I tried a bivi bag and tarp, I wanted to like it, I really did, but British weather coupled with the rigours of often solo bikepacking adventures meant I felt I needed a bit of comfort at the end of the day. When I have spent all day out in the weather, the end of the day is the time to get out of it a little to recover for the next day.
Choosing my bikepacking tent
I spent a while looking for a one man tent that met my bikepacking and adventure needs – light weight, small volume when packed, folded poles that will fit in bike luggage, and winter capable. Not necessarily mountain top wild camping in winter, but able to take a battering above the snow line but below the summits. Singleskin shelters are light and compact when packed but everyone said they are not suited to the damp UK climate. Some of the Big Agnes offerings seem pretty awesome. MSR make some good tents, my wife and I currently use a Hubba Hubba NX as our two person tent, but I have used one man MSR tents before resulting in some bad experiences in storms. Hilleberg make a proven design in the Akto but it is heavy and bulky. There are some boutique brands hand making great shelters but the lead times are often into months and I am impatient! By chance I spotted the Hilleberg Enan reduced in a local outdoor shop because the newer version with the heavier fly fabric is out and they were clearing stock. It’s technically a 3 season tent but has the Hilleberg reputation for durability and I figured I could mod it to make it more robust. The reviews said great quality but the condensation was really bad. How bad can it be right? So I convinced the shop to give me a further discount for this older and more expensive model plus some BMC discount and took it home.
Early trips out
My first trip to the Peak Disrtrict was ok, not too cold, plenty wind to maintain airflow. The second trip in the Borders I found out about the condensation and I mean really found out. I was camped above the snow line, there was very little wind. It all started off ok. Within a few hours the inside of the inner tent was soaking and it drip dripped and soggily rubbed on my down bag gradually making the sleeping bag wetter and wetter and me colder and colder. Given I was experimenting with a summer bag in winter conditions I didn’t have much insulation to spare.
Getting up shivering the next day I spent most of the day and subsequent days thinking about modifications I could do to the tent fly and inner to improve ventilation. I googled it to death. I bought insect proof mesh and discussed sewing mods with my wife (sewing machine operator and general modding accomplice). None of the ideas seemed conceptually right and the 600 denier fly sheet fabric has a reputation for being difficult to work with. I thought about ebaying it. On the thinking went ….
Fixing the Enan’s condensation problem and unleashing a great tent
Eventually we decided on a different approach. Don’t mod the fly, just ditch the inner tent and pitch with the fly and a footprint. Basically use the tent as a single skin shelter. And to protect my down bag I would use an Event bivi bag.
This approach has worked spectacularly well.
- Firstly there is less condensation on the fly as the air can flow better, especially if I leave the fly zip open a little at the top.
- There is more room inside the tent.
- In snowy winter or muddy conditions I can roll back the footprint to sort my gear out without getting snow or mud all over everything.
- The whole package weighs about the same as the fly plus inner.
- If the tent gets trashed in a storm I still have a good sleeping option in the bivi that will allow me to continue my adventure in comfort and safety rather than spending a soggy night in an emergency plastic/foil bag.
- If the weather is good I can sleep out in the bivi only.
- I leave the sleeping bag in the waterproof bivi bag inside my bike luggage, basically using the bivi as a dry bag.
I’ve found no downsides, although I suspect if I weighed it there might be a slight weight penalty – fly sheet + inner + groundsheet + dry bag (for sleeping bag) vs fly + footprint + bivi bag. I just don’t care that much about a few grams when overall this tent has saved me a lot of weight over a tent classified as 4 season. Also in heavy snow I need to occasionally clear the tent of fallen snow to prevent collapse.
Modifications to the Enan
I made some mods to the Enan to make it more robust in challenging conditions. I’ve made some of these mods on other tents and found they worked well. I had a Mountain Equipment AR Ultralight that was a piece of shit in a storm until I made these mods. After the mods it became one of my most dependable tents, so I was happy to repeat the mods here.
Splayed guy lines
I replaced the single guy lines with double MSR guy lines that are pegged out in a V shape. This better supports the single pole in the longitudinal direction meaning less stress on the whole tent during heavy wind.
Elasticate the longitudinal guy lines
I added a 3mm bungee cord loop on to the end guy lines that pull the tent fabric tight. This has two advantages. If I peg the guys out with a bit of tension, then as the fly sags due to the fabric wetting out, the guy lines maintains some tension in the tent fabric resulting in the tent maintaining it’s shape. No more saggy tent. Secondly, in a storm there is a slight shock absorption effect in the guy reducing the strain on the tent fabric.
MSR Groundhog stakes
Yes they are a few grams heavier than needle stakes but replacing the needle stakes with X section pegs gives a much stronger pitch, particularly in soft Scottish peat. If bad weather is due I will weight the pegs with large rocks, and also the guy lines will be weighted with rocks, using some natural material (e.g. heather) between the rock and the line itself to prevent abrasion. In snow and sand conditions I use MSR snow stakes.
The Enan supports double polling. I’m still experimenting with this to determine how effective the extra strength vs the extra weight and volume of a pole is. The splayed guy lines provide a lot of support to the pole perhaps negating the need for a second pole.
I’ve still to test this configuration in a real hoolie. It’s been ok at 30-40mph when a friends Akto was wrecked. But I feel more confident about this as the bivi bag gives me a fallback option and I also carry a repair kit (duct tape, tenacious tape, a few meters of 2mm cord, needle and strong thread) to effect some field repairs.
Like most tents it’s noisy when the wind picks up, more so without the inner tent. I carry some foam earplugs to reduce the noise which gives me a better sleep. (I also carry an eye mask so the early summer sun doesn’t wake me allowing me to wake at a time of my choosing.)
Having to clear fallen snow off the tent is a pain. I’m considering an internal guy line that will run the length of the tent, hang from the underside of the pole and run under the fly to provide some support to the fly. Trouble is we don’t get enough snow in the UK any more to allow much experimentation time!
Overall I am now pretty happy with the Hilleberg Enan.