Why Cuben Fiber? It Just Makes Sense

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Stripped Down With Mike St. Pierre

Jesse Bailey and Rita Quinn working on a Green Cuben Fiber Ultamid.

Jesse Bailey and Rita Quinn working on a Green Cuben Fiber Ultamid.

It’s white, it’s crinkly, it’s waterproof and it feels like it weighs about as much as a tissue paper. But what exactly is Cuben Fiber, and why use it?

When I first delved into the world of ultralight backpacking, I combed the Internet trying to find a technologically advanced material that would change my backcountry experience. The fabrics used at the time had major limitations. For example, Silnylon, the primary lightweight fabric used, absorbed moisture and swelled and sagged, requiring constant re-tensioning. The slippery material also forced people to put liquid glues on the floors of their tents to keep their pads in place. Worst of all, silnylon is made when both sides of a thin, woven nylon fabric are saturated with liquid silicone, and there were no standards for these silicone coatings. So basically every batch was different. So when I discovered a small cottage industry outdoor company using Cuben Fiber I did some more research. Read the rest of the article here.

Hyperlite Mountain Gear Raises Bar in American Manufacturing

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John Schafer has 40+ years experience in manufacturing and management.

John Schafer has 40+ years experience in manufacturing and management.

John Schafer was ready to retire. At 64, he’s spent the last 30 years working in manufacturing, including the last few years running Shape Fabrication, a fabrication company for architectural and marine industries. At 6’4 and 280 pounds, he still lugs his Maine-made bleachers and steel staircases around with ease. But, he says, he was prepared to start spending more time smoking cigars and drinking cocktails on the 24-foot Grady-White power boat he docks at Biddeford Pool. Then he met Mike and Dan St. Pierre, owners of Hyperlite Mountain Gear. Their shop was just around the corner in the same 180-year-old textile mill where he ran his company. Schafer and the St. Pierres became friends, and then Schafer began to help them a bit with managing and organizing the production floor, where all the Cuben Fiber tarps, mids and packs are made. And then, before he knew it, the St. Pierres asked him to come on full-time as the Director of Operations. He agreed. Read the rest of the article.

On the Chetco River: A Packrafting Adventure

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On the Chetco River.

Photos & text by Mike Curiak (republished from 2013)

About a year ago I was introduced to the wonders of multi-day whitewater packrafting. When I returned, glowing, from my trip, I spent lots of waking moments searching out other rivers for future trips. Thanks to a writeup I found, Oregon’s Chetco River rose to the tip-top of that list.

Doom (aka Steve Fassbinder) 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. 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.


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 four 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.

Read the rest of the article.

Seth Timpano & The Cotter-Bebie Route

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By Seth Timpano, Hyperlite Mountain Gear Ambassador

The Cotter-Bebie route on the North Face of Dragontail Peak in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness outside of Leavenworth, Wash.

The Cotter-Bebie route on the North Face of Dragontail Peak in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness, Leavenworth, Wash.

The weather in most of the Pacific Northwest and the Northern Intermountain Regions had been atypical this past winter and late spring. For many skiers and ice climbers the warm temperatures made for less than ideal conditions most of the season, but for some of us this abnormal weather patterns made incredible alpine climbing conditions. In March, several climbing partners along with myself were fortunate enough to establish three quality melt freeze mixed climbs in the remote backcountry of Montana and Wyoming. Not wanting to hang up my tools just yet for the season; I was fortunate to get a call from my friend Lee who lives in Bellingham, Wash. The alpine climbing conditions in the Cascades were shaping up nicely and the weather looked promising. We decided on the Cotter-Bebie route on the North Face of Dragontail Peak in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness outside of Leavenworth, Wash. The route is 2000 feet of beautiful alpine ice and mixed runnels through stellar granite rock.

The peak had seen quite a bit of action throughout the winter and early spring, but we found the north face empty the days we spent in the wilderness. We setup a quick camp on the frozen Colchuck Lake and tucked in early for the night, intending on pre-dawn start. Read the rest of the article!

Trail Days

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The ambassador team at Trail Days

The Trail Days Ambassadors: (L to R) Porter Laclair, Annie MacWilliams, Angela VanWiemeersch and Brian Threlkeld.

Hyperlite Mountain Gear recruited a variety of expert thru-hiker and/or multi-sport adventurers to work the Trail Days 2015 booth alongside our President and Founder Mike St. Pierre. Between them, they have hiked, climbed, rafted or otherwise traveled through the backcountry tens of thousands of miles. In this year’s wrap-up blog post these athletes reflect on the importance of events like Trail Days. Check out a full album of Trail Days photos on our Facebook page.

According to Mike St. Pierre, first and foremost, Trail Days offers outdoor adventurers and thru-hikers the opportunity to see the most groundbreaking gear in the industry.

“All innovation is coming out of small companies like Hyperlite Mountain Gear and many of the other brands represented at Trail Days,” he explained. “You can’t find these products at REI and other big box stores. People who are truly active are starting these businesses; they need cutting-edge gear for their adventures, and so they are making what they need.” Read the rest of the Trail Days wrap up.

Mids Make Going Light Easy

Posted on by HMG / Posted in Gear Tips, Our Gear & Gear We Like, Guest Posts From Friends & Fans | Tagged , , , , ,

Text by Roger Brown, guest blogger. Check out his website. He wrote a fine piece on pyramid tents (aka “mids”) that we recently discovered, and so we asked him to write one for our blog. Thanks Roger.

I have spent the last five summers hiking in the open treeless plains and mountains of Lapland, Finland. Two experiences led me to the conclusion that mids are the right option for me. First, I used a GoLite SL2 on an 18-day trip along the Nordkalotteleden in 2011. One evening as the wind began to increase and rain rapidly approached, I found a spot to pitch the shelter. Quickly, I had it pegged down and I crawled inside, extending the poles as the rain increased in intensity. It was then that I realized the benefits of a mid compared to a framed (or hooped) shelter.

Read the rest of the article here!

Trail Magic: Tales of a Trail Weenie, Part II

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Lizzy first day out on her Appalachian Trail backpacking trip

Lizzy’s first day out on her AT backpacking trip

Photos & text by Lizzy Scully

Hyperlite Mountain Gear sent their marketing manager, Lizzy Scully, on a backpacking trip the week before Trail Days 2015. She met at least a 100 people and learned a bit about the thru-hiking culture. This is her wrap-up story from that trip. Read our Trail Days 2015 Wrap Up. Check out photos from the event on our Facebook page.

I hiked 75 miles in six days along the Appalachian Trail from US 19E to Damascus. And I’m psyched. I honestly never imagined I’d backpack that many miles. It’s just a small fraction of a hike compared to what most folks I met had done or were planning on doing. Though more than half weren’t actually hiking the entire AT, they still had already travelled 300 miles, 500 miles, 570 miles, or were planning on doing the full 2,189 (apparently that’s the official number this year, and it changes every year). Read the rest of the article here!

Why You Won’t Freeze or Starve Going Ultralight

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going Ultralight doesn't mean freezing your butt off or starving

Going ultralight doesn’t mean freezing your butt off or starving.

Stripped Down with By Mike St. Pierre

People new to thru hiking and backpacking often don’t realize they need far less than what they think or what their local big box outdoor store salesperson tells them they need. They base what they bring on their fears. Don’t fall into this trap. Understanding what you need is the secret to knowing what you don’t. You absolutely need something to sleep on, to sleep in and to sleep under. Plus you need insulating layers, waterproof layers, some kind of water treatment, a knife, a headlamp and the right kind of food at the right time. Anything else is gravy. I’m not saying you must leave your nonessential, favorite items behind; I simply recommend you strip down to the bare essentials, and then rebuild your list from there with your wants.

These are some common fears or questions we’ve heard over the years:

  • How warm is that tent?
  • I’d better bring 2 layers of fleece in case I get cold!
  • What if I don’t have enough food?
  • I need a stove to cook.

These fears are misplaced, and here’s why.
Read the rest of the article here.

Tales of a Trail Weenie

Posted on by HMG / Posted in Trail, River & Mountain Tales, Women In The Woods | Tagged , , , , , ,

By Lizzy Scully

Hyperlite Mountain Gear’s new Marketing Manager is heading out on her first, long (seven days) backpacking adventure the week before Trail Days 2015. A long-time rock climber, hiking long distances is totally new to her. Follow her adventures on Instagram or on our blog.

We used the UltaMid as our mess tent at basecamp, Torsukkatak Fjord, Greenland.

The UltaMid at basecamp.

I embarked on my very first backpacking adventure at 18, while volunteering at Grafton Notch State Park, Maine. I planned to trek four days on the Appalachian Trail, with a goal of hitting Mahoosuc Notch and hiking into Grafton. I don’t remember where I started or how many miles I hiked. All I remember is I wanted to hike the “toughest mile” of the AT. My first day in I could barely stand up (remember Cheryl Strayed in “Wild” trying to put her pack on in the hotel; that was me). My pack was so freakin’ heavy; weight just wasn’t something I had thought about. I packed for every possible variable. What if a glass jar of peanut butter wasn’t enough? I’d better bring two. Since I didn’t have a stove, I guessed I should bring cans of soup, right? And I needed at least a change of clothes per day so I wouldn’t stink so badly. Books, steel flashlight, big cotton sleeping bag… I had it all. I unloaded most of my food at the first shelter (two miles in), at which point I made a bunch of ragged, skinny, starved-looking hikers very happy. But, I had to carry the rest of the stuff the whole way back to Grafton Notch. Read the rest of the blog post.

Going Light: The Evolution of Lightweight Gear

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The Philosophy of Going Light, Part III, is part of our Stripped Down Series

Photo courtesy of HikingVentures.com. Sarek National Park, Sweden, Packrafting.

Photo courtesy of HikingVentures.com. Sarek National Park, Sweden, Packrafting.

By Max Neale

Though going light doesn’t mean just buying lightweight gear, this is still key to your safe and fun adventure. The two most important things to consider when buying high-quality gear are adaptability and durability. Maximize your return on investment by buying a few very good products that are multi-useful and sturdy.

Adaptability is the capacity of a product to adjust to a wide range of activities and/or environmental conditions. Gear that is adaptable is a good value because one single item can perform many different roles. Adaptability is a key component of Hyperlite Mountain Gear product design. For example, our Southwest ultralight backpack performs very well for all types of backpacking and also for high altitude mountaineering at very high altitudes, such as on K2 or Mount Everest. Another example is our UltaMid Cuben Fiber shelter, a four-season fortress for everything from summer backpacking to ski touring, to basecamp cook tent. Read the rest of the article here!

Bug Off! UltaMid Mesh Inserts

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We've got 'em: UltaMid Mesh Inserts :)

We’ve got ’em: UltaMid Mesh Inserts :)

In the end we regret only the mesh we didn’t take…

If you follow us on social media you probably already heard the news that we launched UltaMid Inserts for our 2- and 4-person mids. You can get them with a 100% waterproof Cuben Fiber bathtub floor or without. Either way, you’ll get that added bug protection that you didn’t have using the mid on its own. We used to advertise the mids as a three-season shelter—Fall, Winter, Spring. But it’s a bonafide four-season shelter now. No matter where you are—the Northeast during black fly season or the farthest southern reaches of mosquito-infested Greenland—you won’t have to worry about bugs. And, if the weather is super nice in the summer, you can use set up the Insert (with floor) on its own. Read the rest of the post here!

Going Light: Not Just About Buying Lighter Gear

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The Philosophy of Going Light, part II, is part of our Stripped Down Series


By Max Neale, photos by Nick Truax (unless otherwise noted)

Continued from Going Light, Part I. Going light is about more than just buying light gear. Take a systemic approach to going light. Consider information available, your skills and your gear.

Whether your objective is to lighten your load for more comfortable hiking, reduce your pack weight for a long-distance hike, or prepare for the most challenging alpine climb of your life, a lightweight approach can have tremendous long-term benefits. With good information, skill and high quality gear, you can engage in more enjoyable and more rewarding outdoor adventures. Read more about the key tips now!

Black Cuben Fiber: Because Color Weighs Too Much

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What do you expect from a company that makes #WhitePacks?

Hyperlite Introduces the Southwest in Black Cuben FiberIn an effort to expand our “color” line, we’ve built the 2400 and 3400 Southwest packs in Black Cuben Fiber. We’re still partial to our #WhitePacks, but we know you want variety (and we love the black, too!). The black packs are made with 150-denier Cuben/Poly hybrid–the same fabric we use on all our 4400 packs and to reinforce the bottoms of our 50-denier Cuben/Poly hybrid white packs.

Black packs came about after we developed a handful of urban/commuting packs made from the 150-denier black Cuben Fiber alternative. After we released that product, customers immediately started calling and asking if they could get our standard line of packs in black. So we launched our 1800 Series of Summit backpacks in black in 2013 and have custom-built our standard line in black upon request. Read the rest of the Black Packs article now.

The History of Going Light

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The Philosophy of Going Light, Part I, is part of our Stripped Down Series.

Old Fashioned Backpack

Photo courtesy of Kevin Dooley / Foter / CC BY

Now & Then

Major changes have taken place in the world of backcountry travel in the last half century. Adventurers now rock climb 3,500-foot walls in record speeds and hike thousands of miles carrying backpacks that weigh less than a small dog. Pioneers have questioned tradition and tested boundaries, transforming their adventure sports and the gear they use for those sports.

When Warren Harding, Wayne Merry and George Whitmore first climbed El Capitan, Yosemite National Park, they spent 47 days on the route using “siege tactics.” They hammered in hundreds of pitons and fixed thousands of feet or rope. Nowadays, people regularly climb their famous route, The Nose, in less than 24 hours. Alex Honnold and Hans Florine climbed it in just over two hours in 2012!

Likewise people have been trekking and camping long-distance on horizontal terrain since the early 1900s, regularly carrying one-third of their body weight (50 to 70 pounds). But thru hikers like National Geographic “Adventurer of the Year” Andrew Skurka and winter Pacific Crest Trail record breakers, Justin Lichter and Shawn Forry, have revolutionized hiking. They ditched the metal canteens, woolen knickers and cotton sleeping bags, replacing them with innovative, often custom-made equipment that was not only lighter, but also more streamlined, durable and effective. Imagine Skurka trying to hike the 6,875-mile Great Western Loop in 208 days with an external frame pack. No chance. Read the rest of the article!

How to Choose a Campsite

Posted on by Max / Posted in Stripped Down: Lighten Your Load |

Echo II TarpBy Max Neale, a former Review Editor for Outdoor Gear Lab

A good campsite can make or break your wilderness experience. When traveling long distances or through remote areas, I break the campsite selection process into two steps. At the macro level I look at maps and identify–based on my average speed and the desired time I want to bed down for the night–a general area to sleep. Here, I look for an area that is: off trail, so you don’t interfere with other people’s wilderness experience; flat, where you’re most likely to find a level place to lay down; near resources such as water and firewood; not buggy, in a breezy area away from breeding grounds such as swamps and slow moving water; not in the bottom of a valley, where the air will be colder and the dew and frost will be greater; not near animal paths or their ideal habitat, which might lead to an unwelcome nighttime guest; and finally, away from natural hazards such as flash floods and avalanches.

Read the rest of the article

Stripped Down: What is Lightweight exactly?

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Evolution of going lite

The Philosophy of Going Light

By Mike St. Pierre, illustration by Steve Graepel

The first few days Cheryl Strayed hiked the Pacific Crest Trail she could barely lift her pack. Most people reading this likely remember that feeling from early backpacking trips. Each step you took felt crushing, as obscene weight drilled your heavy, boot-clad feet into the dirt. Your hips ached and chafed almost immediately. Your back contorted in multiple directions (despite the fact that you stood up straight, sort of). Those were the days when you went “heavy.”

You didn’t do this because you wanted to; you just didn’t know better. I sure didn’t. Like I said in last week’s post, I practically brought a kitchen drawer full of steel utensils on one of my early pack trips. But, since then I’ve learned a few things, and I’ve adopted a going light philosophy. Less gear equals more adventure!

What is lightweight?

Read more about the going light philosophy…

Community Spotlight: Bayard Russell

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Bayard Russell, Mugs Stump winner to climb Mt. Deborah, Hayes Range, AlaskaPhoto by Anne Skidmore Russell

New Hampshire’s mountains may be small compared to Western ranges, but they offer some ferocious terrain and hearty individuals. We recently chatted with hunter, climber and adventurer Bayard Russell. As we write this, he’s on his way to the Hayes Range, Alaska with partners Elliot Gaddy and Michael Wejchert to make their second attempt on the unclimbed south face of Mt. Deborah (12,540′). The threesome won the prestigious Mugs Stump Award.

Their plan: to climb a giant (i.e. 4500-foot) face, traverse a 1.5-mile ridge “across a classic, horrifying, double-corniced traverse,” to the summit of the mountain, and then descend to the other side of the mountain, and climb a pass and hike “six to ten miles” to get back to basecamp.

“It’s a big new age wall objective with an old-school Alaska mountaineering objective,” Russell explained. “The guys selectively provided me with information to get me psyched,” he added with a laugh. Read the rest of the article!

Stripped Down #3: Weigh Everything

Posted on by HMG / Posted in Stripped Down: Lighten Your Load |

Mike St. Pierre, Stripped Down Series of educational blog posts about ultralight backcountry travel.By Mike St. Pierre

Most ultralight backpackers, blogs and mags that write about lightweight travel and many alpine climbers recommend you weigh everything before embarking on backcountry adventures. I wish I’d known this in my twenties when I started backpacking. I didn’t realize the benefits of weighing all my gear until after I sustained a knee injury carrying excessive gear up Clingmans Dome (6,643’), the highest point in Tennessee, Great Smoky Mountains National Park. I brought steel utensils from my kitchen drawer, burly hiking boots, and all the ridiculously heavy gear you buy without thinking because “you need it.” As my knees healed, I started to put together my first Excel spreadsheet.

The theory behind weighing all your gear is you can’t possibly know what your weight options are for going lighter if you don’t know how much your gear weighs. I broke down items into categories and then subcategories. For example (not comprehensive):

Read the rest of Stripped Down #3 here

Stripped Down: Community Tips

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    Go light. Hike in your socks :)

Comments moderated by Mike St. Pierre

Thanks so much to our community for providing so many good tips & tricks to lighten your load. We’ll be expanding some of these into blog posts in the upcoming weeks.

  • From Charles Greenhalgh via Instagram (@daily_maple): Use a very large poncho. It provides protection from rain, but breathes really well and covers your pack and your legs to the knees. It can also serve as an emergency shelter. Charles has waited out hailstorms on the trail and made lunch under his poncho.
  • Thanks to Chris (@snow_slog) who advised us via Instagram to take a smaller pack than normal because it forces you to pack less. This brings to mind something I often tell my customers; I recommend you buy your pack last. By purchasing all your necessities first, you can figure out the lightest, best options for you. And then buy a pack that reflects those purchases. Buy a big pack from the get-go, and you’re just going to fill it, often with unnecessary stuff. Read the rest of the community tips…

Stripped Down with Mike St. Pierre, Trekking Poles

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Trekking Poles are The Bomb

“Trekking poles are the difference between two-wheel drive and four-wheel drive when you’re on the trail.”
-Max Neale, writer & adventurer (@nealemax on Twitter)

Text by Mike St. Pierre, Photo by Cody Cobb.

Photo by Cody Cobb.

Trekking poles prevent muscle damage and soreness. It’s true, and not just because I say so. The UK’s Northumbria University did a study in 2010 and found the test groups that used poles, “demonstrated a reduced loss of strength and a faster recovery immediately after the trek compared to the control group.” They drilled it down even more, finding the levels of the enzyme creatine kinase (indicating muscle damage) were significantly higher in the non-pole group, while “the trekking-pole group’s levels were close to the pre-trekking levels.” I.e. muscle damage was negligible when people used poles. Various studies have shown that using poles can reduce the impact on your knees from 25-40%. Cool, right?

Read the rest of the article…