HMG UltaMid, Spanish Peaks
The basic design of a tipi or mid-style tent has been around for millennia. For good reason: they are easy to set up, remarkably durable, and use space efficiently.
Chief Washakie and family, 1870
photo by Henry Jackson
For centuries nomadic people around the world have used the tipi or pyramid style shelters. Their widespread use by North American Indians, especially on the Great Plains, is well known. Their use (even today) by nomads in Central Asia is lesser known.
Dukha Ortz, Mongolia
photo by Rebecca Watters
For more than a century a variation of this basic tipi design has been used for polar expeditions especially in Antarctica. Known as the Polar Pyramid or “Scott Tent” these tents have proven incredibly sturdy structures designed to withstand winds in excess of 120 miles per hour. Like the traditional tipi, the Polar Pyramid has multiple poles along the walls. Unlike the cylindrical Indian tipi, the Polar Pyramid has a square foot print that requires only four poles—one for each corner.
Polar Pyramid, Antarctica
After one epic Antarctic storm, in which 800-pound snowmobiles blew away, our 80-pound Polar Pyramids, secured with climbing ropes and belay strength anchors, were the only tents left standing.
In 1983 Chouinard Equipment created the 2-person Chouinard Pyramid Tent for skiers, backpackers, climbers, paddlers and other weight conscious backcountry enthusiasts. To save significant bulk and weight the Chouinard Pyramid utilized a single center pole. Today, Black Diamond sells a modern version of this proven 4-season shelter called the Mega Light Tent. Made of SilNylon, the Mega Light provides 51 square feet of space, weighs 37 ounces (without a pole) and costs $270.
Hyperlite Mountain Gear (HMG) recently created a 4-season mid-shelter made from ultra-light yet durable Cuben Fiber (CTF³). HMG improved upon the simple time tested design by, among other things, enlarging it and adding tie-on points to three of the walls. The 2-man UltaMid weighs just 17 ounces, provides 63 square feet and costs $650. The UltaMid is also available as a 4-man that weighs 21 ounces, provides 85 square feet of living space, and costs $800.
Several gear blogs, including Hike It. Like It, have written detailed reviews of the UltaMid and testify to HMG’s impressive craftsmanship. I will not elaborate other than to emphasize the wonders of mid-life for the uninitiated:
- Mids are dryer than floored tents; mids ventilate better and moisture is absorbed into the ground not your sleeping bag. A lightweight ground cloth is recommended.
- Mids are safer: good ventilation and a high peaked ceiling create a relatively safe place to cook without worrying about asphyxiating or melting a hole through the ceiling or floor.
- Mids are light and spacious: with no floor, single walls and no extra poles, mids can weigh as little as a pound. And there’s plenty of room to spread out gear and even stand up.
- Mids are 4-season tents: set up properly mid shelters can handle snow, wind, and rain. Unlike other 4-season shelters designed for winter conditions, mids do not overheat during warm summer weather.
A quick Google Search will reveal additional manufactures of mid-style shelters. Notable ones include Kifaru and Titanium Goat who market tipi-style shelters with compatible lightweight wood stoves—a good chose for a base camp when hunting or backcountry skiing.
UltaMid Secured to a Tree Branch, Wind River Range
Sometimes you get lucky when erecting a mid -- secure the top of the shelter to a tree branch and no center pole is needed. More often trekking poles, ski poles, or paddles are used. With larger mids, however, this does require fastening two poles or paddles together.
Ski Poles Fastened with Voile Ski Straps
Using Two Packrafting Paddles for the Center Pole
Fastened Together with Accessory Straps
Fastened Together with Accessory Straps
In the summer I rely on large rocks and logs to anchor my mid and in the winter I anchor skis, poles, or branches into the snow. I start with the four corners secured in a perfect square. Next I insert a center pole and adjust its length as needed. And finally, if required, secure additional guidelines and berm the edges with snow.
The first time setting up a mid can be confusing. Yet, with a little practice you can learn to set one up in just a few minutes and enjoy the wonders of mid-life.