Stripped Down Ultralight Backcountry Travel, 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!
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!
What do you expect from a company that makes #WhitePacks?
In 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.
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!
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.
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!
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…
Trekking poles prevent muscle damage and soreness. The UK’s Northumbria University conducted a study in 2010 that found that 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.” That means 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%. The catch is, you have to know how to use trekking poles to get those benefits.
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.
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.
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.
What is adventure racing? According to Wikipedia it is, “a combination of two or more endurance disciplines.”
While planning our gear for Untamed New England 2014, we came to realize that we would be short on space with our actual packs as we would have to carry our two Alpacka packrafts with our four piece Epic paddles and standard adventure race gear like food, clothes and first aid for most of the four days. Not only would we have to carry about 40lbs of gear each, we would have to do it in the notoriously thick bush in Northern Maine. To put the icing on the cake, we were told that the middle race bushwhack could take up to 48 hours. I needed a solution and fast. I did not wanted to hang our gear outside the packs and risk a hole in our boats, lose paddles and lose time by getting entangled in the bush. I immediately thought about those super slick white Hyperlite Mountain Gear packs that I had tried quickly at this same race two years ago. I remember they were ultralight but did not know how tough they really were. After some researching, I decided to reach out to Dan St. Pierre, co-owner. I was already very late and the only way to make this work would be for Hyperlite Mountain Gear to ship the packs directly to race HQ at Northern Outdoors. Read the rest of the article!
It’s a waterproof stuff sack, it’s a backpack, and it weighs only 3.8 ounces!! The Stuff Pack is a dream come true for international travel. I spent two months on a sport climbing and travel trip throughout Turkey. An old college friend, Anna, and I have been zooming between climbing and tourist destinations by bus, train and ferry. We’re carrying climbing gear (a 70m rope, 20 quickdraws, belay devices, shoes, etc.) and camping gear (tent, sleeping bags, sleping pads, stove, pot, etc.) in 60L backpacks. Despite having lightweight and compact gear, space in our packs is limited and every ounce is accounted for. Thus, instead of bringing a traditional daypack that weighs more than a pound and consumes 4-5 liters of space, I’ve been travelling with Hyperlite Mountain Gear’s Stuff Pack. Read the rest of the article here!
It started something like this: I was lounging on a rainy day in Yosemite about a year ago when I somewhat sarcastically said to my buddy Nick, “Hey, we should go ice climbing in Nepal someday.” His response took me off guard as he immediately responded with, “Sounds great! How about next January?” And that’s how it began. We saved some cash, bought two plane tickets and gathered up our gear.
We flew into Kathmandu and neither of us had any experience with the logistics or the planning pertaining to climbing in such a remote place for an extended period of time, but we figured we’d just wing it. We didn’t bring enough food. We got off the bus in the wrong city (along with our 330 pounds of equipment). And for the first week, nothing went as planned. But as is often the case when traveling in this part of the world, it wasn’t so bad as you remember to forget the expectations and just go with the flow. Next thing we knew we were in a Nepalese valley full of frozen waterfalls capped with big peaks. Yippie…we arrived and we were ready for some Himalaya ice climbing! Read the rest of the article.
Hyperlite Mountain Gear CFO Tries Packrafting and Discusses Waterproofness of Hyperlite Mountain Gear Packs
People ask us all the time if our Packs 100% waterproof. While Cuben fiber is 100% waterproof, we never say Hyperlite Mountain Gear Packs are 100% waterproof – although they are very highly waterproof. Approximately 90% of seams are sealed, but there are two seams with technically different structures that cannot be sealed. One is where the bottom of the pack meets the body of the pack and the other is where the shoulder straps are sewn into the top of the back panel. After a hard rain or soaking a pack while packrafting, a user might experience a few tablespoons of water inside the pack. I find that some users are not accustomed to seeing this because traditional packs will absorb water and not be noticeable inside the pack. Since Cuben fiber does not absorb water, any small amount that does get inside the pack will noticeably remain at the bottom until the pack is emptied or the water drains. Read the rest of the article!
Photos & text by Andrew Altepeter. Above photo of the Beartooth Mountains.
I had a blast this summer working with some skilled and wonderful co-instructors and some great student groups. On our twenty-eight day mountaineering course in the Wind River Range we experienced a spectrum of weather catching wintery conditions early in the summer that eventually transitioned into some sunny days. After working hard to push through snow and rain storms for most of the first half of the course we were blessed with a weather window and climbed Gannet Peak, Wyoming’s highest at just over 13,800’. Then after a fun time in the Wind Rivers and just a few days in town it was off to the Beartooth Mountains in Montana to instruct a leadership training for midshipmen at the USNA. On this course we experienced the opposite weather progression…clear skies trending to days of very early build-up and thunderstorms. Our technical focus on this expedition was off trail travel and we managed to get many solid fishing days in as well. Read the rest of the article!
Mount Hayes is the highest mountain in the eastern Alaska Range and one of the largest peaks in the United States in terms of its rise. The Northeast Face rises 8,000 feet in approximately two miles. The mountain was first ascended in 1941, but it’s infrequently climbed due to its remoteness and the resulting difficulty of accessing the mountain. Check out Hyperlite Mountain Gear Ambassador Angela VanWiemeersch’s report on her team’s 72-hour ascent of their first ascent.Read the rest of the article!
For the last five years I have been working as an instructor of hiking, lightweight hiking, climbing, mountaineering, canyoneering, and skiing courses in and around the American West for the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS). The courses that I instruct range from one to four weeks in length with pack weights ranging from 30 – 65 lbs depending on the skill type, environment, and number of days between resupplies. I have experimented with a variety of ultralight packs over the years and spent time modifying, stitch ripping, and chopping various bells and whistles to create simple, lightweight, and functional packs for work…and play! I have also significantly downsized from the 90+ liter sized packs that are standard for our long expeditions by making deliberate gear choices appropriate for the given environment and gaining better understanding of how to plan and pack just what I need to have a successful backcountry experience. Read the rest of the article!
Once again, Hyperlite Mountain Gear will be traveling to Damascus, Va for the 28th annual Trail Days festival celebrating this year’s 4,000-5,000 Appalachian Trail thru-hikers. In addition to the majority of thru-hikers that will be in attendance, the festival draws an additional 15,000-20,000 hiking enthusiasts and lovers of the Appalachian Trail from around the U.S., North America, and the entire world.
Hyperlite Mountain Gear will be loading up a few cars and trucks on the morning of May 13th to make the 1,000 mile journey from Maine to southwestern Virginia for its fourth showing at the festival. Hyperlite Mountain Gear will have a booth set-up demonstrating its ultralight mountain gear and will also have a large stock of inventory available for sale. Read the rest of the article!
This week things aligned for some exceptionally good ski mountaineering in the Tetons. A nice spring storm had come in warm, bonding well to the old snow surfaces, and finishing cold and dry. Perfect for skiing and avalanche stability. Our week included some excellent adventures with bicycle access in Grand Teton National Park (on a road closed to auto traffic), and was punctuated by a ski descent of the highly coveted Grand Teton. Possibly the most iconic mountain in the lower 48, and a challenging ski mountaineering objective by any route.
We’re proud to share the news that cameramen and adventure videographers John Griber and Ed Wardle will be carrying Hyperlite Mountain Gear’s ultralight packs when they climb Mt. Everest to film Joby Ogwyn’s historic wing suit jump off the summit.
NBC hired Griber to be a cameraman this spring for an event called Everest Jump Live. He and Wardle will be following Ogwyn up the mountain filming his climb and running jump off Earth’s highest point. No human has ever attempted this feat before, and the Discovery Channel will be airing the 11,000 foot drop and five mile descent back to Base Camp during a two hour live broadcast in May.
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.