Article by Arnie P
Ultra lightweight tent manufactured in Maine
The origin of this article began when I wrote an article called “Taking the load off your back”. The reason to lighten my load is explained in the previous article and, being a medical issue, it would only go away by my carrying a lighter load.
I not only had a picture in my mind of what I wanted, but also had some criteria that I needed to find in products. My engineering background gave me some basic understanding of what I was looking for in a product. My current loaded pack was about 23 lbs and my goal was to decrease this to as much below 20 lb as possible. What I had was not too shabby and would be welcomed by most backpackers. The 2 items I was hoping to change were my tent and my backpack. The tent I have is a good tent but it is a single wall style and does get very wet from condensation under certain conditions. The backpack I have is comfortable and spacious, but weights about 3 lbs.
My criteria for a tent and my search
I wanted a double wall tent, 1 or 2 person, under 2 lbs, durable, made in the US, and preferably in New England. Over the years, I have hiked in many areas of the US and eastern Canada. There are things that I have learned by experience to desire in a tent design. After a lot of internet research I found that Hyperlite Mountain Gear, located in Biddeford Maine, designed and manufactured tents and backpacks. They seemed to have what I was looking for not only in a tent, but also in a backpack.
My trip to Hyperlite Mountain Gear
It is about 100 miles and about a 2.5 hour drive to Biddeford by avoiding toll roads. My wife and I arrived within minutes of our scheduled time and quickly found the building in which Hyperlite Mountain was located. Biddeford, like many mill towns, has these large old brick buildings that were built in the 1800’s. We easily located their facility on the ground floor. The first person I spoke with was Mike StPierre, my email contact person. He set up the Echo II ultralight shelter system within a short period of time. I had looked over their web site before my visit, but seeing the product and being able to get answers to my questions was what I really needed. The tent is modular based, and being able to look at this tent from all angles left nothing to the imagination. I could now see how this shelter could function as a stand alone tent or tarp. I was shown scrap samples of the material used and I could see and feel the toughness of this material. This being essentially a one room manufacturing facility, I was shown the sewing machines used in their process. His newer sewing machines are powered by compressed air. Being an engineer and knowing how electric sewing machines are not good for smooth starts, I could easily see the advantages of using compressed air as the powering unit. For me, the fact that the tents and backpacks were designed and tested by someone who was using them in the same mountains where I hike and backpack is very important to me. He told me of a recent backpack he made to the Bonds in New Hampshire. This brought back memories of my doing the Bonds a few years ago. We exchanged a few stories about equipment and some tips about more efficient backpacking. I now knew that if I had problems, I could easily get fixes to equipment or valuable advice from someone who would be experiencing the same conditions I would, and with essentially the same equipment.
It was now time to check out the Windrider backpack that they also manufacture. I had brought most of the gear I would be carrying in a backpack. We used his backpack and tent, and my gear to see how it would all fit together. After this demonstration, I was convinced that I was also buying the backpack. I would be cutting my backpack weight in half. Before leaving we also bought a 2.9 oz day pack and a few sacks for storage purposes. I have since ordered a stake kit for my tent.
I am finding that buying gear that is designed, tested, and manufactured locally has benefits that are not always obvious. It may be more expensive but I cannot put a price on reliable service. I will continue to buy products that are produced as close as possible to where I live.
Material and construction of Hyperlite Mountain Gear products
The material used in the construction of Hyperlite Mountain Gear tents, backpacks, and sacks is mostly various types of Cuben cloth. Cuben cloth comes in several grades and is waterproof, extremely strong, light weight for its strength, and highly resistant to the sun.
Many seams are taped rather than stitched and many stitched seams are taped, which means the user does not have to seal the seams to be water proof.
The Hyperlite Mountain Gear web site gives a very good explanation of the technology used in their products.