Stripped Down Dyneema® Composite Fabrics (formerly Cuben Fiber),
By Mike St. Pierre
When I first delved into the world of ultralight backpacking, I combed the Internet trying to find a technologically advanced material that would change my backcountry experience. The fabrics used at the time had major limitations. For example, Silnylon, the primary lightweight fabric used, absorbed moisture and swelled and sagged, requiring constant re-tensioning. The slippery material also forced people to put liquid glues on the floors of their tents to keep their pads in place. Worst of all, silnylon is made when both sides of a thin, woven nylon fabric are saturated with liquid silicone, and there were no standards for these silicone coatings. So basically every batch was different. So when I discovered a small cottage industry outdoor company using Cuben Fiber I did some more research. Read the rest of the article here.
John Schafer was ready to retire. At 64, he’s spent the last 30 years working in manufacturing, including the last few years running Shape Fabrication, a fabrication company for architectural and marine industries. At 6’4 and 280 pounds, he still lugs his Maine-made bleachers and steel staircases around with ease. But, he says, he was prepared to start spending more time smoking cigars and drinking cocktails on the 24-foot Grady-White power boat he docks at Biddeford Pool. Then he met Mike and Dan St. Pierre, owners of Hyperlite Mountain Gear. Their shop was just around the corner in the same 180-year-old textile mill where he ran his company. Schafer and the St. Pierres became friends, and then Schafer began to help them a bit with managing and organizing the production floor, where all the Cuben Fiber tarps, mids and packs are made. And then, before he knew it, the St. Pierres asked him to come on full-time as the Director of Operations. He agreed. Read the rest of the article.
Photos & text by Mike Curiak (republished from 2013)
About a year ago I was introduced to the wonders of multi-day whitewater packrafting. When I returned, glowing, from my trip, I spent lots of waking moments searching out other rivers for future trips. Thanks to a writeup I found, Oregon’s Chetco River rose to the tip-top of that list.
Doom (aka Steve Fassbinder) and I had planned to run it last spring, but the bottom fell out of the flows a few days before we were able to get there.
I spent the next few months watching weather patterns and the gauge, hoping that the water would come up before the season was too far advanced to enjoy it. Jeny’s need to burn a heap of vacation time before October 1st also hastened the desire to head north. When I called Bearfoot Brad to arrange our vehicle shuttle he protested that there simply wasn’t any water. Unlike Brad, I’d been methodically checking the forecasts, and within hours of our arrival in Oregon the fall rains began, taking our target from 60cfs to over 800.
Highlights of the trip are many. Top of the list has to be the impossibly clear water, followed closely by the carved-through-bedrock gorges, both ensconced within the remotest feeling place I’ve yet experienced in the Lower 48. Both of us are lifelong mountain bikers and agreed that we’ve never been able to get anywhere close to this ‘out there’ by bike.
Jeny and I completed our trip in four days. That was a bit ambitious for a first time down, and given a choice I’d add an extra day next time. The hike is easy and takes half a day rain or shine–I’d want the extra time to savor and photograph the gorges and canyons once floating.
By Seth Timpano, Hyperlite Mountain Gear Ambassador
The weather in most of the Pacific Northwest and the Northern Intermountain Regions had been atypical this past winter and late spring. For many skiers and ice climbers the warm temperatures made for less than ideal conditions most of the season, but for some of us this abnormal weather patterns made incredible alpine climbing conditions. In March, several climbing partners along with myself were fortunate enough to establish three quality melt freeze mixed climbs in the remote backcountry of Montana and Wyoming. Not wanting to hang up my tools just yet for the season; I was fortunate to get a call from my friend Lee who lives in Bellingham, Wash. The alpine climbing conditions in the Cascades were shaping up nicely and the weather looked promising. We decided on the Cotter-Bebie route on the North Face of Dragontail Peak in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness outside of Leavenworth, Wash. The route is 2000 feet of beautiful alpine ice and mixed runnels through stellar granite rock.
The peak had seen quite a bit of action throughout the winter and early spring, but we found the north face empty the days we spent in the wilderness. We setup a quick camp on the frozen Colchuck Lake and tucked in early for the night, intending on pre-dawn start. Read the rest of the article!
Hyperlite Mountain Gear recruited a variety of expert thru-hiker and/or multi-sport adventurers to work the Trail Days 2015 booth alongside our President and Founder Mike St. Pierre. Between them, they have hiked, climbed, rafted or otherwise traveled through the backcountry tens of thousands of miles. In this year’s wrap-up blog post these athletes reflect on the importance of events like Trail Days. Check out a full album of Trail Days photos on our Facebook page.
According to Mike St. Pierre, first and foremost, Trail Days offers outdoor adventurers and thru-hikers the opportunity to see the most groundbreaking gear in the industry.
“All innovation is coming out of small companies like Hyperlite Mountain Gear and many of the other brands represented at Trail Days,” he explained. “You can’t find these products at REI and other big box stores. People who are truly active are starting these businesses; they need cutting-edge gear for their adventures, and so they are making what they need.” Read the rest of the Trail Days wrap up.
Text by Roger Brown, guest blogger. Check out his website. He wrote a fine piece on pyramid tents (aka “mids”) that we recently discovered, and so we asked him to write one for our blog. Thanks Roger.
I have spent the last five summers hiking in the open treeless plains and mountains of Lapland, Finland. Two experiences led me to the conclusion that mids are the right option for me. First, I used a GoLite SL2 on an 18-day trip along the Nordkalotteleden in 2011. One evening as the wind began to increase and rain rapidly approached, I found a spot to pitch the shelter. Quickly, I had it pegged down and I crawled inside, extending the poles as the rain increased in intensity. It was then that I realized the benefits of a mid compared to a framed (or hooped) shelter.
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!