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Hyperlite Mountain Gear Backpacks: How to Choose

Hyperlite Mountain Gear Backpacks How to Choose

Hyperlite Mountain Gear (HMG) specializes in making backpacks and shelters with Dyneema Composite Fabrics (formerly called cuben fiber.) Their distinctive white and black colored backpacks are quite popular and easy to spot in the backcountry.

One of the things that sets Hyperlite off from other cottage ultralight gear manufacturers is their multi-sport and multi-season focus. Instead of just building packs for the thru-hiker market, Hyperlite also caters to climbers, skiers, winter hikers, packrafters, and off-trail hikers, with backpacks that are tailored for their needs. It makes sense, especially since the need for light weight, waterproof, and extremely durable backpacks is even more important for these pursuits.

I’m a big fan of Hyperlite’s backpacks because they strike a good balance between light weight and durability. I’ve owned many ultralight backpacks and none of them have lasted much more than a year without getting torn to shreds in the mountains where I hike. Some haven’t even lasted a day. But my has lasted for going on three years of constant on-trail, off-trail, and winter use. That’s unusual for an ultralight style backpack in my experience and a testament to the durability of Hyperlite’s products.

If you’re interested in buying a Hyperlite Mountain Gear backpack, it can be a little confusing to understand how the packs they sell differ from one another and which one you should get, especially if you can only afford one backpack for multiple sports. While the Hyperlite website makes it look like the company sells a lot of different backpacks, they only make a few basic models which differ in terms of volume, sports-specific styles, and the materials used. Not all packs are available in all materials, which can be hard to suss out on their website.

Body Materials

  • 50D Dyneema/Poly hybrid for white packs
  • 150D Dyneema/Poly hybrid for white and black packs
  • Fully woven white Dyneema/DCF hybrid

Volumes

  • 1800 cubic inches (30L)
  • 2400 cubic inches (39L)
  • 3400 cubic inches (55L)
  • 4400 cubic inches (70L)

Sports-Specific Styles

  • Porter
  • Southwest
  • Windrider
  • Ice Pack
  • Metro
  • Summit
All of Hyperlite Mountain Gear's backpacks are made in this old mill building in Maine
All of Hyperlite Mountain Gear’s backpacks are made in this old mill building in Maine

How to Choose the Right Pack Material

HMG makes the upper “body” portion of their packs with three different materials, listed below in order of abrasion resistance, durability, and expense.

  1. 50 denier polyester laminated with a DCF backing (labelled 50D Dyneema/Poly hybrid)
  2. 150 denier polyester laminated with a DCF backing (labelled 150D Dyneema/Poly hybrid)
  3. Woven Dyneema laminated with a DCF backing (labelled fully woven Dyneema/DCF)

Most people who are thru-hiking or backpacking on trails in the lower 48 can use packs made with the regular 50D Dyneema/Poly hybrid. If you hike or travel in very rocky terrain where the your pack is likely to rub against rock walls a lot (ie. canyoneering), you’d be better off getting the tougher and thicker 150D Dyneema/Poly hybrid used to make HMG’s black colored packs. Most people don’t need the extra durability provided by the Woven Dyneema fabric unless they’re mountaineering guides or do multiple expedition-style trips each year (where your pack can’t rip or fail.)

The bottom of HMG’s 50D Dyneema/Poly hybrid and 150D Dyneema/Poly hybrid pack models is made with a double reinforced 150D Dyneema/Poly hybrid to provide extra abrasion resistance. HMG’s packs are flat-bottomed and this extra level of protection helps keep the base from getting ripped up. The packs made with woven Dyneema/DCF are made entirely with that material.

The accent features on HMG’s packs are made with a checkered black Dyneema hardline, which is nylon reinforced with Dyneema fibers. It’s used as the facing fabric on hip belts and shoulder straps on the 2400, 3400 and 4400 packs, all exterior pockets on the Southwest pack, and the crampon/tool attachment panels on the Ice Pack. Many other manufacturers use the same material and while it’s reasonably durable, it’s not in the same league than the other materials used to make HMG packs.

Hyperlight Mountain Gear Backpacks

How to Choose the Right Volume Pack

HMG classifies their 1800 series packs as urban or day packs, but they are large enough to be used as minimalist ultralight backpacks if you really want to push the envelope. HMG only offers two backpacks in this size, the Metro and the Summit packs. Both are frameless and max out at 20 pound loads. The Metro is a minimalist roll top pack without a hip belt or any daisy chains. The Summit does have a hip belt and daisy chains, which make it possible to add a . Here’s a list of the body fabrics they’re available in:

  • 1800 ci Metro Pack (30L)
  • 1800 ci Summit Backpack (30L)

HMG’s 2400 cubic inch packs are a good size for thru-hikes with frequent resupplies or backpacking trips up to about 4 days in length (these are approximate guidelines based on a 10-15lb gear load.)  The 3400 packs are dimensioned identically to the 2400 ones, but have a taller pack bag so you can fill them up with 7 days worth of food or extra warm gear for winter trips. If you can only afford to buy one pack, the 3400 is a good choice since you can “turn it into” a 2400 by rolling down the top to shrink the pack’s height and extra volume. The 2400 and 3400 packs use two removable aluminum stays to transfer weight to the hip belt instead of a full frame. Both have a max load of about 35-40 pounds. Here’s a list of the body fabrics they’re available in:

  • 2400 ci Porter Pack (39L)
  • 2400 ci Southwest Pack (39L)
  • 2400 ci Windrider Pack (39L)
  • 2400 Ice Pack (39L)
  • 3400 ci Porter Pack (55L)
  • 3400 ci Southwest Pack (55L)
  • 3400 ci Windrider Pack (55L)
  • 3400 ci Ice Pack (55L)

HMG’s 4400 cubic inch packs are big, expedition-class monsters that you only need if you’re taking very long trips off the grid that require carrying a lot of food or heavy technical gear. They have a larger circumference than the 2400 and 3400 packs which makes them deeper (so they stick behind you more.) With a max (comfortable) load of about 55-60 pounds, they’re best used for gear-intensive multi-sport trips.

The 4400 packs have a frame consisting of an internal framesheet and two aluminum stays to transfer weight to the hip belt. They’re also only made with a 150D Dyneema/Poly hybrid body for increased durability unlike the 2400 and 3400 packs which are available in two different poly hybrid denier weights. The 4400 packs are only available in white, because the black material makes the interiors too dark to see your gear inside.

  • 4400 ci Porter (70L)
  • 4400 ci Southwest (70L)
  • 4400 ci Windrider
  • 4400 ci Ice Pack (70L)
The Hyperlight Mountain Gear 3400 Southwest Pack is a rugged multi-day cuben fiber backpack
The Hyperlight Mountain Gear 3400 Southwest Pack is a rugged multi-day cuben fiber backpack good for thru-hiking and backpacking on trails and off.

How to Choose the Right Sport-Specific Style

HMG tailors each of their backpack models in a number of sports-specific styles, which are enhanced by adding pockets or external attachment points so you can carry sharp or wet things on the exterior of the backpack.

Porter

is a streamlined backpack without any external pockets on the pack body that might catch on things or get torn off making it a good pack for winter sports, climbing, packrafting, bikepacking, and air travel. It has two daisy chains which make it equally easy to lash the pack to packrafts or bikes, or secure gear to the outside, like snowshoes, skis/snowboard, or ice axes. You just need to be a little creative in how you lash stuff on, but the porter is kind of blank slate, so it can be set up in many ways and for many different missions.

Southwest

is ideal for off-trail backpacking and bushwhacking when you want side water bottle pockets and a big rear pocket for carrying wet, smoky, smelly, or frequently used items that you don’t want to store inside your backpack.  The Southwest also makes a durable pack for thru-hiking on less traveled trails where overhanging vegetation can rip up exterior mesh pockets. While you can use the Southwest for winter sports, lashing snowshoes to the back of the pack will cover up the back external pocket and make it hard to access.

Windrider

is good for hiking, backpacking, and thru-hiking in very wet climates where you’re going to want to air out or dry wet gear as you hike. The mesh can catch on overhanging vegetation and rip, so it’s less durable than the Southwest in that respect. The mesh is sized the same as the Southwest’s rear and side water bottle pockets.

Ice Pack

is good for ice climbing, ski mountaineering, and winter hiking and backpacking. It has a puncture proof crampon/dual ice axe holder on the back of the pack so you can keep the sharp or wet points away from the delicate gear inside. If you use crampons or axes a lot, this is a very desirable feature on a winter backpack. The ice pack also has dual daisy chains and side compression straps, giving you a lot of additional external attachment points to carry even more gear. There are also gear loops on the hip belt instead of pockets.

Summit Pack

is a low volume (30L) pack good for day hiking and peak bagging when you don’t need to carry an overnight load, although it’s technically large enough that it can also be used for minimalist backpacking and thru-hiking. It comes with daisy chains, elastic cord, and dual ice axe loops so you can can lash clothing or gear to its exterior. It is frameless though, with a minimal hip belt, so limited to about 20 pound loads.

Metro Pack

is more of an urban or travel daypack, much like the Summit, but without any external attachment points. At 30L is is technically large enough for minimalist backpacking and thru-hiking, but has no frame or hipbelt, so limited to about 20 pound loads.

Other Options

Last I heard, HMG does do some backpack customization if you want to mix and match features on your backpack. It’s best to inquire directly if that’s a direction you want to pursue. They also offer a number of different options on select backpacks, including hip belt gear loops instead of pockets and a ski carry mod.

See Also:

Disclosure: Hyperlite Mountain Gear has provided the author with sample products for review in the past.

Written 2017.

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9 comments

  1. Thanks Philip! Informative and thorough roundup. When my main pack wears out, I might go with HMG – can’t justify it as long as my SMD Fusion “65” is still kicking.

  2. I purchased a 3400 Southwest in white but returned it cause I didn’t like the color. I’m thinking of pulling the trigger on a black model once my finances recover from the holidays. Besides the extra 3 ounces in weight, are their any other negatives with going with the heavier model? I’m thinking the 150D fabric will be stiffer, but that should soften up with use.

    • Nope. You’ll just look like Darth Vader when you try to hitchhike. :-)
      They do soften up with use.

      • Thanks. May the force be with you!

      • I have a white 2400 ice pack. My wife doesn’t like the fact that it seems to have gotten some semi-permanent stains on the outside when she borrows it. No way to clean it easy from what I can see.

        I like the white color to find stuff. Much brighter/contrasting that dark colors. I wonder whether the inside of the black one is also black… Either way, I probably would still buy white again if I decided to get another one. I agree with John below. I would probably get a 4400 next time, or at least a 3400. I have on some trips maxed out the volume for a day or two until my food is less.

  3. I have two HMG Southwest (Sw) 4400s. I originally bought the second for my wife, but in practice my sons have been the users. I have observed that while the Sw 3400 seems to be the most recommended size, the Sw 4400 is perfect for longer excursions., and even works well as a weekend bag. I went with the Sw 4400 because I do the occasional week-long semi-expedition that requires more carrying capacity. For example, last August, as part of the solar eclipse, we took both 4400s to the Wind Rivers to summit Gannett Peak. I needed space for eight days, along with rope, harness, hat, and ice ax. The Sw 4400 has an ice ax loop on the bottom that I used, and a simple daisy chain that allowed me to strap my helmet and climbing rope.

    My Sw 4400 performed well, but I did have a quick release flange break on day three. The other flange held for the trip, and HMG has since repaired the quick release buckle (I paid only postage to HMG, everything else on the repair was paid by HMG).

    For the Gannett trip, I used the Sw 4400 as a summit pack, leaving the tent, food, and non-essential equipment at the base camp. The Sw 4400 then compressed into a 2400 or smaller bag, with a bag weight of a barely noticeable 2 pounds in addition to the alpine equipment. While noted in the article that HMG has an alpine version, I found that the spacious accessory pockets are invaluable and a better trade-off to the crampon mount found on the alpine version.

  4. Philip,

    What are your thoughts on the HMG packs with regards to the lack of a back panel that allows for separation between your back and the pack? Mostly, can you feel the contents “poking” you? If you have not experienced this, can you check it out next time you intend to wear it? By that, i mean can you artificially create a circumstance where something more rigid would rest on the side that touches your back?

    Thanks in advance!

    • It’s not a problem. My main pack is an HMG 2400 SW and I wear it all the time. Poking has never been an issue. The frame stays create a fence that prevents this. The only thing you do have to look out for is overstuffing the pack, which can cause it to barrel into your back, but that’s the case with any backpack that does not have a very rigid internal frame.

  5. The Porter 4400 with front pocket added has served quite well for anything ranging from summer backpacking to snowshoeing to winter camping. And it sheds snow and rain quite well. While not totally waterproof it’s pretty close. This past year I added some of the pods to improve pack organization and provide even more protection against items getting wet or snowed on. Very satisfied with this pack.

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