In the heart of Biddeford Maine, Hyperlite Mountain Gear can be found in a turn-of-the-century textile mill along the Saco River. As you enter, you can tell they’re doing something different.
Inside you won’t find a gleaming storefront with packs for sale. This is because Hyperlite Mountain Gear cuts, bonds, and sews everything they sell in this very mill building.
“Hyperlite Mountain Gear is committed to researching, developing, and keeping up to date with the latest advancements in materials technology in order to deliver products that achieve an optimal balance between strength, weight and performance. In striving to achieve this balance, we believe that, ounce-for-ounce, our products are the most durable lightweight and ultralight gear available contributing to increased performance and increased enjoyment of your sport”
-founder and CEO Mike St. Pierre
Mike began modifying and designing his own gear for adventures in the Adirondacks. He often received looks and questions from fellow hikers as his gear was very different than what most were carrying. He was even stopped by park rangers who requested he show them that he had all the necessary gear before he was able to continue down the trail.
“Simplicity is a spiritual philosophy”
-Dan St. Pierre (co-founder and CFO)
Mike was living in a fast paced world as a high end chef in New York City. He had made his backpacking setup with a borrowed sewing machine with the goal of escaping into the mountains with an ultralight setup made for big adventures. He looked to transform his passion for ultralight backpacking into a career and by 2011 Google and American Express selected Hyperlite Mountain Gear as one of the winners of contest that supported Small Business Saturday.
Hyperlite Mountain Gear uses Cuben Fiber as the main material for their packs, shelters, stuff sacks, and accessories. Cuben Fiber is a high-performance, non-woven, rip-stop, composite laminate which was originally designed for sailing. Because of its strength and water resistance, it is ideal for backpacking gear. It is half the weight of Silnylon and 100% waterproof.
Before you run out and make your own Cuben Fiber gear, know it is difficult to work with and expensive to purchase. Hyperlite Mountain Gear has a team of people cutting, sewing, and seam bonding the products. Mike told us how difficult it is to find individuals skilled at sewing because textiles are a lost art. Hyperlite Mountain Gear pays their talented workers a competitive salary- starting out at almost double minimum wage. The Cuben Fiber is purchased from a supplier in Phoenix Arizona and is shipped out to Hyperlite Mountain Gear where all their products are made. They do not send anything to be made overseas.
The design of Hyperlite Mountain Gear’s product is unique as the Cuben Fiber is not woven but rather layered like a sandwich. The Dyneema acts as the bread and is highly durable.and abrasion resistant. The Cuben Fiber is the meat serving as a waterproof and tough inner layer. The “sandwich” is then melded together in a high-pressure autoclave. The lightest Cuben Fiber available isn’t used because it is not durable enough to endure daily use.
“We look to have an optimal balance between weight and durability. Because of this balance we have never had an extreme malfunction.”
-founder and CEO Mike St. Pierre
Before any product hits the market, it goes through a long testing phase. Mike designs all the products, often with the help of customer feedback, and then is the first to test it. Hyperlite Mountain Gear has an Ambassador Program made of backpackers, packrafters, climbers, and backcountry skiers. These highly skilled individuals test gear in the field and provide feedback before production begins. If you do some digging, you will find that while Hyperlite Mountain Gear’s product are extremely light, they are not the lightest in the ultralight industry. Founder Mike St. Pierre looks to find the perfect balance between lightweight technology and durability for products that will last for years.
You can check out Hyperlite Mountain Gear online or give them a like on their facebook page.
Want to learn more about other small hiking focused businesses? Take a closer look at Gossamer Gear, AntiGravityGear, Backcountry Ninjas, Trail Signs, Packit Gourmet, Guthook’s Guides, and ZPacks!
Last modified: September 1, 2017