Hyperlite Mountain Gear Ultamid 2

Cuben Fiber Roundup 2013 - Part I

This is the first installment of our Cuben Fiber Roundup 2013 series. We’re kicking things off by taking a look at HMG’s latest effort, the Ultamid 2, a two person pyramid.

Hyperlite Mountain Gear Ultamid 2
Hyperlite Mountain Gear Ultamid 2

Overview

Those familiar with HMG’s Echo shelters may recall that they use a modular approach allowing the shelter to be customized depending on how much protection is needed. The Ultamid takes a different approach with its simple design. At the time of writing this article there is no inner available from HMG, it’s simply a pyramid tarp. It is possible to order with a mesh bug skirt which aims to prevent flying insects from making their way into the shelter by flying under the perimeter, our model did not include this feature. As with most pyramids, the footprint is rectangular.

Unofficial Approximate Footprint Dimensions
Unofficial Approximate Footprint Dimensions

That 83″ x 107″ footprint makes this the largest two person pyramid we have laid hands on, in fact the largest we know of. The increase in footprint real estate comes with an increase in peak height also, which is one of the constraints of pyramid design. HMG recommends a peak height of 64 inches, which seems just right when pitching it. Most trekking poles will not achieve this even when fully extended, so something additional will be needed. A “pole jack” is one option, or a dedicated tent pole (which HMG does not yet offer), lashing two poles together, a stick of the right approximate length, or maybe something like a ski or paddle. More thoughts on this below. As far as stakes go, 5 or 6 of them can be used for a minimal pitch, 11 stakes for a full pitch (there is no mid point tie out on the front, hence the odd number of stakes). The seams are all bonded which also eliminates the need to seam seal. Dual top vents are secured from the inside of the tent with a Velcro closure and feature bug netting to keep the insects out.

First Impressions

HMG utilizes .74 oz Cuben in white for the Ultamid. This is the sort of material weight we like to see on a shelter, not too heavy, not too thin/light. The whole package comes in right about 19.5 oz which includes the stuff sack and all guy lines. The packed size is roughly 15 x 10 x 3 inches (rectangular~ish).

I’m aware there were a few grumbles about some of the finer points of the construction on early models; let’s just get these out of the way so we can move on…

  • Tie Out Loops – Some of them were cut a little unevenly and attached with clumsy looking bar tacks. HMG has addressed and corrected the issue.
  • Zipper Garage – Initially there was no “garage” (a rain bonnet at the top end of the zipper) which led to some water getting inside at the top stitch. HMG addressed this and added a garage.
  • Zipper Strain Relief – Initially there was no strain relief (a way to fasten the bottom door flaps together to prevent strain on the zipper). HMG addressed this and added a strain relief.
Tie-Out Loops
Tie-Out Loops
Zipper Strain Relief
Zipper Strain Relief
Zipper Stitching
Zipper Stitching
Zipper Garage
Zipper Garage

Last year I talked with Mike St. Pierre about HMG and despite their growth and success since then, it’s good to see them keeping with the concept of a customer-feedback-integration loop. As it stands before me, I cannot see any worries with the construction. In typical HMG fashion the Ultamid gives the impression of being overbuilt, if anything. The critical seams are double stitched and bonded with multiple layers of Cuben and Cuben tape, and less critical seams are single stitched and/or bonded. All tie outs are reinforced with bonded Cuben patches and feature multiple bar tacks. The party hat is reinforced with Dyneema wrapped around a conical plastic insert. The guylines are quite a bit heavier than those typically seen on lightweight shelters, but they work great with cold hands and there’s no need to think twice before wrapping them around sharp granite rocks. The perimeter guy lines are cut, pre-attached, and set up with line tensioners. An additional length of cord is supplied to be cut and attached to the mid panel tie outs. Lastly, a Cuben stuff sack is included to round out the package.

Front View
Front View
Looking Inside
Looking Inside
Perspective View
Perspective View

No setup instructions were supplied with the shelter. It’s a pyramid, so getting the base staked down square and not overly tight is the key to a quick and successful setup. Leaving the zipper strain relief buttoned at the bottom and unzipping the door allows for the pole to be slid in, then it’s a done deal. No rocket science involved. Oh, speaking of poles I found that either the GoLite SL-3 or SL-5 pole will fit just right. Other options may be sourced from Seek Outside, Ruta Locura, or Kifaru. If you know of any others please leave a comment!

Pole and Party Hat
Pole and Party Hat

In the Field

My most recent trip with the Ultamid 2 was out at the 20 Lakes Basin / Eastern Yosemite. The weather was beautiful and minimal bugs made this an easy trip for the Ultamid 2. A little wind turned it into a sail while setting up and even though I had a hiking buddy (as one would expect when using a 2-person shelter) I asked that he let me set up unassisted. When your expensive Cuben tent is wanting to take off and fly into a bunch of scrappy granite it’s a little unsettling, but persistence pays off without any harm done to the shelter. Having a small bit of experience with the Ultamid prior to this trip, I already knew it requires a little more space than I’m used to. Visualizing this in my noggin I eventually found a spot. With either of my smaller mids I could have squeezed into one of several flat patches of ground that I came upon, but that’s the trade off for more living space.

I couldn’t sink any stakes so I just used available rocks, of which there were no shortage. This is where I don’t mind those heavier guylines. Got a pretty decent pitch although it took a little jockeying with the boulders. I left the door open that night for stargazing and to catch a few of the meteors that were flying by frequently. Despite the breeze, everything held just fine and the pitch was still solid in the morning.

The next evening I found myself setting up on a little bit of a slope. The weather was good so I just pitched the mid “level to the world” which left one corner a little high. Soft ground here and good purchase with the stakes. I mostly used titanium Shepard hooks and had zero problems with them pulling out in a steady breeze. Sleeping on grassy surfaces and near bodies of water is a sure way to get some condensation going on, however I opened both top vents and the inside of the Cuben remained dry with thanks to the breeze.

Lakeside
Lakeside

I’ve only slept alone in the Ultamid 2 thus far. It’s more than a palace for one. While some two-person mids can be cozy for two, and “nice” for one, there is no doubt that the Ultamid 2 is meant for two guys (or gals) with gear. Even the door is oriented on the narrow end of the shelter so neither person has to climb over the other for entry/exit. Could hiking or climbing partners choose a better mid for base camp or to ride out a storm in? I don’t think so – and wait, there’s more! The larger footprint means this is going to fit taller people very comfortably. I’m 6′-3 ish and didn’t feel the least bit squeezed in – no touching on either end while sleeping on an inflatable pad. Good stuff. While I would normally choose a more appropriate solo shelter I’d be very tempted to grab the Ultamid 2 just because of the fact that it fits my long frame so well. I asked Mike St. Pierre if HMG will eventually offer a Solo version of the Ultamid; he said they’re going to kick around the idea now that the slow season is approaching.

Lack of an HMG branded insert is not an issue. I also asked Mike about the possibility of an HMG branded inner and it sounds like they’re working on it. Maybe they’ll offer one sometime down the road; either way there are plenty of other manufacturers who offer various mid-shaped net tents and/or who can custom make something.

I am a little hung up on the pole situation though. I really don’t want to carry a dedicated pole, and if I’m going to it will have to be light. Of course if two people are going to use the shelter, one of them can share the load by carrying the pole. Another way I pitched the Ultamid was with a ~ 12″ pole jack but it required maxing out the extension on my BD Alpine Carbon Cork pole and even then it just made the 64 inch height. I really don’t like maxing poles out like that, especially in a Cuben shelter which doesn’t stretch. Strong winds will transmit their forces into the pole(s). I have seen my BD poles flex hard in some high winds under a different Cuben mid… I thought for sure they’d brake. They didn’t, but sooner or later a pole failure or pole-tip failure is inevitable when they’re extended out all the way and being loaded up at the ends. The pole jack will probably be fine 9/10 times in inclement weather, but a dedicated pole is probably the smart solution.

A Palace for One
A Palace for One

Other things of lesser consequence… the buckles used to fasten the doors open are a bit much; a simple toggled and elastic loop would have been just fine. Opinion is bound to vary. The zipper strain relief needs a little extra material at the end to use as a tab to grab hold of, especially with a gloved hand. A minor change that I mentioned to Mike and he says they are implementing it.

Updates

I just wanted to revisit the post for a second to make a few quick updates…

1. Right around the time I posted my write up on the Ultamid, Hendrik of Hiking Finland also posted his thoughts on it. His version is the prototype which lacks some of the refinements that I mentioned earlier, but he has a lot more nights under it than I do. If you’d like to have another perspective on this shelter I suggest visiting Hiking in Finland and reading Hendrik’s write up.

2. Forrest McCarthy also posted a great overview on the history of pyramid shelter and includes his thoughts on using the Ultamid. Check it out here!

3. I wanted to provide a better way to show the difference in size between the Ultamid and an MLD Duomid (or similar sized shelter such as the Locus Gear Khufu). Originally I composed a photomerge of the 3 shelters but it didn’t convey what I had hoped (most likely due to me not executing it very well). Instead I thought I’d just pitch the Ultamid over the top of a Duomid. I wasn’t in best form on this attempt either and didn’t get the end shot dead straight on, but close enough I think to get the idea across…

Ultamid and Duomid
Ultamid and Duomid
Visual Comparison of the Lengths
Visual Comparison of the Lengths

The Bottom Line

Pyramid shelters offer a straightforward do-it-all design. HMG adds some interest to the classic pyramid design by upping size of the “industry standard” two-person ‘mid at the expense (or benefit depending how you look at it) of a higher peak profile. The price is steep, but the market may just bear it as this mid and the space it offers are exceptional. HMG has proven that they know design, construction, durability, and customer service. All of those points coupled with the unique features of the Ultamid will likely make this a compelling choice when comparing to similar sized offerings on the market. Hike It. Like It.

Jacob D Written by:

Jacob is the head honcho, wearer of many hats, and modern day berserker here at Hike It. Like It. When he's not out hiking or running the trails you'll find him operating in full capacity as a Super Dad and chipping away at a degree in Kinesiology. This guy likes to stay busy. Follow on Strava

16 Comments

  1. Peter S
    October 27, 2014
    Reply

    Thank you very much for this detailed review! May I ask wich pole you used?
    Thanks in advance.
    Peter

    • October 27, 2014
      Reply

      You’re very welcome, Peter… and another thanks from me to HMG for making it all happen. Now on to your question – the quick answer is I used the pole from a GoLite Shangri-La 5.

      The longer answer (and I will be updating the article with this info and some photos) is that any of the following will work:
      – SL-5 Pole
      – SL-3 Pole
      – REI adjustable tarp pole (6-foot)
      – Seek Outside, Ruta Locura, or Kifaru tipi poles
      – A big stick cut to the right length (I did this on a recent trip)
      – 2 trekking poles lashed together with ski straps, or velcro, and a length of guyline tied to the tips to keep them from slipping (have done this also, with some learning curve, details coming in the update)

  2. Marc
    October 21, 2013
    Reply

    Interesting how you set up the ultramid and the duomid 90 degrees to one another

    • October 21, 2013
      Reply

      Hi Marc πŸ™‚

      Although the doors are situated 90ΒΊ to one another, the long sides of the shelters are parallel. Since HMG is one of the few (only?) manufacturer to put the door on the narrow end of their pyramids, this is the only way these two shelters can be pitched (which of course nobody would ever do other than for this type of comparison). The door placement on the HMG is a great idea for a 2-person pyramid that will only have a single door. Of course dual doors on the long sides would be even more convenient, but would add weight, probably add cost, and would likely compromise the integrity of the shelter somewhat.

  3. Mark P
    October 20, 2013
    Reply

    HMG will retrofit a bug netting skirt.. I’m pretty sure they could retrofit a zipper garage and zipper strain relief if requested. I now have one on the way.. Thanks for the good tips and keep them coming.. Looking forward to your update!

    • October 20, 2013
      Reply

      Thanks Mark! Good to hear that HMG can do the retrofits. I can’t speak for them, but I’m betting they’d be willing to work with early adopters on this.

      Regarding that update, should have it posted tomorrow (Monday 10/21)!

  4. Sunny Waller
    October 4, 2013
    Reply

    I ordered my UltaMid with an inside hang loop to attach bug mesh to. I was going to use a S2S nano with a ground sheet but discovered a Six Moon Designs Serenity Net Tent works well. The net tent has elastic tie outs with plastic hooks at all 4 corners, on the backside & up at the top. It was designed to be pitched inside a Gatewood Cape without using stakes-you just clip the tieouts to the guylines for the cape. The net tent fits perfectly down one side of the Ultamid and it clips right into the guylines for a tight pitch-no stakes needed. This means I can pitch the mid in the rain and clip in a enclosed bug nest from the inside if I need to. For a pole I tie 2 trekking poles together or I use my Brunton Mono Pod Hiking Staff that extends to 63″..The total real world trail weight for the bug nest, mid, stakes & exra guyline I carry is apprx 29oz (not including poles) Not bad for a shelter with all that space. I am short enought to stand up in there πŸ™‚

    • October 8, 2013
      Reply

      Sunny, Thanks for all of the great input on the SMD Serenity Net Tent – that’s good to know! Also, if you have a photo of you standing up inside there I’d love to see it πŸ˜€

  5. September 24, 2013
    Reply

    Great pictures as always Jacob. You are giving me good ideas for my own reviews. Keep up the great work!

    • September 24, 2013
      Reply

      Thanks for the kind words, Adam! Also, while we’re talking about the photos I’d just like to point out that I was not camped right on the edge of that lake in the last couple of shots. It’s an illusion created by the slope of the land there. A little camera trickery, if you will.

  6. September 20, 2013
    Reply

    I got one of the earliest ones (mine is an ultramid 4) without the zipper strain relief. It would definitely improve things.
    I have been using a Bears Paw Wilderness insert, and it is light and works to keep the mosquitos at bay.
    My pole solution has been to strap my poles together. If I strap the two handle ends together, they don’t slip and they have plenty of length. If I have two straps with me, I use one at each end of the overlapped part, otherwise, I wind the strap around shoelace style and buckle it at one end.
    When I am on the bike, I have a BD pole that works but is heavyish.

    • September 23, 2013
      Reply

      Hi Doug. Nice setup with the fat bike! Thanks for the info on the pole. Lashing a couple of poles together is also what Mike St. Pierre suggested and I think it’s a reasonable solution. If you want to get the strain relief added to your shelter you might contact HMG and see what they can do for you. The snow is already falling in California, could be an early winter!…

  7. September 17, 2013
    Reply

    Great write-up Jacob! Seriously want to get one of these and use it as a winter hot tent! You going to take this with you to the 2014 GGG ?

    • Jacob D
      September 17, 2013
      Reply

      Hey John. It would make a great hot tent provided the Cuben can handle the temp of the stovepipe… lots of room to hang out. I guess you would probably add hole/flap for it out of some other material. Anyway, I should be at the GGG and I can bring it along.

  8. Jacob D
    September 16, 2013
    Reply

    I’ve got one other neat little update for this post, but I’ve been unable to get the time in my schedule to do it… so for now I’ll just say: update forthcoming!

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