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Neon, Thru-Hiking the Appalachian Trail – Segment 7, The Four State Challenge!

Every year Appalachian Trail thru hikers, gear heads and dreamers flock to Damascus, Virginia for the annual “Trail Days” festival.  This year, Trail Days was held from May 17-19 and attracted thousands of outdoor enthusiasts from all over the globe. Hyperlite Mountain Gear attends Trail Days every year to meet fellow enthusiasts and show off some of its innovative ultralight gear and accessories. One of the people HMG met at this year’s festival was a thru-hiker named Brenna (trail name “Neon”).  Unfortunately, Brenna had all of her gear stolen from her tent while she was exploring the festival.  When HMG founder Mike St. Pierre heard what had happened to Neon, he decided to hook her up with a free HMG Windrider 2400 pack as well as a some other free HMG products. Mike also spread her story among other equipment vendors at the festival.  By the end of the day, Neon had an entirely brand new setup of equipment free of charge.With the ultralight and rain-proof HMG Windrider 2400 HMG trimmed Neon’s pack weight significantly which should make the next 1,700 miles to Maine even more fun. As a way of saying “Thank You” to Mike and the rest of the HMG team, Neon has been keeping us all up to date with periodic posts and pictures from the AT. We hope that you’ll check in regularly to follow Neon along the trail!  Here’s Neon’s seventh post from the trail . . .

The Four State Challenge

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It was tough getting back on the trail after taking four days off. My body had realized it was time to relax and allow the aches and pains to come to the surface: my feet were swollen and I hobbled up and down the stairs because I couldn’t bend my knees. It was even tougher getting back on because the first day we did 44 miles.

When I first heard about the four state challenge, I thought it was something that everyone did; one of those rites of passage on the trail. I decided then, at the very beginning of the trail, when an 18 mile day was a bit of a push, that one day I would walk 43.1 miles. Once the end of Virginia came into sight, I realized the magnitude of what I had committed myself to: I had yet to even do a 30 mile day. Thanks to peer pressure and my own mental obstinacy, there was no turning back.

Buckeye, Atreyu, Promise, ET, Turbo, and I were dropped off at a road crossing 0.8 miles past the VA/WV border at about 5 AM and we doubled back in order to truly hit four states in one day.

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After walking for months on end, I was surprised to find how quickly I had forgotten how to do it in my time off. I was moving one foot in front of the other as usual, but everything felt strange. Is this how I usually hike? Is this the speed I usually go? What do I do with my arms? My steps felt wobbly and unsure- my body had literally forgotten how to walk. By the 10 mile mark I was back in the groove and by noon we had completed almost 20 miles. We took plenty of breaks and no one who saw us would have thought we were doing any sort of challenge.

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Until we hit about the 30 mile mark. My legs were stiffening and I felt completely sapped of all energy. I had also lost track of where we were and kept expecting the next shelter to be just around the corner. That’s the kiss of death on a long hike- expecting to be farther than you are. By this time anyone who saw us could see in our faces that we were no longer having a good time. A few other hikers, one of whom I knew, the others I had just met, started cheering us on as we walked. We were leap-frogging with them and every time we passed by, they tried to pump us up by whooping and hollering. It felt good and it worked each time, at least for a little while.

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We finally made it to the shelter at the 34 mile mark. 10 miles to go. It was about 6 PM by this time and we were all in pain. I think each one of us was truly considering just stopping there for the night, but no one was willing to say it out loud. We had a feast of granola bars, cereal, pop tarts, bagels, peanut butter, Twizzlers pull n peel (I might have been the only one feasting on these), Fritos Honey BBQ Twists (best trail food ever by the way- high calorie and delicious. So what if it has zero nutritional value), and everything else in our food bags. Ibuprofen made the rounds.

Suddenly we were new people; walking three miles an hour, chatting, and having a great time. Suddenly we were talking about going past the 44 mile mark and making it an even 50. And just as suddenly we were back to misery. At the 40 mile mark I thought I was done. It was long past twilight and I didn’t know if I would make it to 44. I was still moving, but just barely. “This is making me hate hiking,” ET said. We slowed down to about one mile per hour and walked mostly in silence, each of us dwelling on our own pain. Chafing, cramps, tight muscles, and sore feet plagued us. The chafing was out of control. I was the only one spared the butt crack variety and to this day I am thankful for that. I silently cried the last two miles and alternately hoped that no one would see and everyone would see. I wanted to be comforted, to be held, and most of all I just wanted it to end.

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0.3 miles before the finish there was a pavilion and we decided to walk down to the state line and then come back up to stay in the pavilion, thereby avoiding setting up shelters for the night. We walked down to the railroad tracks and figured that was it, this was the line. We made it at 11:30 PM, about 18.5 hours after we had started. No state-line sign? Kind of disappointing but not so unusual.

We took a few pictures: I preferred the pictures where I could sit down and loved the pictures where I was just laying down in the tracks. I didn’t take any of my own because I no longer cared. We made our way back to the pavilion and I lay down and went to bed. “You’re not going to eat any dinner?” Buckeye asked me. No, I was not. I was extremely hungry, but even more tired.

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We slept late the next day. 10? 11? I can’t be sure. I was exhausted and walking was painful. I don’t even know why we ever left that beautiful pavilion with its beds (our sleeping bags) and its bathrooms (actual bathrooms!). Most of all, staying there would mean that we wouldn’t have to hike and that would have been glorious. For some reason we ended up leaving, hiked passed the train tracks where we had stopped and taken pictures, and then pass the sign marking the Mason-Dixon Line. Wait there was a sign? It turns out we had come up short by about 50 yards and hadn’t seen the sign because it was dark. Once again I no longer cared.

We only hiked 7.5 miles that day and then stopped at another pavilion for the night. We had gone far enough and ordered pizza; everyone except for Ramon and me eating a large on their own. Then they went to Walmart and each got a half gallon of ice cream for dessert. Atreyu got a 2 liter bottle of root beer and had the world’s largest root beer float. I took a nap.

Neon
The  AT
Fall 2013

 

 

 

Tasmania’s Overland Track with HMG Ambassador Forrest McCarthy

HMG’s Ambassadors are the testers, critics and storytellers of our products.  They put our gear through the paces in the worlds toughest playgrounds and give us critical feedback which helps us drive product development.  They also help us spread the good word about HMG’s backpacks, tents/shelters and accessories — while regularly making us jealous of  what they’re doing in the field.  This past winter HMG Ambassador Forrest McCarthy traveled to Tasmania with his wife Amy McCarthy to take on the Overland Track — one of Tasmania’s premier hiking routes.  Read on for the report . . .

Tasmanian Track Amy McCarthy

The Overland Track is Tasmania’s premier walk and attracts hikers from all over the world. The track winds its way through CradleMountain – Lake St Clair National Park traversing a vast wilderness of exposed alpine plateaus, tranquil lakes, and dense forests of beech, pine and gum. The entire track is within the 1.38 million hectare Tasmanian World Wilderness Heritage Area and home to unique wildlife including: kangaroo, wombat, wallaby, possum, quoll, Platypus, Echidna, tiger snakes, and Tasmanian Devils.

In early February of 2013 Amy and I were blessed with three days of fantastic weather and followed the track from Dove Lake to Lake St Clair, a distance of 65-kilomters. Stopping for the night at Lake Windermere and the Windy Ridge Hut we enjoyed side trips to the summit of Cradle Mountain and Tasmania’s high point — Mt Ossa.

Tasmanian Track Summit of Cradle MountainSummit of Cradle Mountain

Tasmanian Track High Alpine PlateauHigh Alpine Plateau

Tasmanian Track Camping at Lake WindermereCamping at Lake Windermere

Tasmanian Track Lake Windermere and Barn BluffLake Windermere and Barn Bluff

Tasmanian Track On Route to Pine Forest MoorOn Route to Pine Forest Moor

Tasmanian Track WallabyWallaby

Tasmanian Track Pelion HutPelion Hut

Tasmanian Track Snow SkinkSnow Skink

Tasmanian Track Summit of Mt OssaSummit of Mt Ossa

Tasmanian Track Mersey River ValleyMersey River Valley

Tasmanian Track Du Cane HutDu Cane Hut

Tasmanian Track The historic trappers hut was built in 1922The historic trappers hut was built in 1922

Tasmanian Track MapOur Tasmanian Overland Track (map care of Google)

Forrest McCarthy
Winter 2013

 

 

 

 

Putting up a new route in Alaska with HMG Ambassador Seth Timpano

HMG Ambassador Seth Timpano is a world class mountaineer and guide.  He has led him on climbing trips throughout the globe including: Antarctica, Chile, Argentina, Peru, Alaska, Canada, Spain, France, Italy, Thailand, Nepal and New Zealand.  We recently found out that Seth took a pretty bad fall into a crevasse, 55 feet, but luckily walked away with it with minor injuries and a mild concussion.  Seth told us the HMG pack he was wearing might have helped pad his fall — we’re not sure about that, but we psyched that Seth is fully recovered and planning some exciting new expeditions for this coming year.  Read on for Seth’s report on a new route he, Jared Vilhauer and Jens Holsten  put up this summer on Reality Peak, a 13,100 foot satellite peak of Alaska’s iconic Denali.  Awesome photos by Jared Vilhauer.

Seth Timpano on Reality Peak Summit.  Photo by Jared Vilhauer.

Seth Timpano on Reality Peak Summit. Photo by Jared Vilhauer.

In late May I left Seattle early in the morning and flew to Anchorage, Alaska. From there I hoped a shuttle van and was on ski-equipped plane by late afternoon. The flight into the Alaska Range was as memorable as the previous dozen, and my excitement for alpine climbing was high. Paul Rodderick with Talkeetna Air Taxi fly by the impressive Mount Hunter and Mount Huntington and spiraled down into the West Fork of the Ruth Glacier, one of the three large glaciers pouring from the south aspect of Denali. There I met my friends Jared Vilhauer and Jens Holsten. They had been skiing around for a few days scoping out different lines and route conditions and that evening we all agreed to attempt an unclimbed route on the east face of Reality Peak.
Seth Timpano climbing face of Reality Peak.  Photo by Seth Timpano on Reality Peak Summit.  Photo by Jared Vilhauer.

Seth Timpano climbing face of Reality Peak. Photo by Seth Timpano on Reality Peak Summit. Photo by Jared Vilhauer.

The next day we skied to the base of the route and started climbing. We climbed about 2000 feet of steep snow and easy ice before entering into the heart of the route, a narrow winding passage of steep granite and ice. We found 1500 feet of perfect steep alpine ice conditions. Once through this crux section we found more moderate snow and ice to the where our line joined the previously established Reality Ridge. We set up a bivy, ate, re-hydrated and slept. Poor weather kept us tent bound for nearly 24 hours but this also gave us a chance to rest before attempting to summit Peak 13,100 (Reality Peak). The ridge to the summit was typical Alaskan climbing; bigger, harder and scarier than expected.
The face of Reality Peak.  Photo by Seth Timpano climbing face of Reality Peak.  Photo by Seth Timpano on Reality Peak Summit.  Photo by Jared Vilhauer.

The face of Reality Peak. Photo by Seth Timpano climbing face of Reality Peak. Photo by Seth Timpano on Reality Peak Summit. Photo by Jared Vilhauer.

Difficult snow and ice conditions put us on the top in about 8 hours from our high bivy. The three of us were all very excited to have succeeded on this difficult climb, but we also realized we had a lot of work ahead of us. We tediously down climbed the ridge back to our camp, tired and exhausted. Nevertheless, we all knew we had to keep heading down before the intense sun hit our route, which would create a dangerous situation with rock and ice fall. We rappelled through the night, chasing the sun with each 200 feet decent. 27 double rope rappels found us at the base of our route. A few hundred feet of easy down climbing and we were safely back at our skis. We skied, tired but satisfied, back to camp, 4 days after we had left. Later that afternoon we were on a plane flying out of the Alaska Range and back to civilization.
HMG packs are without a doubt the best alpine climbing pack on the market. Durable, light, waterproof and made with climbing in mind, I continue to be impressed by my Porter Pack w/ Ice Feature. I look forward to using HMG packs on my expeditions to Patagonia and India next year.
HMG Ambassador descending Reality Peak.  Photo by The face of Reality Peak.  Photo by Seth Timpano climbing face of Reality Peak.  Photo by Seth Timpano on Reality Peak Summit.  Photo by Jared Vilhauer.

HMG Ambassador descending Reality Peak. Photo by The face of Reality Peak. Photo by Seth Timpano climbing face of Reality Peak. Photo by Seth Timpano on Reality Peak Summit. Photo by Jared Vilhauer.

 

Seth Timpano
Alaska
Fall 2013

Packrafting the Chetco River with HMG Ambassador Mike Curiak

HMG Ambassador Mike Curiak’s passion is mountain biking.  He’s hand built over 7,000 29″ wheels in the last decade.  In that time he’s ridden over 40,000 trail miles on wheels he’s built for himself — racing along the spine of the continent, bashing and banging through the red rock desert, plus everywhere and everything in between:  gravel, sand, and snow as well as miles and miles of twisty, turny, rooty, ledgy, carvy, hoppy and flowy singletrack.  When he’s on the trail or in the backcountry, HMG’s lightweight gear helps him cover ground faster and with greater efficiency.  Like many HMG gear users, Mike has expanded his backcountry adventures to include some of the other activities HMG loves — read on for Mike’s report on his recent packrafting trip on Oregon’s Chetco River . . .
About a year ago I was introduced to the wonders of multi-day whitewater packrafting. When I returned, glowing, from the above-linked trip, I spent lots of waking moments searching out other rivers for future trips.
 Thanks to this writeup, at the tip-top of that list was Oregon’s Chetco River.

 

Doom and I had planned to run it last spring, but the bottom fell out of the flows a few days before we were able to get there.
 I spent the next few months watching weather patterns and the gauge, hoping that the water would come up before the season was too far advanced to enjoy it.Jeny’s need to burn a heap of vacation time before October 1st also hastened the desire to head north stat. When I called Bearfoot Brad to arrange our vehicle shuttle he protested that there simply wasn’t any water. Unlike Brad I’d been methodically checking the forecasts, and within hours of our arrival in Oregon the fall rains began, taking our target from 60cfs to over 800.
 On!
Highlights of the trip are many.  Top of the list has to be the impossibly clear water, followed closely by the carved-through-bedrock gorges, both ensconced within the remotest feeling place I’ve yet experienced in the Lower 48.  Both of us are lifelong mountain bikers and agreed that we’ve never been able to get anywhere close to this ‘out there’ by bike.

 

Jeny and I completed our trip in 4 days. That was a bit ambitious for a first time down, and given a choice I’d add an extra day next time. The hike is easy and takes half a day rain or shine–I’d want the extra time to savor and photograph the gorges and canyons once floating.

On that note, steady rain our first three days severely curtailed use of my DSLR.  We got heaps of POV but with the always-low-light not much of it was usable.  And because I had hoped to shoot lots with the DSLR, I only brought one battery for the point and shoot so we had to use it sparingly.  All in all I’m very disappointed with the ‘coverage’ I came away with, and can’t wait for the opportunity to head back and right that wrong.  The upshot is that without a viewfinder in the way I really did enjoy the views, the scenery, the headspace created simply by being present in such a place with a good friend.



Jason Shappart’s writeup (see link above) included this:

“I am purposefully going to leave out a lot of the actual on-water details. We had very little information for our trip, and the lack of information coupled with the fact that none of the six of us had ever been in there before, made for a super fun and full-value adventure. I hope to provide a reader with enough information to help get a group to the river and give a little information on the general character and difficulty of the river in hopes that other folks too can have a similar adventure of the sort that is becoming all too scarce in the northwest multiday boating scene, where every rapid, camp, lines at low and high water, etc. make having a true adventure in the pioneering sense, a scarce commodity these days. Not that the classic other well known trips aren’t fun an enjoyable, but an upper Chetco River trip is a completely different animal, and should be enjoyed for its wild unknown character.”

I’d like to thank Jason (and those that came before) for their willingness to share *some* details, otherwise I’d likely never have heard about this gem of a river.  In that vein, I only wish to add a teeny bit of beta:

-Beaches suitable for camping are scarce–think hard about time of day and energy levels before passing one up!

-I felt that our flows of 750 falling to 350 were a bit low.  I’ll shoot for 1500 as max next time, hopefully staying above 1000 throughout.  There are several IV and IV+ rapids that simply weren’t runnable with the flows we had.


Scouting a IVish drop that simply didn’t go at this level:

Options here included a chunky rock slide to ankle breaker landing, or a quick flush into an unmakeable corner with undercut wall as backstop.  We walked it.

And on that note: Of the ~150 rapids on the run, we boat-scouted and eddy-hopped our way through ~140 of them.  We got out to scout the remaining ~10, and of these 8 simply didn’t have enough water to run.  The other 2 were above our skillset, but easily portaged.



All in all this was one of the most incredible trips I’ve yet had the pleasure to experience.

Mike Curiak
2013

When Mike isn’t in the back country he’s building some of the best 29″ wheels available anywhere.  Learn more about Mike and his big wheels here:  http://lacemine29.com/

Neon, Thru-Hiking the Appalachian Trail – (Segment 6)

Every year Appalachian Trail thru hikers, gear heads and dreamers flock to Damascus, Virginia for the annual “Trail Days” festival.  This year, Trail Days was held from May 17-19 and attracted thousands of outdoor enthusiasts from all over the globe. Hyperlite Mountain Gear attends Trail Days every year to meet fellow enthusiasts and show off some of its innovative ultralight gear and accessories. One of the people HMG met at this year’s festival was a thru-hiker named Brenna (trail name “Neon”).  Unfortunately, Brenna had all of her gear stolen from her tent while she was exploring the festival.  When HMG founder Mike St. Pierre heard what had happened to Neon, he decided to hook her up with a free HMG Windrider 2400 pack as well as a some other free HMG products. Mike also spread her story among other equipment vendors at the festival.  By the end of the day, Neon had an entirely brand new setup of equipment free of charge.With the ultralight and rain-proof HMG Windrider 2400 HMG trimmed Neon’s pack weight significantly which should make the next 1,700 miles to Maine even more fun. As a way of saying “Thank You” to Mike and the rest of the HMG team, Neon has been keeping us all up to date with periodic posts and pictures from the AT. We hope that you’ll check in regularly to follow Neon along the trail!  Here’s Neon’s sixth post from the trail . . .
I had been looking forward to my time after Trail Days because I figured I could relax and not worry about getting anywhere by a certain date- my only deadline was the cold weather in Maine. The first day out of Damascus we walked through the Grayson Highlands, one of the sections that I had heard so much about. As soon as we walked through the gate into the highlands, a wild pony started trying to bite Turbo’s backpack. We had heard the ponies can get aggressive and when he came after me, I put my hand on his head to hold him off and wielded my trekking pole like a weapon. Once we got farther into the highlands, we saw more and more ponies grazing in the fields. They brought these ponies in specifically for this reason- the highlands is a large open area devoid of trees and with large rock formations. They want the ponies to graze there in order to maintain the grassy areas. The rest of them were friendlier than the first and let us pet them without trying to bite us.
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Since so many people had either slowed down or sped up to make it Damascus for the festival, there was a huge bubble of people leaving at the same time. There was also a lot of rain in the week following the festival and so everyone wanted to stay in the shelters to avoid getting wet. Every night the shelters were full and there were sometimes up to 20 tents set up around them as well. The rain was starting to get frustrating- wet boots and clothing for days on end was getting old. Every time I started to complain in my head, I started to think about Jennifer Pharr Davis. I was reading her book about the endurance record and she is a badass. She got hypothermia, had shin splints for 1000 miles, and overcame a bunch of other problems to finish the trail in record time. Every time I felt down, I reminded myself that if she could deal with all that, I could deal with a little rain.
I was also starting to make up for my lack of trail magic before Damascus. In Troutdale, VA there was a hiker feed put on by a local church. They put up flyers at each road crossing telling hikers about it and about 35 people showed up. All the churchgoers brought in food and there was enough so that everyone could stuff themselves. There was some intense preaching after the meal and I’m not sure the preacher realized that the hikers were a different audience than he was used to, but it was worth it.
The next night we made it to Partnership Shelter, one of the shelters on the trail that you can order pizza from. There was a big group of people and it was this girl Smokey’s birthday so we ordered a bunch of food, ignored the no alcohol signs, and went into town to get some beer.
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Turbo and I were settling into a new kind of hiking- one that involved a lot more drinking. The next day we were walking along the trail when we came upon two hikers, Twoper and Bait, who were handing out beers on the side of the trail. We hung out with them and then walked along into Atkins, VA. Turbo and I were planning on doing a few more miles but decided to hang out in town for a bit. We were being classy as usual and decided to sit behind the gas station with a couple tall boys. The longer we sat, the less we wanted to keep hiking. Luckily, Lumber came by and said he had gotten a hotel room and had extra room if we were interested. We definitely were. Also staying in the hotel were Red Velvet, Predator, Hagrid, E.T., Promise, and Gigs. We hung out and I ate an insane amount of candy- 1 snickers ice cream bar, 1 bag of Doritos, 1 bag of cheese puffs, 1 package of Twizzlers pull n peel, 1 bag of Snyder’s honey mustard and onion pretzels, 1 sleeve of double stuff oreos, and probably more that I’m forgetting.
We got breakfast in the morning and then started hiking. Before we could get very far though, we came upon some more trail magic. The mom of someone hiking had a cooler full of soda and beer and a table full of fruit salad, hot dogs, chips, candy, taco salad, and more. I had ordered two breakfasts at the diner that morning and then ate a lot at the trail magic so I had to lounge around until noon before I could walk again. I was walking with Hagrid and we were planning on doing about 20 miles, but we got to a camp spot with a bunch of people that we knew and decided to stay there. Squirrel had packed in some whiskey to celebrate us getting 1/3 of the way and passed it around while someone else cooked up hot dogs for the group. I was excited to have gotten that far, but there was still a long way to go. I was also starting to get the “Virginia Blues”. Virginia is over 500 miles and much of it is just green tunnel; hiking in the trees with no views. It is easy to start thinking about how far you still have to go and get overwhelmed by the length of the trail.
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While the hiking might have been boring, the bubble was still together and we were having a lot of fun. There were about 30 of us who had been seeing each other consistently since Damascus. We would get split up, but then a hiker feed or stop in town would bring us back together. In Bland, VA there was another hiker feed that we all went to and then we planned a birthday party for Fresh Step at Dismal Falls in two days. Dismal Falls was supposed to be an awesome campsite and swimming hole and it was also just a few miles past a road crossing with a grocery store that sold beer. We all packed in food and beer, swam, and hung out by the fire. Before I had started the trail, I had a vision in my mind of what the trail would be like. I had underestimated the social aspect of the hike, but Dismal Falls was the kind of picturesque camp spot that I had envisioned beforehand. Simply put, the trail was even better than I had imagined it.
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Neon
The AT
Summer 2013

Spruce Green is the new White

HMG’s ultralight, cuben fiber shelter systems, tarps and pyramid tents are now available in Spruce Green in addition to our classic white.

HMG UltaMid pyramid  tent on the coast of Maine

HMG UltaMid pyramid tent on the coast of Maine

For the past four years Hyperlite Mountain Gear has been making some of the best lightweight shelters, tarps and mids available anywhere.  But we were only able to offer then in white.  We love the white, but we know that a lot of our customers would like a little more choice in the color department.  Well, we’ve finally done it.  We’re now able to offer our full line of shelter systems, tarps and pyramid tents in Spruce Green.  The material used is the same as the white — ripstop, waterproof and ultralight cuben fiber.  And unlike other manufacturers who have offered colored cuben fiber, our products are absolutely color-fast — no bleeding, no staining of your other gear.

HMG Flat Tarp in the Maine Woods

HMG Flat Tarp in the Maine Woods

Here’s HMG’s current line-up of Spruce Green shelters, tarps and mids:

The Echo Shelter System — a tarp based system featuring a removable bug mesh insert/tub and “beak” (vestibule).  The system is available one and two-man sizes and can be purchased as set or as separate pieces.

The UltaMid — two and four-man pyramid tents.

Tarps — a line of flat tarps, catenary tarps and a hammock tarp.

All of our shelters, tarps and mids feature taped seams.  With the taped seams and 100% waterproof cuben fiber, there’s no need to seam seal or coat these products, ever.

HMG Flat Tarp in a perfect spot to make camp

HMG Flat Tarp in a perfect spot to make camp

Like all of our gear, our shelters, tarps and mids are proudly designed and manufactured in Maine, USA.

Check ‘em out and get your green on!

HMG
Biddeford, Maine

 

 

The Simplicity of Tarps – Fatbiking / Bikepacking with a Tarp Shelter

HMG Ambassador Glenn Charles one of a rapidly growing group of outdoor enthusiasts using ultralight gear and fatbikes to take them to new places in the outdoors.  Read on for Glenn’s thoughts on why a ultralight tarp makes the perfect shelter for these multisport adventures.
Glenn Tarps 2
Just back from another spectacular bikepacking trip on my Salsa Mukluk, I can honestly say that for 90% of my trip needs, a Tarp is the perfect shelter. For the last 5 years I have experimented with tents, bivies, and a number of different Tarps, so I believe that for me, I have acquired a fair bit of experience through a multitude of conditions.With the exception of some very specific situations and scenarios, the Tarp has ruled the roost.  With a bike, I can string a tarp anywhere I want, including the middle of nowhere.  Using my technigue for anchoring the bike with line and stakes, it serves as the perfect highpoint for one end of the tarp.  The other end can be anchored to some other fixed object, or with the aid of your helmet or stick, stood on end, you have enough lift to comfortably sleep without and contact between your bag and the tarp.
Glenn Tarps 4

Add in an UL bivy and you have bug and splash protection at your disposal.  Thus carrying a Cuben Fiber tarp, a set of UL stakes and a UL bivy, you are set to string up protection no matter where you travel.  With some larger fixed structures to anchor to, you can easily create a very comfortable living space that protects you, your bag and your gear from the elements.

My current Tarp of choice is the Cuben Fiber tarp made by Hyperlite Mountain Gear.  I have been traveling with this tarp for almost two years now and it has proven itself as completely reliable.  The attention to detail is amazing and the Cuben Fiber is not only light but absolutely waterproof.  One very nice feature of Cuben is that it does not wet out.  What this means is that after a night of rain, simply shake the tarp and the vast majority of the moisture is displaced, thus keeping your UL tarp in a UL state.  I have found that Silnylon has a tendency to wet out and thus your super light tarp is no longer super light and you are stuck packing an item that is soaked through and through.

Glenn Tarps 1

For those that are serious about traveling light, the combination of a Cuben Tarp, UL Bivy, a Neo Air pad, and a set of UL stakes is the ultimate combination for light weight, flexible shelter.  Simple to setup; flexible in how you use it; and a multitude of useable configurations with very few things that can break!

Glenn Charles
October 2013

For more on Glenn, his photography and adventures in the outdoors, see his blog:  The Traveling Vagabond

 

 

Neon, Thru-Hiking the Appalachian Trail (Segment 5)

Every year Appalachian Trail thru hikers, gear heads and dreamers flock to Damascus, Virginia for the annual “Trail Days” festival.  This year, Trail Days was held from May 17-19 and attracted thousands of outdoor enthusiasts from all over the globe. Hyperlite Mountain Gear attends Trail Days every year to meet fellow enthusiasts and show off some of its innovative ultralight gear and accessories. One of the people HMG met at this year’s festival was a thru-hiker named Brenna (trail name “Neon”).  Unfortunately, Brenna had all of her gear stolen from her tent while she was exploring the festival.  When HMG founder Mike St. Pierre heard what had happened to Neon, he decided to hook her up with a free HMG Windrider 2400 pack as well as a some other free HMG products. Mike also spread her story among other equipment vendors at the festival.  By the end of the day, Neon had an entirely brand new setup of equipment free of charge.With the ultralight and rain-proof HMG Windrider 2400 HMG trimmed Neon’s pack weight significantly which should make the next 1,700 miles to Maine even more fun. As a way of saying “Thank You” to Mike and the rest of the HMG team, Neon has been keeping us all up to date with periodic posts and pictures from the AT. We hope that you’ll check in regularly to follow Neon along the trail!  Here’s Neon’s fifth post from the trail . . .

 

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After the Smokies, I was looking to get away from Ramon and hike on my own. I enjoyed spending time with him and having a hiking buddy but I also wanted to hang out with other people. He was also very slow getting ready in the morning and I was sick of waiting up to an hour each day for him. He was planning on going about 13 miles that day with Briton, so I decided to keep moving. That day I passed over Max Patch; the first of many balds along the trail. I have never experienced winds like that in my life and I can only guess their speed. 150 mph is my guess. A more realistic person might say 60 mph; either way they were insane. I had to walk at an angle, my body leaning into the wind so that I didn’t fall over. Then a gust would come and I would get blown sideways and have to dig my trekking poles into the ground to regain my position. It was awesome.

That same day day I got to talking with a section hiker about my experience and she asked me if I was still enjoying myself. I answered with great conviction that I still got up each day and was excited to hike. The trail was continually changing and each day still brought me something new.

At the shelter that night I had my first encounter with yellow blazers (people who skip part of the trail by hitching a ride). Two of the hikers there had skipped the Smokies. It was early in the trip and most everyone was still committed to walking to Katahdin so there was an awkward moment when they said they had hitched ahead and skipped the Smokies. I didn’t know how to react, this time anyway. The farther north I got, the more people I met that had skipped at least one section. Instead of getting off the trail when people got tired of hiking, they hitch to meet their friends so they can still get some of the experience. Many people don’t have the time, money, or desire for a full thru-hike, but for me yellow-blazing did not mesh my motivation for doing the trail.

The next night I was discussing my lack of a trail name with Stealth. At this point, he was still just Matt and I was still Brenna and we were both feeling left out since most everyone else already had names. I suggested Stealth for him because he wore all black and had a habit of walking quietly and sneaking up on people on the trail. We decided, based on my bright orange Crocs and yellow rain jacket, that Neon might be good for me. I hadn’t met anyone else by that name and it was short and easy to remember. That next day I started signing Neon in the shelter logs and introducing myself as such. There was a strange transition period where I had to get used to going by a different name but after a while it started to seem alright.

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“Neon” rocking her trademark bright orange Crocs and a yellow jacket

After a couple days of cold, rain, and wind, I did a 3 mile “nero” (nearly zero miles) to Hot Springs, NC. Hot Springs is the first town through which the trail passes directly. Stealth and I somehow got lost going into town, despite the fact that the sidewalks were engraved with the AT symbol in order to show the way. In typical thru-hiker style, if there wasn’t a blaze every five feet then we were lost. We stopped at the first restaurant we came to, Smoke Mountain Diner, and got some excellent food- including the best cinnamon roll I have ever had in my life. There were a bunch of hikers there, most of whom I knew and we all hung out while we gorged ourselves.

My oldest sister, Sarah, was flying in that day to do the next 70 miles to Erwin, TN. Seven of us decided to split a room at a local hotel, the Iron Horse Station, and bummed around all day and watched TV. When Sarah got there that afternoon we got a few beers at the Spring Creek Tavern where they had live music. Sarah had talked about doing a thru-hike at some point and I wanted her to get a the full experience; crowded hotel room, trail town, and the trail.

The next day, we set off early for the trail but before we could even get started someone told us that the trail was flooded. It wad been raining like crazy for days and they said the water was waist deep and we would have to hitch around. Sarah and I decided to go see for ourselves and the trail was flooded, but not up our waists. I bushwhacked around while Sarah took off her boots and walked through the water. Eventually though, we got to a point with an overhang where the water was deeper and the current stronger. Instead of wading out and possibly getting swept away, we took a blue blaze trail up the side of the overhang and came down the other side about 50 feet beyond where we had left the trail. Where we returned to the trail we could see a tent floating in the river. It was tied down and there was a bunch of stuff strewn about. I took off my boots and stepped into the water to look into the tent just to make sure there was no body floating inside. It seemed like someone left in a hurry; there was ramen and all sorts of gear floating inside, but no body. The trail was still flooded there, but we walked just to the side of it, knowing that soon the trail would climb up and out of the valley.

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We did 11 miles that day and Sarah seemed to be hurting a bit. I had told everyone that she was going to come and visit and they all told me she wouldn’t be able to handle the miles. Eight to ten, they all said. I thought she would be fine doing more and we had to average 14 per day in order to make it to Erwin on time. Watching her that first day made it seem like it wouldn’t end up being as easy I thought, but I knew she would suck it up and do the miles either way.
The next few miles were uneventful as far as hiking goes, but it was really nice to spend some time with Sarah. The first few days I hiked ahead, but I realized I was wasting our time together. For the past four years I had been at school in Missouri and since she is seven years older than me, we hadn’t lived together in about 12 years. While we saw each other reasonably often, it was usually in the presence of other family members and so it was unusual to have time together just the two of us.It turned out that Sarah had no problem turning on the miles and did a couple 15 miles days and a 16.5 to finish off her trip. We got into Erwin on time and went to Uncle Johnny’s Hostel which is is right on the trail. It is overpriced and dirty, but known to be a good time. The group renting the nice cabin with the kitchen invited us over for a feast with steak, garlic bread, ice cream, salad, beer, mashed potatoes and a fritatta. A bunch of people were also having a bonfire outside and everyone seemed to be making the most of their night in town. Ramon and Briton had gotten in earlier that day and had tried to hitch into town for a resupply. The guy who picked them up asked if they wanted to go rafting on the very swollen Nolichucky River and so they went down the river all afternoon. Ramon got his trail name that day, Turbo, because the guy kept yelling at them that they were his turbo on the river. While I had previously been looking to get away from him, now I was looking forward to hiking with Turbo again. We planned to leave the next morning with another friend, Quinoa, and begin the race to Damascus for Trail Days.

Neon on the AT
August 2013

To Hell and Back — Across North America’s Deepest Canyon with Steve Graepel

Two hours from Boise, but a world away from the daily grind, the Snake River cuts through the narrows bordering Oregon, Idaho and Washington. Its here where over 60,000 CFS has carved the deepest gorge in North America. Yes, Hells Canyon cuts deeper than the Grand, plunging 8,000 feet inside the 10-mile gap. Yet as best the record showed, this plumb-line remained un-run as an out and back inside a single push. Mike James and HMG Ambassador Steve Graepel ventured out on a whim to set the first known Rim-Rim-Rim.  Read on for Steve’s report.

 

The Snake serves as the lifeline for southern Idaho, bridling fertile ground and power where there would otherwise be neither. The canyon is no different, only here its always taken more than it provided. Dry and inhospitable, traces of man’s eagerness to eek out a living has been preserved in an arid time capsule scattered along the route to the canyon floor. At 8,000′, the Seven Devils reference back to Nez Perce Indian lore, where the “devils” traveled West yearly to feast on the tribes newborn. At 6,000′, the McGaffee summer cow camp decayed under the conifer canopy. A trophy elk was entangled in the remnants of wire fencing at 4,000′. Fruit orchards grew ferial and tangled at 2,000′. A prehistoric rock shelter and ancient pictographs etched the canyon walls at its low point at 1,400′.

©2013 AllTrails ©2013 National Geographic

©2013 AllTrails ©2013 National Geographic

While cleaning debris out of our shoes on the McGaffee winter cabin’s porch, a cackle of voices broke the din of wind and water. The most common way to see the canyon is by water; rafters float downstream from the dam while jet boats hurdle upstream over the rapids from Pittsburgh Landing. We strapped our shoes and stumbled out of the hackberry thickets and out onto the pebble beach to see a flotilla of rafts pulling out for lunch. A Wilderness with no bridge for miles, we eagerly thumbed a ride into Oregon with their scout boat. Our captain asked about our itinerary; we shared our plans, pointing fingers and arching necks to describe our progress and intent. “You boys have a good time”, he shook as we eddied into Oregon.
On the West side of the Snake parallels the manicured and historical Nee-Me-Poo trail—the same route Chief Joseph led his people into Montana while fleeing General Howard in 1877. We followed it south until we saw the sun-weathered Hat Point trail sign, marking our route to the Oregon rim. We stocked up on water and began to negotiate the heat of the day with the pain of the climb. The trail quickly turned to game trail quickly turned to runnels between bunchgrass and brought us up a stringer canyon, rotten with volcanic choss. The canyon took back half of every step we made. The angle eased and we picked up the pace as we ducked under Ponderosa pine for the final climb.
6 miles, 5 hours and 5 liters of water later, we eventually broke the rim’s crest and climbed out onto the fire tower’s observation deck to review our day’s progress. With thunderheads on the horizon, we anxiously retreated towards the river with a shuffle, slipping down a series of grassy fells and into darkness.
We cautiously navigated the route mostly by braille. The angle of the slopes, the shadow of adjacent slopes, the crossing of a stream indicated by the map. We were actually making reasonable progress until I heard the friction of rubber skid over gravel. Mike slide maybe 5 feet, righted himself and gingerly walked down to my perch. He flashed his headlamp, revealing probably 200+ cactus spines studded down his right side. We spent the next 45 minutes extracting the barbed quills … some buried deep past fascia and into muscle.
Photo by Steve Graepel

Photo by Steve Graepel

After pulling most the of the damage, I pulled my sleeves over my calves, draped the map over my torso and drifted into sleep as the glow of the Sheep Fire illuminated the sky behind the Idaho ridge.
I awoke to find Mike still pulling barbs from his ass. He stuffed a glove between his shorts and leg and snorted, “you ready to go?” Mike James—toughest man in America.
We strolled lazily down to the river, knowing that we would likely not get the same luck as the day before. We carefully chose a placid stretch of water, well above the next rapid set, stripped down to our shorts and shoved everything into our packs and dove into the current. Taller and stronger, Mike held a line into Idaho. I found myself washing out downstream a few hundred feet below. I pulled myself out over the river rock, collected myself and resumed the climb out of Hell.
With a day behind us and the steepest portion ahead, there was no racing out of the canyon. We each slowly picked a line and wrestled our own devils to the Idaho rim. Once on the plateau at Dry Diggens, we still had 8 miles and 3 hours to the trailhead—plenty of time to temper any celebration of success in snagging one of the North America’s greatest trail running challenges.
For more from Steve Grapel, check out his contributions to the National Geographic Adventure Blog.
Steve Graepel
Idaho 2012

Hike Fast. Paddle Hard. Dance All Night. — The First Annual AK Packrafting Festival.

This past July HMG Ambassador Luc Mehl and friends participated in the first annual McCarthy Creek Packraft Race and Whitewater Festival in Wrangel Mountains of Alaska.  We’re hoping this event, organized by Kennicott Wilderness Guides and McCarthy River Tours and Outfitters, will become and annual happening.  HMG is psyched to support the rapidly growing packrafting community by making some of the best packrafting packs available. 

Read on for the report on the inaugual 2013, festival.

McCarthy Packrafting Festival Poster

The McCarthy Creek runs through the Wrangel Mountains outside the quirky/charming outpost town of McCarthy, Alaska at the edge of Wrangell St. Elias National Park.  The creek runs fast and strong with rapids up to rated by American Whitewater as a class III+(V+). 

Racers in action on the lower creek.  Photo by Kennecott Wilderness Guides

Racers in action on the lower creek. Photo by Kennicott Wilderness Guides

Packrafting, and the access it allows to remote whitewater, is catching on fast in this corner of Alaska.  The locals, like HMG Ambassador Luc Mehl, have been pushing the sport since the beginning and outfitters like Kennicott Wilderness Guides are making it accessible to locals and tourists alike with guided trips to some spectacular locations.  It makes sense that this would be the chosen spot for a packrafting race and festival!

The festival motto is Hike Fast. Paddle Hard. Dance All Night.  Beleive it.

The “Up-and-Over” course was 17 miles, a 6 mile hike up old mining trails (2700 ft elev gain), over National Pass, down a rocky glacier.  Then 11 miles of class II, III+ water.  The 11-mile “Z-Rock Down” course began on Main Street in McCarthy.  The hiking leg of this route was a  5.5 mile of brush and loose rock up McCarthy Creek to the Z Rock. From there participants rafted the creek back to town.

Racers in action on the hike in.  Photo by Robin Child.

Racers in action on the hike in. Photo by Robin Child.

30 racers entered this year’s race.  The results:

“Up & Over”
1st: Luc Mehl 4 hours 1 minute (go Luc!)
2nd: Erik Mundahl 4:28
3rd: Russell Nyberg 5:03

“Z Rock Down”
1st: Dale Meck 2 hours 3 minutes
2nd: Anderson Gibbons 2:09
3rd: Chris Cronick 2:22

HMG Ambassador on the trail. Photo by Robin Child.

HMG Ambassador on the trail. Photo by Robin Child.

We hear the after-party was as good as the paddling.

For more on HMG Ambassador Luc Mehl and some spectacular photos of his adventures, check out Luc’s blog, ThingToLucAt.

To be part of next year’s McCarthy Creek Packrafting Race and Festival, check in with Kennicott Wilderness Guides in spring 2014.

To learn more about packrafting, check out the American Packrafting Association.

Alaska
September 2013