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Hyperlite Mountain Gear 3400 Southwest Backpack Review

Hyperlite Mountain Gear 3400 Southwest Backpack Review

Hyperlite Mountain Gear 3400 Southwest Backpack

Comfort
Weight
Suspension
Features
Adjustability
Sizing
Durability

Superlight, Super Durable!

The Hyperlite Mountain Gear 3400 Southwest Backpack is a bomber multi-day backpack geared for tough adventures that will rip most other ultralight-style pack to shreds. If you're rough on backpacks, but still want one that only weighs two pounds, the 3400 Southwest pack probably has your name on it.

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The Hyperlite Mountain Gear 3400 (55L) Southwest Backpack is a durable Dyneema DCF (formerly called cuben fiber) backpack that’s good for thru-hiking and multi-day backpacking trips in rugged terrain. The 3400 Southwest is basically the same pack as the smaller volume Hyperlite Mountain Gear 2400 (40L) Southwest Backpack (SectionHiker Gear of the Year) but with a longer extension collar, so you can stuff more gear inside. This is handy if you need to carry a few more days of food, extra clothing, or more sleep insulation on longer trips or in colder weather.

Specs at a Glance

  • Weight: 32.4 ounces (size large)
  • Gender: Unisex
  • Closure: Roll top
  • Frame: Internal (2 Aluminum Stays)
  • Pockets: 3 external, plus main
  • Max Load Capacity: 40 pounds
  • Materials: 50D and 150D Cuben /Polyester Hybrid and Dyneema Hardline pockets
  • Volume: 55L w/ 9.8L of external storage

Backpack Storage and Organization

The Hyperlite Mountain Gear 3400 Southwest Backpack is laid out in a traditional ultralight style with a large main compartment, side water bottle pockets, and a large rear pocket.

The HMG 3400 Southwest has a dry bag style roll top and solid external pockets
The HMG 3400 Southwest has a dry bag style roll top and solid external pockets

The main compartment has a dry bag style closure system which provides excellent top compression for stabilizing your load. The fabric of the cuben fiber pack body is also waterproof and the interior seams of the pack are seam taped, making the pack highly resistant to rain.

The main compartment has a mesh hydration pocket and hydration loop if you want to carry a water reservoir/hose inside the main compartment. Since I prefer using water bottles, I use this pocket, which lies in between the two frame stays, to store maps instead.

Interior of main compartment showing mesh hydration pocket and taped seams
Interior of main compartment showing mesh hydration pocket, hang loop, and taped seams.

There are five external pockets on the 3400 Southwest Pack, two side water bottle pockets, a larger rear pocket, and two hip belt pockets. All of the pockets are made of solid 210 denier Dyneema reinforced nylon (Dyneema Hardline), enabling the pack to be used roughly or in off-trail conditions that would quickly shred mesh pockets.

The side water bottle pockets are large enough to comfortably fit 1 liter water bottles together in addition to tall skinny items like trekking or tent poles, and have drain holes at their base. The bottoms of the pockets are reinforced at the base with a 150 denier cuben fiber/polyester to prevent punctures or tearing – an important durability feature. Water bottles stored in the side pockets are also reachable and replaceable while wearing the pack, a must-have.

The rear pocket is large enough to store my hammock tarp, cook pot, wood stove, stake bag, hydration reservoir and sawyer filer, as well as extra rain layers - basically the stuff I don't want in the main compartment because it's wet or smelly.
The rear pocket is large enough to store my hammock tarp w/snakeskins, cook pot, wood stove, stake bag, hydration reservoir and sawyer filter, as well as extra rain layers – basically the stuff I don’t want in the main compartment because it’s wet or smelly.

The rear pocket is large enough for me to store all of my wet gear, such as a tarp, tent fly, or wet rain gear, my water filter, and smelly items like a wood stove that I don’t want inside the main compartment. I also use this pocket to store snacks and extra thermal layers, so I don’t have to open the main compartment during the day when I’m hiking.

The hip belt pockets have waterproof zippers and are large enough to store a small camera, a few food bars, or AquaMira bottles. While I do wish the pockets were positioned a little further forward on the wings of the hip belt so they are more reachable, it’s not a showstopper.

Backpack Attachment and Compression System

The 3400 has a two tiers of side compression straps that can be used to attach gear to the outside of the pack. A bottom compression strap runs horizontally outside each water bottle pocket, while the upper strap is oriented at a diagonal to bring the load closer to the wearer’s back for better load-to-hip transfer.

A Y-strap loops over the top of the pack and is useful for securing bulky items like a foam pad or tent body
A Y-strap loops over the top of the pack and is useful for securing bulky items like a foam pad or tent body

In use, I decouple the bottom compression strap over the water bottle pocket because I find it interferes with getting water bottles into the side pockets when I’m wearing the pack (it confuses my hands). Instead, I route the webbing out-of-the-way through additional buckles on the back of the pack which can be used to attach more gear, like snowshoes. HMG sells extra webbing straps for this purpose as an add-on although there’s nothing preventing you from rigging up some cord and cord locks instead.

In addition to the roll top, which provides excellent top compression, there’s a Y strap that runs from the front of the pack (between the shoulders), over the roll top, and attaches on the back of the pack. This strap is great for securing bulky items like a foam pad, rope, or tent body to the top of the pack.

Backpack Frame and Suspension System

Both the Hyperlite Mountain Gear 3400 Southwest Backpack and the 2400 Southwest Backpack have a lightweight frame system called frame stays instead of a rigid wire frame or framesheet made with hard plastic. The stays come preformed but can be easily bent to match your physical characteristics better.

The 3400 has two aluminium frame stays that slot into stay pockets behind the shoulders
The 3400 has two aluminum frame stays that slot into stay pockets behind the shoulders

The frame stays are two aluminum rods that slot into stay pockets on the inside of the main compartment and terminate inside the hip belt. The stays keep the back panel behind your shoulders rigid so it won’t collapse on itself. They also to help transfer some of the pack weight off your shoulders and onto your hips, since the bottom of the stays terminate inside the 3400’s hip belt, which is sewn directly onto all of HMG’s packs. The sewn-on hip belt is one of the main reasons why HMG’s packs carry so well. Shop around. Very few ultralight pack manufactures have a hip belt that is so tightly coupled with the pack body. It makes a huge difference.

The hip belt of the 3400 Southwest is covered with padded mesh, but not overly padded which is what I prefer, with a beefy front buckle for durability. The shoulder straps also have light padding, with sewn-on daisy chains that make it easy to add accessory pockets, like my camera pocket (shown), or navigation devices to the straps.

Daisy chains sewn on the front of the shoulder pads make it easy to attach exra pockets or navigation instruments
Daisy chains sewn on the front of the shoulder pads make it easy to attach extra pockets or navigation instruments

When packing the 3400 Southwest, you need to be cognizant of the fact that the pack’s back panel and frame stays end at the top of your shoulders and do not provide extra rigidity for gear stored in the extension collar. Heavy items, like food bags, should be packed towards the bottom of the pack and as close to the back panel as possible. This is doubly important because HMG does not put load lifters on their backpacks because they don’t have full frames (load lifters on frameless packs have marginal utility), and there’s no way to tilt your load forward if you’ve packed it so it pulls your center of gravity backwards.

When I pack the 3400, I put my sleeping bag stuffed in a dry sack at the bottom of the pack and then stack my food bag in top of it, stacking my hammock and other heavy items up the back panel as I go. I stuff lighter weight insulating layers and clothing behind the heavier items to hold them in place, and then put my lightest items in the extension collar (mainly clothing and personal effects). I then use the pack’s roll top to compress the items in the extension collar and shrink the volume they require. This weight and volume distribution provides the best load control since heavy items are located near my hips and there’s a direct transfer of kinetic energy from my core to items located just above the small of my back.

Cold and frosty morning on the Maryland AT with the Hyperlight Mountain Gear 3400 Southwest Backpack
Cold and frosty morning on the Maryland Appalachian Trail with the Hyperlite Mountain Gear 3400 Southwest Backpack

Recommendation

The Hyperlite Mountain Gear 3400 Southwest Backpack is a bomber multi-day backpack geared for tough adventures that will rip most other ultralight-style pack to shreds. It you’re rough on backpacks, but still want one that only weighs two pounds, the 3400 Southwest pack probably has your name on it.

Equally at home on the trail as well as off, the 3400 Southwest Backpack has the extra volume required for longer or more technical trips when you need to carry extra gear or clothing. I use mine for long section hikes on the Appalachian Trail when I need to carry extra food, shoulder season insulation, or cold weather hammocking gear that won’t fit in the smaller volume Hyperlite Mountain Gear ‘s 2400 Southwest Backpack that I use for off-trail hiking and weekend backcountry fishing trips in New Hampshire’s White Mountains.

While highly water-resistant as a benefit of its hybrid cuben fiber construction, the value of the HMG 3400 Southwest Pack lies in its unique combination of low weight and durability without skimping on functional features. You don’t need to compromise on durability if you want a lightweight backpack. A backpack is a big gear purchase. Get one that is designed to last. Nuff said.

Likes

  • Taped seams and needle holes make the pack nearly waterproof
  • White color makes it easy to find gear inside pack
  • Roll top closure and side straps provide good compression
  • Side water bottles are reachable and replaceable while wearing the pack
  • Bomber tough against puncture or abrasion by aggressive vegetation
  • Side and front external pocket have reinforced bottoms and drain holes
  • Fantastic load to hip transfer
  • Daisy chains sewn into shoulder straps make it easy to attach accessories
  • Good range of sizes available for people with short torsos, including women

Dislikes

  • More expensive
  • White color is quickly discolored by dirt and grime
  • Center ice axe loop is awkward to use; no shaft attachment provided

See Hyperlite Mountain Gear for complete product specifications.

Disclosure: Philip Werner purchased this product with his own funds. 

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15 comments

  1. Hi, I have been looking at the Granite Gear Crown2 60 as well. Yes, they have many differences, but each seems terrific for long distance trekking, especially for winter. If you had to choose, which would you choose and why..Thanks

  2. Hey Philip,

    Sweet review man, some great and thorough information here. Thank you for it. I am almost ready to pull the trigger on the Windrider 3400 but I have some questions about the materials of the external pockets between the Southwest/Windrider. When you see other people with holes in their mesh pockets, was it on the big main back pocket or the side water bottle pockets? I ask because I am thinking about costom making my pack to have the side pockets as Dyneema and the main pocket mesh. I woul like to have mesh as the back pocket so I can dry out gear while I hike but Dyneema for the side pockets that are most accessable to passing tree branches, bushes and rocks that would likely tear em apart if they were mesh. Do you think this plan would work? Or should I just go full Southwest for ultimate durability?

    Cheers man,

    Owen

  3. Thanks for the review and all the great info. I am interested in this pack but have a minor concern about the lack of load lifters. Do you see that as a significant drawback?
    Thanks.

    • I haven’t experienced it as an issue, even when the pack is heavily rear loaded with snowshoes. The hip belt is sewn to the pack body, which helps draw the pack in toward your body.
      It’d be more of a concern if it were a much higher volume and much taller pack, but 3400 cubic inches is only 55 liters.

  4. I’m an ultralight 4 season backpacker choosing between this and the exped lightning. You’ve left great reviews for both this and that pack. I wanted to quickly ask if you had a preference between the two as they both seem like similarly great packs.

    • The Exped is a better pack if you need to strap crap to the outside. Since your a 4 season hiker, I assume you’ll want to do that. It also has an adjustable torso length and much larger hip belt pockets.

  5. Hi, thanks for your reviews – not just this one, but all of the great info throughout this site!

    My one concern with HMG’s packs is the contact between the pack and my back – I love the virtually waterproof-ness of them, but I’m concerned that on warmer days, my back will just get totally soaked with sweat [more than usual, I mean]. Did you find the lack of ventilation made any difference?

    Thank you!

    • Not really. I’m immune to many of the things that people object to. Back sweat and internal condensation. None of it really phases me too much. You carry heavy things, you’re going to sweat. Ventilation or not.

  6. Massive regret. NEVER BUY. The promise of these packs is great. A lightweight piece of kit, strong, durable and waterproof. Also, as a small independent company, the value of service is well presented on the website and so I felt assured in shelling out so much for a pack, secure in the fact that these guys seemed to have good policies and an imperative to maintain a good level of customer care. However, after taking my pack out on the first day of a two day trek in the Andes (much shorter than what most of you guys are talking about using it for, I know), I had some massive problems. After half an hour I was in real discomfort on my hips and back, after an hour I was in real pain. On the second day, my hips were so bruised from the waist belt I couldn’t put the bag back on and had to swap with my parter. To my horror, I also discovered when unpacking my things on the FIRST DAY that there was a hole in the bag. This must have come from putting the bag down when I took a break but I never threw the bag around. This is a hole right in the middle of the bag that essentially renders it useless. I assumed that the fact that it was able to disintegrate so quickly meant it was faulty. However, when I contacted Hyperlite for a refund, some thing that I had read through their warranty conditions and come to the conclusion I was entitled to, they told me I did not qualify. I was told that my complaint amounted to ‘NORMAL wear and tear’ and I could not expect a refund but was offered a piece of adhesive backing. I cannot believe that Hyperlite are admitting that their products are of such poor quality that holes through them after a single day’s use are normal. Can you imagine if this happened on a longer trail? In reference to the discomfort, Hyperlite simply suggested instead of us talking and coming to a solution to rectify the situation as the website suggests, that I had not read the instructions properly when choosing my size. I am completely appalled by my experience. The packs are useless. I imagine that means the rest of their products are too. I would seriously discourage anyone from buying these products.

    • The moral of the story is to do a shakedown trip before your “big” trip to identify any potential issues, such as sizing and fit. I’ve been using Hyperlite’s packs for years but obviously, they’re not for everyone.

  7. Jenet Christiansen

    That’s odd. I just bought my very first one. I have never backpacked in my life and I am 60 years old. I will be doing a r2r in the Grand Canyon. I walked 5.5 miles today with it on fully loaded with all of my gear and it was incredible. I did not even know i was carrying 23 pounds of gear. I found the hip attachments to be such an asset because rather than my having the weight of the pack against my shoulders, I felt the burden significantly lightened. I am very excited to use this and I can not wait to come back and post again after my trip!

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