How To Set Up a Flat Tarp: The A-Frame

In this video, CEO Mike St. Pierre illustrates the A-Frame setup for Hyperlite Mountain Gear’s 8.5′ X 8.5′ Square Flat Tarp. This is the first in our series, “How To Set Up a Flat Tarp.”

Step 1: Start with the ridgeline tie outs of your Square Flat Tarp. Place your trekking pole with the back of the rubber handle down on the ground. Utilizing your guyline, attach the tarp to the pointy end of your trekking poles. Use a clove hitch knot.

Step 2: Stake out the ridgeline; use a trucker’s hitch knot to attach the guyline to the stakes, roots or rocks.

Step 3: Tighten the ridgeline guylines so the tarp stands on its own.

Step 4: Stake out all the corners. Start with the four corners and adjust until taut.

Buy a Flat Tarp now!

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Motivated By The Unknown: A Chat With Adventurer Mike Curiak

Mike Curiak in Alaska.

“Experience is largely undervalued relative to ability. As my ability fades or gets rustier, I’m happy to be traveling with experienced people!” –Mike Curiak

Ambassador Mike Curiak is an avid multi-sport adventurer. He just embarked on a packraft adventure with Roman Dial and Brad Meiklejohn, which you can read about here

“Almost everything cool I did was in some past life,” says itinerant adventurer Mike Curiak. While it may be true Curiak no longer competes (and regularly wins) super crazy 100-, 200- and even 350-mile bike races, as he did in the 90s, he is no slacker. In fact, he just returned from thru hiking and packrafting a completely remote river basin in Alaska with expert packrafters Roman Dial and Brad Meiklejohn. Read Dial’s report of the trip.

“The satellite imagery of this place was so pixelated that we couldn’t really see much,” he says of the info he found while researching the area. “On a topo I could see there were mountains and a river that we planned to float out on; but all maps were useless.” Curiak and the team knew roughly what the elevation was going to be, where they’d hit the river, and where it finished at sea level, and so they were able to gauge the gradient; the river dropped substantially. They also knew the river was glacier fed, and that when temps warmed up in the afternoon it would likely be raging. But would it be raging like the Grand Canyon or something else?

“When you come up against this sort of big blank spot, it tests you as a person and as a traveler to improvise,” he says. “Where I go it’s not about what you bring, but about what your experience is and how you deal with what you come across.” Read the rest of the article.

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Lightweight Backpacking for Teenagers

Tassie Adventure Club for teens.

Tassie Adventure Club for teens.

By Mark Oats

As an Outdoor Education teacher at a school in Australia I often get asked by parents as to what is the best pack to buy for their teenage son or daughter. My response is typically exactly the opposite of what they want to hear.

There are those who want me to name a particular brand and exact model (usually the one with the most bells and whistles on it that looks really fancy and goes by a cool name of an impressive Himalayan mountain); and then there are those who want me to reassure them that buying a cheap pack is totally okay and justifiable. Instead I explain what not to buy, and I often discourage parents from buying anything–that is until they can be sure that they are spending their money wisely and that it is a pack that is going to be of significant benefit to their teenager.

Simple Is Best

Lightweight backpacking for teenagers isn’t about buying bells and whistles; it’s about keeping it simple. The more compartments, pockets, zips, straps and accessories the item has, the less I endorse it. All these “extras” complicate packing and waterproofing of gear and add up to more things that can go wrong and obviously also add up to unnecessary additional weight. Likewise, only carrying the essentials makes life on the track much less complicated. Teens love living simply. Sometimes they do need to be reminded of this and it takes a little time, but ultimately it is less stressful for them and reminds them of the truly important things in life.

Go Light, But Go Durable 

My primary goal when teaching youth and leading them on two-week expeditions is to have them develop a passion for the natural world. The easiest way to put teenagers off enjoying the outdoors is to strap ridiculously heavy packs on their back and march them off into the distance. I have certainly made this mistake during my career, but it is something I try really hard to avoid these days. Having a very specific equipment list can really help here as it helps avoid the situation of well-intentioned parents and nervous students throwing all the superfluous “just in case” items in that are actually not necessary. Read the rest of the article here.

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How To Prep for a Packraft Day Trip

The Stripped Down “Learn To Packraft” Series

Packrafting Sweden. Photos courtesy of HikeVentures.com.

Packrafting Sweden. Photos courtesy of HikeVentures.com.

By Roman Dial

Packrafting. First off, what the heck is it?

It’s when you use a small, lightweight inflatable boat to cross and float rivers, streams or lakes, and even run rapids or cross saltwater bays and fjords.

Packrafts are tough and can do whatever bigger boats will do, but they also need to be easy to carry while you walk, run, bike, hike, ski or even fly.

Packrafts encourage amphibious travel, and they are used on some of the biggest multi-sport adventures in the world. Check out the American Packrafting Association’s website for more detailed information. Learn how to get started, gear you should carry and more.

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Packrafter Documents Toxic Sludge Released in Animas River

When the Animas River turned neon orange a few days ago, Steve “Doom” Fassbinder was there, camera in hand.

Nathan Shoutis paddling the Animas River after the EPA accidentally released 3 million+ pounds of toxic sludge when they punctured a dam at a mine near Silverton.

Nathan Shoutis paddling the Animas River after the EPA accidentally released 3 million+ gallons of toxic sludge when they punctured a dam at a mine near Silverton. Photo by Steve Fassbinder.

When Steve Fassbinder started packrafting a half dozen years ago, he learned the ropes, rapids and paddle techniques on the Animas River in Colorado. “It’s the lifeblood of Durango, and it’s where I fell in love with boating,” says the Hyperlite Mountain Gear Ambassador. It’s also where more than three million gallons of bright orange, toxic sludge recently discolored the river for days.

Fassbinder was at work at Alpacka Rafts on August 11th when he heard the bad news; the Environmental Protection Agency had accidentally punctured a dam at a mine near Silverton, flushing the river with water laced with lead, arsenic and other chemicals. “When I first heard about it I thought, ‘this has got to be a mistake… maybe it won’t be that bad,’” Fassbinder says. “But I did some research and realized it was probably going to be worse than what they were projecting. Any type of disaster like that is.”

So Fassbinder took action. He immediately called up a packrafting buddy, Nathan Shoutis, and the two athletes decided to document the damage. “We didn’t get to town that night in time to take photos, but the next morning the sludge was still there,” Fassbinder says. “It was there for several days afterwards, slowly diluting as it went through town.” And Fassbinder and Shoutis got photos of it. In fact, they bought a Tyvek painter’s suit, a painter’s mask and chemical safety goggles that Shoutis wore on the river. Read the rest of the interview here.

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It’s a Beast: Hyperlite Mountain Gear To Launch Dyneema® Duffel Bag

AUGUST 14 ONLY: DYNEEMA® SERIES ON SALE 15% OFF.

Hyperlite Mountain Gear launches its first Dyneema® Duffel bag after years of testing.

Hyperlite Mountain Gear launches its first Dyneema® Duffel bag after years of testing. Photo by Seth Timpano.

As with all things Hyperlite Mountain Gear, the Duffel Bag was born of necessity. “I wanted something to carry my gear around for big trips, trade shows and events,” says CEO Mike St. Pierre. “But I didn’t want to carry the standard, heavy, overbuilt Hypalon or polyurethane bag. So I found the lightest, most durable material on the market and built my own duffel.”

Hyperlite Mountain Gear’s new 140-liter duffel is made out of a woven Dyneema®/non-woven Cuben Fiber. The bag is the lightest on the market for its size, weighing just 2 lbs, 9.8 oz (including the .31-lb shoulder strap).  Read the rest of the article here.

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Pile It On – Packrafting a First Descent in Lake Clark National Park, Alaska

On day 1, they lashed their three Alpacka Rafts together and rigged their UltaMid 4 as a sail. Up-valley winds pushed them along for the first five miles of Kontrashibuna Lake. “We knew we were flying along when water gurgled between the boats, and we giggled,” Dial says with a laugh. But the gurgling and the giggling stopped when the wind changed direction in the evening.

On day 1, the team lashed their three Alpacka Rafts together and rigged their UltaMid 4 as a sail. Up-valley winds pushed them along for the first five miles of Kontrashibuna Lake.

Text by Roman Dial, Photos by Mike Curiak

Midway through a six-mile, ten-hour day, Brad Meiklejohn asked his packrafting partner, Roman Dial, “What are you going to tell people about this route?”

“The brush…” he responded. The hellish brush…

Hyperlite Mountain Gear Ambassadors and expert multi-sport adventurers Meiklejohn, Roman Dial and Mike Curiak had embarked on a two-week packrafting/thru hiking (aka bushwhacking) adventure in Alaska’s Lake Clark National Park. The team had just climbed off a 15-mile paddle and sail in packrafts across Lake Kontrashibuna, where they contended with miles and miles of some gnarly bushwhacking—really gnarly bushwhacking—in order to do the first descent of The Pile River (aka the “Pile it On” packrafting adventure).

“We had to wrestle with and wiggle through brush at the pathetic rate of four hours to the mile,” Dial says. “That’s serious class IV brush, requiring full body weight to fight through and threatening to break an arm or a leg should you topple. In ten hours we made 5.5 miles.”

Read the rest of the article & highlights of the trip in Roman Dial’s own words.

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Ashley Hill on Thru Hiking the Pacific Northwest Trail

Ashley Hill on the Pacific Northwest Trail with her Southwest Pack.

Ashley Hill on the Pacific Northwest Trail with her Southwest Pack.

Meet Ashley Hill, a Hyperlite Mountain Gear Trail Ambassador. Born and raised in San Jose, Calif., she has traveled around the world, worked for both the United Nations and Amnesty International and earned BA in Peace and Conflict studies. At a young age, she decided to go abroad, and so bought a one-way ticket to South America, where she visited Colombia, lived with a shaman in the Amazon and traveled the Caribbean Coast. But, in 2012, her life changed when she learned her mother’s cancer diagnosis had taken a turn for the worse. She packed up and went home. But the wanderlust returned after her mother passed away, and despite having very little outdoor experience, she decided to do a thru hike. Hill figured walking in the wilderness would help her both grieve and grow. So she set out to hike the Pacific Crest Trail Southbound from Canada to Mexico on July 12, 2014. “It was the best decision of my life,” Hill says. “After hitting the Mexican border, I knew I would be a hiker for the rest of my life.” Hill is currently hiking the Pacific Northwest Trail. She recently answered a few questions for us on a zero day. Read our Q&A with Ashley Hill!

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Woven Dyneema®: Bombproof, Foolproof, H20Proof Fabric for Outdoor Gear

AUGUST 14 ONLY: DYNEEMA® SERIES ON SALE 15% OFF.

Ambassador Angela Wiemeersch.

Our woven Dyneema® / non-woven Cuben Fiber laminate weighs just 2.61 lbs. including the shoulder strap. Ambassador Angela Van Wiemeersch.

When elite ice/alpine climber Angela Van Wiemeersch got her first 100% woven Dyneema®-reinforced Hyperlite Mountain Gear Ice Pack, she didn’t know what to expect. “The friend who gave it to me insisted that I take this pack for my expedition to Alaska,” she says. “I took the challenge, and that three-year-old pack that had already been across the world exceeded my expectations.” Not only did she put up the new route, “Thicker For Thieves,” on Alaska’s Mount Hayes, but she also “dragged it up walls” from Red Rocks to Zion National Park, followed by a season of climbing hard ice. Now one of the company’s ambassadors, she brings a Dyneema® pack on all adventures.

“Dyneema® is practically indestructible,” explains Hyperlite Mountain Gear CEO Mike St. Pierre. “While our existing line of ultralight Cuben Fiber packs are ideal for very active users, the Dyneema® line will better serve the most hardcore athletes who are toughest on their gear.” Dyneema® fibers are among the strongest in the world, and they are the fibers from which Cuben Fiber is made. It’s the foundational technology for all Hyperlite Mountain Gear products. But what exactly is Dyneema®? Learn more about Dyneema®!

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Mid-Life Is Wonderful

Photo by  Bayard Russell, a mid in Alaska.

Photo by Bayard Russell, a mid in Alaska.

Chief Washakie and family, 1870 photo by Henry Jackson

Chief Washakie and family, 1870
photo by Henry Jackson

Thanks to our long-time Ambassador and multi-sport adventurer Forrest McCarthy for letting us reprint this excellent historical overview and review of the pyramid tent, aka the “mid tent,” aka the Hyperlite Mountain Gear “UltaMid.” Read our recent interview with Forrest, or check out his blog report on Tasmania’s Overland Track.

History of the Pyramid “Mid” Tent

The basic design of a tipi or mid-style tent has been around for millennia. For good reason: they are easy to set up, remarkably durable, and use space efficiently.

For centuries nomadic people around the world have used the tipi or pyramid style shelters.  Their widespread use by North American Indians, especially on the Great Plains, is well known. Their use (even today) by nomads in Central Asia is lesser known.

For more than a century a variation of this basic tipi design has been used for polar expeditions especially in Antarctica. Known as the Polar Pyramid or “Scott Tent” these tents have proven incredibly sturdy structures designed to withstand winds in excess of 120 miles per hour. Like the traditional tipi, the Polar Pyramid has multiple poles along the walls. Unlike the cylindrical Indian tipi, the Polar Pyramid has a square foot print that requires only four poles—one for each corner.

Read the rest of the article here!

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Stripped Down: Gear Check for Thru Hiking/Backpacking

Mike St. Pierre’s Summer Gear List

HMG's UltaMid pyramid shelter at camp in the Weminuche Wilderness in Southwest Colorado.

Hyperlite Mountain Gear’s UltaMid pyramid tent at camp in the Weminuche Wilderness in Southwest Colorado.

Photos & text by Mike St. Pierre

Going lightweight (or ultralight) is not just a goal for my backcountry travel; it’s how I live my life. I believe embracing lightweight translates to going further, faster and suffering less in general. Less gear equals more adventure. In terms of outdoor escapades, the first thing I did to lighten my load was address the “Three Heavies”: my pack, shelter and sleeping systems. This article outlines what I take with me on the trail during the warmer months. Plus, I offer some recommendations for stoves, clothes, filters, shoes and more.

Read Mike St. Pierre’s list here.

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Gone Light, Part IV: Bring Your Brain & Other Thru-Hiking Tips

Annie MacWilliams on the Pacific Crest Trail.

Annie MacWilliams on the Pacific Crest Trail.

Stripped Down With Guest Blogger Annie MacWilliams. This is the last in Annie’s blog series of thru-hiking tips & tricks for women.

Bring Your Brain: Really, most backpacking and thru hiking gear is gender neutral–tents, sleeping pads, cook gear, etc. But with each other these items, it’s important that you choose the right gear for you. Your brain is the best piece of gear you can bring, so know everything about your gear before you head out. Learn how to pitch your tent in different ways, in the worst conditions you can practice in. Anyone can pitch a tent in their grassy lawn on a sunny day, but a rocky hillside in sideways freezing rain? I failed that test on the Pacific Crest Trail and ended up getting a new tent shipped to me while on the trail. I needed my gear to work in the worst conditions, and user failure resulted in a very cold and wet night. Can you patch a leaky air mattress? Fix a zipper? Tweak a broken stove? If not, learn how. Read the rest of Annie’s final post!

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Chris Brinlee’s “Brutal” Adventure on The Sierra High Route

Chris Brinlee Jr on the "brutal" Sierra High Route

Chris Brinlee Jr on the “brutal” Sierra High Route

Writer, photographer and adventurer Chris Brinlee recently returned from hiking/climbing the Sierra High Route with Gilberto Gil and Olivia Aguilar. The team used our packs, the Echo II Shelter System and the UltaMid, plus a bunch of stuff sacks. The route, Brinlee says, stretches 200 miles through the Sierra Nevada, and most of it is off-trail. It took them two weeks, and they had to navigate dangerous, unmarked terrain. Of the trip, Brinless says: “Brutal. That’s how I’d describe my experience on the Sierra High Route. Each day was a constant physical and mental barrage. We’d fight as hard as we could to stay on track — but often lagged one pass behind schedule each night; only to make up the time, distance, and elevation early the next morning.” Read his article and check out his stunning photos on Indefinitely Wild.

Gilberto Gil standing in front of his Echo II Shelter System, photo by Chris Brinlee

Gilberto Gil standing in front of his Echo II Shelter System, photo by Chris Brinlee

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Ultralight Backcountry Breakfasts

Mike St. Pierre cooking breakfast in the White Mountains.

Mike St. Pierre cooking breakfast in the White Mountains.

By Max Neale

Starting the day off right is crucial for extended ultralight backpacking, thru hiking or mountaineering adventures. Waking up, your body is deprived of protein and carbohydrates and needs nourishment for the day ahead. Two of my favorite ultralight backcountry breakfasts are hot chocolate oatmeal (ideal for cold weather and slower starts) and energy bars (for hitting the trail quickly). Read the rest of the article here!

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Gone Light, Part III: Safety, Hygiene & Women Hiking Solo

Annie MacWilliams high in the Sierras.

Annie MacWilliams high in the Sierras.

This is the third of four posts from our Stripped Down series, authored by Guest Blogger & Triple Crowner Annie MacWilliams. 

When you break it all down, there are some gear swaps you can make to lighten your load and some skills you can hone in on to better adjust to long-distance treks. But becoming a good thru hiker really comes down to your mental strength. I personally feel females make stronger long-distance hikers due to the ability of a woman’s body to delegate limited resources (think pregnancy). Plus, females tend to have a lower bar for the acceptable level of risk, and we have a higher bar for hygiene.

Read Annie’s latest Stripped Down post!

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Raising the Stakes: How to not lose your tent stakes

An aluminum stake from the Hyperlite Mountain Gear Ultralight Stake Kits.

An aluminum stake from the Hyperlite Mountain Gear Ultralight Stake Kits.

Having trouble keeping track of your super ultralightweight stakes in the wilderness? They’re easy to lose. Here are some tips & tricks to keep track of your stakes.

By Steve Graepel

Last summer I spent a chunk of time grinding my way from southern Idaho northbound to Canada. The rhythm of traveling through across varied ecosystems–rivers, deserts, mountains–was cathartic. It was also exhausting! We were going so light, that forgetting even the smallest item could yield punishment 10-fold. Simple tasks became burdensome and we chewed precious time double, triple checking our preflight list.

To cut weight, we chose to bring titanium shepherd hook stakes–nearly 1/2 the weight (and much stronger) than their aluminum counterparts. But we lost one breaking camp after the first night, leaving us to improvise every night thereafter. I’ve since found several options that help me keep track of my stakes. Read the rest of the article here!

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Gone Light, Part II: Sleeping Bags & Clothes

Annie Mac thumbs up

Annie Mac thumbs up

This is the second of four posts from our Stripped Down series, authored by Guest Blogger & Triple Crowner Annie MacWilliams. This series targets female thru hikers and backpackers, but most of the info applies equally well to aspiring male hikers. 

As I mentioned in my first post, female solo hikers carry the same things, such as clothes and sleeping bags for backpacking, as their male counterparts. You need shelter, a pack, a cooking kit and stuff to keep you warm and dry. So this series of articles is useful for either gender getting after it in the woods. However, there are some things I recommend to aspiring female thru hikers. After all, women are smaller, they often sleep colder and they can wear dresses in the woods. Read the rest of the article here!

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Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite: the best ultralight sleeping pad

Photo by Glenn Charles.

Photo by Glenn Charles.

Editor’s note: We originally published this in 2013, but this timeless sleeping pad is still our favorite! 

By Max Neale

Looking to lighten your load? Check out Therm-a-Rest’s brand new NeoAir XLite sleeping pad. Weighing 12 ounces in regular size, the XLite is 15% lighter and 28% warmer than the original NeoAir. It’s better than all other ultralight inflatable pads, the Klymit Inertia X Frame and Nemo Zor in particular, because it’s warmer, more comfortable, and more versatile. Check out a review of the XLite on Outdoor Gear Lab here. Read the rest of the review here!

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The Best GPS Device (You Already Own It!)

Max Neale GPS use

Aerial imagery is useful for avoiding cliffs and pour-overs in canyon country. Smartphones’ gigantic storage capacity allows you to download imagery and their large screens display imagery much better than traditional GPS units.

Photos & text by Max Neale

Three years ago I was sitting in a white plastic lawn chair in a small, budget-but-delicious Thai restaurant in Berkeley, Calif. A gaggle of young gearheads and I were talking shop—the best this, the worst that, materials, companies, trips, etc. Eventually, someone asked, “What’s your favorite piece of gear?” then added, “And you can’t say your smartphone!”

Why did he exclude the smartphone from my possible responses? Because the smartphone is obviously the single best piece of outdoor gear, especially as a GPS device (and/or as a camera)! Outdoor industry gurus knew this even three years ago. Today, phones and their apps are much better. The greatest improvements for backcountry adventurers are the camera and GPS apps. The latter has greatly enhanced the ease with which I move through a landscape. Read the rest of the article!

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Gone Light, Part I: Thru-Hiking Pack Info For Women

Annie Mac mugThis is the first of four posts from our Stripped Down series, authored by Guest Blogger Annie MacWilliams. This series targets female thru hikers and backpackers, but most of the information applies equally well to aspiring male hikers. A triple-crowner, Annie has nearly 10,000 miles of thru-hiking experience.

Over the course of my colorful career in the woods, I have experienced the sick satisfaction of hefting a pack nearly half my body weight for a wilderness therapy job filled with med kits, wilderness survival tools, radios and 10 liters of water. The mileage was never high, mostly due to the disgruntled participants, but there was a small sense of pride in carrying so much weight. I can almost understand why some people want to prove something by carrying big pack. It makes you stronger, tougher and more eager to get to camp.

On the flip side, when I’m not recreating for a paycheck, I prefer to keep my pack considerably smaller. As a long-distance hiker, I have tallied almost 10,000 miles hiking the Appalachian Trail, Pacific Crest Trail and Continental Divide Trail, along with countless other shorter trails. The lighter the pack, the easier the miles, the more food I can carry, and the less stress I put on my joints and muscles. This seems logical enough; yet every year I see prospective thru-hikers start long trails with behemoth packs towering over their heads, dangles and doodads hanging off every attachment point, and inadequate gear for the environment. Some hikers are resistant to change, as are some non-hikers, but many more are eager to learn about the new technology, skills and hacks to make life easier.

As a female solo hiker, you are essentially carrying the exact same gear as a male hiker, but are more likely to have a smaller frame and less mass to carry that weight. For me, the correct fit on a backpack is critical to carrying weight comfortably. If I have to take these hips hiking with me; I might as well use them for the long term. You must find a pack that rests comfortably on the hips, is the correct length on the spine and has straps that rest comfortably around the chest and shoulders. I know plenty of male hikers who hike without a hip belt because their hips barely flare out enough to be an advantage, but their shoulders, back and neck take a beating. Additionally I have seen many females use a male-specific pack (myself included) that is misaligned with the spine. They subsequently struggle to find a comfortable fit. Load a pack with the weight you expect to carry, and wear it around. Let the weight settle on your hips. We’ve all carried heavy backpacks on our shoulders for a short while and felt fine, but anything longer than a walk home from the school bus is too long.

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