Hyperlite UltaMid 2 Review: Andes to Caucasus

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The Hyperlite Mountain Gear Ultamid 2 is a minimal, pyramid-style shelter, constructed in the US from top grade cuben fiber and rated for four season mountain use. But given its eyebrow-raisingly high price tag, is it really worth the investment? After taking it bikepacking across the Bolivian Andes and the Georgian Caucasus, here’s what we thought…

Hyperlite UltaMid 2 Review, ultralight Pyramid tent

It’s no secret that I really like this shelter. After all, the Hyperlite Mountain Gear UltaMid 2 earned itself a place in our recent Gear of the Year 2016 Awards.

I’ve had plenty of time to discover why, given that the time we’ve spent together throughout the year. I’ve used it on a broad spectrum of trips, from local overnighters in northern New Mexico to the multi-week Ruta de Las Tres Cordilleras in Bolivia and Peru. The UltaMid’s been pitted against the sodden elements during prolonged and heavy rain in Georgia’s Caucasus mountains. I’ve even taken it on a family bikepack across the parched dry expanse of the Salar de Uyuni, infamous for flaying the finest tents and clogging their zippers with fine sand and dust.

Hyperlite Ultamid 2 Review

  • Hyperlite UltaMid 2 Review, ultralight Pyramid tent
  • Hyperlite UltaMid 2 Review, ultralight Pyramid tent

And after all these ordeals, the UltaMid 2 still looks brand new; there’s not even a single blemish to report. Which has played a convincing part in why, after much deliberation, I’ve finally accepted its stratospherically high price tag of $685 and now consider it to be the best shelter I’ve ever tried. As for camping history context, I’ve worked my way through the likes of dome tents (Big Agnes, Terra Nova, TNF), tunnel tents (Hilleberg and Vaude), single skin, enclosed models (Tarptent) and other cottage industry tarp manufacturers. Like most things in life, they all have their pros and cons. But for me, the UltaMid’s the one!

  • Hyperlite UltaMid 2 Review, ultralight Pyramid tent
  • Hyperlite UltaMid 2 Review, ultralight Pyramid tent
  • Hyperlite UltaMid 2 Review, ultralight Pyramid tent

Let’s rewind a little first.

The UltaMid 2 is a minimal, single skin tent – or shelter, depending on what you like to call such designs – that comfortably sleeps two. Pyramid in style, it’s non-freestanding, relying on a taught setup for best performance. As such, it’s easiest and most satisfying to pitch on relatively soft ground, though in a pinch the use of rocks, bikes and shrubs to anchor stakes and guy points will certainly suffice. When I say minimal, that’s exactly what I mean. There’s no floor. Or netting. Just a single pole to brace the center of the ‘mid and a humble set of tent stakes, neither of which are provided. Inherent to a pyramid shelter, it offers excellent protection from the elements – be they wind, rain or snow – from whichever direction they’re barreling towards you, unlike some flat tarps.

In terms of construction, the Ultamid 2 is made from Cuben Fiber, or rather, DCF8 Dyneema® Composite Fabrics, as it’s now officially called. Incredibly light yet also hardwearing, this techy non-woven fabric – whose original name derives from the blend of its carbon and polymer filaments – was developed for the prestigious Americas Cup in the 90s and optimised for strong rip resistance and minimal weight. Dyneema is available in various grades; the UltaMid appears to use a midweight version that feels neither too skimpy nor too heavy. Given the fancy tech, it’s perhaps not surprising that Dyneema is also extremely expensive, with a material cost significantly higher than that of silnylon – the longstanding favourite it’s now usurped amongst the diehard ultralight fraternity.

Hyperlite UltaMid 2 Review, ultralight Pyramid tent

Pitching a pyramid-style shelter takes a few attempts to figure out and perfect; anyone brought up with traditional geodesic designs is likely to find it a touch fiddly at first. In time though, it becomes an extremely quick and strangely satisfying process. This video from Hiking in Finland offers a good visual example of how it’s done.

Within, the UltaMid’s height can be easily adjusted depending on conditions – a higher pitch provides increased airflow and a larger internal space, while one positioned tight to the ground helps keeps drafts at bay. The telescopic pole – I use a carbon model borrowed from my old Black Diamond Mega Light, though those from Ruta Locura come highly recommended – allows a variety of different placements. Running it in the middle splits living quarters in two neat roomy halves, with ample room for stashing gear. Placing it strategically to one side allows for 2.5; we family camped regularly for 7 weeks without feeling too cramped.

In fact when it comes to sizing, the UltaMid 2 is nothing short of palatial; or at least, very spacious for two and distinctly indulgent for one. Given the pyramid design, expect to sacrifice some usable space at the base of each panel; these cheese-shaped zones are best dedicated to storing gear. In exchange, headroom is unusually considerate, a real boon for taller folk at the end of a long day’s riding. Other tourers I met in South America were intrigued by its shape, likening it to a tipi, even though it’s a different geometrical shape entirely. But like a tipi, its upright proportions are easy to feel comfortable in; after camping in the UltaMid 2, conventional tents feel like cramped coffins in comparison. The caveat is that tall campers have to take care not to press the feet of their sleeping bags against the sidewalls, as condensation can often be an issue with single wall shelters. Also inherent to the pyramid design, there’s no porch to protect you while jumping into your tent. This means you’re subject to the vagaries of the seasons once you zip the UltaMid open, which is where bulkier dome or tunnel tents with porches score points over it.

  • Hyperlite UltaMid 2 Review, ultralight Pyramid tent
  • Hyperlite UltaMid 2 Review, ultralight Pyramid tent

As for pack size, the UltaMid was bulkier than I expected when I first received it. Over time it’s compressed smaller and smaller, to the point that I can now roll it up into a package that tucks snuggly into an Anything Cage HD. This initial bulkiness is due in part to the ‘cone’, a reinforced affair that accepts trekking poles, paddles, sticks or even skis, as well as its hardy build.

  • Hyperlite UltaMid 2 Review, ultralight Pyramid tent
  • Hyperlite UltaMid 2 Review, ultralight Pyramid tent
  • Hyperlite UltaMid 2 Review, ultralight Pyramid tent

It’s this build quality that the UltaMid stands out, justifying its higher price compared to worthy competitors like Mountain Laurel Designs’ Duomid XL ($365 silnylon, $690 cuben) and Bear Paw Designs’s more economical – in terms of cuben shelters, at least – PyraTent 2 ($430). Unlike many ultralight tents, the UltaMid 2 doesn’t skimp in areas prone to longterm wear and tear. This can be seen in its large, waterproof two-way zipper and the way each of its center panel and parameter tie-outs are heavily reinforced. Seam sealing also comes as standard, as do lightweight but burly guy lines. In short, this is no fair weather shelter. I never felt anything but completely confident camping in it, no matter how much the wind was howling or the rain was lashing down, which is not always the case in ultralight setups.

Hyperlite UltaMid 2 Review, ultralight Pyramid tent

  • Hyperlite UltaMid 2 Review, ultralight Pyramid tent
  • Hyperlite UltaMid 2 Review, ultralight Pyramid tent
  • Hyperlite UltaMid 2 Review, ultralight Pyramid tent
  • Hyperlite UltaMid 2 Review, ultralight Pyramid tent
  • Hyperlite UltaMid 2 Review, ultralight Pyramid tent

Hyperlite UltaMid 2 Review, ultralight Pyramid tent

Concerning living with cuben fiber, I’d also point out a few welcome perks. For one, cuben doesn’t wet out and sag like silnylon; it dries more quickly in the morning and doesn’t require tensioning when ambient humidity changes. Cuben Fiber can also be easily repaired with standard issue Duct tape – not that I’ve needed to do so. On the flipside, the melting point is lower than that of silnylon, so indoor cooking inside isn’t officially recommended. With care, I managed just fine with my alcohol stove on a couple of occasions.

Hyperlite UltaMid 2 Review, ultralight Pyramid tent

Like the majority of tarps and the way they pitch without a floor, there’s an al fresco feeling to the UltaMid 2. To those accustomed to the cocoon of their fully enclosed tents, it’s a notion can initially seem slightly bizarre. In fact, this resulting sense of ‘connection’ to terra firma has become one of my favourite aspects of tarplife – best experienced when pitching the UltaMid in a field of wild flowers! To protect my air mattress and keep dampness at bay, I carry a sheet of simple Tyvek, though Polycro or Cuben are lighter still. Unless pitched tight to the ground (height can be adjusted thanks to the telescopic pole), the UltaMid 2 tends to be a little breezy; a protective barricade of gear generally does the trick.

Such open-air living can create valid concerns amongst jungle and desert dwellers. On our family trip, we ran Hyperlite’s floorless mesh insert ($135, 363g) to keep mosquitos at bay. There’s also a fully enclosed version that’s complete with a Cuben fiber, bathtub-style floor – I expect I’d sleep more peacefully zipped away from critters if heading to the deserts of southern Arizona, or more jungly locales. Such an accessory will, however, add an additional $375 to your bill – effectively the price of a tent in its own right – as well a further 595g to your setup. Even so, the sum of these parts is still significantly lighter than a conventional two skin tent rated for 4 season use. And don’t forget a modular pyramid design can offer the best of all worlds. By packing the parts relevant to the trip you’re on, you’ve effectively gained an emergency shelter for remote day rides, a minimal setup for solo tours, and the full monty for 2-person, long distance tours in the high mountains.

UltaMid 2: 500g
8 stakes: 80g
Tyvek groundsheet: 200g
Black Diamond telescopic carbon pole: 280g (note that Ruta Locura’s alternatives are lighter)

Total: 1060g (37oz)

Total including Ultamid 2 Insert with DCF11 Floor: 1455g (40.4oz)

A note on adjustable poles:

Given that bikepackers won’t be carrying trekking poles to pitch the UltaMid 2, this review revolves around using a Black Diamond carbon telescopic pole with one segment removed – the one that came with my Black Diamond Ultra Light. Such adjustable poles allow your ‘mid to be pitched high or low, as required: high for extra air flow and low for dusty/snowy areas where a seal to the ground is desired.

I’ve since been informed that the equivalent Ruta Locura option – in a .600 grade – is lighter, cheaper, and can be cut to your required length at the time of ordering. When purchasing a pole, bear this in mind: according to Hyperlite Mountain Gear, the optimal length is 64″ for their recommended ‘standard’ height when pitching the UltaMid 2 using the insert. This allows a few inches for air flow around the bottom of the shelter. Based around this sweet spot, choose an adjustable pole that can be positioned a couple of inches higher or lower to allow some pitching leeway, with or without the optional insert. A 60in Ruta Locura pole with adjustor offers a range between 60″ and 68″.

  • Hyperlite UltaMid 2 Review, ultralight Pyramid tent
  • Hyperlite UltaMid2 Review
  • Weight 501g (17.67 oz)
  • Pack Size 8.5x6x5.5” / 21.6×15.2x14cm
  • Line dimensions Width: 83”/210.8cm, Length: 107”/271.8cm, Height: 64”/162.6cm
  • Price $685 (excluding pole and stakes)
  • Colors Spruce Green and White
  • Contact Hyperlite Mountain Gear

Wrap Up

The UltaMid 2 is hands down the best tent I’ve tried. Not only is it a refreshingly fun shelter to camp in, it’s both versatile ridiculously light – especially given its generous headroom, cavernous living space, and the fact that it’s hardy enough for genuine 4 season use. The latter is something that can’t be said of all ultralight shelters. Also worth noting is that at the lightweight end of the market, more conventional tent manufacturers often look at ways at saving grams, often to the detriment of regular, long-term use. ‘Mid designs are inherently extremely simple. This allows them to be very light, without compromising on longevity.

Of course, the UltaMid 2 is also hands down the most expensive tent I’ve spent time in. Whether it’s worth your hard-earned dollars will revolve, to some degree, on whether you can physically afford its $685 price tag – especially given the strong competition from US-made silnylon ‘mids, as well as more affordable options made overseas.

But if your pockets run deep, the simplicity of a ‘mid design appeals, and your desires take you to places where your shelter’s performance is paramount, then I believe investing in the Ultamid 2 is money well spent. I can think of few situations where I’d rather use another tent and no other ultralight options that will offer so many years of service. And when it comes down to it, a decade’s worth of prime camping real estate is hard to put a price on…

On a personal level, my use of the Hyperlite over the last year has jived well with every one of my trips. Barebones, it’s been easily light enough to carry on solo tours, as I did across the Republic of Georgia. Shared with a companion – or even with my family – on challenging trips in South America, it’s helped to significantly cut down on weight and bulk, especially compared to more conventional dome designs.

Do you have an UltaMid? Let us know where you’ve used it and if you like it as much as we do. Or tell us about other equivalents you’d recommend!

  • Doug D

    We’ve had an Ultamid 4 since before they were released. We’ve used it in heavy wind, snow, rain and even some hail. It has not let us down. Our only complaint with it is that like all mid style shelters, the door lets rain and snow in when entering or exiting. A little rain is a small price to pay for a 4 person shelter lighter than some single-person bivy sacks.

  • http://milesarbour.com Miles Arbour

    +1 for running away to the circus. I’m giving the Black Diamond Mega Light a whirl this winter – definitely not as light but I’m digging the amount of room pyramid-style shelters offer. This setup held up pretty well on an exposed ridge with plenty of wind and snow.

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/20ab7cf0f51924284f8b600ca21a6e17c8eb1a7459fd1c2faaac7306b35b4b49.jpg

  • Dave

    Small detail, but it is not freestanding as stated.

  • Cass Gilbert

    Quite right. Typo on my part, hence the need to tension it out using rocks, bikes, bushes etc… when the ground is rock hard.

  • Cass Gilbert

    I loved my Mega Light. It lacks mid way guy points, which is a real shame. I had some added in, as they help maximise internal space and really help in high wind. Another improvement is to fit line locks all round.
    Bear Paw Wilderness Designs does a bunch of well-priced mods, like adding a net skirt and guy points, if ever need them.
    Great tent though. So spacious!

  • Steve

    Good review but so hard to believe this is a 4 season looking at it’s construction. Seems like ( at this price ) the only benefit you are getting is light weight. Erm…cavernous / palatial space? How so, compared to a dome tent?. No double wall construction for pitching in rainy conditions and keeping the inside dry, plus likely condensation problems, no freestanding, not much ability to cope with any weight in snow ( again, 4 season ..really?,No pole and stakes? ( are they serious at that price???? ) And then a pole right in the middle of the tent on the interior.
    Glad it’s working for you but I think I’ll stick to my Hilleberg ( heavy as it is ).
    I get what this is about, and we all have different priorities for camping out but that is super pricey for only a piece of designer fabric! and parts you have to supply yourself.

  • Sascha

    Agree, I can’t really see the benefits for the price and an extra $375 for bathtub style…ouch!

  • Cass Gilbert

    I agree that it’s a very expensive tent – and it’s down to the individual as to whether it’s worth it or not, on a whole bunch of levels.

    But having used it in very heavy weather at high altitude, I can definitely vouch that the UltaMid is as stormproof/weatherproof as any heavier duty tents I’ve been in during my various bike tours. They look flimsy, but in fact pyramid designs resist wind and shed snow really well.

    I’ve tried an awful lot of tents over the years and as with most things in life, there’s advantages and disadvantages to each. My use of the Hyperlite over the last year that jived well with every one of my trips. Barebones, it’s easily light enough to take away on a solo tour and not begrudge the weight/bulk when I’m not using it. Split with a companion – or with my family – on other trips, it helps to significantly cut down on weight and bulk.

    In terms of the the nature of tarps, I can appreciate that they’re not for everyone – though everyone I know who’s tried it has been completely won over. As a family we also have a 3 person Big Agnes dome tent. The Hyperlite feels so much roomier inside, though the BA is freestanding, which is sometimes really useful.

    I won’t argue that this tent is prohibitively expensive for some – and that there are many worthy, more affordable options on the market. But when a product performs so well, it’s hard not to enthuse about it. And that’s definitely the case with the UltaMid. Ultimately, iIt’s a shame that cuben is inherently so expensive. Take MLD’s Duomid. The price doubles for the cuben version of the exact same design. I’m sure both are great shelters, assuming you like the notion of pyramid-style designs.

  • Doug D
  • http://leftbound.com/ Joni Palomäki

    I had eye-balled this one for quite long (since the first version came out), and while saving up, used a large pyramid tent (a GoLite Shangri-La 5), which got me hooked with the pyramid-style tents in the first place. Last autumn I purchased the UltaMid 4 with the inner w/ floor (bug season here in Finland requires one, not only because of ticks), and so far have been very impressed with the tent. I opted for the 4 since this is basically my only tent, also to be used with the family of 3, and I felt UltaMid 2 would have been tight. Having pitched the 4, I feel I made the right choice (it’s large but not overly big for 3, a palace for 2). The build quality is superb, all the detailing (and reinforcements) well-made, and cannot see any evident points of failure so far. Pitched right, it also can take a beating in the wind, been pushing it few times already. All in all, a superb tent to consider in my books, despite the high price tag. And it’s also pretty stealthy in the winter :)

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/a2047c21381c52568f36d9c353e7d23f94ffa50995dc231231037f508db66f4f.jpg

  • Cass Gilbert

    Thanks for the feedback Joni. The UltaMid 2 works well for a family with a young child. But you’re right. The UltaMid 4 makes more sense for a growing outdoors family. Nice camouflage!

  • Steve

    Fair enough Cass. Thanks for the ton of detail, reasoning and heads up about the zip problem!

  • RJ

    Ruta Locura offers another great option for a dedicated carbon fiber center pole, the .600 Tent and Tarp Pole, that works well with the Ultamid 2. I believe it’s cheaper and lighter than the BD option.

  • Cass Gilbert

    That’s great, thanks for the heads up. I had trouble tracking other options down. The BD pole isn’t especially light – it’s just the one I already had, and works well with a segment removed. REI does a an aluminium option, but it’s heavier still.

  • http://wisconsinbikefed.photoshelter.com/ David Schlabowske

    Thanks for the detailed review. Have you ever tried Zpacks’ cuban fiber shelters? I am a floor and screen guy, so I got the Zpacks Duplex, but they have tarps too. I love my Duplex for the same reasons you mentioned: crazy light for the size and super resistant to tears. The Duplex has good headroom, and plenty of floor space inside and a decent vestibule. With Zpacks’ carbon poles (only 12 inches long folded), carbon stakes my Duplex weighs 19 oz. Just rolled up, it is the size of a growler, but you can reduce that volume by at least 25% if you put it in a compression sack. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/84d1c2eafc65c5862a67748a5dff9b4794b2a36c3899a2acd75f01accbdf2b8c.jpg https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/529935cf3dcf9f9e9802d1e30656d666d6d5ad180f84ead753906664e581eab8.jpg

  • Dr J

    First of all, I don’t doubt that this is a very well constructed shelter, but…

    I assume UltaMid is supossed to be absolutely the lightest of its type. It weighs 1060g with all poles, floor and stakes. Very good for a two-person tent. But it doesn’t provide protection from e.g. mosquitoes. For that, you used another 363g mesh insert. That’s 1423g total, which is more than e.g. Big Anges Fly Creek UL2 that weighs ~200g less, is freestanding and costs half the price of UltaMid.

    Seems to me that as long as we don’t mind spending over $700 to sleep under a tarp it might make sense. But if we want to make it a full tent – not so much.

  • Robert Thomson

    Hey Doug, thanks for sharing. When you pitched your tent in the snow, was it staked out using snow anchors, or were you able access the ground to peg it out?

  • Cass Gilbert

    Hi David. I’ve heard great things about Zpack shelters. I’ve had a couple of nights in a Duplex – very impressive space to weight ratio. Based on this brief encounter, it felt less robust than the Hyperlite and perhaps less resilient to very high winds. But being fully integrated definitely has its advantages, especially given I was camping a stone’s throw from a nest of rattlesnakes (as I found out in the morning!). I believe Logan has been trying one out, so expect a detailed review soon!

  • Cass Gilbert

    This is certainly a valid point. On initial cost alone, the UltaMid is hard to justify (though its similar price-wise to other cuben ‘mid setups).

    However, when factoring weight and price, bear in mind that the UltaMid is designed to be a 4 season shelter that can shed snow and resist high winds very effectively. I wouldn’t say the same of Big Agnes’ UL range. Having some experience of both setups, I believe the ‘mid design to last longer and be easier to repair; particularly with worn zippers and tears. Being made in the US will inevitably push up the price too.

    But if these aren’t criteria that are relevant/important to you, than the Big Agnes range is certainly compelling. We have a Copper Spur UL3 that we’ve taken on overseas trips and I really like it. I know plenty of people swear by their Fly Creeks.

    I’ve never used the UltaMid with the full insert as the kind of terrain I travel in rarely requires it. As mentioned in the review, the most we’ve needed has been the floor-less insert. The price of shelter and insert combined certainly requires a big leap of faith! But I stand by the verdict of this review: it makes for a good long term investment, especially if you’re headed to places where the conditions warrant it.

  • Doug D

    In the picture, it is held with skis, but I have used snow anchors or other objects (sticks, trees) to peg it out. Skis work best until you want them on your feet or you left them at home because it’s a bike trip.

  • Tony Belmont

    Is the door on the long side or short side?

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