The Hyperlite Ultamid 2 is a portable palace targeted primarily at the hiking/bikepacking community and weighs just 534 grams (just over 1 pound, weight only includes perimeter guy lines). The optional insert adds an additional 626 grams but turns the tent into a four-season shelter (there are lighter inserts available on their website, including a half-insert). I’ve done plenty of adventures with a basic tarp, but there’s something to be said for carrying a little more weight and having a proper home at the end of a long day. I’m assessing this particular setup with a combined weight of 1,160 grams or 1,499 grams (just over 3 pounds) with stakes. This includes using the Ultralight stake kit, 101 grams, and the Ultamid carbon fiber support pole, 238 grams. Generic hiking poles can also be used, as seen in pictures).
At almost 1.5 kilograms, this is not the lightest arrangement, nor is it cheap at $1,295 (including tent, insert, stakes and pole). However, the weight reflects the generous dimensions, and the price is dictated by the quality. The Ultamid offers ample living space for such a lightweight shelter and a dependable four-season abode for all outdoor pursuits. The outer shell is made from DCF8 Dyneema Composite fabric (formerly Cuben fiber), which is waterproof, UV resistant, lightweight, and 15 times stronger than steel. The insert utilises a no-see-um mesh and DCF11 Dyneema bath-tub style base. The combination of the outer shell and insert creates a dependable barrier that shades you from the sun in extreme heat and keeps you warm/dry in harsh winter environments.
But what is it like to live with on expeditions? In short, excellent. The beauty of a Pyramid style is that it requires just one central pole and eight stakes to pitch. I’m sure many of you will already understand the frustrations of trying to configure a cumbersome tent at the end of a challenging day. The ability to have a comfortable home that can be erected in a matter of minutes is a huge morale booster and a real plus point for the Ultamid. I’m a big advocate of travelling light and will often prioritise weight over everything else. However, the lightest option is not always the best, and I think on longer trips, I’d rather carry a little more weight for a lot more comfort. I’ve used many lightweight two-berths, but none come close to the interior dimensions of the Ultamid. The tent is a genuinely nice place to be and allows two people to spread out, sit up, read a book, eat food, and completely relax inside.
At the end of the day, there are drawbacks, but we all have different requirements, and no one tent can fulfil them all. The Ultamid is hard to fault, though there are some points worth mentioning. This is a premium shelter, but there’s no escaping that many comparative products are half the price (or even less). I use ‘comparative’ loosely because whilst the Ultamid may be the same berth, weight, and dimensions as other brands, it uses more expensive materials. Nevertheless, justified or not, this is a pricey tent for the serious adventurer. The Pyramid style may be aesthetically beautiful and easy to pitch, but it also has a pole in the middle of your living space. There aren’t words to describe the horror on my girlfriend’s face when I mentioned the pole: ‘you’re saying there’s a pole…in the middle…so you won’t be able to cuddle me as much. Well, nope’. Anyway, after balancing the issue by expressing how useful it’ll be as a barrier when I annoy her, we took the plunge. In the end, we were both surprised how little it got in the way or bothered us. The Ultamid is so large that we cuddled at one end with our legs either side of the pole, and because it’s very sturdy, we had no issues accidentally knocking it out of place during the night.
The next critique is similarly linked to the structural blueprint of the Ultamid, but this is a more serious consideration. This design is not freestanding, which means you need a suitable surface to stake it down (i.e., too hard and the stakes won’t press into the ground; too soft that they’ll be removed by the wind). Unfortunately, expeditions often do not have designated camp spots, and you end up pitching wherever you can. In some countries, it’s difficult to find a suitable surface for stakes, and I’ve bent plenty desperately trying to secure the tent on rocky surfaces. Moreover, in locations like Iceland, the wind can easily push your tent completely flat, and no number of stakes will keep it secure. That said, at its highest point, the Ultamid is very streamlined, and therefore it would take a substantial gale to cause problems (this design also prevents the build-up of standing water/snow).
A freestanding tent is arguably just better for the most part but will generally take longer to pitch. If your absolute priority is saving weight, then the Ultamid is not the best option on the market (unless you’re planning to just carry the outer shell, which is 534 grams). Due to the generous dimensions, there’s a lot of fabric to store, and this means two packed-down dry bags (if you opt for both outer shell and insert), which takes up a considerable amount of space if you’re backpacking/bikepacking. Lastly, in some countries, you might want a tent that blends in as much as possible with your surroundings, and even in Hyperlite’s ‘Spruce Green’, the Ultamid’s height does make it stand out in wide-open spaces.
The Hyperlite Ultamid 2 is the best two-person tent I’ve ever owned. It’s a quality four-season shelter for serious adventures and for the size is extremely lightweight. The ease of pitching makes the Ultamid a pleasure to use, and the pyramid style design performs superbly in strong winds/heavy rain. The initial purchase price is high, but I genuinely believe it’s warranted considering the manufacturing expertise and quality of materials. Lastly, on a more personal level, this is the first tent that feels like a proper portable home. At the end of a long day, I get into the Ultamid and don’t feel like it’s just a place to sleep but instead a home-from-home. No higher praise than that!
$1,295 | www.hyperlitemountaingear.com
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