Helsport’s distinctive red-and-yellow four season tents have long been regarded as some of the most reliable in their market segment. The X-trem products are designed to withstand cold, wind and snow while keeping you comfortable inside. Spitsbergen is one of the flagship models in the range and has been used in the harshest conditions on the planet such as on the Greenland ice cap, the north pole and the south pole. We took the Spitsbergen X-Trem four-person with us for our winter crossing of Norway.
Packed dimensions: 25 x 50 cm
Weight: 6,37 kg (tent, poles, pegs)
Pole length: 4×330 cm
Includes reparation kit (weight: 0,15 kg)
Luggage storage room: 2
2. Construction and Weather Resistance
Spitsbergen is the largest tunnel tent in Helsport’s X-Trem assortment. It comes in a three and four person version. When camping in winter it is essential to always take a tent that has room for one more person than the amount of people who will actually sleep in it. If you are two, you take a three man tent. This is because winter gear is much bigger and bulkier than summer equipment and it will take more space. Plus, you don’t want to be elbowing each other all the time when trying to move around in the tent. It is not impossible to be stuck in there for a long period of time and to make sure everyone is still friends afterwards it’s quite nice to have some personal space. As we were planning on going on a long trip and were traveling with a large dog we opted for the four person version and were very happy with that choice.
Like all other Helsport tents it is designed so that it is set up from the outside first to keep the inner tent sheltered from the worst of weather. The inner tent can remain attached to make the process even quicker, or it can be removed for quicker drying. The poles run through slots in the outer sail so the entire system is raised at once. All the poles have the same length so you don’t need to think about which one goes where. We always put two plugs in the snow, fixed the poles, then stretched out the tunnel and secured it on the opposite side. Even with only four plugs in the tent is already raised and secured, so it’s only a matter of fixing the guy lines and storm flaps to get it entirely . Like this, the tent is up in no time and it can be raised by a single person. It’s really essential to have a tent that is quick to set up during winter time, as it might be necessary to get out of a storm or shelter a freezing companion. We experienced this when PJ became mildly hypothermic and needed to get into his sleeping bag fast.
The tent comes with integrated storm flaps to create extra stability. Storm flaps allow the tent to be anchored further by putting snow or rocks on them. With Spitsbergen the storm flaps go all the way around the tent so it can be anchored solidly. We found that when we put some effort in properly putting snow on the flaps we also blocked out the wind, making it nice and warm inside. For anchoring we used Helsport’s snow plugs (30cm) in combination with the storm flaps and works very well. Many people use a dead man construction in winter time, attaching a rope to the pegs and then digging them in horizontally to get the tent secured, which can be time-consuming and cumbersome in my opinion. Thanks to the integrated storm flaps I did not find this necessary.
Spitsbergen has an aerodynamic tunnel construction, designed specifically to resist extreme winds. This tent can hold up when the weather gets really rough, something that is not unthinkable in the Norwegian mountains. We slept in it with winds up to 15m/s, a small gale, and it barely moved. It is so robust and stable thanks to the integrated storm flaps mentioned above, but also the setup of the guy lines. The point where each guy line connects to the tent is reinforced and critical guy lines have two connection points rather than one, spreading the stress put on the sail. The lines on the short, or the windward side, of the tent are connected to a center point and then reach out to each side, enabling that it’s both easy to stretch out the sail and to keep it secure in strong winds. It is possible to use a double set of poles to reinforce the tent further.
Tunnels usually ventilate better than dome tents as they have better air flow running through them. Helsport has its own ventilation system, Helsport AirFlow II®, which increases the circulation in the tent for more fresh air and less condensation. Condensation can be a problem when camping in winter and ice forming on the inside of the tent can lead to wet sleeping bags and wet gear. Ventilation openings are found on either short side of the tent and they are essential to open in the night, as well as keeping an air flow through both entrances of the inner tent. When ventilation is ensured (which can feel counterintuitive, especially on really cold nights) we found that there was very little condensation inside the tent, only some positioned by our heads where hot air from our breath had directly come in contact with the tent. Only one night, when temperature dropped below -40ºC, we had a lot of condensation inside, but at these temperatures it is quite normal for this to happen. That night we also had one extra person in the tent which adds more moist air.
The tent has two entrances and two luggage rooms, so one can be used for storage and one for cooking, or each could use a different space to have some more privacy. The sideways entry leads to the biggest space and this is where we kept most of our luggage and also cooked. We mostly used the second entry, which is on the opposite side, to go to the toilet without having to crawl over the dog. Because the entrances are on opposite sides one will always be on the leeward side, out of the wind. The inner tent has two 360º zippers with integrated mosquito nets to fully open it. My personal favorite feature in the design of this tent is that the inner tent has the same height over its entire length. This increases the space to sit and move in the tent dramatically and hugely improves the comfort of it.
3. Weight and Durability
At over 6 kg this is not a tent I would carry up and down the mountains and in my view it is destined to be used in combination with a pulk. Of course, there are weight limits to a pulk as well, but because this tent is so comfortable and reliable I would not exchange it for another model to save a mere 1-2 kg on the sled. In part it is so heavy is due to the stormflaps going all around the tent, but I found this to have such a big advantage that in my opinion it offsets the extra weight the flaps add.
We’ve been using Helsport tents for a long time and we’ve dragged them through a lot of dirt, grit and harsh weather. They all seem indestructible, with the Spitsbergen being no exception to that rule. After a month of use in this harsh spring it barely looks like it’s been out at all. Helsport tents don’t come cheap, but knowing that it’s really hard to break them while you are out and that they can live 20 years and longer with proper care I consider them a one-time investment and an insurance that I won’t be caught out no matter what will happen to me in the mountains.
4. Pulk Bag
We attached the tent to the pulk via a pulk bag. Being able to use this bag is surely an advantage to traveling with a pulk, as it saves a lot of time and hassle fiddling with tent poles and storage bags in cold conditions. In wintertime it is much easier to keep the poles attached to the tent and only disconnect one segment to fold them double. Then, after all poles are folded the entire tent can simply be rolled up. The pulk bag enables that it’s possible to travel with the tent like this without having to worry about it ripping on a branch while skiing through the woods. Like this there are fewer small and loose items to take of, so it’s easier to set up the tent in windy conditions. It also enables you to set it up and take it down fast, which as I explained above can be essential in bad weather.
Width: 55cm ( 110cm around)
The Spitsbergen X-trem is a reliable, durable and comfortable tent to use on a winter trip. The aerodynamic construction, integrated storm flaps and reinforced guy lines make that it can withstand nasty weather, while a construction with constant height in the inner tent creates a comfortable living space. With two entrances and two luggage rooms it has a lot of storage and cooking space. I have absolutely loved this tent and I will keep using it in winters to come.