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Hyperlite Mountain Gear Factory Tour

Hyperlite Mountain Gear is located in an old restored mill in Biddeford, Maine
Hyperlite Mountain Gear is located in an old restored mill building in Biddeford, Maine

Hyperlite Mountain Gear is an ultralight backpacking gear manufacturer in Biddeford, Maine, a short drive from my favorite hiking and backpacking haunts in New Hampshire.

I paid them a visit last month to check out their operation and to talk to Mike St. Pierre, their CEO and head gear designer about his recent 16-day thru hike adventure through the Grand Canyon. Hiking in the Grand Canyon has always fascinated me since I read Colin Fletcher’s The Man Who Walked Through Time, the book which inspired me to try backpacking years ago.

Hyperlite Mountain Gear CEO, Mike St. Pierre
Hyperlite Mountain Gear CEO, Mike St. Pierre

The company, which has 23 employees, is about to double the size of their manufacturing facility and is hiring new sewing and manufacturing staff like crazy to keep up with product demand. The backpacking segment of the outdoor industry is smoking hot and Hyperlite Mountain Gear is growing too. Contact Hyperlite Mountain Gear if you’re looking for an outdoor industry job.

The shop floor is divided into two halves. One half produces backpacks, while the other half produces shelters.
The shop floor is divided into two halves. One half produces backpacks, while the other half produces shelters.

“We’re definitely not a cottage manufacturer anymore”, said Mike, when I asked him about the company’s growth plans. Except for a few “lifestyle companies, many of the well-established ultralight backpacking companies have become medium-sized businesses who’ve off-shored their manufacturing because the labor is less expensive. Not Us. Hyperlite Mountain Gear designs and manufactures all of its gear in Maine (USA), because we want to control the quality to a higher standard. You lose that when you send your manufacturing to Mexico or Asia.”

Hyperlite Mountain Gear does all of their design work and manufacturing in Biddeford, Maine using state of the art computer-aided design tools and industrial sewing machines.
Hyperlite Mountain Gear does all of their design work and manufacturing in Biddeford, Maine using state of the art computer-aided design tools and industrial sewing machines.

Local Investment

In speaking with Mike, I was impressed by the company’s commitment to the town of Biddeford, the local community where it decided to set up shop. Located in a small town outside of Portland, Maine, Hyperlite Mountain Gear is an anchor tenant in an old mill building on the Saco River which used to be the largest textile mill in the United States. Newly refurbished, the mill is an incubator for entrepreneur-owned businesses committed to manufacturing products in Maine.

But Hyperlite’s investment in its local community doesn’t stop there. Much of the company’s investment capital was raised from local business people, including the Maine Venture Fund, to invest in rebuilding Maine’s manufacturing base and job market.

Growth Strategy

Hyperlite’s growth strategy is also very different from other ultralight gear manufacturers. Rapid growth requires capital investments that can’t be supported by month-to-month product sales alone and the company just closed another one million dollar investment round last week.  If you espouse the benefits of ultralight backpacking, this is big news, because it means that HMG has the financial backing and wherewithal to bring ultralight backpacking gear to a bigger audience than any other UL gear manufacturer.

Hyperlite Mountain Gear designs and manufactures all of its outdoor gear in this refurbished textile mill in Biddeford, Maine
Hyperlite Mountain Gear designs and manufactures all of its outdoor gear in this refurbished textile mill in Biddeford, Maine

“We’ve invested in state-of-the-art sewing machines, quality control processes, and we use computer-aided design tools to create all of our cutting patterns and reduce waste”said Mike, showing me the pattern used to cut the cuben fiber for the company’s UltaMid 2 person ultralight backpacking pyramid shelter. The HMG factory floor is really an  impressive operation to visit and I’d encourage you to swing by and check it out if you’re ever in the area. This is a company that loves to meet and hear from their customers and you’ll be received with open arms.

New Product Pipeline

Mike designs and prototypes all of Hyperlite Mountain Gear’s new products and he showed me a number of exciting new products ideas, stuff that I will definitely use when it becomes available (I’m bound by honor to keep it secret until then). Suffice to say, that the company has a lot of new products coming out that leverage the light weight and durability of cuben fiber.

While Mike has definitely drunk the ultralight backpacking and the “What’s Necessary, Nothing More” cool-aid, his gear horizons extend well beyond designing backpacks for thru-hikers, encompassing multiple adventure sports including backpacking, hiking, trail running, climbing, bikepacking, and packrafting.

While the core gear that HMG sells will always center around backpacking, most people engage in multiple outdoor sports and want lightweight durable gear for all of them. “We owe a lot of our success to our customers”, says Mike, and “we owe it to them to give them the best products we can, whatever their needs.”

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4 comments

  1. That’s really cool. I’m in that area all the time and had no idea it was even there. Do they have a storefront you can visit?

  2. Good to read they are growing the business and the product range.

    • Walking distance from gf’s house. We stopped in and talked to Sam just before Mike left for his grand canyon trip one day. I tried on a couple of their packs they had stuffed, sitting in their foyer. Looked at the manufacturing area, checked out some of their products and prototype raingear. Nice group of people there. I felt like as giddy as a school girl looking around their facility. Im happy they are expanding. I like their stuff.

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