Tuesday 23 October 2018

Classic Gear Hilleberg Akto

The Akto on Stob Coire Easain on my walk over the Munros & Tops

Next in the Classic Gear series that appeared in The Great Outdoors last year: a favourite solo tent.

Back in 1996 I was looking for a strong light tent for my walk over the Munros and Tops. Four years earlier I’d used a Hilleberg Nallo 2 on a length of the Scandinavian Mountains walk and been impressed with the quality and performance. For this walk with hills to climb every day I wanted a lighter tent though, but also one that would stand up to the stormiest Scottish weather. I found it in the then new Akto, which had been launched just the year before. On my Munros and Tops walk the Akto surpassed expectations, coping with many big storms, and was still in good condition at the end of the four and a half month trip. That original Akto has also been to the Grand Canyon and the Himalayas, and on several TGO Challenges. 

The Akto on the summit of Ben Nevis on the 2008 TGO Challenge
Before the Akto Hilleberg didn’t make any solo tents – Akto means ‘alone’ in the language of the Sami, the indigenous people of northern Scandinavia – but company founder, owner and tent designer Bo Hilleberg thought there was a demand for one and, as he says, ‘I personally wanted one’! Any such tent had to live up to Hilleberg’s high standards though and be suitable for year round use with a double-skin construction and a roomy vestibule. Bo quickly worked out that to be lighter than the Nallo the tent would have to be a single hoop one. Finding the right design took Bo and his wife Renate quite a time though and they ended up making 17 different prototypes. A hoop running across rather than along the tent was the lightest design but not stable enough. Finally they tried adding two lightweight rods at each end and the now iconic shape was found though it still took much work to get the design just right. That they succeeded is shown by the number of Akto-inspired tents that have appeared from other companies, all with various configurations of rods at each end.

The Akto was and remains a big success. The original design is so good it’s barely changed over the years, with just a stiffened hood added over the flysheet door so the zip can be left undone at the top for ventilation without letting rain in.  The fabric is the same silicone nylon – a standard fabric for lightweight tents now but revolutionary back then, and there are still protected vents at each end. It’s always been easy and quick to pitch as a unit, keeping the inner dry in rain, and the vestibule is bigger than in most similar tents, big enough for a pack and wet gear and for cooking under cover. The weight hasn’t changed much either – 1.6kg in 1995, 1.3kg minimum weight and 1.7kg packed weight today. 

The Akto in the NW Highlands

That weight was low for a solo tent in 1995, that’s one of the main reasons I chose it for the Munros and Tops walk. In recent years lighter tents from other companies based on the Akto design have appeared. They may not be as strong or as durable but they do save weight. A few years ago Hilleberg itself joined in and launched the three-season Enan, made from lighter fabrics and with a single rod at each end, weighing 1.1kg.

The Akto doesn’t look dated today, twenty-two years after its launch. It’s a classic design and one I expect will be around for many more years.


  1. I've enjoyed hundreds of nights in an Akto. It's always been dependable. I now use the Hilleberg Enan, which I have to say, has survived some pretty severe battering in storms, and really, seems up to the job as much as the Akto. I've used other tents such as the TN Competition, but they have let me down. The Enan laughs in the face of a Lakeland/Pyrenean storm! However, I've got a Mountain Laurel Designs Duomid 700g winging it's way to me, and am considering a Hilleberg Soulo 2.4kg for overseas winter trips. Thanks Chris for your past reviews and recommendations of the Akto. Like I said, many nights enjoyed in one!

  2. The Akto is a super-dependable shelter. Mine has been tested in -25 C winter and some severe winds, and also given me a nice place away from insects in the Scandinavian summer.

  3. Can anybody tell me what year they updated the storm flap over the main door zip to a vinyl/polymer one. I just bought a 2nd hand Akto and was curious how old it was. The zip storm cover on mine is more of a fabric heavier denier than the pole sleeve, more like the material that you see hilleberg footprints made of?