Where the UltaMid 2 may fall short for some users is comfort, depending on what you consider to be a “comfortable” tent. For those unfamiliar with living in floorless shelters, the lack of having a floor and a second layer of walls might take a little getting used to.
It’s particularly important to try to find a well-drained or otherwise dry spot. In Kodiak this can be really tough to find, so I typically use a super light bivy sack around my sleeping bag (currently using the Mountain Laurel Designs Ultralight Bivy, about 5 oz total), but even with the bivy, life can be a little wet.
Depending on the ground and the pitch, it’s also possible to have a little bit of a draft. Sometimes a cooling draft is welcome, but on cold, rainy days on Kodiak, a draft is usually quite unwelcome. The bivy sack helps with that quite a bit, too. Kodiak is mercifully low on mosquitos, but the rest of Alaska is famously flush with them and the bivy sack also helps with this.
Used With the Insert
Most of these limitations are easily addressed through the use of the HMG UltaMid 2 Insert with Cuben Floor. For an additional 600 grams, it turns the UltaMid 2 into a double wall tent with a nice bathtub-style waterproof floor and complete bug net protection. Because of the mesh walls of the insert, there isn’t a significant increase in warmth like that achieved with many double wall, four-season tents, but it does dramatically decrease any drafts that may sneak in under the UltaMid 2. For most summer and autumn trips in Alaska I will continue to use the insert, especially if a second person is joining me on a trip.
There are, however, comfort advantages to floorless shelters when used without the insert. One of them is the ability to easily and safely ventilate and cook in the shelter (in areas or times of the year when bears are not a concern). A floorless shelter also allows for pitching the tent on less even surfaces or to use on the roof of a dug-in snow shelter.
One final issue with the UltaMid 2 and all other pyramid style shelters I’ve used, is that it’s pretty easy for any gear inside the tent to get wet because of how the door is situated in the wall. Without any vestibule or awning, water and snow are able to fall right into the shelter anytime the door is open. With proper attention, this can be managed pretty easily, but it’s not something to ignore in wet, cold environments.
Many tents on the market allow for multiple configurations, including “fast-pitch” options using the poles and fly only, or fairweather bug-proof set ups using just the inner tent and poles. But in my experience, these options are a bit cumbersome to arrange and are seldom used. The UltaMid 2, however, really does provide a lot of useful options, including the outer tent only (which is how I’ve used it the most); outer tent with insert; and insert alone (for wet ground and bug protection without wind/rain protection).
More importantly, I started using the UltaMid 2 differently than other shelters I’ve owned. While on a week-long solo trip on the south end of Kodiak Island this past October, I set up a base camp near a remote lake where the floatplane dropped me off with my Black Diamond Tempest, a bear fence, Mega-light for cooking and eating, and a big steel bear-barrel full of food.
Each day I took long walks in the mountains or toward the coast with my two-piece longbow and few arrows, hunting for deer and ptarmigan. On these trips I carried two days of food, a lightweight synthetic sleeping quilt and inflatable pad (temps outside were averaging in the 40’s Fahrenheit), and my UltaMid 2.
Bringing the UltaMid 2 on these hikes essentially extended my range by a day or more with very little added weight, and allowed for an increased margin of safety while trekking around in a remote area in cold wet weather. When stopping to either rest, wait out a squall, or if I needed to spend a night away from my relatively plush base camp, I would quickly set up my UltaMid 2 using a few stakes and rocks and my trekking poles, and would have a dry, comfortable camp out of the weather.
This winter, I now find myself considering tossing the UltaMid 2 into my kit as safety equipment for long ski tours or snowmachine missions. When having a dry, super strong, windproof shelter for me and at least 1-2 other people is only 16 oz extra in my pack, the UltaMid 2 starts to look like a pretty reasonable piece of safety equipment for many kinds of adventures.
Who’s It For?
Floorless pyramid-style shelters are a little different to set up and use than traditional tents, but a well-executed design like the HMG UltaMid 2 is a compelling option for any kind of human powered travel. The amount of protection offered by this 600 gram shelter (1202 g when combined with the insert) is extraordinary, and can truly be used in place of a four-season tent with a little experience and practice. Any wilderness traveler looking to significantly lighten his or her load without a compromise in storm protection should seriously consider the UltaMid 2. Whether you’re trying to accommodate a bunch of extra gear like packrafts, skis, or climbing equipment, or just trying to travel as light and fast as possible, the UltaMid 2 is a great choice.
There are a number of other companies that are handcrafting ultralight and presumably strong Cuben Fiber shelters and gear. So far we do not have experience with products that would more directly compete with the UltaMid 2 in price and performance, but we look forward to exploring some of these offerings in the future.
Cuben Fiber is apparently quite expensive to procure and work with. In addition, the craftsmanship apparent in the UltaMid 2 is consistent with high levels of precision and quality control during manufacturing, which is also an expensive process.
At $675 for the UltaMid 2 and $375 for the Insert, this is by far the most expensive shelter I’ve ever used. That said, this 37 oz shelter could easily replace a four-season expedition tent, a Mega Light, a summer backpacking tent, an emergency tarp shelter, and a variety of other shelters that, in total, would cost quite a bit more than the UltaMid 2.
For years I’ve been searching for a superlight four-season shelter that I can use year round for human powered adventures, and now I seem to have found it. The Hyperlite Mountain Gear UltaMid 2 is the best performing, most versatile shelter I’ve ever used. There is little doubt in mind that it will continue to be my top choice for shelter any time I’m thinking of spending the night outside.