Carry a Lighter Pack: 3 Tips To Reduce Food, H2O & Fuel Weight

Streamline Your Consumables to Carry a Lighter Pack & Enhance Your Adventure.

Carry a lighter pack: always make sure the water you are drinking is safe.

Text by Philip Werner

Ultralight backpackers spend a great deal of time and effort reducing the weight of their gear, or base weight. But reducing the weight of your consumables, (food, water and fuel) is just as important and can lead to significant weight savings with little extra expense.

For example, when I started hiking the Vermont’s Long Trail eight years ago, I filled a three liter hydration reservoir with water every morning, carrying six liters of water, even though water was plentiful along the trail. It took me about 100 miles, but I figured out that I never needed to carry more than a liter at a time, shaving four pounds off my pack weight just like that, without spending a cent.

It takes a little bit more planning, but this is a good example of how to skills and experience can help you reduce the weight of your consumables.

Here are a few more strategies that I use to reduce the weight of my food, water and fuel: <!–more Check out the 3 tips to carry a lighter load.”

#1 Food

  • Remove all excess packaging.
  • Replace low-calorie foods with calorically dense foods like nuts, olive oil or ghee.
  • Bring less food per day. There’s no need to pack 5000-6000 calories per day like a thru hiker if you mainly take overnight or weekend backpacking trips. Try bringing 3000 calories per day instead. This should still be sufficient to keep you satisfied and alert, and you’re unlikely to starve to death, even if you burn more energy than you consume. The goal is to come home with an empty food bag every time.

Read the other two tips now.

The History of Going Light

Stripped Down: The Philosophy of Going Light

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

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

Packrafting New Zealand

Two boaters packrafting New Zealand's Arahura River.
Arahura — is this scenery for real!?

By Wyatt Roscoe, packrafter & outdoor adventurer

Packrafting Paradise: New Zealand Delivers

The fact that climate change is exaggerating extremes was easy to see as we arrived for two weeks of packrafting in New Zealand two months after the largest floods in 40 years. We then boated through a record breaking drought. However, we found water and took Alpacka Raft’s new White Water boat for some fun rides throughout the incredible two islands.

Our journey took us from Auckland down to Murchison, where we ran the Matakitaki and Buller before heading to the infamous West Coast. Hyperlite Mountain Gear’s bullet proof Cuben Fiber packs helped us get our gear there in ultralight style.

Taking our Alpacka raft on a wild ride.
Taking our Alpacka raft on a wild ride.


Over a few beers in Hokitika we talked to local boaters about the low flows and potential runs. We decided to hike into a classic helicopter run on the Arahura. The scenery was wild and after taking our time to film and photograph on the 10-mile hike in we were left only with the afternoon to boat out. Because of the low water a normal four- to five-hour run took us almost seven hours and many portages to reach the top of the last gorge. With darkness impending we choose to stash our boats and return in the morning to finish the run.  The plentiful sand fly bites didn’t keep us from sleeping well that night after a full 14-hour day of paddling and hiking. The next morning we finished running the “cesspool” after an exciting portage on the first drop.

With minimal flows on the west coast we drove south Queens Town in search of bigger water. We found it. The rapid Citron promptly trounced us and quickly put some things in perspective. These boats are meant for back-country runs with lower flows and not your class IV-V big pushy water.  Weighing just over 13lb they have a way of making themselves at home in big holes and not standing up for themselves against huge laterals.  I had big dreams of dispelling the idea that all packrafters are swimmers now that we have this new boat, but unfortunately we did nothing but reinforce it. They continue to get easier to role but with their wide base it takes some getting use to.

Checking out the drop while packrafting in New Zealand.
Checking out the drop.

We decided to take the boats back to their home environment and did a two-day hike into some Lord of the Rings worthy mountains.  If you’re thinking about packrafting New Zealand, it’s a total must. This trip into the Landsborough included real Kiwi “track” that took us over a pass that gained and lost almost 10,000 vertical ft in two miles. Not a switchback to be found and with 50lb packs proved to be a memorable two miles.

The boat out took us through some beautiful valleys and provided some fun class III and in less than five hours we were back at the road. This is what the boats are meant for: compressing what would have been 16 hours of painful hiking into five hours of stunning paddling.  Our trip concluded as we headed north back to Auckland and running Maria Falls and the classic Kaituna run three times. It was a glorious two and half weeks that taught us a lot about the boats and let us see a truly spectacular country.

Maria Falls
Maria Falls
Packrafting across New Zealand.
Packrafting across New Zealand.
Running waterfalls was a highlight on the adventure.

My parents went ultralight

FamilyGrandCanyon3By Amy Hatch

Large external frame backpacks protruded over their heads. Bungee cords lashed to them a frying pan, heavy foam sleeping pads and an extra daypack. A bulky backpacking shower, full books, and eggs, bacon and hash browns added to the unwieldy load.

This is how backpacking used to look for parents, Nancy and Cleve Schenck, back in the ’70s and early ’80s, before I was a twinkle in their eyes – and, for that matter, even once I became part of their outdoor adventures.

“Packs used to not have sternum straps, so we’d jerry rig the sternum straps,” my mom reminisced.

Read the rest of the article!

Spruce Green is the new White

Hyperlite Mountain Gear’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
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
Hyperlite Mountain Gear Flat Tarp in the Maine Woods

Here’s Hyperlite Mountain Gear’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
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!

Hyperlite Mountain Gear
Biddeford, Maine



Hike Fast. Paddle Hard. Dance All Night.

The First Annual AK Packrafting Festival

This past July Hyperlite Mountain Gear Ambassador Luc Mehl and friends participated in the first annual McCarthy Creek Packraft Race and Whitewater Festival in Wrangell Mountains of Alaska.  We’re hoping this event, organized by Kennicott Wilderness Guides and McCarthy River Tours and Outfitters, will become an annual happening.  Hyperlite Mountain Gear 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 inaugural 2013, festival.

McCarthy Packrafting Festival Poster

The McCarthy Creek runs through the Wrangell 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+). 
Read the rest of the article

Pack Lite: Oregon Coast Fatbiking

Hyperlite Mountain Gear Ambassador Steve Graepel is about to leave on a fatbiking expedition on Oregon Coast.  In this post, he gives us his approach to gear selection and going light when planning a multisport expedition like this one.

Thanks to the 1967 Oregon Beach Bill, the public has unrestricted easement to the Oregon Coast, where uninterrupted miles of beach are periodically punctuated by the western slope drainage and rocky capes. In a few days, a buddy and I are heading west with fatbikes to pedal and paddle a rough cut of the coast between Port Orford and Florence. During the trip, we’ll be employing some familiar and some orthodox strategies.

Steve Graepel's multsport expedition gear spread.
Steve Graepel’s multisport expedition gear spread.

Awkwardly enough, to save weight, we needed to put on a little “fat”. While lugging a 30 pound bike with monster truck wheels the size of Montana seems far from light, sometimes the terrain dictates the gear. And in sand, size matters. With 3.7” of volume, I’m actually on the terminal edge of the fat movement (new tires are breaking into the 5” barrier). While I’d probably appreciate the extra float, the loss of over an inch trims a weight in rims and tires while still providing sufficient float.

I’ve cut additional bike weight with a few aftermarket upgrades. The stock crankset was replaced with a 36/22 crankset and a single 18 cog in the back. For the layman, this means I have two rings in front but one ring in the rear, enabling smooth pedaling in soft sand and an efficient gear for the hard pack. I swapped in a titanium handlebar and seatpost; it is corrosion resistant and “softens” the ride in the cockpit – which the prostate will appreciate after miles on the John Deere tires. Lastly, we’ve stripped the front brakes. Salt and sand is hard on brakes and cable gets in the way of handlebar bags. Removing the brakes also simplifies the constant removal and mounting of the front wheel and it lessens the chance of a fatal snag during the inevitable bushwhack. In the end, all these trimmings cut about 7 pounds off the market bike.

When cycling, weight on the body fatigues the body. And carrying an additional 30 pounds of supplies wreaks havoc on the ischial tuberosity (read as saddle sores). So most supplies will be loaded on the bike, not in the pack. A bevy of Revelate Designs frame bags bought us some real estate on the handlebars, the seatpost and inside the frame triangle. We’ll strategically pack gear to keep the bike’s center stable and squirreliness minimized: lighter, bulkier gear will go on the handlebars; heavy and incompressible (food) will pack in the frame bag; bulky electronics will stow in the seatpost drybag.

The route isn’t all sand. As I alluded to, we’ll fjord the inlets and rivers that cross our route. Traditionally, bikes are precariously strapped to packrafts to navigate water crossings. We’ll be doing the same. But the packraft market has seen some radical enlightenment. Last year Klymit (mostly known for inflatable pads and jackets), threw its design in the pool with its LWD, or Light Weight Dingy. The material is a 210D ripstop nylon–something you would find in an inflatable pad–has 6 lash points, an ingenious unidirectional valve, and comes with an inflation bag/dry bag. As you would assume by the name, it’s light and is best suited for flat to mildly wavy water with minimal rock or exposure to pokey things; entirely within the scope of our route. Finally, the LWD weighs 35oz – nearly 4 pounds lighter than my skirted Alpackaraft Yukon. A few test rides look like it’s a winner and can support a fully loaded bike and paddler. It will be wet, but it’s Oregon after all.

We’ll use a Hyperlite Mountain Gear Windrider Pack and a Hyperlite Mountain Gear Porter Pack to stow what we can’t fit on the bike, which won’t be much. Water, supplies for the day, paddles and the boat. The theory is to keep it light, but have enough volume to carry all our supplies during hike-a-bike section. Hell biking can be, well, a slice out of purgatory when you have to push unwieldy loaded bikes. By comparison, hauling supplies on the back lets big tires virtually float over the terrain.

Bike and boat aside, the real savings starts to accrue in the traditional ways. Just like when backpacking, we’re going light where we can afford to and cutting what we don’t need: shared camp equipment, one set of pedal clothes, one set of camp clothes and lightweight rain gear to cover over it all. The weather will still warm – 55 degrees at night – so we can cut a significant amount in insulation weight. I’m using a warm weather quilt by Katabatic gear and a lightweight parka. We’re using Hyperlite Mountain Gear’s new 2-man UltaMid pyramid tent, and our ½ length 6 oz. ‘skeletal’ Klymit pad will double as our PFD.

Stripping a kit down its raw bones integrates gear into the fabric of the pursuit. And you’d be hard pressed to find a pursuit that exemplifies this more so than multisport. It requires creativity, a savvy approach, and a measure of moxi. The challenges are proportional but the rewards are exponential. The Oregon Coast should be a great proving ground for our bikepacking strategy.

-Steve Graepel, September 2013


Peter on the CDT – Grants to Cuba (Segment 6)

For 2013 Hyperlite Mountain Gear is sponsoring one thru-hiker on each of the Appalachian Trail (AT), Continental Divide Trail (CDT) and Pacific Coastal Trail (PCT).  Here’s the sixth update from the trail by Peter, Hyperlite Mountain Gear’s sponsored CDT hiker.  Peter (trail name, “CzechXpress”) will keep all of us up do date with periodic posts and pictures from his journey.  We hope you’ll check in regularly to follow Peter along the trail!

Peter all smiles on his way from Grants to Cuba via the CDT

The zero day that I had in Grants, which involved moving as little as possible because of my aching foot that was tender to each step I took was rather uneventful.  The rest of the group had left that morning, but I knew that an extra day would give my foot the rest it needed to make it to Cuba, which was the next destination for my next segment.

A well needed ‘zero day’ to recover before continuing on to Cuba

Grants is small town that once was a booming Uranium mining town, and was once home to the biggest and most productive Uranium mines in the country.  As I learned during the local shuttle drive, high school kids were dropping out of school to go work the mines for an average starting salary of $80,000 per year, creating a huge void in the school system.  Once the government stopped buying the Uranium, the mine laid off 4,000 people overnight, starting a mass exodus out of the town.  Grants has since recovered, but you can still see the boarded up shops downtown. Regardless, you can still feel the local pride in its banners and its people.

After resting in the hotel room, doing some shopping at Wal-Mart, and getting a resupply box ready to be shipped to Ghost Ranch, it was time to leave.  My foot was feeling a little better and I was ready to keep moving.  I’ve learned the longer I stay in town, the more comfortable I get and the more my head starts spinning with ideas. I was tired of always taking my pack off to drink water so wanted to try this new hydration system.  I caught the local shuttle to the post office and then to the Mumms who are local trail angels and were holding a new bladder system that I had ordered from REI.  The Mumms are great people who leave water caches out at the start of the Malapais, entering the final canyon towards Grants and a final one on the last stretch up Mt. Taylor for hikers to use.

I was very happy to meet them and did not hesitate to give them a much-needed donation.  I got to the trail head for the next segment and began the long hike to the base of Mt. Taylor, hiking about 10 miles that day to the water cache left by the Mumms.  I like staying next to caches as you can drink all you want and then ‘camel up’ in the morning for the next day.  This was my first section alone since the border and I was actually happy to be hiking alone for this part.  I was able to hike at my own pace, on my own schedule and have some time to think about the journey so far. I hiked up the 11,301 ft summit of Mt. Taylor, a leftover ridge from a volcano that had exploded many millions of years ago, currently making it the highest point of the CDT in New Mexico.  I summited Mt. Taylor in the morning with the sun rising over the huge horizon that lay before me.

Nothing but clear skies and Hyperlite Mountain Gears’ sponsored CDT thru-hiker Peter atop Mt. Taylor

To the south were the mountains I had walked through to reach Grants and to the West were the open plains of the desert landscape that hid Arizona not far away.  To the East and North you could see the next ridges and plateaus that would be my home for the next couple of days as I hiked on top of expanding mesas.  I spent a little bit of time on top before making the descent down the mountain, following forest roads to my next water source; American Spring.  This was one of the nicest springs I had seen so far and was happy to get the water out of the pipe. The spring was surrounded by great meadow full of grass and glorious shade.  What a change from the low-lying desert areas that had been my home for so long before.  I ate a nice leisurely lunch there before continuing my trip down the mountain.  That day I hiked 27 miles, making camp in a patch of trees after getting a burst of energy from Skrillz on my newly downloaded Spotify app.  Yes, some say technology is wrong in the woods but music is a great companion after a long day…  Especially Bob Marley.

The “road walk that seemed to never end”

The next day brought a boring road walk that seemed to never end.  It finally did at my next water source, Los Indios Spring.  This is the point where I made one of my most stupid mistakes of the hike so far. It taught me to read and then re-read my map notes 10 times before making my next move.  The sign read Los Indios spring .5 miles, so I thought that it was that far past and down the 200ft canyon as noted on the maps.  I walked the .5 miles past the gate but, still no turn off or canyon.  I still saw foot prints, so I kept walking, thinking the sign makers had made a mistake and I decided to keep on going. Stupidly, I ended up  walking about three miles before deciding to reread my maps. Taking the point of view of the southbound hiker, at the gate you would go .5 miles down the canyon to the spring.  So this meant I had to walk the 3 miles back, then go the .5 miles down the 200 ft canyon to get the water.  I don’t think I’ve ever hiked so pissed off before in my life!  I walked back, got to the spring and threw down my pack in anger.  I knew I had made a mistake and being out of water for the last hour made me even more mad.  Why did I make this mistake?  What was I thinking? All of these questions ran through my head. I wanted to learn from the mistake I had just made and avoid having to deal with a similar situation again.

After coming down off the high plateau and the breathtaking view it provided, it was back down to the desert floor where the fear of rattlesnakes, heat and water shortages resurfaced.  It was miserable.  That section of trail was miserable for me.  It was hot, the landscape was Mars-like, and it had no appeal for me.  It was only about 20 miles long, but it put me in such a bad mood that I found myself walking faster and harder then ever before.  After finally being in the trees and seeing beautiful green grass, it was hard to switch back to the desert hiking I had been enduring for weeks.

A beautiful Mars-like landscape in the desert

The last 20 miles before Cuba were a gorgeous change from the previous miles in the ugly desert. I spent so much time high on the plateaus that surround the area with wonderful rock formations, beautiful expanding views and a cairned trail that was easy to follow.  It reminded me of hiking Utah which is one of my most sacred places to hike in the world.  I happily followed the cairned route up and down the mesa skirting the edge and then back to the middle again, my shoes filled with sand.  My shoes were dying. I couldn’t wait to get my nice new pair once I got to Cuba, and say good bye to these after 530 miles of hard walking.

Almost to Cuba!

I walked into Cuba at 9pm that night on Memorial Day. I road walked the last four miles in the dimming light of the day as people drove home from parties and celebrations.  I was happy to get to town and plop down on the bed knowing that another section was done and a good rest was coming my way.  I lay in the tub with the water hitting my tired and bruised body knowing that this section was now done and that I was nearing the eventual end of New Mexico.





Packrafting in Baxter State Park, Maine

Baxter State Park – View of Mount Katahdin

The Hyperlite Mountain Gear team puts our gear to the test. This year CEO Mike St. Pierre and John Mansir hiked and packrafted in Northern Maine.

Baxter State Park  is over 200,000 acres of wilderness located in northern central Maine. The park includes Maine’s highest peak, and it lies at the end of the Appalachian Trail. It’s also home to Mount Katahdin (also called Baxter Peak).  The park is “forever wild” (no electricity, running water, or paved roads inside the park boundary) and sees only sees only about 60,000 visitors each year so there’s plenty of opportunities to find empty trails and private stretches of lake and river for paddling.  Visit the Park’s website here for more information.

Mike and John began their adventures hiking from the Freeze Out Trail (which is the wildest and northernmost trail in the Park) to Webster Lake. They packrafted down Webster Stream (class II, III) to Second Lake and then across Grand Lake to Trout Brook and out.  Check out their video: Packrafting Baxter State Park on YouTube

Peter on the CDT – Deming to Emory Pass (Segment 2)

For 2013 Hyperlite Mountain Gear is sponsoring one thru-hiker on each of the Appalachian Trail (AT), Continental Divide Trail (CDT) and Pacific Coastal Trail (PCT).  Here’s the second update from the trail by Peter, Hyperlite Mountain Gear’s sponsored CDT hiker.   Peter will keep all of us up do date with periodic posts and pictures from his journey.  We hope you’ll check in regularly to follow Peter along the trail!


Thru hiking is demanding on the body.  I learned that on section 1 of my hike and continue to learn that as I keep progressing on this trail.  I left Deming after taking a “Zero Day” (no hiking — zero miles covered) and got my knee to feel a little better before leaving town.  The knee brace I bought at Walmart didn’t exactly do the trick for me as I left Deming, and started the next section of my hike leading to Emory Pass.  I left in good spirits hiking the highway out of town to the residential section north of Deming following my map to the first landmark, an old broken down windmill.  From here I have to admit I got a little lost, trudging cross country in the brush and heat to a point that was not there when I thought it should be.

P1000261After about 3 hrs of hiking I finally realized I was walking in the wrong direction.  I was far off my intended mark.  Frustrated, I threw my pack down on the hard sand that constantly surrounded me and took my bearings as best as I could read my map.  I climbed a high fence looking for some my next landmark on the horizon.


I was looking for a gate and a broken cow tank which I thought would be easy to spot.  After a long look an object shinned in the distance and I took that as a sign that I should head in that direction.  I got my pack back on, climbed under the barbed wired fence that wanted a piece of my flesh and walked 3 miles cross country to what turned out to be (!) the fence and old cow tank I had been looking for.  Getting lost is a once a day thing on the trail and that was my one for the day.

Odd things seen in the desert:  insect nicotine fiends.
Odd things seen in the desert: insect nicotine fiends.

About 2 hours after reaching my shiny beacon in the desert, I was greeted by other CDT hikers who were going my way and they happily invited me to join them.  I was happy for the company and excited to have some other hikers to talk with.  Its great to think you can go at it alone but, having others to suffer (or have fun) with out there is a great feeling.  They were a couple from Seattle who had been talked into doing the trail by some friends and a guy from Austria who had flipped a coin to either do the CDT or PCT — tails it was.

New friends.
New friends.

We spent the next 4 days hiking together, sharing our stories and experiencing the trail.  We passed through ranches, scrubby dark black hills and open desert.  We went from water source to water source looking for windmills in the distance which are your lifeline out there.  The wind is your companion as you hike.  Its a relentless partner, blowing the sand, debris and cow funk into your face all day, every day with no let up.  I camped several timed behind the cow water tanks just to get a break.  The downside to these campsites is that you’re surrounded by cow poo — which is not appealing at all, but surprisingly you get use to it quickly.  Purell also becomes my best friend….


My gear and body has been tested on this trip and everything has held up well so far.  My right ankle is twice as big as my left and my knee hurts but, Tylenol takes care of that.  My gear such as my Hyperlite Mountain Gear Windrider pack is taking the beating with the thorns, brush and sand constantly trying to break it ever minute.  Every plant out here is like its own fortress, protecting what it has, not wanting anyone to get anything for free, so its covered in long, sharp and pointy thorns that seem to be reaching out to scratch you.  The cuben fiber construction of my Hyperlite Mountain Gear pack has held up great with no tears or fractures and the hip belt is in a place that just perfectly wraps my hips so no adjustment is needed.  My clothes become filthy quickly but hey, its my funk so I can live with it.

HMG's Windrider Pack -- getting it done for me on the CDT.
Hyperlite Mountain Gear’s Windrider Pack — getting it done for me on the CDT.

After two days we finally reached the hills with trees — actual living trees(!) to give you much need shade from the blazing sun in the afternoon.


I’ve created a little afternoon mandatory siesta to get out of the mid-day sun for a little while and recharge the batteries.  Its great to rest a bit, nap and take off my shoes and socks to prevent any more blisters from getting created.

Wear and tear.
Wear and tear.

We found an old abandoned house that had stacks of old National Enquirers from 1986-1992 which were interesting.  I read an article about how O.J’s wife is worried he’s cheating on her… I wonder how that worked out???

Time capsule.
Time capsule.

The hills brought a great change of scenery from the constant sand but brought some navigational challenges as well.  At only a day and a half away from Emory Pass I was excited to finally get to town.  Making the final push I we walked faster then normal but then lack of water slowed us down to a screeching stop.  The two water sources we were counting on were either broken or the spring was not running because of a 3-year long drought that has crippled this area of the country.  With no water I made the last 7 miles dreaming of water.

Parched and heading into town.
Parched and heading into town.

Its amazing how thirsty you can become after physically exerting yourself on only the last 2 oz of water you had left.  I finally made it to Emory Pass early in the morning and got a hitch from a nice couple from Arizona.  After slamming a gallon of water I rested, getting ready for the next leg of the hike, the Gila Wilderness.  I can’t wait for the change of scenery and more water… or at least I hope there will be more water.


Hyperlite Mountain Gear Ambassador: Hiking the West Coast Trail, Trip Report

Trail report from Hyperlite Mountain Gear Ambassador David Ure on his hike of the  West Coast Trail with his Porter Pack in May 2012 — a little inspiration for this season!

Pray for Rain

The West Coast Trail (WCT) is a 75 KM backpacking trail following the lower and middle west side of Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada, although more recent estimates put it closer to 80 KM.  Given the aggressive winter storms, trail maintenance has extended the path over the years. It was originally ‘built’ in 1907 to assist in the rescue of survivors of shipwrecks along the coast often dubbed the Graveyard of the Pacific.  The entire area is part of the Pacific Rim National Park and since 1973, has been open to the public to enjoy.

The first year I trekked the West Coast Trail was in 2004.  With a 64 lb starting wet weight and no idea of what to truly expect. I knew I had fitness on my side.  Strength.  Endurance.  Mental fortitude.

Yeah right.

Nothing could quite prepare me for what I was about to encounter over the 6 days. Tall ladders attached to brazen cliffs of rock where your pack wanted to test the effects of gravity 8 stories high. Massive sticky mud bogs that covered you past your knees. Manually operated cable cars to pass over fast moving and deep rivers. Slippery drift logs with circumferences greater than the average car.  Impassable ocean tides and dangerous surge channels. Unpredictable weather – if it doesn’t rain hard and long at some point on a typical WCT trip, it may be time to buy a lottery ticket.  Although the soft sand beach looked inviting, it fooled you.  Every step sinking deep and forcing your calves to cramp hard as you pushed up.  There are as many as 70 ladders, 130 bridges, 4 cable cars and 1 really long, really shaky suspension bridge book marked by ladder systems over 250 feet tall.

During the 4 and a half-month season that permits hiking on the WCT, there are, on average, over 80 evacuations by either boat or helicopter.  For some, the trek can be dangerous. The prize for contending with these obstacles is an almost unmatched, and widely varying topography. Scenic beaches, thundering waves, hidden bays, storm chiseled caves and breathtaking waterfalls.

There are geographic formations similar to lunar landscapes and tidal pools to explore when the ocean retreats.

A massive forest canopy with huge Douglas Fir, Sitka Spruce, Hemlock and tall cedar dominates the highland trail.

Incredible access to wildlife – whales, seals, and sea lions.

Bald eagle, black bear, cougar and wolf watch you from afar.

Fast forward several years and I have become wiser.  Packing light.  Doing more.  Going further and seeing as much as possible.  From a 6 day expedition weight trek to a 2.5 day fast pack adventure.  There is no negative to the WCT for me now.  All challenges become merely minor obstacles with a light pack.

In May of 2012, I, with 3 others went back to the WCT to test our wills against the elements.  Carrying a Hyperlite Mountain Gear Porter Pack and with the removable accessory HMG Porter Pocket, I wanted to validate the pack’s ability to shed rain and withstand destruction through some of the most intimidating sections of the WCT.

Day 1: 7 KM

We started the trailhead in the very late afternoon with full packs and only had a few hours to hike.  All packing light, my pack was just over 20 pounds with 2L of water and food.  This was a leisurely trip. No race to the finish; no running of any personal records.

This was a chance to savor the trek around, and sometimes through, obstacles that only the WCT can offer.

The target camp was Thrasher Cove, which is located an additional 1 KM off the main trail.  Although I am not a fan of this campsite because of its location, given we knew that the tides would be low in the morning, we could traverse Owen Point with its Volkswagen sized boulders early the next day and avoid the muddy, root and rock stricken highland trail.

We arrived at camp with no injuries but with copious amounts of mud splatter, smiles, and sweat. But no rain.  Where was the rain?

Day 2: 17 KM

Owen Point at low tide.  What were we thinking?

Climbing over and beside these massive boulders made us wish we were back in the mud. Not to mention, two nasty spills caused by my own hurriedness made be wonder if hiking in crampons would have been a better idea (it would not).  Banged up and a little bruised, my body fared much worse than the Hyperlite Mountain Gear  Porter Pack that showed nary a scratch.  Bomber fabric and construction.

Unable to pass one of the many surge channels found at this side of the WCT, we elected to work back up to the highland trail and then back down to the beach to hike as long as we could until having to take the highland route again.  If there were any WCT advice that I would give it would be to take the beach and tidal shelf route as much as possible.  The views are incredible.

This is close to the last point from which you can see the state of Washington.

During this portion of the WCT, moving North to Walbran Campsite and around Logan River, one encounters the largest concentration of ladder systems. Some are quite steep.

Others are many in number.

And some are both steep and long.

Thankful to be back on the beach as we approach Walbran, we encounter an accumulation of fog, but no rain. Where was the rain?

Day 3: 11 KM

We got a late start out of Walbran but that was just fine. Today was a short hiking day to Cribs Campsite.  Is that a little rain sprinkle I feel?  Yes!  Okay, the Porter and I are ready.  Wait, where did this sunshine come from?  Boy it’s warm.  This is the WCT in May?

By 2:00 pm we had pitched our tarp tents, unpacked our packs, and were enjoying the scenery, sights, and smells. Who was I to complain? I would be lying if a couple of us didn’t doze off for a few winks in sunshine.

At 1:00 am I heard it.  It started very light then heavier.  Rain. Too tired (lazy?) to stick the Porter Pack out from under the vestibule.  Back to sleep.  7:00 am.  Hello Mr. Sun.  So much for rain testing.

Day 4: 20 KM

Today’s agenda: Hike to Klanawa, through Ditidaht tribal land, and across the Nitinat Narrows by small boat.  The Ditidaht have been providing this service for many years and while the boat ride only takes 7 minutes or so, it is the fresh crab and salmon that you can buy that gets most of the attention!

The Nitinat is a saltwater inlet that for the most part, looks like a lake.  But when the operators pull up a cage that has caught several crabs and you see the odd seal swimming about, it does cause a re-order of your senses.

This is also one of the most scenic areas of the WCT with mostly beach and tidal shelf walking (tides permitting).  Passing the ‘Hole in the Wall’ can only be completed at low tide and many backpackers have been stranded until the water retreats, easily throwing their progress off by 6 hours or more.

We were thankful the tide was out!

On the way to Klanawa, you also pass Tsusiat Falls.  Fresh, salt free water, which was great for a quick shower, rolls into the ocean.

Klanawa was secluded and had some of the largest pieces of driftwood I had ever seen.  Wood, wood, everywhere but much too large to burn.  Regardless, we did get a small fire going in anticipation of incoming rain clouds.  The rain never came.

Day 5: 23 KM

The final trek out to the North Trailhead by Pachena Bay was spectacular and we enjoyed the incredible ocean views knowing that the adventure would soon be complete.

We finished about 3:00 pm that day and managed to get a van to pick us up at the trailhead and drive us to the small town of Bamfield, where we stayed overnight at the Bamfield Trails Motel.  The next morning we would take a boat back to the south trailhead where we had parked our rental car. Never did a burger (two actually) taste so good and a squeaky, flatbed feel so bad.  Now where did I put my sleeping pad?

Day 6: 80 Plus KM….by boat.

We woke up to rain.  A lot of it.  Torrential.  Breakfast in the pub and then time to check out.  I grab the Porter and walk outside to see it work its magic.  No dice.  The rain has stopped.

As I walk to the boat launch with the Porter Pack on my back contemplating the upcoming 4 hour boat ride, I can’t help but chuckle.  Maybe I should take the pack into the shower with me instead. Speaking of the pack, it sure looks good.  No abrasion issues, a little dirty maybe but the durability has been excellent (I can’t say the same about a couple of the other packs on the trip).

The Boat Captain Brian provides the synopsis of what to expect over the next 4 hour boat ride.  Stay in the warm cabin and feel the full effects of the waves and enjoy the potential for severe seasickness, or stay outside where the ride is much calmer but the cold wind and splashing salt water can make the journey a little more than uncomfortable.

Then he points out the 13 metal grab handles for those who stay outside.  That was enough for me. Sitting inside is no way to end the adventure!  Outside it is.  Brian locks my Porter under the boat’s main storage compartment at the stern.

It rained for 4 hours straight.  “Um, hey Brian, any chance I can get to my Porter Pack?”

Hyperlite Mountain Gear Ambassador David Lamb on Mt. Washington

Hyperlite Mountain Gear Ambassador David Lamb takes his Southwest Pack ski mountaineering on New Hampshire’s Mount Washington, March 9, 2013.

At 6,288 ft, New Hampshire’s Mount Washington is the highest peak in the Northeast US.  Its well known for wild weather (for 76 years, until 2010, the weather observatory at the summit held the record for the highest wind gust directly measured at the Earth’s surface, 231 mph).  Its also known for late winter /spring backcountry skiing.  Great, often untracked, stashes of snow can be found on Mount Washington long after the Northeast ski areas are closed and lesser peaks are down to bare rock and mud.

This past weekend, Hyperlite Mountain Gear Ambassador David Lamb strapped his skis to his Hyperlite Mountain Gear Southwest Pack and went out to make some turns on Mt. Washington.  Click here for more information the Southwest Pack.

Attaching skis to Hyperlite Mountain Gear Summit Pack

Winter routes on Mt. Washington vary from mild to extreme.  When conditions are right it’s possible to ski practically from the summit to the trail head where you left your car — a run of over 4,000 vertical feet.  Not too shabby for the East Coast.

Ready to hit the trail, Hyperlite Mountain Gear Summit Pack with AT skis loaded.

For many of us, the 4,000 ft of vertical is just can be just as satisfying on the way up as it is on the way down.  You start among the evergreens that define this area of New Hampshire’s White Mountains. And its a great winter hike as the trees get smaller and smaller until you pop out above the tree line.  Then the views are just spectacular. Hyperlite Mountain Gear ultralight packs are a great choice of winter hiking and mountaineering. Hyperlite Mountain Gear packs are made using Cuben Fiber, which is rip stop, ultralight, and inherently waterproof and non-absorbent — just the qualities you’d want if you are climbing up the side of Mt. Washington . . .

Above the tree line on Mount Washington.

Skiing the “headwall” at Tuckerman’s Ravine falls into the more extreme category of routes available on Mt. Washington and is a right of passage for many an East Coast backcountry skier.  But in addition to “Tucks” there is also great, and somewhat less intimidating skiing to be found on Mt. Washington in The Gulf of Slides, Oakes Gulf and The Great Gulf.


Looking up at Tuckerman’s Ravine, Mt. Washington

Of course the trip back down is what you’re out there for! Spring on Mt. Washington can give you some great bluebird days and make for excellent snow conditions.

On the way down!

Thanks to David for sharing his adventures with us!

For more information on the ultralight, hellishly strong and virtually waterproof pack David chose for this adventure, check out Hyperlite Mountain Gear Southwest click here.

For more information on what David does in his “spare” time, check out Untamed New England adventure racing.

Hendrik Morkel Interviews Hyperlite Mountain Gear’s Mike St. Pierre . . . Again!

A pair of interviews by Hiking in Finland’s Hendrik Morkel.

Hendrik Morkel was one of the early hiking and outdoor-focused bloggers to pick up on Hyperlite Mountain Gear.  Hendrik first interviewed founder and CEO Mike St. Pierre in the summer of 2010, when Hyperlite Mountain Gear was truly in its earliest stage of development.  He’s followed Hyperlite Mountain Gear’s progress since then and has helped them develop and test some of its its products as one of Hyperlite Mountain Gear’s team of Ambassadors.  Now, two years after his initial interview, Hendrik has interviewed Mike St. Pierre again.  These two interviews give a great look at how Hyperlite Mountain Gear has grown from an idea into a product and now into company that is on the leading edge of ultralight outdoor technology.

The initial interview:  Summer 2010

The new interview:  Summer 2012

A little more on Hendrik, who one of the most prolific and trusted bloggers covering hiking with a focus on light and ultralight gear and techniques:  Hendrik is a Wilderness Guide and author based in Finland. An ultralight backpacking evangelist, he doesn’t limit himself to backpacking alone, but likes to mix it up and uses his UL skills and gear for various activities, from bikepacking and packrafting over climbing to skiing and ice-climbing. He likes to build communities and get like-minded people together, and is one of the founders of Nordic Lightpacking, a group of outdoor bloggers from Scandinavia; and is the mastermind behind the Ultralight Summit, a gathering of UL aficionados from across the globe. You can read more about his adventures at Hiking in Finland.  Thanks Hendrik for pushing the light hiking movement forward and helping to build our community.

Hendrik Morkel

Photo by ©hikesinatra aka creep |

Why and how to get light?

A trail report from Yellowstone and thoughts on “going light” from two of Hyperlite Mountain Gear’s favorite customers, WK and DK.

Hiking light with the Porter Pack at Mystic Falls, Yellowstone.

Our initial outing with the Porter Packs was a familiar three day two night trip.  Yellowstone offers amazing scenery and terrain best enjoyed by the freedoms provided with a light pack.

Several years ago, after sustaining a knee strain on day one of a seven day hike from Yellowstone’s south entrance station with the goal of reaching the park border east of the Thoroughfare region of Yellowstone on the other side of the Absaroka Mountains we decided to change our hiking techniques.  By day four, the 60+ pound load had taken it’s toll on my knee, forcing an abandonment of the trip deep in the Thoroughfare region of Yellowstone.  Instead of proceeding East to our planned exit, we had to detour directly north along the east shore of Yellowstone Lake.  Miles from assistance with an injury that rendered flexion of the knee almost impossible, we made the decision to lighten our load for the emergency hike out by jettisoning as much weight as possible.  That night, having arrived at the southern tip of the Southeast arm of Yellowstone Lake, we built a campfire and burned all our excess food and supplies.  Only the M&M’s were rescued from the Gorp.  Carefully calculating the exact rations we’d need to reach the trail head, we burned any and all fully combustible items to eradicate weight.  The following morning we successfully completed our emergency evacuation.  Rehabilitation of the knee took several months.  We realized at that point, that a lighter load meant increased enjoyment, safety and ability to mobilize in event of an emergency.  We began our journey to never carry more than twenty five pounds again.
Read the rest of the article!

How much stuff can a Hyperlite Mountain Gear Stuff Pack stuff?

Max Neale, a Review Editor for Outdoor Gear Lab, shares how he uses Hyperlite Mountain Gear Stuff Pack. 

I’ve been living traveling with and living out of Hyperlite Mountain Gear Stuff Pack for the past six months. This started in late December when a gear swap with Hyperlite Mountain Gear Co-Founder Mike St. Pierre landed me four cuben fiber Stuff Packs. Two made of  CF 11 and two from the cuben fiber/ nylon blend. I gave one away as a gift and have been loaning the others out to friends, and using them myself… nearly everyday. Throughout this time, and in hopes of answering the “how much stuff can a Hyperlite Mountain Gear Stuff Pack stuff?” I’ve put the versatile devices to use for just about everything.

Gear explosion. Note the white Hyperlite Mountain Gear Stuff Pack and Windrider pack.

While traveling in Turkey for two months I used a CF 11 Stuff Pack as a daypack and to store clothes and my sleeping bag. Since returning stateside I’ve been living out my car, and out of Stuff Packs. They serve as exceptionally good stuff sacks; one houses my street clothes for looking decent in public and the other, a portion of my technical outerwear. Though not the most economical storage vessel, Stuff Packs have several advantages over duffel bags and large compression sacks: 1) they’re completely waterproof and can be set down in dirt, on wet ground, and left outside without spoiling the bag’s contents; 2) their shape (a square with rounded edges) and moderate size allows them to pack efficiently in a vehicle; 3) without any zippers or straps they slide easily over other things like backpacks, duffels, and other Stuff Packs; 4) their rolltop closure is waterproof, pickpocket-proof (someone would have to cut the bag in order to steal something), and the buckle provides an easy way to attach the bag to things like trees (for hanging food); and 5) their straps allow them to be used as a backpack, which has an infinite number of applications.

Hyperlite Mountain Gear bags: Tote Bag, three Stuff Packs, and the Windrider backpack.

My most recent trip with the Stuff Pack was a bicycle tour down the California coast. A friend and I rode 450 some miles from San Francisco to Ventura (just north of Los Angeles). We approached the trip from the usual perspective: carry as little as possible, but instead of going fast, our goal was to go slow and see the as much of the coast as possible. Critically, all of my stuff fit inside a Stuff Pack.

How much stuff? Answer- I stuffed all of this stuff into one Stuff Pack:

  • Shelter: Terra Nova Solar Photon 2 (lightest self-supporting tent in the world)
  • Sleep: 2 Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite pads, Katabatic Gear Palisade quilt, Feathered Friends Rock Wren bag
  • Cook: MSR Micro Rocket, MSR Titan 2.3L pot, Snow Peak Ti Sporks, bottled olive oil, salt, pepper, Aqua Mira, 4L MSR Dromedary
  • Wear: Arcteryx Alpha FL hardshell, Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer down jacket, Ibex Hooded Indie wool shirt, DeFeet Aireator socks, jeans, long sleeve button down.

This was my first bike tour. It was a blast!! Unlike extended trips in the mountains, you can go to a grocery store at the end of a long day, and biking is so much faster than walking. Here are some photos:

Departing San Francisco.
Big Sur Coast at the Bixby Bridge
Campsite at Pfeiffer Beach, Big Sur. Note the Stuff Pack at right.
The Stuff Pack, with all of the items listed above, on the flight home from LA.

Six months after my initial gear swap the Hyperlite Mountain Gear Stuff Packs are still going strong. What I thought would be a good gift has turned into piece of gear I use almost everyday. Whether packing a large sleeping bag, storing food, clothing, or carrying gear on a bike trip, the Stuff Pack has turned into a go-to piece. It’s one of the most versatile items I own.

Go Ahead Feel the Earth Beneath Your Feet

Perhaps you’ve felt this way before. The world you live in is not the world you feel comfortable in. Cell phones, iPads, computers, and plasma TV’s begin to edge us away from our reality. Living in our world can be fast paced and often leaves us feeling disconnected. Take heart we can all step away from technology just by stepping outside. Whether you set off to hike a local trail or tackle the Appalachian Trail, we can all reconnect to the natural world and bring ourselves back to the present. Go ahead feel the earth beneath your feet, smell the spruce trees, hear the stream running, breathe some fresh mountain air.

Take the time, it will be worth it. Read the rest of the article here.

Sneak Peak of 2011 Windrider Pack

Hi there!! Hope the winter is treating you well and that you’re finding time to get outdoors. Big snow in Maine and we’ve been snowshoeing, ice climbing, running, shoveling and hoping to hit the slopes before this is all over. Also, we’ve been working on the new 2011 Windrider pack and it looks great. We thought we’d give you a sneak peak at it before it’s available in two weeks (Feb 15).

There are some great new features in this pack with only an extra 1.5 oz in weight, well worth it, we think, for the extra comfort and convenience. We widened the hip belt for a bit more support and comfort, as well as increased the size of the waterproof hip belt pockets. We added a hydration sleeve to the inside of the pack for your bladder or for a bit of compartmentalization or both. We added an ice axe loop and keeper for attaching a mountaineering axe, added a lower compression strap to the back, added hardware for removable straps to attach snow shoes or other equipment, switched from a plastic stay to a stiffer and lighter aluminum stay, and increased the blousing on the back mesh pocket for a few extra cubic inches of storage. And we are now offering the Windrider in four sizes in stead of only three!  Here are a few pics.

Sneak Peak of the 2011 Windrider

We know a lot of you are excited about this pack. It’s great… made from a 100% waterproof Cuben fiber/nylon hybrid material… you’re gonna love it!

Coming out February 15!!

Thank you

Post-PCT Echo I and II review

Hi, my name is Dave. In September 2010 I completed a thru-hike of the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). For about 1,300 miles of the hike I used Hyperlite Mountain Gear shelters:  the Echo I Tarp and Insert for 650 miles (from Agua Dulce to South Lake Tahoe) and the Echo II Tarp and Beak for 650 miles (from South Lake Tahoe to Ashland). The Echo II was shared with another person for 450 miles.  The following is my review of both shelter systems.

Echo I Tarp and Insert

I used the Echo I tarp and insert in the southern California desert and the Sierra Nevada mountains from mid-May to late June (note that I did not have the beak, as the prototype version I was testing at the time was not compatible with a beak). Overall the weather was good for the duration of use, with only a few sporadic showers, one half-inch snowfall, and one night-long drizzle. The shelter did face a lot of wind in the desert and condensation/frost in the mountains.

The Echo I sets up quickly and easily with a minimum six stakes and two trekking poles (or sticks) and can be very easily tightened and adjusted. It is by far the easiest tarp I have pitched in the wind. The catenary cut is excellent and sheds wind beautifully, provided the tarp is pitched drum tight. If it is not pitched tight in breezy conditions, the tarp will make an interesting but rather obnoxious vibrating sound all night long. This was never an issue when pitched tightly. Staking out the guy lines in the center of each side helps prevent this as well, so if you’ll be camping in windy areas, do yourself a favor and carry the two extra stakes (meaning eight stakes in total). This tarp will pull very hard on the stakes, so use something strong, such as MSR Groundhogs or 9” Easton Aluminums. The tarp comes with linelocks for each guy line, which I really liked, as they make tarp adjustment incredibly easy. If linelocks are not your thing, they can be easily removed.

As far as coverage, the tarp by itself covers one person with gear well enough to stay dry in a light or moderate storm, especially if the beak is used, but plan to get damp in a wind-driven rain. The tarp by itself would work great with a bivy sack. Using the tarp with the insert provides much better weather protection, stops the wind almost completely if pitched right, and protects better against pooling water than many tents. The insert is designed to fit no more than one person, so bringing gear inside is pretty cramped but possible. Gear stuffed under the tarp outside the insert will probably get damp or wet, unless it is placed under the beak. If stormy weather is likely, I would highly recommend using the beak, which will protect the user from getting soaked if the wind changes direction (without it, I felt somewhat vulnerable, as the user’s head is not far back from the end of the tarp and the door at the head of the insert is mostly mesh). I never had condensation issues under the tarp with or without the insert, although air flow was noticeably better without it.

One minor issue I did have involved the foot of my sleeping bag getting wet due to a very light drizzle drifting in through the mesh at the foot end of the insert, despite my having pitched the foot end of the tarp low. While this was not a big deal in the SoCal desert, it would have been a bigger problem had it been in Washington, where I hiked through several consecutive days of 40 degree rain and drizzle and keeping my sleeping bag dry was critical. A couple simple solutions would have prevented this: 1) replace the first foot or two of mesh extending back along the sidewalls from the foot of the insert with cuben, or 2) offer a second beak for the foot of the tarp.

Predictably, what I liked best about the Echo I shelter system is its modularity, which makes it versatile to a range of conditions and personal preferences. I was able to use the two components I had (tarp and insert) in several different combinations to match a variety of conditions (note that the insert by itself can be used as an excellent and durable groundcloth or can be pitched independently as a bug tent or even used as a bivy sack for bug protection in a pinch). Using the beak would allow even more combinations and therefore more versatility. I’ll discuss this a bit more later.

Echo II Tarp and Beak

I switched to the Echo II Tarp in the northern Sierra Nevada mountains along the PCT and carried it until southern Oregon, a distance of about 650 miles, from late June to late July. I switched to the Echo II in part because my girlfriend would soon be joining me on the trail, necessitating a two-person shelter, and in part because I was interested in trying a slightly different style of shelter (larger tarp with a beak but no insert). Weather conditions were good most nights this tarp was used, with some wind and a few sporadic showers being the worst of it. Since the Echo II shelter system is simply a wider version of the Echo I, most of the comments I made for the Echo I also apply to the Echo II.

To date, the Echo II tarp with beak (and without the insert) is my favorite three-season shelter for one person, provided bugs are not a major issue. Before the bugs hit, it made the perfect PCT shelter, and a simple lightweight bug bivy would have made it useable in the worst of the mosquito swarms. The Echo II tarp weighs only 1.0 oz. more than the Echo I tarp, provides far more coverage, and sheds wind just as well. For one person there is plenty of room to spread out gear and cook, or to recede away from the edges of the tarp during a heavy storm and stay dry. This also means it has a large footprint, so be sure to have lots of room to pitch. Because of the wider coverage, the tarp can be pitched higher in a storm without fear of getting wet, allowing the user to sit fully upright. For a single person, I do not find the insert or a bivy necessary, and would prefer to use the Echo II tarp with beak and no insert over the full Echo I shelter system (again, provided bugs are not a concern).

For two people, I found the Echo II tarp with beak was adequate if very little severe weather was expected. At 14 oz. (including guy lines but not stakes), it is certainly the lightest two person shelter I’ve carried. Space under the Echo II tarp for two people is about the same as it is under the Echo I tarp for one person, meaning in a wind-driven rain with changing wind direction some part of at least one person is likely to get damp (again, that’s without the insert). Bivy sacks would have been appropriate for this kind of use. Without them, and with the tarp pitched low my girlfriend and I were able to fit comfortably underneath, with gear under the beak, and be fairly confident we would stay dry in a moderate rainstorm with little wind or wind only in the direction of the beak. If I were to use the Echo II for two people in areas with high potential for rain, I would definitely want the insert. After 650 miles of use the Echo II still looks almost new, with no visible signs of wear or damage.

I found that when I pitched the tarp with the beak, it was far easier to enter and exit through the open foot end of the tarp rather than through the beak. This made the zipper on the beak pointless when used without the Echo II insert. To save weight, this zipper should be optional.

For the record, the reason we stopped using the Echo II tarp in southern Oregon was because we were being devoured for weeks by a massive cloud of mosquitos every night (sounds dramatic I know, but trust me, it’s an understatement). This was no fault of the tarp, it was simply time to switch to a shelter with full bug protection. Based on my experience with the Echo I, the Echo II insert would have been fine protection against this.

Why would I buy this shelter?

In my opinion, the major selling point of the Echo shelter system is its modularity, which allows the user varying degrees of protection from the elements depending on his/her preference on any particular night. This will be especially beneficial to tarp users, who tend to like a higher level of exposure to nature when it is safe and practical, but on occasion require a higher degree of protection. For instance, most nights that I pitched a shelter along the PCT (with the exception of Washington), the weather was very predictable and I only needed protection from condensation (pitch just the tarp), mosquitos (pitch just the insert), or a possible light shower (pitch just the tarp with beak). For me, a fully-enclosed tent would have been an unnecessary and unwanted barrier between myself and nature; as such, I really enjoyed the versatile nature of the shelter along the trail. Furthermore, switching between these degrees of protection is very quick and simple—the insert can be pinned up, tarp lowered, and beak attached in bad weather in the dark all in a minute or two.

This modularity also allows versatile use of the gear from one trip to another, which is great for people who don’t want to own lots of different shelters. In other words, the three components (tarp, insert, and beak) compose one complete shelter system, but not all three parts need to be used on every trip, depending on the expected conditions. So while a 22 oz. Tarptent Sublite Sil might be well-suited to rainy Washington, for me it is overkill for simple protection from condensation or a fairly unlikely rainstorm in northern California in July. With the Echo I shelter system, I could carry all three components (24 oz.) in Washington and just the 8 oz. tarp in NorCal, thus adapting a single shelter system to multiple conditions and allowing me to shed unnecessary weight. I think of this as a lot like dressing in layers rather than using a heavy parka while hiking in cool weather.

Other thoughts/suggestions

The following are some additional thoughts on the Echo shelter system:

I would recommend replacing the stock guy lines with something lighter and more reflective.

If I was going to make one suggestion to Hyperlite Mountain Gear, it would be this: offer an optional second beak for the foot end of the tarp. With only one beak, the head end of the tarp (and therefore the entrance) gets pitched into the wind. I don’t like sleeping headfirst into the wind, especially when I have to use the bathroom at night during a wind-driven rain. Having a second beak would eliminate the need to carry the insert in many cases and address concerns over changing wind conditions. Additionally, make the beak zipper optional. If using just one beak, it is generally easier to enter/exit through the open end of the tarp, making the zipper unnecessary weight.

If I was going to make one other suggestion to Hyperlite Mountain Gear, it would be to offer a lighter, cheaper bug bivy. The Echo Insert is a very sturdy and well-constructed piece of gear that is great for storm protection, but too heavy and expensive just for simple bug protection. It would be nice to see an additional insert offered that is fully mesh on the sides, has a lighter bottom, and is intended for bug protection only (which is not really worth the cost of more cuben). For me, a single person lightweight all-mesh bug bivy with a silnylon floor would work great with the Echo II tarp.

This was the first cuben fiber equipment of any kind that I have used. I have avoided cuben in the past because I assumed it had a poor cost to durability ratio, and because I failed to see significant benefits over fabrics like silnylon or spinnaker. However after 650 miles of use on two different cuben products I was sold on the durability (I felt the material was slightly more durable than my old silnylon tarp) and came to appreciate the full waterproofness (no misting), lack of sagging, lack of loud crinkling (compared to new spinnaker), and very taut pitch of the cuben fabric. Whether these factors are worth the high price tag is a personal choice of each individual consumer, so I cannot speak to that.

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