Hyperlite Mountain Gear of Biddeford, Maine

Part 11 in an ongoing series highlighting Northeast-based gear companies.

Ever hear of Cuben fiber? Originally designed for high-end racing sails, this stuff is half the weight of silnylon, 50-70 percent lighter than Kevlar and four times as strong, and 100 percent waterproof. By incorporating this magic stuff into their product line, Maine-based Hyperlite Mountain Gear is creating a new standard for the lightest weight outdoor gear.

I can't resist adding more details about Cuben fiber, courtesy of the Hyperlite Mountain Gear web site: "Cuben Fiber is a high-performance, non-woven, rip-stop, composite laminate developed in the 1990s by a nuclear weapons physicist and an aerospace composite engineer. Technically speaking, Cuben fiber is a laminated fabric made using patented technologies with unidirectional prepregnated tapes of in-line plasma treated fibers that are spread into mono-filament level films. In more simple terms, Cuben fiber is made by sandwiching Spectra or Dyneema polyethylene fiber filaments a thousandth of an inch thick, in various arrangements between thin outer layers of polyester film. The 'sandwich' is then melded together in a high-pressure autoclave." So there you go.

The upshot is that this stuff has tremendous potential for use in ultralight—er, hyperlight—shelters and backpacks. The downside? It's spendy stuff—in-line plasma treated fibers and high-pressure autoclave melding apparently don't come cheap. But if you're after some of the lightest, most durable ounce-shaving shelters available, then you should consider Hyperlite's Echo I or Echo II shelter systems (23.7 ounces with guylines, $520; 29.5 ounces, $620). These floorless shelters are designed to be used with trekking poles for support. For the hyperlightest option, consider an Echo I tarp, a 51-square-foot solo tarp that weighs in at a mere 8.0 ounces with guylines ($270).

It's a better cost story, however, when it comes to Hyperlite's excellent backpack offering: the Windrider Ultralight Pack. Rated "Best Ultralight Backpack" in Backpacker Magazine's 2011 Gear Guide, it is stripped down simplicity in all its glory and weighs a scant 1 pound, 9.5 ounces. The Windrider is a more affordable ($255) option compared to their tarps and shelters, due evidently to the use of "rip-stop Cuben fiber/nylon hybrid material" which must be cheaper than pure Cuben fiber. The hybrid material is still 100 percent waterproof and this, along with the roll-down cinch top, makes the pack entirely watertight—no rain cover required.

Support your Northeast gear companies! Here are the 10 others I've profiled to date:
Delorme (Yarmouth, Maine)
Ibex Outdoor Clothing (White River Junction, Vt.)
Jetboil (Manchester, N.H.)
New England Ropes (Fall River, Mass.)
Nemo Equipment (Manchester, N.H.)
Orion Signal and Survival Products (Easton, Md.)
Dermatone Sunscreen (Windsor, Ct.)
Darn Tough Socks (Northfield, Vt.)
STABILicers (Biddeford, Maine)
Noble Biomaterials (Scranton, Pa.)

Have a suggestion for a Northeast-based gear company to profile? Please let me know!

Equipped” is an AMC Outdoors blog, written by Matt Heid.

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