The Most Influential Gear of All Time: Hilleberg Keb Silicone-Coated Fabric Tent


A new silicone-coated Hilleberg tent

A new silicone-coated Hilleberg tent     Photo: Hilleberg

The industry standard for tent fabrics was, for a long time, polyurethane-coated polyester. In 1975, tent designer and manufacturer Bo Hilleberg received a fabric sample from Belgian textile supplier Cotesa, which was testing out a different coating on standard tent fabric. They asked Hilleberg to try it out and see what he thought. Immediately, Hilleberg noticed that it didn’t tear. Because silicone wraps around, along, and through the fibers of a fabric and bonds so strongly, it adds elasticity to coated fabric, and increases its strength. Greater strength equals greater safety. In tents, the stronger the fabric, the better it is able to handle bad weather and hard use. The new silicone made fabric four times stronger but not any heavier, and it didn’t affect its waterproofness. Hilleberg’s Keb was the first commercial tent with silicone-coated fabrics, and a linked tent and fly that allowed the user to pitch both in one step.

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