Gear Review: Macpac Olympus Alpine Tent

Our 5-Million Star Hotel on the Salkantay Trek, Peru (Photo by Adam McKenney)

When the time came for me to purchase my own alpine tent, I knew exactly what I wanted – a Hilleberg Nammatj 2. Having spent an inordinate amount of time ensconced in these tents during Patagonian tempests, I knew they were nothing short of fabric bombshelters.

But there are several reasons why I didn’t end up owning a Hilleberg. In practical considerations, the price was prohibitive, further compounded by the difficulties of shipping to Australia and various taxes. And on a more idealistic front, I prefer to buy local brands whenever possible, therefore seeking a product sold by antipodean outfitters instead.

Enter the Macpac Olympus – a veritable alpine bastion made by our cousins over the ditch. Whilst the Olympus has a few strange quirks, I have found it to be a very acceptable alternative to the Nammatj, and at a fraction of the price.

Design
The similarity in design of between the Olympus and the Nammatj was the feature which originally put the Macpac tent on my radar. The simple three-pole tunnel construction is my preferred make – less complicated and heavy than the hardcore geodesic models, and generally more versatile for pitching.

The twin entry is also a really nice bonus, meaning that you can sneak in the backdoor while your partner cooks cheesy pasta in the front vestibule. I found that a little extra length on the rear door would have been nice to cover my boots a little better, and a little extra height on the front vestibule would make lighting the MSR a safer proposition, but I suppose these would come at the cost of extra weight.

There are a bunch of nifty features on the Olympus which I really love, simple but effective additions that make outdoor life just a little easier. One of these is the reflective material on the logo and guy lines. These make the tent highly visible when returning to basecamp in the dark after a long summit day. My other favourite feature is the massive internal pockets which have the carrying capacity of black holes, nothing like the pissy 10cm2 versions to be found in most tents.

There are a couple of minor improvements I would suggest for the tent. The first is that the snow flaps start and end at the front vestibule. Although this hasn’t been a drama for me as yet, I can certainly see the need for larger flaps in some situations. The second is that I would like to see an additional rivet inserted into the pole housing so that the option of double-poling might be a possibility. Again, I haven’t had to worry about this during my use of the Olympus, but I certainly never made camp on the Northern Patagonian Ice Field without double poles. These options would carry additional weight also, of course.

Strength and Durability
When it comes to reliability against alpine climates, the Olympus doesn’t disappoint. Point this baby into the wind and it will withstand almost anything the atmosphere can throw at it. Like any tunnel design, it moves about if struck side-on. If you get hit from the side by high winds, you are either unlucky because the terrain dictates this necessity, or you are a goose who should relocate or build a windwall.

I’ve (ab)used the Olympus for about 3 years in Australia, New Zealand, USA, Bolivia and Peru, and so far, it has shown very few signs of wear and tear. Zips still work, there are no tears in the fabric, the poles are still in good working order. The only thing that has come loose from time to time is the wire frame for the ventilation ports, which can be popped back in without too much fuss.

To get a truly bomb-proof camp on snow or ice, you’ll need some alternate anchors. We made some snow chutes at home for this purpose and have also used ice screws, snow stakes, rocks and trees to anchor the tent. The provided stakes perform well enough in normal terrain e.g. soil.

Size and Weight
As far as serious alpine tents go, the size and weight of the Olympus is about standard. Fully packed, it weighs in at 3.2kg, which is 200g more than the Nammatj and equal in weight to the Jannu. Neither of these Hilleberg tents feature the convenient two-door system, which I think is worthy of consideration when comparing the equivalency of weight. It’s also roughly the same as similar models by MSR and The North Face. Nothing to see here, folks.

Price
Ok, here we go. If you order a Nammatj 2 direct from Hilleberg, it will set you back $1090 AUD. Shipping will cost you an extra $115, and because you’re importing a single item of more than $1000 value, the Australian government will take a cut as well. You’ll pay an extra $180 for import duties and GST. That means your total is $1385 AUD.

Officially, the Olympus, retails at $1099. But if you sign up to the Macpac Club, which is free, you can pick it up for $769. That’s a cheeky saving of $616, which is about 2 ropes or 5 cams or 100 slabs of beer.

Summary
With excellent design and high strength-to-weight ratio, the Olympus presents great value for money. Undoubtedly, you’ll be able to find modest improvements over this model if you shop internationally, but in the Australian/New Zealand market, this tent is pretty hard to beat.

More information and specifications can be found here at the Macpac Website. This is an independent review and I earn approximately 0% or less in commissions.

Ryan Siacci, Esq.
October 2018

Thoughts? Opinions? Cries of dissent?