I’ll just state it: I’m somewhat obsessed with the Hyperlite Mountain Gear UltaMid 2-Person Shelter. According to the spec sheets, it’s the coolest shelter out there. It’s lightweight, spacious, versatile and — I’ll just call a spade a spade — sleek like the Millennium Falcon. That’s not to say it doesn’t have some drawbacks and ‘good to knows,’ which I’ll cover below, but overall it’s something of a UL palace.
I’ve now used the Hyperlite UltaMid for multi-day backpacking trips in the Wind River Mountains in Wyoming, the Bob Marshall Wilderness in Montana, and the White Cloud Mountains in Idaho. So, it’s been put through the paces. But before I dive into the nitty gritty of how it performed on these trips, first some eye candy …
What I Like About the Hyplerlite UltaMid 2-Person Shelter
Super Lightweight - Because it’s made with Dyneema® Composite Fabrics and incredibly well designed, it weighs in at a ridiculously amazing 1.17 pounds.
Spacious - I’ve used it to sleep 3 adults quite comfortably (noting that we did not bring a bug net insert; set it up on the taller side allowing for a gap between the shelter and the ground; and the two people I was with were a couple who didn’t mind snuggling up. In this particular use scenario, we set the trekking poles up at an angle, making room for two people on one side, while still leaving space for me to sleep on the other side.) Long story short, if you’re waiting out a storm, have a dog or a kid and/or want to keep your gear protected from the elements, the Ultamid is choice shelter for that.
Engineering Masterpiece - Long days on the trail have a way of evoking some fairly random musings, but more than once I’ve lain awake in my sleeping bag contemplating in a weirdly profound way, just how much intentional thought went into the UltaMid’s design. Every stitch, cut and tie-down point serves a purpose. It’s everything you need. And absolutely nothing more.
Versatile - This shelter system can be configured in a variety of ways. You can buy a separate bug net insert for when the mosquitoes are in full force. And then leave that insert at home when they’re not. You can set it up close to the ground when it’s cold and you want to trap heat. Or you can set it up higher off the ground when it’s warm and you want airflow. I’ve used it for solo trips with my dog and, as mentioned in the bullet point above, I’ve used it for a 3-person trip.
Uses Gear You’re Already Carrying - The Hyperlite UltaMid can be set up with trekking poles, paddles, and just about anything long and sturdy that you’re carrying (or can find). Tent poles ditched … check!
What I Don’t Like
Bulky - While not heavy, it is a bit bulky, especially when you also need to take the bug net mesh insert. The two together can easily fill the bottom 1/3 to half of my Hyperlite Mountain Gear Windrider 2400 Pack.
Expensive - Coming in at $715, this probably isn’t the best choice for the casual outdoorsmen/ outdoorswomen. Add to that $395 for the bug mesh insert with a floor and you’re looking at over $1,000 for this dream setup. I do want to say that this hefty price tag is NOT because Hyperlite Mountain Gear is price gouging. Dyneema® Composite Fabric is just plain expensive and this shelter uses lots of it!
Somewhat Delicate - I want to be clear here, I have absolutely no reservations about this shelter holding up in a storm. What I’m talking about it how you treat it, and specifically the need to treat it gingerly. For example: I got a tiny hole in the floor of the mesh insert from a small but jagged rock. Lesson learned. I now look over the ground where I’m going to set up the UltaMid twice, not just once. Similarly, when it gets wet from rain, etc., I’m pretty careful about where I hang it to dry. I will say this is true of most lightweight and ultralight gear, and not specific to Hyperlite.
Setup Takes Finesse - Back in May, I had the UltaMid with me as my sleeping arrangements for Trail Days in Damascus, Virginia. For those of you who are unfamiliar, Trail Days is a huge and well-established thru-hiking festival on the Appalachian Trail. It had been a couple of years since I used a Hyperlite UltaMid and I was a bit rusty on how to set it up. I soon found myself flailing and generally making a mess of the process. Right at the moment, a truck drove by, a window rolled down and I heard a voice say “nice shelter.” I looked up to see Mike St.Pierre, the founder of Hyperlite Mountain Gear. Caught! Mike being the nice guy that he is, hopped out of his truck and got me back on track. Once you get the hang of setting up the UltaMid, it’s actually not a big deal. I’d just recommend practicing at home once or twice before heading for the wilds.
Loud When Windy - I bring ear plugs with me in case of windy nights. This thing can make a racket when gusty from the fabric whipping and flapping.
Good to Knows
Good Stakes Matter - As this shelter sets up with the tension created between stakes and the top of the trekking pole, stakes that get a solid bite in the ground are important. Also, it’s important to be able to get the stakes back out of the ground in the morning (as I’ve learned the hard way.)
Bring a Ground Cloth - If you don't have the mesh insert with a floor made by Hyperlite, it's a good idea to bring a lightweight ground cloth. I've used a sheet of Tyvek as well as a lightweight space blanket with success.
Adjustable Trekking Poles are Nice - I do not have adjustable trekking poles and this is at times annoying. If I don’t judge how tall to make my trekking pole setup (done by latching two trekking poles together with orange straps), I have to take apart the contraption and start fresh. If I had adjustable trekking poles, I could just adjust them up or down accordingly.
Bottom Line: If you’re an avid lightweight backpacker who likes to cover a lot of distance, travel through rugged places, and cares about what’s in your pack, you absolutely will not regret adding a Hyperlite Mountain Gear UltaMid to your kit.