Hilleberg tents are some of the most in-demand tents on the market and are trusted and relied upon by adventurers across the globe. To the uninitiated however it may not be immediately apparent why these tents are so expensive – the design could easily be confused with a number of other camping brands and there are no flashy logos printed across the side of Hilleberg structures. The reason these tents can justify such a premium price-point is purely down to their strength, durability, and reliability. While there are several design and construction factors which assist in achieving this strength one of the main differences between Hilleberg tents and their competitors is the fabric used on the outer tent. Hilleberg tents are constructed using the brands proprietary silicone-coated outer tent fabric – Kerlon. In the latest Nordic Outdoor Blog, we have taken a look at this innovative material, its history and why tear strength is a crucial consideration when looking at the long term durability of any tent.


The Story of Kerlon

Hilleberg Tents was founded in 1971 by Bo Hilleberg a professional forester at the time. When the company was initially founded it focused on producing forestry equipment with tent making being a sideline business and something closer to a passion project for Bo.

Bo, being an outdoors man for his whole life was frustrated with the tents at the time which required you to pitch the inner tent and then pitch a flappy rain cover over the top which could barely withstand any wind. He wanted to create a tent which had both an inner and outer tent which could be set up simultaneously, though he lacked the sewing skills to create this. He struck up a deal with his wife where she would do the sewing and construction of the tents and he would oversee design and sales – which it didn’t take long for the company to achieve!

In 1975 Bo discovered a material which he called Kerlon 1500 which was around 8 times stronger than the tent fabrics being used at the time. As soon as Bo realised this he got to work on creating his next tent. In 1980 the Keron was created using this material, this tent is still an iconic and staple tent for Hilleberg now.


Tents through the ages

Before we get into the revolutionary material that is Kerlon let’s look at how tents have evolved over the years to what they are now, and how Hilleberg’s Kerlon material is still to this day the best fabric choice for tent construction.

The first evidence of a tent is believed to be from around 40,000BC in Russia. This tent was made from mammoth hides for the outer material and used mammoth tusks and twigs for the frame. ‘Lightweight’ and ‘easily pitching’ are two properties these tents severely lacked and the accompanying smell would have meant that they were not the most pleasant environment for a base camp. Fast forward to the Iron Age and we see the first examples of tents being weatherproofed – with the use of oils an animal fats being coated on the outside of the tents to create a waterproof barrier.

While we can see examples of indigenous residents in the US and Scandinavia creating Tipi’s and Kata tents (which became the inspiration for Tentipi Adventure Tents) it wasn’t until 1862 that Edward Wymper created the first purpose-made climbers’ tent. It was a 4-man tent with an A frame made with a canvas outer. This tent weighed around 10kg and could not have been easy to carry up a mountain. In the 1970’s the first boom of recreational camping began with companies beginning to mass produce tents for personal/recreational use. These tents featured frames that snapped together and the introduction of tent poles to make more stable tents. This then bringing us up to the modern-day ideals, and general look of a modern tent.

At the time of Hilleberg’s founding tents were primarily being constructed using either canvas, polyurethane or nylon.


Why is tear strength and tent material important?

 When buying a tent the most important aspect is choosing one with the right materials. A tent should be strong enough to offer stability in bad weather, you should think about where you intend to go and choose a tent which strength lies in the same area you wish to camp in. Factors such as if the tent is good in high winds should nearly always be a requirement but other elements to consider are heavy rain or snowfall. Another factor is breathability, every tent should be breathable to a certain degree to transport moisture from inside the tent allowing for temperature regulation and making the inside less humid. A build-up of moisture can cause problems such as mould to begin to damage your belongings or the tent itself. If in extremely hot or humid climates an extra consideration is whether you need vents in-built into the tent for extra breathability. Lastly waterproofing is crucial, nobody likes to come back to their tent to see a mini paddling pool has formed inside. Even if you think that you’ll be able to avoid rain by choosing your camping days right its always better to be safe than sorry.




The Arrival of Kerlon

Bo Hilleberg discovered Kerlon in 1975. Hilleberg was initially using normal polyurethane covered fabric for their tents, this was until their factory in Sweden sent them a sample of a new material, they had been working on which was waterproof. Bo liked the idea of a waterproof material and tried to cut it to make samples, to Bo’s surprise he was unable to use his normal method of making a cut and then pulling the fabric apart. He phoned the factory and asked what they had done to make the fabric so strong, they responded saying it’s not stronger than the normal fabric. Bo proceeded to send them some of it and now both Bo and the factory were shocked. They told him that to make it waterproof they had coated it in silicon and had not realised this had made it stronger. This new fabric which Bo gave the name Kerlon had a rip strength of around 9kg whereas current tent fabrics at the time only had on average of 2kg rip strength. From this point Bo knew that this material was the future for tents.

Hilleberg Kerlon fabrics are made by coating both sides of their chosen tent material with silicon in a 3-layer application. They coat it with 100% silicon this allowing for more strength to the tent than typical polyurethane coats used on other tents. Additionally, this procedure is also stronger than some other tents which use “siliconized” coating which use a mixture of silicon and other materials for the process. By using their 100% silicon coating it allows Hilleberg to make savings in other areas such as by using lighter starting materials due to their approach reinforcing the material its applied on significantly more than siliconized coatings. Additionally, the coating itself is lighter than siliconized making even further weight reduction. These lighter starting materials have been used for example for Kerlon 1200, Kerlon 1800 and Kerlon 2500 which are stronger than many “heavy duty” expedition tent materials on the market which are significantly heavier.

Hilleberg says having a high tear strength is like an insurance for your expeditions. It is better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it. Especially since there is no real downside to it as it adds no extra weight to the tent. The main protection tear strength offers is if your tent receives a puncture, no matter how small it is if the winds are high enough it can cause your tent to quite literally rip-apart if the material has low tear strength. A high tear strength can be crucial on long or remote expeditions where you cannot get help or supplies to fix the hole for days as it protects you and your tent till it can be fixed. While you may think it’s unlikely that your tent will suffer a puncture it can happen pretty easily such as when wearing crampons you can accidentally step on the side of the tent or in high winds twigs or other objects can fly into the side of the tent causing a hole.

Hilleberg still demonstrate their tear strength with the brands ‘Tent Handbook’ to demonstrate how innovative and strong the Hilleberg Kerlon fabrics are. Each version of the Tent Handbook comes with a sample of Kerlon 1000 (used in Yellow Label tents), Kerlong 1200 (used in Red Label tents), Kerlon 1800 (used in Black Label tents) and Kerlon 2500 (used in Blue Label tents). We encourage our customers to put all their strength into trying to tear any of the fabric samples and what we find (every time, without fail) is the only swatch our customers can tear is the small sample of traditional tent fabric used by other tent brands on the market.



Since all Hilleberg tents use Kerlon fabric you can pick the tent (and tear strength) that suits your needs most from our range, if you don’t know which one that is yet check out our Hilleberg tent guide. If you have any questions about Kerlon fabric or still can’t choose the tent right for you contact one of our resident camping experts at [email protected] or alternatively phone us on 0131 552 3000.