Review: Hyperlite Mountain Gear Dirigo 2 Backpacking Tent

Ultralight Backpacking Tent
Hyperlite Mountain Gear Dirigo 2
$900, 1 lb. 12 oz.
hyperlitemountaingear.com

For six nights on a 96-mile traverse of the Wind River High Route—two-thirds of it off-trail and camping in the alpine zone between 10,000 and 12,000 feet—the Dirigo 2 endured rain and strong winds. But our last night had me worried. Camped in a completely exposed meadow at nearly 12,000 feet, the Dirigo was hammered all night by steady winds of 40 to 50 mph—but it never even bent under an onslaught that would have flattened many backpacking tents. That performance closed the deal for me on the value of this incredibly sturdy and durable, two-door, two-person ultralight shelter.

The wind we faced throughout that August night camped above Baker and Iceberg lakes (watch the video below) and other nights at exposed campsites in the Winds, and hours of steady overnight rain, proved the Dirigo’s hardiness in the most trying three-season weather: At well under two pounds (14 ounces per person), it offers better protection against the elements than some tents twice its weight, and withstands moderate winds without even making much noise.

 

“Dirigo”—Latin for “I direct” or “I lead,” and the state motto for Maine, where HMG makes its gear—seems an appropriate moniker for this sturdy shelter, which I also tested on a five-day, 78-mile backpacking trip on the Wonderland Trail around Mount Rainier.

Like other ultralight tents, the non-freestanding Dirigo pitches with trekking poles and eight stakes—and, importantly, you need poles that extend to 125cm (not all poles do). To achieve an even and taut pitch, you first lay the tent out flat and stake the four corners, initially without pulling the corner guylines tight. Insert the trekking pole handles into the reinforced grommets at either end of the short, carbon fiber Ridge Bar at the tent’s peak—which lends stability to the setup—and extend the poles to 125cm. Then stake out the vestibules and end guylines, and lastly, use the ample adjustment range on each stake loop and guyline to get a taut, balanced pitch.

It’s fairly easy and quick once you’ve tried it once or twice, but of course, not as simple or fast as with a freestanding tent.


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The Hyperlite Mountain Gear Dirigo 2 ultralight backpacking tent in the Wind River Range.
The Hyperlite Mountain Gear Dirigo 2 ultralight backpacking tent in the Wind River Range.

While quite stable when fully staked out, the trekking poles tilt slightly inward, which means you occasionally bump those poles when moving around inside the tent—and the drip line allows rain into the tent with either vestibule fully open (to maximize ventilation). To keep rain out and still allow some cross-ventilation, I left the bottom of each vestibule partly unzipped—the one-way zippers open from the bottom—and that kept everything inside dry.

Besides pitching with trekking poles, the Dirigo’s most conspicuous feature—which largely explains its price—is its fabric. A three-season, single-wall tent with an integrated, internal no-see-um bug mesh with zippered doors, its walls and floor are constructed of five different types of waterproof, ultralight, highly durable Dyneema Composite Fabrics, the same stuff used in HMG’s packs (like the 3400 Windrider) and its tough, waterproof stuff sacks and gear pods. The tent also comes fully seam-sealed.

Other tents will wear out, suffering tears or zipper failures, but you’ll be challenged to wear out the Dirigo.

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The Hyperlite Mountain Gear Dirigo 2 ultralight backpacking tent in the Wind River Range.
The Hyperlite Mountain Gear Dirigo 2 ultralight backpacking tent with vestibules fully open.

Livability is quite good for a shelter in this weight class: The 32.5 square feet of interior space (52×90 inches) and peak height of 45 inches outdo most double-wall tents that range from two to three pounds. With adequate sleeping space for two, ultralight backpackers who prioritize low weight over capacious living quarters will find it comfortable enough.

Impressively for a tent this light, the Dirigo has two doors and vestibules that, while smaller (6.25 square feet each) than found on some ultralight tents, are just large enough for storing boots and mid-size backpacks while allowing room to come and go. The vestibules can be opened partly or completely, with one or both flaps rolled up, leaving the tent open on one or both sides for stargazing or maximum ventilation.

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The Hyperlite Mountain Gear Dirigo 2 ultralight backpacking tent in the Wind River Range.
The Hyperlite Mountain Gear Dirigo 2 ultralight backpacking tent interior.

The bane of single-wall tents is condensation, and the Dirigo is no different—but performs better than some competitors. As with any tent, ventilation is best achieved by leaving vestibule doors at least partly open. But breathable fabric panels at both ends of the Dirigo help facilitate ventilation. On one calm night in the Winds, I awoke to find significant condensation on the inside of the tent walls, even though I’d left both vestibules partly open; but my companions using other single-wall tents had the same experience.

I otherwise had no condensation all week—even on that rainy night when I left the bottom of each vestibule partly unzipped—but I never completely closed the vestibules. After that rainy night, I was impressed to find no condensation in the morning—zero—but it had also been steadily windy all night. The Dirigo lacks anything like mesh panels at the bottom of each end of the tent, which might help it ventilate better and create a way for condensation running down the inside of the walls to drain outside.

With a packed size of 12x8x6 inches—it comes with what may be the beefiest tent stuff sack on the market, an HMG drawstring stuff sack made of DCF—the Dirigo 2’s bulk compares with other double-wall ultralight tents, most of which are heavier. DCF fabric is light but does have some bulk to it.

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Hyperlite Mountain Gear Dirigo 2

Space-to-Weight Ratio
Sturdiness
Ease of Use
Ventilation
Features
Value

The Verdict

Yup—this is a really expensive tent. But for backpackers, climbers, and others seeking the ultimate, ultralight, sturdy, livable, two-door, waterproof, and extraordinarily durable two-person shelter, the Hyperlite Mountain Gear Dirigo 2 will pay for itself many times over in backcountry nights.

4

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NOTE: I tested gear for Backpacker magazine for 20 years. At The Big Outside, I review only what I consider the best outdoor gear and apparel. See my Gear Reviews page at The Big Outside for categorized menus of all of my reviews and my expert buying tips.

—Michael Lanza

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6 thoughts on “Review: Hyperlite Mountain Gear Dirigo 2 Backpacking Tent”

  1. I have owned a Dirigo 2 for about 18 months using it for numerous trips. This is my first trekking pole tent. It has largely replaced my Hilleberg Anjan which is also an excellent tent. In addition to a lower weight the major advantage is the Dyneema fabric’s performance in wet conditions. It does not absorb water. My tent was an early version that had a flaw that allowed small insects easy access. HMG has replaced the tent.

    I purchased the HMG stakes. They are the best stakes I have used. I loaned my stakes to a friend for his TNF VE25 for a 38 day trek on Elsemere Island including being battened down for 8 days by a nasty wind storm. In 50+ years of adventure travel these were the best stakes he used.

    Michael captured most of my sentiments about the Dirigo 2. I love the tent as a single tent but it also works well when my wife and I use it. With two it is snug leaving little room for gear inside. The two doors and vestibules are pretty effective.

    Condensation can be an issue. I take a couple small micro fibre cloths to wipe down the inside. The reality is double wall tents have as much condensation. The inner tent for the most part keeps you from touching it.

    One of the best tests we had in the tent was last November when we camped near the mouth of the Paria Canyon. An unexpected storm cell hit us with lightening, thunder, rain, wind and the temperature dropping from the mid-50’s to below freezing is between 3 to 4 AM. The tent performed brilliantly although we had a small beach as the fine sand blew in through the mesh. But our colleagues with their tents had the same experience.

    The cost is certainly a factor. I plan to use to keep reducing the per use cost. Another testament is the lineup of my friends who want my Dirigo 2 if or when I stop this lifestyle (but at only 70 my plan is to wear it out first!).

    Michael thanks for a great review and keeping the best outdoor blog alive and well.

    Reply
    • Hi John,

      Thanks for the observations, your enlightening perspective is always much appreciated and your gear testing always very rigorous. You make a very good point about the Dirigo’s fabric not absorbing water, which becomes noticeable for at least a couple of reasons: The tent doesn’t carry water weight when you pack it up after a night of rain, and it will dry out much faster when pitched (especially if there’s any wind).

      I also appreciate your report on HMG’s stakes.

      I look forward to our next adventure together.

      Reply
    • Michael, John, my Dirigo 2 is coming today so hope for the best what I will have to say about this tent later on, will give a try in a wilderness. Hope it lives by the hype and by its engineering through how it performs as good as people say since I’m the only one who’ll be using this tent. Thank you for your review and come back after to this comment once I’ve used it.

      Reply
  2. I wonder about this tent and I have questions for you if you don’t mind to answer this.

    1. How many times you have been using the tent and through all the time you’ve used this, have you encounter any water leak like rain coming down inside the bathtub floor of the tent during raining?

    2. What type of stake you use for this tent? MSR groundhog or nail stakes from Hyperlite?

    3. How tall are you? The reason I asked is I want to know when you sleep inside the tent, does your head and your toe hit the wall tent? Because the problem that I could’ve thought of that if your head and foot often reached the wall tent, the tent might get few or lot condensation, and automatically it will wet the toe from outside of the foot box of the sleeping bag, and also from head side wall tent. But if not, do you mind to briefly a little bit about your experience of this part?

    4. Is there any space between the wall tent with your foot box of the sleeping bag and between your head side with the wall tent to move around or whenever you get up from a sleeping position? I’m 5’9 and slim type person and yet I heard with a sleeping pad and sleeping bag it can hit the foot box with a wall tent and head side with the wall tent as well.

    Reply
    • Hi Joe,

      Thanks for the good questions. My answers:

      1. The tent fabric is completely waterproof and the tent is fully seam-sealed, so there were no leaks, even through hours of overnight rain on the Wind River High Route. As I wrote above, it also stood up to punishing wind, and the drip line would allow rain inside the tent unless you close the vestibule doors at least partially, as I did (explained in more detail in the review).

      2. I used a few different types of stakes, but not HMG’s stakes (for no particular reason).

      3 and 4. I’m 5’8″, and the 90-inch length of the tent, which is more than many two-person tents in this weight class, is far more than enough length for me to avoid brushing the hood or foot box of my bag against the walls at either end of the tent. One the rare occasion when I had condensation inside the tent, my bag never brushed against walls or got wet. The 52-inch width also exceeds that of many competitors and is 12 inches wider than two standard sleeping pads or air mats laid side by side. The walls do angle inward, which means the headroom is best only in the center of the tent.

      I hope that’s helpful. The Dirigo’s price is obviously substantial, and for that, it should perform at a level equal to the price. I reviewed it because I think it does.

      Thanks again for the comment. Good luck.

      Reply

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