Sometimes it’s the things that go unsaid that are the most telling. For instance, when people say that they’re into the outdoors, they’re also most likely not big fans of crowds. Sure, we might maintain that we’re just looking for a little peace and quiet, maybe some solitude, some unspoiled vistas, or fresh tracks— but no matter how you package your passions, “getting away from it all” is pretty much code for avoiding your fellow human beings.
Whether your taste for company runs more towards “prefers small groups” or full-on agoraphobia, if you’re a backcountry skier, untapped stashes devoid of the hoots and hollers of other powder harvesters are getting harder to find. In 2015, something like 3.2 million skiers and snowboarders slapped on a set of skins or snowshoes and got after it in the mountains under their own steam. That year saw an eight-percent increase in the sales of alpine touring gear, and the delta on that data can only have increased even more since then.
That means that increasingly, getting out into the good stuff means going further, faster. Suffice it to say, the kitchen sink approach—that pillar of the average ski touring gear list you’ll find on most sites—isn’t going to get you there (at least not like that).
A Gift-Buying Guide For People Who Love Gearheads
Whoever started calling the holiday season “the most wonderful time of the year” obviously never spent much time on the top of a mountain at the height of summer. That’s ok though, here at Hyperlite Mountain Gear we like to say that there are only two types of people in the world: those who have yet to fall in love with life on the trail, and those of us who already have.
You probably have a few of the former in your life. You might overhear them say things like, “She/he is out in the garage messing with that scale again” or “He/she just disappears into the woods for weeks at a time with nothing but a backpack and comes home with a huge grin on his/her face.” Specifically, they may be uttering about, well… you.
If that’s the case, you might want to consider a complete re-working of your current Gift Idea Suggestion Strategy (GISS)–in the spirit of fostering maximal yuletide cheer, of course. After all, it could be all that stands between you and a veritable rainbow of ill-fitting new turtlenecks at the end of the month.
We get it: buying ultralight gifts for backpackers must be daunting. Ultralight gear is highly technical stuff by nature; simplicity, it turns out, is kind of complicated. That’s why we put together this gift-buying guide for gearheads, but tailored to non-gearheads. It’s cool: Just let us do the explaining for you, it’s our job.
All you have to do is paste this url into an email to mom/dad/grandpappy/bubbe/spouse/partner/sister/bro/friend, share it on their Facebook wall, link, tweet, etc. If we’ve done this right, you should be all set.
To kick things off, allow us to introduce the Hyperlite Mountain Gear Gift Ease Index (HMGGEI). It’s a numerical rating scale based on the relative ease of gift purchasing decision, from 1-10 with 10 being easiest and 1 being most difficult or complicated. We took into account things like price, awareness of the giftee/gearhead’s actual activities in the field, knowledge of current state of giftee/gearhead’s quiver and several quantitative overall radness measurements (ORMs) for the HMGGEI rating of each of our products. Here goes nothing!
Words & Photos by Cam Honan
The essence of going lighter in the woods is not so much about gear, as it is about the adoption of a simpler, less cluttered approach to one’s time backpacking.
Insofar as this philosophy relates to shelters, tarps fit the bill both tangibly and intangibly.
In the following article I’ll examine the benefits of tarp camping, as well as share some tips and techniques to minimize the perceived negatives. I’ll end the piece with an overview of environments in which the hiker is better off leaving the tarp at home, and going with a tent.
(Spoiler Alert) Both trails require the essentials.
Word & Photos by Robin Standish
I finished the Appalachian Trail (AT) in mid December, 2015. Hoarfrost glazed the landscape, icicles lined the slick, frosty trail, and a damp, east coast chill seeped through ever layer I wore. It was time to be done, though it wouldn’t be for long. A few months later, when the feeling in my toes had returned, and my hiker hobble lessened, I headed for the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). I was confident in the hiking part, but was uncertain about how my gear setup would have to be altered.
For the past three years, our Ultamid 2 and 4-person ultralight pyramid shelters have been quietly winning hearts and minds out in the field. 2016 was no exception–the ‘Mid movement is gaining steam.
In additions to endorsements from some of the most hardcore, mile-bagging, wilderness-dwelling customers out there, the Ultamid got some outstanding official recognition from a few exceptional media outlets as well.
Just in case you’re on the fence about joining the club, we thought we’d see if maybe this little nudge would help. We get it: our pyramid tents are a major investment. But without getting all sales-y, we wouldn’t make them if they didn’t represent the best damn balance of lightweight performance with exceptional durability out there. “Set it (up) and forget it” applies to things in the backcountry, too–and in the case of an Ultamid, you’ll be doing exactly that for years and years to come.
“If you can’t ride two horses at once you shouldn’t be in the circus.” – James Maxton (1885-1946)
Text by Cam Honan
One of many ways in which a hiker can lower his or her pack weight is by using multi-purpose gear. A standard backpacking kit is literally full of such items.
Before heading out into the wilderness on your next big trip, try the following exercise. Clear the living room floor and spread out all of your stuff. Examine each and every article and ask yourself three questions:
- Do I really need it?
- What will happen if I don’t have it?
- Am I already packing something that would do the same job?
Photos & text by Nicholas “Click” Reichard
SNAP! The sound of a baseball bat hitting my shins was a pain I will never forget. Except there was no baseball bat, I was a month into my Appalachian Trail thru hike and dealing with shin splints that made every step a nightmare. I remember it so well because it was the week of my 26th birthday, and my only wish was for the pain to go away.
To set the story straight I know the problem was my pack weight, which was largely due to my camera gear. I was quite new to backpacking and surely wasn’t the type of guy to brag about my knowledge when it came to the great outdoors. I was determined to keep going and willing to do anything to help ease the pain I had put my body through, but was I ready to take the steps to become an UL hiker?
Bushcrafters Love “Classic” (aka Heavy) Gear: Brian Trubshaw Wants To Change That
Text and photos by Brian Trubshaw
I started my outdoor life with Bushcraft. A naturalist at heart, I don’t just enjoy being in nature; I believe in being one with nature. Bushcraft is the art of being able to spend time outdoors with very few items because you have a better understanding of the natural world. In other words, you have excellent “wilderness skills.” Englishman Ray Mears popularized the term “Bushcraft” here in the United Kingdom in his TV show, “Wild Tracks.” His show brought his survival research across the world to the big screen and left a lasting impression on my seven-year-old self.
Like Mears, when I walk in my woodlands, I don’t just see trees and plants, I see food I can eat and resources that I can use to do tasks. For example I very rarely carry tent stakes with me, as I know that I can just use branches with a carved point on the end. However, I also have a set of tent takes I have carved out of Hazel straights for when I’m in mossy areas. Wood work, fire lighting, shelter building—with the right knowledge the possibilities are endless.
Not All Technical Appalachian Trail Hiking Clothes Are Created Equal
By Tyson Perkins
A little catching up…
Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland and into Pennsylvania. Looking at the maps in the Appalachian Trail Conservancy’s main building in Harper’s Ferry made it apparent that we have put a solid dent into our journey. Lays’ parents joined us for a short stint through the Shenandoah National Park, where it rained more often than not, but it was okay because of the waysides offered at almost every 15 miles. There, we fueled up on their bounty of affordable cheeseburgers and tall beers. Since then we have done a 26 mile slack pack in eight hours, sweated profusely in the humid air and caught up with some old friends we lost during our Trail Days endeavor. After making it just about halfway on the Appalachian Trail I thought I would take a good look at the technical hiking clothes I use day in and day out.
Read on to find out what clothing you should bring on your Appalachian Trail thru hike.
A Master Cartographer Digs Deep to Find the Navigational Skills Needed to Succeed on One of the World’s Most Extreme Thru Hikes
By Clay Wadman, photos by Mike St. Pierre & Clay Wadman
Once I’m oriented, a map is nothing but a close-up of that mental image I form before every trip, an overview if you will, from space. I marvel at how far these maps have come since Major John Wesley Powell first came to the Southwest with pencil and paper and tried to make sense of these great cirques and valleys. To glance up at the cliffs and huge amphitheaters of the Grand Canyon’s Red Wall and then back down to the impossibly high tech orthographic projection of these features I hold in my hand, they are perfect and these images help me see their scale and shape even more clearly.
In this blog post, I recreated notes from the journal I took on the below-the-rim section hike of the Grand that Mike St. Pierre and I embarked on, March 2016. The section we did is part of what Rich Rudow calls, “The Grandest Walk“—a thru hike that traverses the Canyon below the rim. Mike plans on doing it in three sections; he invited me for the second leg of his journey. Though a mapmaker with decades of experience, I dug deep on this adventure. It was one of the most difficult of my life. Strong navigation skills and tools were integral to our success.
On day four of our trip we awake to grey—grey skies, grey fatigue, a grey attitude like fog from last night’s sand storm and bad water. Everything above the 6,000-foot level is washed in fresh snow, including the rim above us. In the Crystal Creek wash, clear alkaline-poison water laps at our boots. I want to see something good in everything and think to myself: “At least in the weeks to come, the potholes will be full on the Esplanade…” From the streambed, our escape route out of the Crystal is unobvious. We just descended from Shiva Saddle, one of the highest saddles on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, and dropped all the way to the river. Now we need to climb back up through five or six of the major geologic groups in the canyon, this time to the Sagittarius Saddle.
If you’ve ever seen a photo looking down on the Grand Canyon from outer space you can see the dark, almost black looking boreal forests that cap one of the biggest “oxbow” bends on the planet. This immense arch stretches from Nankoweep at River Mile 53 all the way to Tapeats at River Mile 137. In the scorching desert of the American Southwest, this part of the geologic up-thrust that created the canyon itself, has become a forest of huge conifers and moisture, rising to an elevation of 10,000’.
I hold onto this mental image as I study the maps of the inner canyon. Not just a random sweep of bends and corners, the river has purpose and direction; from its genesis to its evolution, modern topographical science magically reveals each of its secrets. Read the rest of Wadman’s story.
Stripped Down Thru Hiking Gear List for Extreme, Lightweight & Extended Backcountry Adventures, By Mike St. Pierre
“I used this thru hiking gear list for my Grand Canyon section hike, but minus the technical climbing and canyoneering gear, it’s basically what I’d bring on any long-distance section, thru hike or weekend backpacking.” -Mike St. Pierre
Photos & article by Mike St. Pierre
As an ultralight long-distance adventurer, I dial in my systems to conserve energy with every step I take. The lighter my gear, the further I can go; the less weight I carry, the less the strain on my body and the less food I need. Going light just makes sense. And it absolutely doesn’t mean I’m uncomfortable when in the backcountry. I’m always warm enough, well fed and hydrated, and I sleep well at night. In this blog post, I share my thru hiking gear list from my recent 200 mile off trail section hike below the rim of the Grand Canyon. This extreme adventure incorporates long-distance hiking, rock climbing, canyoneering and serious map and compass skills, and is one of the most difficult thru hikes in the world. Water is scarce, established trails nonexistent, and the terrain is steep and difficult to navigate. It’s a trip that fewer than three dozen people have done (consider that 40 people summited Mt. Everest in one day in May 2016!). However, despite the specialized nature of some of the technical gear I carried, the basic equipment I bring on any thru hike or long-distance backpacking is the same. And my pack base weight is typically 8-15lbs., depending on the discipline. Check out my full gear list below.
Read the first two articles in this series here: “Planning & Prep: The Thru Hiker’s Guide to Multi-Sport Expeditions” and “Thru Hike Expedition Gear Planning & Food Prep.” As well, I detail my food planning for my first trip to the Grand in, “Food Prep & Recipes for Ultralight Thru Hike Adventures.”
Check out St. Pierre’s Gear Checklist.
Hyperlite Mountain Gear’s Dyneema® 2400 Ice Pack wins Carryology’s 2016 “Best Active Backpack” Award!
This has been a great year for our Dyneema® backpacks and Duffel bag. The Alpinist Magazine gave the Ice Pack it’s Mountain Standards Award, TrailSpace.com gave our Summit five stars in a January review, and BlisterGearReview.com gave both our Duffel Bag and Ice Pack excellent reviews. Of the things that come up again and again is the strength and durability of the fabric, plus the lightweight. Read more from Carryology.
“Weight is almost never an advantage in an active backpack. But to get durability and features in your pack design, a weight compromise is somewhat inevitable. Hyperlite [Mountain Gear] is one of the pioneering brands trying to break this paradigm, and their Dyneema 2400 Ice Pack is a cracking example. Utilizing high-tech Dyneema, a reductionist design approach and very considered construction, their 2400 is crazy light, super tough, and will resist almost any weather you can throw at it.” —Carryology.com
The Dyneema® 2400 Ice Pack is part of our line of ultra-durable, ultralight Dyneema® Backpacks and Duffel Bag.
It’s never too late to change your gear. Ambassador “Tenderfoot” alters his lightweight Appalachian Trail gear kit one month in.
“Aches & Pains? I thought it was just walking on the AT?!”
Photos & text by Tyson “Tenderfoot” Perkins
Over 100 miles in, and I already feel like I have 100 years worth of stories. We’ve met more than 100 people, and we have over 100 aches and pains. The trail has taught me more in the last 10 days than I’ve learned in all my research of it over the last couple years. Sure you can figure out who the first person to hike it was, or how many steps it takes to the end. However, it’s almost impossible to learn something like this so in depth without actually being there and living it. A couple days ago when we took our zero day (on my 24th birthday), I answered a few questions for my co-workers at Hyperlite Mountain Gear about my lightweight Appalachian Trail gear kit, what I’ve changed, added and dropped. Here goes… Read More
Understanding what you need is the secret to knowing what you don’t. So when Hyperlite Mountain Gear CEO Mike St. Pierre decided to embark on 200 miles of one of the most difficult thru hikes in the country—the 600-mile traverse of the Grand Canyon below the rim—he refined his organizational tools by designing stackable, zippered Pods.
Because he needed to carry more food (and gear) than normal to go the eight or nine days from cache to cache, he had to optimize how he used the available volume of his pack. Fitted perfectly to the shape of his Southwest Pack, the new Pods left no space unfilled, no volume unused.
“I was looking for a better, more efficient way of storing ten days worth of food,” St. Pierre explains. “I love and have always used our CF8 and CF11 Stuff Sacks, but I found that putting ten days of food into them wasn’t working. When filled with my repackaged meals, they were like a bunch of footballs crammed in my pack. I was wasting 600 to 800 cubic inches. So it just made sense to design something that matched the internal shape of the pack. Once I figured that out, I was able to get what I put into a 55-liter pack into a 40-liter pack just by reorganizing how I laid out the food.” Read the rest of the post.
Ideal for the minimalist overnight adventurer.
We built the ultimate, super lightweight Ground Cloth for minimalist overnight backpackers and thru hikers who like to sleep under the stars, but who still want foolproof protection for their gear from moisture, mud and dirt. Ideal for goal-oriented adventurers constantly on the move and in need of fast protection from inclement weather, it’s sizeable at 96” X 52” (8’ X 4’”) but weighs less than an iPhone. Pair it with our Flat Tarp, Echo II Tarp or UltaMids (if not using the respective inserts) for optimal ultralight multi-sport travel. Made of 100% waterproof Dyneema® Composite Fabric (formerly Cuben Fiber), it serves as an excellent waterproof barrier between you and the ground. Use the reinforced loops to stake out the lightweight Ground Cloth so the wind doesn’t blow it away.
Weight: 0.12 lbs | 3.4 oz. | 96g
Dimensions: 96” x 52” (244cm x 132cm)
Material: Spruce Green CF8 Dyneema® Composite Fabric (formerly Cuben Fiber)
- * Reinforced CF11 Corners
- * Corner and center tie-outs made with 1/2” lightweight binding
Chris Atwood On How to Patch Holes In Your Gear While On An Extreme Thru Hike
Text & photos by Chris Atwood
Editor’s note: Hyperlite Mountain Gear also sells Dyneema® Repair Kits (formerly Cuben Fiber Repair Kits) which we recommend for patching a hole in a Hyperlite Mountain Gear backpack or tarp/shelter. By using the Dyneema® tape, you maintain the strength of the pack because you are using the same lightweight, ripstop and waterproof fabric as the pack itself. To properly use one of these kits to repair a pack or shelter, follow the same instructions as below, but don’t complete the third step. The powerful adhesive on the back of the tape means that the Seam Grip is not necessary, saving you a step and a sticky mess. If you do not have a Hyperlite Mountain Gear Repair Kit, we recommend that you follow the steps outlined by Chris Atwood.
After 57 days in the Grand Canyon backcountry, my Hyperlite Mountain Gear Southwest 4400 still looks great. It saw the spectrum of conditions, literally every type of weather imaginable below the Canyon’s rim, yet never failed to protect my kit. It carried very well, proved elegantly functional with its minimalist design and came to Pearce Ferry in great structural condition.
However, the outback of Grand Canyon is tough on gear. Most routes, in addition to being choked with poking, clawing and slicing flora are themselves composed of carnivorous limestone, eager to nibble any exposed flesh or backpack side pocket that wanders into the kill zone. We sometimes willingly drag and scrape our packs along such routes, hauling precious drinking water from deep within slot canyons. With this type of abuse, a thru hiker is bound to get a few holes in her/his pack. Fortunately, repairs in the field can be easy if done right. Here’s how to repair a pack. Read More
Considered one of the most influential gear review sites by Outside Magazine, BlisterGearReview.com does comprehensive reviews of outdoor products. They recently published excellent reviews of Hyperlite Mountain Gear’s Dyneema® Expedition Duffel Bag and our UltaMid 2 Pyramid Tent. What they said…
“If your objectives entail hauling a lot of gear far into the wilderness, and you put a premium on low weight and durability, the Hyperlite Mountain Gear Dyneema® Duffel should be on your short list. It’s a high-performance bag designed for objectives where excess weight is anathema and durability and weatherproofing are vital. For those looking for top-tier performance, it’s a great option.”
–Cy Whiting, BlisterGearReview.com
“For years I’ve been searching for a superlight four-season shelter that I can use year round for human powered adventures, and now I seem to have found it. The Hyperlite Mountain Gear UltaMid 2 is the best performing, most versatile shelter I’ve ever used. There is little doubt in mind that it will continue to be my top choice for shelter any time I’m thinking of spending the night outside.”
–Paul Forward, BlisterGearReview.com
Photos & text by Matt Jenkins
Rangers Matt Jenkins and Elyssa Shalla recently joined an exclusive group of just 26 backcountry experts to have embarked on this extreme thru hike below the rim of the Grand Canyon. As well, they are among the eight most recent people either thru hiking or section hiking below the rim who are using Hyperlite Mountain Gear equipment. In this post Jenkins shares the gear choices they make specifically tailored to ultralight winter backpacking. You can read the other posts in his series, including their Ultralight Winter Backpacking Sleep System Strategies. And read more about what it takes to do a huge adventure like this in Rich Rudow’s blog, “The Grandest Walk.”
Weighing in on the Acquisition
There’s been recent buzz on the Web regarding DSM Dyneema’s 2015 acquisition of Cubic Technologies, name changes to the material it produces, formerly known as Cuben Fiber, and the future of this technological advancement. As one of the leading outdoor gear manufacturers backing this technology, we thought it appropriate to weigh in, share some insight and better explain this technology.
DSM Dyneema acquired U.S. manufacturer, Cubic Technologies, May 2015. DSM is a large, global, Dutch company active in the health, nutrition and material sciences industries, and is also the inventor and manufacturer of the Ultra High Molecular Weight Polyethylene (UHMwPE) fibers branded as Dyneema®. Read more…
Text by Matt Jenkins & Elyssa Shalla
Matt Jenkins and Elyssa Shalla, backcountry rangers at Grand Canyon National Park, have been exploring the deserts of the southwest together since they met in 2008. The couple’s next adventure will combine many of the backcountry routes near their home on the Coconino Plateau into one, extended, mostly trail-less adventure. Their plan, a winter thru hike of the Grand Canyon from the Grand Wash Cliffs to Lees Ferry, will take place over the 2015-16 El Nino season.
As rangers, Matt and Elyssa constantly seek ways to share their passion and enthusiasm for traveling lightly and efficiently through wild places. In this article, the pair explore ideas that have made ultralight winter backpacking more fun and comfortable for them in the vast wilderness that is their backyard.
Sleep System Strategies for Ultralight Winter Backpacking
Wherever you’re headed, planning a trip during the winter requires couples and teams to re-evaluate every piece of gear in their standard ultralight set up. That means considering a given piece of equipment’s purpose in relation to efficiency and weight with extra scrutiny. Sometimes this results in more questions than answers for people who are new to winter backcountry travel: What are you bringing, should I bring one too and who gets to schlep this heavy thing around!?
In this post, we will briefly discuss some key tweaks we’ve made to one system of the “Big Three”– our winter sleep system. Our approach is the result of an evolution over time and many trips, and we hope you’ll find it useful as you head outside this winter. Read more…