Mom Chronicles: Hints from the road

One Tough Family Tent: The Hilleberg Nallo 4 GT Tent Proves Awesome Enough for Bicycle Touring as a Family

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Parents Reuben and Heidi took an epic, impressive, and frankly badass adventure pedaling their bikes throughout North and Central America for over a year with their 4-year-old daughter and 2-year-old son. They ultimately threw down over 20,000 kilometers (12,400 miles), pedaling from their home in Hamilton, Ontario all the way to Panama City, Panama and all under the power of their own legs. Towing two kids. The family embarked on May 21, 2011 and rolled back up their driveway after 378 days on June 1, 2012 to a collection of friends and family cheering their safe return. For much of the trip, they lived in a tent. The prospect of living in a tent for anything longer than a week certainly raises a few questions. So in this article Heidi shows us the 46-square-foot, 7-lbs-3-oz piece of nylon that sheltered this family of four on a year-long bike adventure: the Hilleberg Nallo 4 GT tent. Reuben and Heidi are also better known as
— Mark Stephens,


"Home is whenever I’m with you."

This song lyric by Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros carries a great sentiment for a family traveling together — there doesn’t need to be a permanent structure where a family convenes every day in order to feel that sense of home. And while this is true, and fits well with our experience out here cycle touring together for the last nine months, there is still something abstract — some feeling, some sense of letting everything hang out when you enter a familiar place with all too familiar people, that you can really call home.

What I didn’t realize before we left on our journey is that a little portable fabric shelter, weighing in at less than 8lbs, could become that space of comfort. I didn’t think I’d climb into my sleeping bag snuggled between my children and my husband, and feel that intangible comfort of home while basking in the warm yellow glow of light passing through the cocoon around me. And yet I do. Our Hilleberg the Tentmaker Nallo 4 GT is the best portable home I’ve ever had the pleasure of finding rest in.

We’ve been told by other Hilleberg fans that “Once you go Hilleberg, you never go back” and I’m already believing that to be true. Picking a tent for an expedition is a daunting task requiring one to weigh the pros and cons of multiple factors including the durability, size, weight and function of all possible shelters. The family-owned and operated Hilleberg emphasizes quality and function in the design of their tents. Our Nallo 4 GT is incredibly easy and fast to set up – a feat that can be achieved in the rain with the interior remaining dry because the rainfly and interior of the tent are integrated. It is a one-person set up job that takes all of a few minutes.

I didn’t think I’d climb into my sleeping bag snuggled between my children and my husband, and feel that intangible comfort of home . . . And yet I do.One of the great things about this robust and sturdy four person tunnel-style shelter is that it offers multiple setup options and can be opened up for maximum ventilation (when hot) or battened down when the weather requires it (like when we encountered 50-mile-an-hour winds in a mid-summer Nebraska thunderstorm – or temps below freezing in the Pacific Northwest). The fabulous vestibule is as large as the sleeping area and can stow all of our gear easily (sans-bikes), out of sight, and protected from the elements.

Switching between setup options is quick and easy — allowing us to change things up based on our immediate needs. For example, in rainy or dusty conditions, we use the front door on the far side of the vestibule to keep the moisture and dirt out of the main area of the tent, or to allow ourselves to get dry before entering the sleeping quarters. This opening also allows us to cook in the vestibule with the stove in the opening no matter the weather. There is a second and larger door on the side of the tent that is more convenient in fair weather or for quick access to the interior without crawling through the vestibule.

The sleeping area fits our family of four comfortably. Four-year-old Eden may complain that she’s getting taller and can’t stand up in some areas of the tent, but since the primary purpose of this area is sleeping, we’re not complaining!

Our Nallo has been set up over 150 times and seen wind, rain, heat and cold. We have had zero issues with moisture penetration or leaking. Condensation does occur on the interior of the fly, but has never entered the sleeping area.

Our only complaint, and it is small, is a wish that there was some way to set the tent up without the outside fly on. In hot conditions, despite the excellent ventilation options, there is just no beating the airy feeling of a tent without a fly. When chances of rain are small it would be amazing to sleep outside without the fly on and would be a further step to increase ventilation which we would find extremely useful – especially in the hot Mexican nights we have been experiencing lately. Hilleberg does offer an alternate tent interior with walls made completely of bug-netting. Surely this option would provide additional ventilation and is an upgrade we are looking into for future warm-weather camping.

Our daily routine has Reuben setting the tent up while I busy with supper or another task. When I glance over to see the tent resurrected for yet another night outdoors, I really do feel at home – no matter what country we are in or what landscape surrounds us. The thought of snuggling up beside the people I love most inside our little portable house delivers that intangible feeling of home. And thus I am able to sleep peacefully.

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Follow Heidi and Reuben through their blog, Pedal Powered Family.

Disclosure: The Nallo 4 GT was provided to Pedal Powered Family by Hilleberg at the outset of their journey.

Setup for maximum ventilation - the front 'porch' still shelters the door and gear.

Side door allows easy access to the interior in favourable weather

To pitch the tent, insert poles, throw two stakes in the rear and pull the fly forward. Two more stakes completes the basic, fairweather setup.

Using the front door provides more protection from the elements

Front vent set high for maximum ventilation

Check out this wicked-cool route the family made:


Ara and Spirit
+4 / 0
# Ara and Spirit 2012-03-18 11:53
I there!!! A Friend send me this entry of yours as we also use the Hilleberg tent! My Dog and I have been on the road for almost 6 years now and reading your entry I feel a bit "selfish"!!! Just the 2 of us we use the Keron 3GT! Best tent around... the only one I don't mind setting up and taking down for one night! A palace... I make it a game on the set up and take down. Anyhow, we are in Big Bend, Texas. Way too south to meet... Maybe some day!
You all be well... Always.
Ara and Spirit
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