An interview with Mike St. Pierre – Co-Founder and CEO of Hyperlite Mountain Gear

Hyperlite Mountain Gear Mike St. Pierre InterviewHyperlite Mountain Gear is completely revamping their brand.  They’ve relaunched their website with a new logo.  When they reached out to tell us, we wanted to get the full scoop, so we asked Mike St.Pierre, co-founder and CEO of HMG to answer a few questions about the rebrand and HMG in general:

Was there a sort of crystalizing moment for you that led to the beginning of Hyperlite Mountain Gear?

Definitely. While working as a chef at a 3-star Michelin restaurant in New York City, I would escape the stress by going backpacking. I found myself wanting to push bigger trips and hike more miles in my two days off. So I started looking for lighter and more minimalist products to achieve that goal. But, I couldn’t find lightweight, durable, design-driven gear. So I researched options and discovered Cuben Fiber (now called “Dyneema Composite Fabric”). I gathered all my family’s sewing machines into my small Brooklyn apartment, taught myself how to sew, and started building gear. I regularly took this gear to the Adirondacks or the White Mountain for testing. I remember the day a ranger stopped me. She didn’t believe I had enough equipment for a two-day, 60-mile bushwhack and didn’t want to have to rescue me. So she literally made me empty my pack right there on the trail to prove I had everything I needed. I did, and she was dumbfounded because her pack was three times the size of mine with the same gear in it. That’s when I realized I was onto something. I quit my job, went back to Maine and started organizing the creation of the company.

How has HMG changed over the years?  What’s stayed the same?

We’ve grown exponentially since our inception six years ago, and there are always changes happening as we solve the inevitable problems associated with growth. But what hasn’t changed is our commitment to building durable, functional packs, shelters and accessories that are exactly what an outdoor adventurer needs and nothing more. We consistently strive to help our customers increase their speed, distance, efficiency and overall enjoyment in the outdoors.

Hyperlite Mountain Gear Mike St. Pierre interview

Photo – Hyperlite Mountain Gear

What are your goals for this re-launch of Hyperlite Mountain Gear?

Significant growth over the last six years required us to refine who we are as a company and our core messaging—that our gear is exactly what you need and nothing more. This simple philosophy drives our design and innovation methodologies, and informs the technologies and materials we use. It underlies everything that we do, so it made sense that we needed our voice and messaging to directly reflect our gear and the people who use it. So our goal, really, is to help consumers more clearly understand and associate the brand with our mission; to improve the performance, efficiency and enjoyment of outdoor adventurers by providing exactly what they need and nothing more.

Will the relationship with the consumer change?

Only for the better, I hope. We anticipate this rebrand will bring us closer to the people who use our gear because it more clearly defines who we are and what we’re committed to: building optimized, lightweight gear for passionate, goal-oriented adventurers.

Where will Hyperlite Mountain Gear be five years from now?

I want to be a global leader in minimalist approaches to how people experience the outdoors. Right now the ultralight movement is in its early stages, with consumer awareness of the benefits of the high-tech material technologies and designs we use on the rise. Five years from now, we hope to help a lot more adventurers and enthusiasts increase their performance, efficiency and enjoyment of the outdoors.

What’s on your gear list for a multi-night backpacking adventure?

Well that really depends on the season and where I’m going. For a summer adventure in the White Mountains I’ll bring a 2400 Windrider Pack, an Echo II Ultralight Shelter System or our Flat Tarp, a variety of our CF8 Stuff Sacks (two Jumbo for a sleeping bag and food, two Large for clothes and sundries, and a small for personal items), a Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite Sleeping Pad, a Feathered Friends Hummingbird Nano 20 Sleeping Bag, one of our Large Stuff Pillows, an ultralight puffy jacket, a GravityWorks H2O filter (or more often, lately, Aqua Mira drops), a Vargo T-Lite Mug 900, telescoping trekking poles, food, rain gear, two shirts, one pair of shorts, two or three pairs of socks, a thin, insulating jacket, and a pair of light, durable trail runners. If you’d like more detail on my gear choices, check out one of our recent blog posts:

Stripped Down: Gear Check for Thru Hiking/Backpacking

Have a dream trip that hasn’t happened yet?

I’ve been lucky to experience numerous dream trips, two of which were in the Grand Canyon. On my latest September 2015 adventure, I accompanied Hyperlite Mountain Gear ambassador Rich Rudow on the first third of his epic thru hike below the rim of the Grand Canyon. It’s incredibly satisfying knowing I’m part of a very small group of people who have done that. I’m heading back in March to attempt the second part of the route, and it won’t be long before I finish the entire thru hike. It’s pretty neat to be that deep in a place that most people will never in their lives see because it’s so dififcult to get in and out safely. It requires experience and all of the outdoor skills I’ve obtained over the decades to complete such a big hike in the Grand. The only way you can really do it is by understanding lightweight and ultralight philosophies. And the great thing about these trips I’m lucky enough to take as a CEO of an early stage company, is that I continually learn, from experience, exactly what is needed in terms of gear, be it for an overnight run up Mt. Washington here in my backyard, a week in the Winds, or an epic month on an unsupported walk through the Grand Canyon. It’s these various personal adventures, along with feedback from our ambassadors who are taking similar if not more epic trips, that inform the design of all of our products so that we can continue to provide adventurers with exactly what they need, regardless of their chosen outdoor activity.

Ever thought about Cuben Fiber bed sheets?

Those would sure be an expensive, and sweaty, set of bed sheets!