Every year, I like to recognize the piece of gear that has the biggest impact on my hiking and backpacking experience by giving it the Section Hiker Gear of the Year Award. This year’s winner is the Hyperlite Mountain Gear 2400 Southwest Backpack, which has withstood the rigors of backpacking, peakbagging, off-trail bushwhacking, and backcountry fly fishing in New Hampshire’s White Mountains, home of the world’s worst weather and a four-season playground for hard-core hikers, climbers, skiers, hunters, and fisherman.
New Hampshire’s White Mountain National Forest is an extremely rugged place to hike and I like to challenge myself by climbing its rocky peaks, hiking off-trail through dense bush, and backpacking in remote areas that few hikers venture into. While I own many backpacks, I’ve repeatedly taken the 2400 Southwest Pack on my trips this year because it provides the best balance of bomber durability, lightweight, and function for the kinds of trips I like to take. The pack’s slender shape provides an excellent form-fitting carry that is essential for exposed rock scrambles and slipping through dense spruce and dead trees on my off-trail hikes, while the volume is perfect for the challenging day hikes and the 1-2 night backpacking trips that I try to take every week or two.
While I’ve always been a big fan of ultralight backpacks, most of them are made for hiking on well-manicured trails like the Appalachian Trail or the Pacific Crest Trail. But if you’re a habitual backcountry explorer, or like to combine other sports with backpacking such as climbing, packrafting, hunting, or fly fishing, you’ll quickly discover that most ultralight backpacks will be ripped to shreds as soon as you take them off of well-traveled trails into dense forest or mountain terrain, where the only route is the one you define yourself.
While Hyperlite Mountain Gear’s packs are made with ultralight and ultra-durable cuben fiber, I feel that the durability of the 2400 Southwest Pack is due to its streamlined design as much as the toughness and water resistance of the fabric used to make it. The use of solid Dyneema fabric on high wear areas such as the hip belt, the solid rear and side pockets instead of fragile mesh, the streamlined external attachment system, heavy-duty stitching, and taped seams pretty much guarantee that you can take this pack through hell and high water. I’ve maimed and destroyed enough ultralight backpacks in the White Mountains to be an authority on the subject.
I’ve always placed a premium on owning durable and functional backpacks over carrying the lightest ultralight wonder, something which I stress when I review products on SectionHiker.com. But frankly, I’d pretty much given up on being able to find any ultralight backpack that could stand up to the punishment that I put packs through on my backcountry trips in the Whites. Unfortunately, there’s some truth to the perception that most ultralight backpacks lack durability since they’re streamlined for on-trail use, not multi-sport activities into untracked backcountry.
That’s why I’ve been so delighted with the 2400 Southwest Pack from Hyperlite Mountain Gear this past year and why it’s earned the Section Hiker Gear of the Year Award. If you’re the kind of person that backpacks into the mountains in search of wild streams to see if they hold trout, is on a mission to climb every unnamed mountain on the map, or who knows where every climbing ledge is in the backcountry, you’ll appreciate the durability and adaptability of the Hyperlite Mountain Gear’s 2400 Southwest backpack. I just wish HMG would rename it the 2400 Northeast Backpack, so I wouldn’t have to explain to all my New England friends why I carry a pack made for the desert when it’s so perfect for the north country.
Previous winners of the Section Hiker Gear of the year Award include:
- 2014: Casio PAG240-1CR Pathfinder Triple Sensor Multi-Function Sport Watch
- 2013: Solo Wood Stove
- 2012: Therm-a-Rest Alpine 35 Blanket
- 2011: Pacerpoles (Trekking Poles)
- 2010: Mountain Laurel Designs Superlight Bivy Sack
Disclosure; Philip Werner (SectionHiker.com) received a sample 2400 Southwest Backpack from Hyperlite Mountain Gear earlier this year, but was under no obligation to keep using it after he reviewed it (see the Hyperlite Mountain Gear 2400 Southwest Backpack Review for an in-depth analysis of what makes this pack tick.)Editor's note: If you’re thinking about buying gear that we’ve reviewed or recommend on SectionHiker, you can help support us in the process. Just click on any of the seller links above, and if you make a purchase, we may (but not always) receive a small percentage of the transaction. The cost of the product is the same to you but this helps us continue to test and write unsponsored and independent gear reviews, beginner FAQs, and free hiking guides. Thanks and we appreciate your support!