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A Comprehensive Guide to Hyperlite Mountain Gear Backpacks

Hyperlite Mountain Gear Backpacks How to Choose

Hyperlite Mountain Gear (HMG) specializes in making rugged multi-sport backpacks and shelters with Dyneema Composite Fabrics. Their distinctive white and black backpacks are quite popular and easy to spot on National Scenic Trails and in the backcountry.

One of the things that sets Hyperlite apart from other cottage ultralight gear manufacturers is its 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 tailored to their needs. It makes sense, especially since the need for lightweight, waterproof, and extremely durable backpacks is even more important for these pursuits.

I’m a fan of Hyperlite’s backpacks because they strike a good balance between lightweight and durability. I’ve owned many ultralight backpacks, most of which have never lasted more than a year without getting torn to shreds in the mountains where I hike. Some haven’t even lasted a day. But my Hyperlite Southwest 40 and Southwest 55 backpacks have endured several years of near-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, which are deliberately overbuilt to make them last.

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 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 that differ in 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.

Material Abbreviations

  • DCH50 which is a 50D Dyneema/Polyester hybrid
  • DCH150 which is a 150D Dyneema/Polyester hybrid
  • DCHW which is a 375D Woven Dyneema/Polyester hybrid

Internal Volumes

  •  30L – 1800 cubic inches
  •  40L – 2400 cubic inches
  •  55L – 3400 cubic inches
  •  70L – 4400 cubic inches
  •  85L – 5400 cubic inches

Sports-Specific Styles

  • Porter
  • Southwest
  • Windrider
  • Junction
  • Unbound
  • North Rim
  • Halka
  • Ice Pack
  • Headwall
  • Prism
  • Summit
  • Stuff
Backpacking the Cape Wrath Trail with a HMG Southwest 3400 Backpack
Backpacking the Cape Wrath Trail in Scotland with an HMG Southwest 55 Backpack

How to Choose the Right Pack Material

HMG makes the upper “body” portion of their packs with three different materials, listed below in increasing order of abrasion resistance, durability, and expense. The lower base portion of their packs is made with a 150D Dyneema/Polyester hybrid or a 375D Woven Dyneema/Polyester hybrid, which are both quite durable. Higher-denier (abbreviated with a D) fabrics are, generally speaking, stronger than lower-denier ones made with the same materials.

  1. 50D Dyneema/Polyester hybrid  (abbreviated on the HMG website as DCH50)
  2. 150D Dyneema/Polyester hybrid (abbreviated on the HMG website as DCH150)
  3. 375D Woven Dyneema/Polyester hybrid (abbreviated on the HMG website as DCHW)

Most people backpacking on trails in the lower 48 can use packs made with the regular 50D Dyneema/Polyester hybrid. If you thru-hike an extended distance or travel in very rocky terrain where your pack is likely to rub against rock walls a lot (ie. New Hampshire or Maine), you’d be better off getting the tougher and thicker 150D Dyneema/Polyester hybrid used to make HMG’s black colored packs. Most people don’t need the extra durability provided by the 375D Woven Dyneema/Polyester hybrid unless they’re mountaineering guides, hard-core backcountry skiers, they do thru-hikes, or they have a trust fund.

The bottom of HMG’s 50D Dyneema/Polyester hybrid and 150D Dyneema/Polyester hybrid pack models are made with a double-reinforced 150D Dyneema/Polyester hybrid to provide extra abrasion resistance. HMG’s packs are flat-bottomed and this extra level of protection helps keep the base from getting worn through by abrasion with the ground. The packs that are entirely or partially (usually just the base) made with 375D Woven Dyneema/Polyester hybrid are by far Hyperlite’s most durable backpacks and tougher than most of the backpack fabrics in use today. (The only comparable fabric is something new called Ultra 400. It’s very similar to 375D Woven Dyneema but made with non-patented UHMWPE fibers instead of Dyneema fibers woven together and backed with a waterproof fabric. It’s only available from custom backpack makers.)

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 40L, 55L, 70L, and 85L packs, all exterior pockets on the Southwest pack, the side pockets on the Junction 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 as the other materials used to make HMG packs. The accent features, bottom, and high wear areas on the North Rim and Headwall packs are made with tougher stuff, namely 375D Woven Dyneema/Polyester hybrid, the toughest and most durable fabric Hyperlite uses on their packs.

Q: How does the Dyneema/Polyester Hybrid fabric used in Hyperlite’s backpacks rate in terms of durability compared to alternative fabrics such as XPac, EcoPak, Ultra, and Robic Nylon that are gaining traction with other ultralight backpack manufacturers?

In a nutshell, the non-woven 50D and 150D Dyneema/Polyester Hybrid fabrics used by Hyperlite are significantly more durable than the Robic Nylon (also called High Tenacity Nylon) used by other ultralight backpack manufacturers like Gossamer Gear, Granite Gear, and many mainstream backpack manufacturers. They are less durable, particularly in terms of abrasion (caused by rock and sand) than other waterproof laminates like XPac, EcoPak, and Ultra. If you’re extremely hard on your backpack and expect it to last through multiple thru-hikes, then you should look at packs made with Ultra 400 or Hyperlite’s 375D Woven Dyneema/Polyester hybrid packs. For general backpacking use or a single thru-hike, the 150D Dyneema/Polyester Hybrid fabrics are more than sufficient, they’re waterproof, and all of Hyperlite’s backpacks are seam taped so they don’t leak through the sewing needle holes. While you can wear a hole in a Hyperlite Backpack, you really have to work at it since the bottom fabric is usually a higher denier and reinforced.

Hyperlight Mountain Gear Backpacks

How to Choose the Right Volume Pack

HMG classifies their smaller volume packs under 30L in volume as urban or day packs. HMG offers four backpacks in this size:

  • The Summit Pack 30 is a frameless pack with numerous external attachment points and a roll-top closure. It has a removable webbing hip belt and minimal shoulder straps suitable for up to 20-pound loads. It’s best for summit pushes when you need to carry a little gear but want to leave your big pack behind.
  • The Stuff Pack 30 is a frameless roll-top pack without a hip belt or any daisy chains. It’s made with the same material that Hyperlite uses to make stuff sacks so it weighs under 5 oz. It can serve double duty as a pack liner if you want a multi-use item.
  • The Elevate 22 is a simple frameless roll-top pack intended for day hikes. With an extra long roll top, two side pockets, a center stretch mesh pocket, two daisy chains, and an ice tool loop, it’s a mini version of Hyperlite’s higher volume multi-day backpacks.
  • The Daybreak 17 is also a day-pack but is more optimized for urban use and travel because it has a clam-shell top opening which is better for frequent use. Roll-tops are just awful if you have to open and close them all the time to carry a laptop or other personal items. You can still use the Daylight 17 for day hiking of course. (it can hold up to 23L including its open pockets).

HMG’s 35L and 40L 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 10-15 lb gear load.)  They can also be used for more demanding day hikes, particularly in early spring or late autumn when you need to carry more insulation. Here’s a list of the fabrics they’re available in:

Hyperlite’s 55L backpacks are dimensioned identically to the 40L 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 one pack, the 55L is a good choice since you can “turn it into” a 40L by rolling down the top to shrink the pack’s height and extra volume. The 40L and 55L packs use two removable aluminum stays (the newer Unbound Packs only have one aluminum stay) to transfer weight to the hip belt instead of a full frame. Both have a max load of about 35-40 pounds.

HMG’s 70L and 85L 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 40L and 55L packs which makes them deeper (so they stick out behind you more.) With a max (comfortable) load of about 55-60 pounds, they’re best used for gear-intensive multi-sport trips.

The 70L and 85L packs have a frame consisting of an internal frame sheet and two aluminum stays to transfer weight to the hip belt. They’re also only made with a 150D Dyneema/Polyester hybrid body for increased durability, unlike the 40L and 55L packs which are available in two different Polyester hybrid denier weights. The 70L and 85L packs are available in white or black, although we’d recommend getting them in white because the black material makes the interiors too dark to see your gear inside.

The Hyperlight Mountain Gear 3400 Southwest Pack is a rugged multi-day Dyneema backpack good for thru-hiking and backpacking on trails and off.
The Hyperlight Mountain Gear Southwest 55 Pack is a rugged multi-day Dyneema backpack good for thru-hiking and backpacking on trails and off.

How to Choose the Right Sport-Specific Backpack

HMG tailors each of its 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.


The 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 a blank slate, so it can be set up in many ways and for many different missions.


The 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.


The Windrider is good for hiking, backpacking, and thru-hiking in very wet climates or very dry ones 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.


The Junction is a cross between the Southwest and the Windrider backpacks, with solid side pockets and a mesh front pocket. Hyperlite created it because so many people were asking for more durable side pockets on their Windrider or a mesh front pocket on their Southwest packs. The Junction is great for more humid locales, like the eastern United States where it’s nice to be able to dry gear in the mesh pocket while you hike, but where overgrown vegetation along the sides of a trail might catch and rip a side pocket. Having a mesh pocket also makes it easy to check whether you have all your gear packed properly at a glance, like a wet water filter or footprint, so you don’t have to unpack stuff to check.


The Unbound is an entirely new pack design in the Hyperlite family and incorporates many of the features available in other popular thru-hiking backpacks, mainly from smaller competitive manufacturers. These include new foam padding in the back panel, a removable hip belt with a V-pull that’s more adjustable than the ones on their other backpacks, a bottom mesh pocket for storing layers or snacks with a trash port where you can stuff used wrappers, removable side compression straps, oversized side bottle pockets, and daisy chains. Chances are a lot of these new features will work themselves into their other backpack models over time. You should get the Unbound if you’re primarily interested in 3-season use, external accessibility (think better pockets) is a priority, and you want to strip some of the removable features to save weight or have a simpler backpack.

The North Rim

The North Rim is a tougher and more durable version of the Southwest backpack, intended for rough and abrasive conditions such as off-trail bushwhacking or canyoneering. While the body of the NorthRim is made with Hyperlite’s 150D Dyneema/Polyester hybrid, the accent pockets on the sides and front of the pack, as well as the hip belt pockets are made with extremely durable 375D Woven Dyneema, which is “way” more durable than the Dyneema/Nylon Grid that Hyperlite uses on their other packs. If you have a history of ripping up packs made with Dyneema Grid, the NorthRim may well be the last backpack you ever buy.


The Headwall is a dedicated ski mountaineering or backcountry ski backpack with external daisy chains, three tiers of side compression straps for attaching skis or split board in A-Frame carry, and a front avalanche/probe pocket. It has a removable hipbelt which is useful, particularly if you wear a climbing harness and a padded back panel to insulate your back from hot water bottles stored inside. The headwall has two ice axe loops and daisy chains on the shoulder straps where you can hang accessory pockets or gear. Like the North Rim, the base and high wear areas of the Headwall are made with 375D Woven Dyneema, which is “way” more durable than the Dyneema/Polyester hybrid that Hyperlite uses on their other packs.

Ice Pack

The Ice Pack is good for ice climbing, ski mountaineering, and winter hiking/backpacking. It has a puncture-proof crampon/dual ice ax 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.


The Halka is a mountaineering backpack that’s suitable for winter and expedition backpacking. It’s based on the Ice Pack’s design with a crampon holder and many external straps but also has a removable floating lid pocket with an internal pocket and a drawstring closure instead of a rolltop. It’s also made with more durable materials, like the NorthRim, with a DCH150 Main Body & Woven Dyneema bottom + external pockets. That extra durability is warranted when you’re stumbling around on a glacier with very sharp crampons. The floating top lid and pocket are a necessity for serious winter conditions: the last thing you want to do is to keep opening a rolltop to pull put dry gloves or food. That said, the Halka is the heaviest of Hyperlite’s backpacks at 50.3 oz in the 70L size (a 55L version is also available) so that added storage means more pack weight.

Prism Pack

The Prism Pack is also good for ice climbing, ski mountaineering, and winter hiking but is substantially more durable than the Ice Pack and has a more technical feature set including a top lid with a drawstring closure, a crampon pocket, and a removable hip belt so you can wear it with a climbing harness.

Torso Lengths and Sizes

It can be difficult to find any documentation of the torso lengths that correspond to Hyperlite’s backpack sizes on their website. Here’s what you need to know.

  • Extra Small: Less than 15″
  • Size Small: 15″-17″
  • Size Medium: 17″-19″
  • Size Large: 19″-21″
  • Size Tall: 21″+

What happens if your torso length is on the boundary of two different sizes? Most people size up to the larger size since it ensures you’ll get some load transfer to the hip belt. That won’t happen if the pack is too small for you.

See Also:

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

Last updated: 4-28-24

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