Brand Highlight - Hyperlite: Revolutionizing Backpacking Gear with Innovative Designs

Brand Highlight - Hyperlite: Revolutionizing Backpacking Gear with Innovative Designs

If you haven't heard of it, Hyperlite is a game-changer in the backpacking world. They took a complete U-turn, revolutionizing materials and designs, setting them apart from the rest of the market.

My introduction to Hyperlite was a spontaneous one during a visit to their factory in Biddeford, Maine, around 2016. Tagging along with a friend planning a Patagonia backpacking trip, we stepped into a beautifully restored old mill that, to our surprise, Hyperlite employees mentioned rarely sees visitors. Despite the unexpected visit, they generously gave us a factory tour, showcasing their innovative projects.

The standout feature for me was the fabric they used, then called "Cuben Fiber" (now Dyneema Composite Fabric). It was billed as ultra-light, ultra-strong, and darn near waterproof. A demonstration involved an employee taking a knife to a piece of scrap material, poking a hole, and challenging me to rip it wider. To my amazement, the fabric "locked," preventing further tearing—an incredible feature absent in fabrics like nylon. Originally designed for racing boat sails, it made perfect sense. The only drawbacks were its relative expense, susceptibility to melting when burned, and the lack of pattern dyeing capabilities (at the time).

After the unofficial tour, they revealed a closet filled with products marked as "factory seconds"—items that didn't pass final inspection. There, I snagged a black Southwest 70, later discontinued in that color, turning it into a sort of unicorn model that I enjoyed flaunting.

It was an impulse buy. No big backpacking plans on the horizon, given my burnout from frequent National Guard Infantry outings, including winter bivouacs. The catalyst was my disdain for the bulky US Army standard issue MOLLE ruck—a heavy piece of crap in this author's opinion. Hyperlite became a daydream of what life could be with gear crafted by actual backpackers who understood the mantra, "ounces equal pounds and pounds equal pain." The MOLLE ruck got the job done, but at the time, there were far superior backpacking products available. The Army's approach was to throw a ton of money at making the perfect ruck from scratch. I was ready for something I'd genuinely enjoy carrying and, in turn, relish being outdoors.

Hyperlite doesn't just do backpacks; their tents, crafted from the same remarkable material, are as lightweight and robust as it gets. Back then, the Tipi tent wasn't exactly mainstream, unlike now. The Tipi offers the most room, especially in standing space, but requires a solid soil stake-down. While ideal for fair-weather, ultra-lightweight backpacking in familiar terrain, taking it to areas with loose soil or rocks might be a big mistake. Nowadays, Hyperlite is renowned for the Ultamid 2 and 4, flagship products known for their dream-like qualities—lightweight, durable, and spacious.

Other notable products include specialty backpacks. Venturing into ski touring, I've got the Crux specialty backpack, planning to get schooled up with a winter course. More updates to come on that front.

Discovering these revolutionary products were made in the USA left me thoroughly impressed. As expected, some manufacturing has shifted overseas to Mexico. However, I can vouch that the quality hasn't dipped. The designs are top-notch, and it's been immensely satisfying to play a tiny role in adopting one of these groundbreaking products, witnessing its journey from niche to mainstream over the years. I'm thrilled to report that these packs are now the go-to choice for professionals worldwide, including Cody Townsend in ski touring and even Army Special Forces personnel—buying them with their own hard-earned cash.

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