When Mike St. Pierre founded Hyperlite Mountain Gear entirely on his confidence in one material, Dyneema (formerly known as Cuben Fiber), he knew it would be tricky to work with. “I started building some stuff sacks and realized you can’t even sew this stuff together,” he says. “Scissors didn’t even cut it.” Now Hyperlite Mountain Gear makes backpacks and shelters, all using Dyneema, but the new Dirigo 2 tent might be its most well-rounded undertaking yet.
Dyneema is tricky to work with because it’s strong, really strong: by weight, Dyneema is 15 times stronger than steel. But it’s also remarkably lightweight, and this combination is what convinced Mike St. Pierre that it was the ideal material to use to make backpacking equipment. Ultralight is Hyperlite Mountain Gear’s guiding standard, and it’s led the brand to create outdoor gear notable for its simplicity and lack of features — no bells or whistles here.
The Dirigo 2 breaks that mold. Compared to Hyperlite Mountain Gear’s previous shelters, the Dirigo is almost complex, but everything about it serves to bring more simplicity to ultralight camping. The older shelters are more like tarps that can accommodate mesh inserts, purchased separately, for those who don’t want to sleep directly on the ground. The Dirigo is one piece, and its design is in keeping with more traditional tents that non-ultralighters are familiar with. It has a bathtub-style bottom as a barrier against the ground, a mesh-lined interior and doors on each side that can be used to create vestibules for gear storage or opened for full visibility when the weather is good. It does not, however, come with a sack filled with collapsible aluminum poles; the Dirigo only needs two trekking poles and eight stakes for setup.
Ultralight backpacking is edging its way into the purview of everyday campers, but it’s still unapproachable for those unwilling to sacrifice too many comforts in exchange for ounce savings. With the Dirigo, they no longer have to (it weighs 28 ounces).
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