Hyperlite Mountain Gear UltaMid 2 and Insert

Tie-Down Points

I’m not sure how many nights of my life I’ve spent lying awake while my tent takes a brutal beating in the wind, wishing that I had been able to better tie it down. When I first set up the UltaMid 2 (on a windy, rainy ridge just inland from the North Pacific Ocean), I was delighted to see how easy it was to create as much support as I wanted.

With 16 reinforced, seam-sealed tie-in points, and an included 100’ of spectra cord, I had a super taut shelter in a matter of minutes with minimal flapping. Even nicer is the addition of easily adjustable line locks on the perimeter tie out which also makes tensioning and adjustment fast and easy. Overall, I’ve been very impressed.

Seam Sealing

I’ve owned a lot of tents and shelters (at least a dozen in the last decade), and used quite a few more. Many of these required seam sealing before they were wet-weather ready. While seam sealing is usually a relatively easy task, I greatly appreciate that the UltaMid 2 comes ready to use right out of the bag with a full seam taping and sealing done at the factory.

Venting

It might not be apparent that even floorless shelters need venting, but the single wall, non-breathable nature of the UltaMid 2 does benefit from being vented, especially in wet environments. This is easily accomplished by a series of no-see-um netting covered vents near the peak of the shelter.

Paul Forward reviews the Hyperlite Mountain Gear UltaMid 2 with insert for Blister Gear Review.
HMG UltaMid 2 vents

Pitching

If you’ve never pitched a floorless style shelter before, it would be worth spending a little time practicing before you end up on a windy ridge somewhere trying to erect your shelter. That said, it’s an intuitive and easy process that can be done quickly by one person.

My personal strategy usually involves first tethering one of the tie down points to something heavy like my loaded pack to prevent the whole thing from blowing into the Gulf of Alaska.

Once I’ve done that, I stake out the upwind edge of the shelter first with stakes (or rocks or carved sticks, ice axes, skis, etc…), then the downwind edge. If it’s really windy I might add a few more tie downs to the perimeter before erecting the pole.

Once the tent is secured to the ground, I guess the height for my ski poles or paddle shaft(s), unzip the door, climb in, and erect the tent. (If using two ski poles or paddle shafts, the best way to attach them to create one longer pole is by using Voile-style stretchy ski straps.) In many cases, that’s as much as I’ll do before moving in for the night. If it’s particularly stormy or I expect big winds or snow, I’ll spend more time tensioning and tying out the tent.

If I’m using the UltaMid 2 insert, I have to erect the insert first with the pole inside, then set up the UltaMid 2 over it. It takes a few minutes longer to set up with the insert but it is still intuitive and easy.

Volume

I’ve used my UltaMid 2 with and without the insert, and both solo and with my girlfriend. In all scenarios, it felt like I was living in at least as much space as any two-person tent I’ve used. With the insert in place, three people would be a little tight but totally doable for a fast and light trip, especially during summer months when you’re not spending as much time tent-bound.

Without the insert, the UltaMid 2 is palatial for 2 people, and it’s big enough to have quite a bit of gear inside the tent while sleeping. When traveling solo without the insert, there is enough room for me to bring all of my equipment into the shelter and still have enough room to comfortably move around or prepare food during a storm.

Compared to the other floorless shelters I’ve used most recently (BD Mega Light and GoLite ShangriLa 3), I prefer the more rectangular shape (210x271cm) of the UltaMid 2 which allows more footroom for taller people and more more headroom and clearance from the door for easier exit and entry when there are multiple people sleeping under the shelter.

The only time that I prefer the square shape of the Mega Light over the UltaMid 2 is while setting up a camp kitchen on a glacier trip or while on base camp style summer trips where the square shape seems a little more conducive to several people constantly moving in and out of the shelter.

Color

The UltaMid 2 is offered in green or white. I love living inside of the bright white shelter especially during the relatively short days of Alaska in autumn. In snowy environments, I would recommend marking the shelter with some kind of flagging or other bright signal so that it’s easier to spot from a distance if the weather comes in while you’re away from camp.

Storm Performance

For at least ten years, I’ve been trying to find the sweet spot for weight vs. storm protection in shelters. My ideal shelter is light but offers reasonable ventilation and space for 1 to 2 people; is completely waterproof in sustained rain or wet snow; and, perhaps most importantly, can handle sustained high winds when pitched in exposed places.

For reference, a brief and not totally inclusive list of shelters I’ve owned and / or used extensively include (by manufacturer):

Black Diamond: Mega Light, HiLight, Firstlight, Tempest, I-tent; Big Agnes: String Ridge, Seedhouse SL, Fly Creek UL. GoLite: Shangrila 3; Mountain Hardwear: Light Wedge 2, Trango 3; Marmot: Asylum. The North Face: VE 25; Hilleberg Nammatj 3 (review forthcoming). Tarptent: Stratospire 1.

Of the 15 shelters listed above, there is a huge range of weight, size and intended purpose, but I think it gives me a decent starting point to assess the storm worthiness of the HMG UltaMid 2.

Paul Forward reviews the Hyperlite Mountain Gear UltaMid 2 with insert for Blister Gear Review.
Paul Forward using the HMG UltaMid 2, Kodiak Island, AK.

After a lot of time spent on glaciers and other exposed places using the BD Mega Light for either a kitchen or a sleeping shelter, I had faith that shapes like the Mega Light and UltaMid 2 could hold up to some storms. Similarly, the Tarptent Stratospire has held up to some serious winds.

I wasn’t surprised, then, that the UltaMid 2 held up well in wind. But I was quite impressed by how much tighter I could pitch it due to the super strong and minimally stretchy Cuben Fiber. In combination with the tie-out options discussed above, I could achieve a super taut pitch that stayed that way even after a long night of rain. This was aided by the lack of stretch in the Spectra guy lines and Cuben Fiber outer shell, in addition to the very stiff center pole created by fastening together two full-strength carbon trekking poles.
When the notorious Kodiak winds picked up (only up to about 50 mph during my testing as confirmed by multiple weather stations around the island) and started rocking my camp, I did experience some flapping, but little to no bowing of the fabric or any signs of failure. While 50mph is not severe by Kodiak standards, it is enough to put a serious bend into the poles of any lightweight freestanding tents like the Big Agnes Seedhouse or Fly Creek, in which I’ve spent more than few night pushing tent fabric off of my face throughout the night.

I still haven’t had the Ultamid 2 out in the 80 mph winds that have broken the poles or torn the fly off several tents on Kodiak during my time there, but based on how well it handled during multiple trips (each about 1 week long) during repeated wind and rain events, I have little doubt that a well-staked UltaMid 2 can take on some fierce conditions.

The only factor limiting the strength of the tent is the integrity of whatever the tent is tied too. On one occasion, I accidentally slipped and fell onto the side of the tent while it was pitched tightly in high winds. I broke the carbon fiber/aluminum tent stake that I was using, but did no damage to the UltaMid 2 or tie out points.

I will certainly update this review if I experience winds or other loading strong enough to damage or induce failure in the UltaMid 2, but I think this is highly unlikely.

When comparing it to the whole spectrum of shelters I’ve used, the UltaMid 2 can handle as much wind and rain as any other shelter I’ve used. This is kind of incredible given that it weighs 602 g (without the insert) which is half as heavy as the lightest two-person shelter, and around ⅕ as heavy as the lightest truly four-season tent I’ve used (Black Diamond I-tent or Tempest) and provides more space than either.

It will not be as dry and warm as the best of the above tents (my personal favorites in protection-to-weight ratio are the Black Diamond Tempest and the Hilleberg Nammatj) in sustained wet or wintery weather, but those tents all weigh anywhere between 6 and 10+lbs. With confidence, I can say that no shelter I have ever used has anywhere close to the ratio of strength and weather protection to weight of the UltaMid 2.

NEXT: Comfort, Used With the Insert, Etc.

7 comments on “Hyperlite Mountain Gear UltaMid 2 and Insert”

  1. Hyperlight make quality gear – but too heavy. This combo is 1.2kgs! I would recommend the ZPacks Duplex at 595grams – I have both their solo and duo Cuben tents – I can’t fault their excellent design, quality and performance.

    • Thanks Rob, I’d love to try the Zpacks stuff. I’ve tried shelters of that shape before and, as of now, I prefer the single pole mid shape for super harsh, wet environments as it is very strong, allows me to use paddle shafts and other weird pole configurations and seems to provide a lot of space. That said, I’d love to try the Duplex.

  2. Awesome review, Paul. The UltaMid 2 seems to be what I’m looking for, and the main shortcoming from my perspective is that that you cannot set up an insert last if you’re pitching in the rain. But even if you have that option, (like with the Stratospire) are you realistically going to keep all the rain out while you do it? I don’t have enough backcountry experience to know if my concern is warranted, do you have any thoughts on that?

  3. I am struggling with the idea of doubling the weight of the Ultamid to have it be bug proof, especially for long haul use on through hikes. Last year on the PCT I used the Black Diamond Beta Light shelter, without the insert. It is one pound. I will say that I really love that tent. My strategy for bug-proofing it, was to pitch it as low as I could to the ground and even gently lay some rocks over the edge to be sure to keep the mosquitos and flies out. This worked fairly well… about 85% mosquito proof. BUT a handful of nights were so hot and muggy from the heat and no ventilation from it being pitched without the air gap at the base, that there was a moment that I swore to myself “never again” (still it was better than being bit endlessly). I see that the Ultamid has ventilation at the top, which is very attractive to me, given my previous greenhouse experience. I would love to know if or what you and other people do to ‘bug proof” the Ultamid 2, without buying the insert? Secondly, Mountain Laurel Designs has a the Duomid XL which is Cuban fiber, comes sealed, is 7.5x9ft and has top ventilation –it seems to me to be the spitting image of the Ultamid (slight difference in that the pole is more in the front of the mid, allowing there to be more space behind the pole, rather than equal distance on each side), but the MLD design has a $50 option of having a short veil of netting along the bottom perimeter, but are otherwise just about same size/price/weight. I am having a hard time seeing why HMG Ultamid is better, equal to, or inferior to MLD Duomid. Lastly, what is the favorite ground cloth to use in bottomless shelter though hike scenario (wanting protection from the dusty or very wet ground?

    • Heather, I’ve heard some folks on Backpackinglight.com talk about netting (not just with the MLD) freeze to the ground overnight and be problematic dealing with that in the morning. Just something to think about.

  4. Awesome review, thanks Paul!

    It is the first in depth review I found to be realistic and done with a lot of experience.
    I currently think about how to shave weight on my setup without sacrificing comfort and security in bad weather. (Mostly for treks in Iceland and Alaska.)

    For me nearly as important as security is comfort in a storm because psychologically it might get difficult if you trap 2 persons in an uncomfortable shelter for 2 or 3 days waiting out a storm..

    I hate drafts in the tent as I feel they lower the felt temperature quite a lot.
    I was surprised to read that the mesh inner helps so much with this issue. I thought only a solid inner would significantly reduce the draft…

    The other concern I recently have is the actual set up of the shelter when the storm is already blowing. I own a Stratospire and a MSR Guideline Pro. Especially the Guideline Pro is incredibly strong in the wind because of the unique pole design. Permanantly fixed at the crosspoints, it’s the only geodestic design I know using this technique and it works really good.
    But I have a big concern about both tents to be set up when the storm already kicked in. The Guideline Pro is inner first and I think if you have a severe storm going you will not be able to get it up anymore. Same with the Stratospire 2.
    So I was looking at the Nammatj 3 because the Hilleberg videos of how to set it up during a storm are impressive. So easy, even alone.. But not lighter than my actual setup.

    I appreciate your detailed description on how to set up the Ultamid in a storm.
    Will this work with the inner as well?? I can’t imagine seting up the inner first and after that pulling the outer over with high winds involved.
    Can you share insights with us about that specific case as well?

    Best regards,
    Philip

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