
Hyperlite Mountain Gear Ultamid 2 is a spacious and lightweight shelter for 1-2 persons. Sarek National Park.

Weight & Durability

The Soulo weighs more but the weight includes a solid inner tent. Going with the Ultamid, a bivy bag and using trekking poles as a center pole can save some weight. However I find that an inner tent (mosquitoes) and a separate center pole for added strength is worth it for the extra comfort.

Even with those extras added to the Ultamid it still has some serious weight advantage.

The Soulo is made out of silnylon while Hyperlite Mountain Gear are using Dyneema Composite Fiber. Silnylon is slightly heavier and, when used for a while, it absorbs water into the fabric in damp weather. This means that the tent will get slightly heavier to carry and take longer to dry out over the years.

The Ultamid doesn’t absorb any water so after rain you just give it a shake.

However, when it comes to overall durability my experience is that the fabric and construction of the Hilleberg holds up better than any other tent I’ve used.

Hilleberg Soulo and photographer Magnus Lindbom on top of a mountain in Padjelanta National Park.
My camp while working on a high mountain in Padjelanta National Park. The Hilleberg Soulo is easy to pitch in terrain like this.

Which tent should you buy?

If your’e looking to buy a tent the first question you should ask yourself is what your needs are. What kind of adventures will you head out on? What are your priorities?

These two tents will be overkill for short and sporadic outings. However, if you are planning to use the tent for many years and want to go on longer wilderness backpacking adventures they will be worth the investment.

When looking at tents it’s easy focus on one aspect, but in reality every tent is a compromise. Weather resistance, weight, durability, ease of use and comfort are all important factors to consider.

My personal recommendation?

I would recommend the Hilleberg Soulo if you plan to frequently travel through exposed terrain and want to be sure to have a stormproof tent that works in all seasons. It’s a very versatile tent.

If you, on the other hand, are willing to sacrifice a bit of weather resistance the Hyperlite Mountain Gear Ultamid 2 is a great lightweight choice for both solo and shared adventures.

For those of you that want to learn more about gear for wilderness backpacking my in-depth Gear Guide Series is now available for Supporters.

/ Magnus

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