Hyperlite Mountain Gear Backpacks: How to Choose

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 colored backpacks are quite popular and easy to spot 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 that are tailored for 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 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 Hyperlite 2400 Southwest Pack has lasted for going on four 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/Polyester hybrid for white packs
  • 150D Dyneema/Polyester hybrid for white and black packs
  • Fully woven white Dyneema/DCF hybrid


  • 1800 cubic inches (30L)
  • 2400 cubic inches (39L)
  • 3400 cubic inches (55L)
  • 4400 cubic inches (70L)
  • 5400 cubic inches (88.5)

Sports-Specific Styles

  • Porter
  • Southwest
  • Windrider
  • Junction
  • NorthRim
  • 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 (labeled 50D Dyneema/Polyester hybrid)
  2. 150 denier polyester laminated with a DCF backing (labeled 150D Dyneema/Polyester hybrid)
  3. Woven Dyneema laminated with a DCF backing (labeled 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/Polyester hybrid. If you hike or travel in very rocky terrain where 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/Polyester 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/Polyester hybrid and 150D Dyneema/Polyester hybrid pack models is 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 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, 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 on the NorthRim pack are made with tougher stuff, namely 375 denier Woven Dyneema, which is the toughest and most durable fabric Hyperlite uses on their 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 rear mesh accessory pocket. Here’s a list of the body fabrics they’re available in:

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:

HMG’s 4400 and 5400 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 and 5400 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 2400 and 3400 packs which are available in two different Polyester hybrid denier weights. The 4400 and 5400 packs are only available 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 3400 Southwest 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 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.


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 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 North Rim

The NorthRim 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.

Ice Pack

The Ice Pack is good for ice climbing, ski mountaineering, and winter hiking and 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.

Summit Pack

The 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 ax loops so you 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

The Metro is more of an urban or travel daypack, much like the Summit, but without any external attachment points. At 30L 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.

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  1. I’m thru hiking the John Muir Trail and decided on the Southwest 3400, but don’t know whether to go with black or white in color. Suggestions?

  2. I have owned two different versions of the southwest, 3400 and 4400, I currently own the north rim 4400. I can tell you that I can reach my Gatorade bottle in my north rim side pocket which I could not do in the southwest pockets. I emailed them, and they said that the angles and measurements are all the same, and that it is likely the material of the side pocket of the north rim that allows for that easier access. As an FYI for folks who like to reach their water bottle pocket. You can reach a smart water tall bottle from the side pockets of these packs, but the shorter stockier ones like a Gatorade bottle, I could not get except with the north rim.

    I have also added load lifters to my north rim and followed these instructions:


  3. I have a SW4400 and love it. But for the benefit of anyone thinking about buying one sight unseen I would say that the “comfortable” weight rating of 55-60 lb is very optimistic due to the relatively hard and not very thick shoulder and hip pads. I would say “possible” rather than “comfortable” and recommend that if you are carrying that much weight you might as well add a little more and get the cushy suspension of something like an Osprey. The only way I would ever start a trip with this pack at 55-60 lbs is if that weight was going to come right down by the second day, e.g., if I were carry a lot of water for a dry first night. (I am considering trying to do a modification on mine to add some cushioning on the pads, but otherwise I will just stay under 45 lb.)

  4. Carlton C Wilcox

    I thru hike the AT in 2017 Nobo with a Windrider. The HMG pack was very durable and it was very popular on the trail with some people changing from other packs to HMG packs. I had two issues with it. It leaked and I would get water in the bottom of my pack. It rained a lot that year and it was a problem. 1/4 of they way thru I called HMG and complained. They told me to seal the bottom seam that forms the pack bottom. It was a pain in the butt sticking my head down there breathing the fumes while doing it but it definitely reduced the amount of water getting in during a rain. The other issue is I would think twice before using a HMG on a long trip in a humid climate particularly if hammocking. There is no ventilation on the back. Sweat runs down your back into the waist belt and whatever shorts you are wearing. Your lower back is wet all day when it is hot and humid. If you hammock your center of gravity is the same spot and the sweat at night runs down to your lower back. Your lower back/waist is wet all the time. When the summer was at its hottest in late July and early August it became a serious problem with a pack sore developing. I would shove a towel down there to get the pack off the sore. It got so bad I took zeros on two different occasions for the sore to heal. I have since converted to a Osprey Exos pack for long distance hikes (probably the most popular pack on the AT in 2017). I still use the HMG Windrider for shorter hikes and not humid conditions.

    • When HMG got started they used to claim that their packs were waterproof. I and others gave them intense criticism for it. They’ve stopped claiming that. Since then, and for a few years now they have seam taped their packs inside which has reduced such leakage but you should still use a pack liner. If you ever want to seam seal an HMG pack, you can turn it inside out. Remove the stays and pull the bottom through the top. It works great. But I guess I’m puzzled why you didn’t just put a pack liner in your pack rather than seam sealing it.

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