Hill People Gear’s Mountain Serape

by | May 27, 2012

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Hill People Gear’s Mountain Serape is one of the finest pieces of insulation kit on the market. Period. I’ve been an outdoorsman and backpacker since the 70s, tested gear professionally for outdoor magazines through the 90s and the early 2000s, and I’ve written hundreds of reviews of all kinds of tactical and outdoor kit.

So I’ll say it again: HPG’s Mountain Serape is one of the finest pieces of insulation kit on the market. Period.

Take the classic poncho liner, a staple in the rucksack, truck or backpack of just about every infantryman since the Viet Nam era. For those not familiar with poncho liners, think of a lightweight blanket with a nylon shell. When you add a water resistant shell, a hood smack dab in the middle like a poncho, strategically placed zippers that convert the MS into a duvet-like overcoat or lightweight sleeping bag, you’ll have the Mountain Serape.

There are many versions of the poncho liner on the market, ranging from Chinese knock-offs of the GI issue liner, to Kifaru’s Woobie and Doobie, and a host of other manufacturer. The HPG Mountain Serape is the only one I’ve seen that incorporates some elegant design modifications that take it into the Best of Class — in fact, the Only One In It’s Class — Category.

Things that rock: Warmth to weight ratio. Compressibility. Water resistance. Wind resistance. The hood, the hood, the hood. Simple conversion into a great coat or sleeping bag.

Things to use it for: Hunters of both two-legged and four-legged game will *love* this. You can pull this out of your ruck and throw it on in a stand, and be toasty; if there’s wind, zip it into greatcoat configuration and sit out a drizzly windy wait in comfort. For climbers, backpackers, and other folks that normally pack an insulation layer-jacket, replace that with this multi-purpose item that doubles as a ground cloth, a sleeping bag or a lay-out liner for gear check. Search and rescue personnel will appreciate this as a superior casualty blanket as well as a warmth layer that can be thrown on over a small 24-hr pack when on break. I had an opportunity to offer it to a mom and child while working on their car in the early winter; the mom loved being able to throw it on over herself and her baby, zip it up and keep them both cozy.

She also said, for the fashion-conscious, that it looked and draped like Issey Miyake’s Japanese-inspired coat designs.

I used the MS as a hasty warmth layer on an exposed ridgeline with 20-30 mph gusts at 15 degrees F in Wisconsin, as an emergency blanket while providing aid, and as a general lightweight utility blanket for day trips, which included reading in the park and picnics with lovely women.

It’s replaced my Norwegian Jerven Duk — gifted to me by friends in the Norwegian SOF — for emergency bag carry. The Jerven Duk has superior water resistance and is designed primarily as a shelter tarp and secondarily as a blanket-type wrap; the Mountain Serape is superior as an insulation layer and not designed to be a primary shelter layer. So what I’ve done is combine the MS with a sil-nylon tarp and cordage for my baseline 3-season shelter package. The whole thing weighs about a pound and a half, and disappears down deep in my Amron MAP-3500 rucksack. The Jerven Duk stays handy in my back-up gear, though, because in a hard driving rain or sleet, it beats this particular combo for shelter purposes. Adding that hard-shell protection and reinforced grommets to the Mountain Serape would create a whole different beast, and maybe we’ll see that from the young geniuses at Hill People Gear.

Keep your eyes on Hill People Gear — they’re relatively new in the market, and just getting started. I think they’ll be the Kifaru or Mystery Ranch of the future. Check them out, and tell Evan and Scott that I sent you.