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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.