Hyperlite Mountain Gear Packing Pods Review

Hyperlite Mountain Gear Pods are cuben fiber storage cubes that fit perfectly into Hyperlite's backpacks

Hyperlite Mountain Gear’s small and large packing pods are the ultralight equivalent of the luggage packing cubes that people use to pack travel bags. They’re U-shaped to fit snugly into Hyperlite’s backpacks and can be used in place of a white plastic compactor bag to provide extra moisture protection for the gear stored inside them. They won’t survive a complete dunking because they have sewn-on (untaped) zippers, but they increase the space utilization inside a Hyperlight backpack so there’s virtually no wasted volume inside. Made out of Dyneema DCF (formerly called cuben fiber), they’re also exceptionally lightweight, so you can swap them out for your existing stuff sacks without a weight penalty.

Hyperlite Mountain Gear Packing Pods

Weight
Durability
Space Utilization
Volume
Moisture Protection

Space Optimizer

Hyperlite Mountain Gear's U-shaped packing pods are the ultralight equivalent of the luggage packing cubes that people use to pack travel bags. Made with Dyneema Composite Fabric (formerly cuben fiber) they're an ultralight alternative to stuff sacks that improve space utilization in backpacks in addition to moisture protection.

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Specs at a Glance:

  • Small size pod: 1.2 oz. 6.8L
  • Large size pod: 1.3 oz, 10L
  • Made from: DCF11 Dyneema Composite Fabric (formerly cuben fiber)
  • Click for complete specs

In addition to better space utilization, I’ve found that the biggest benefit to using them is organizational because I can pack many more items into one than I do today into several smaller stuff sacks. For example, my quilt, sleeping pad, sleeping clothes, and electronics all fit snuggly into one, which I can then shove to the bottom of my pack. This keeps them all together and separate from stuff higher up in my pack which is packed more loosely for more frequent  access. When unpacking in camp, the clamshell design makes it easy to find exactly what you want without a lot of digging around, because the top zips open like a footlocker and you can pull out exactly what you need.

It helps to zip the pod half way when stuffing bulky items like a quilt to sleeping bag
It helps to zip the pod half way when stuffing bulky items like a quilt or sleeping bag

Here are a few more observations about the pods:

  • When stuffing one of the pods with a bulky item like a quilt or sleeping bag, it’s best to zip it up halfway before you start stuffing, because it’s too difficult to close the lid if it hasn’t been already “started.”
  • If you overstuff the pods, the flat part of the U-shape (that slides down the inside of the back of your pack) becomes rounded and can barrel (uncomfortably) into your back.
  • The pods come in two sizes, one for use in Hyperlite’s 2400/3400 series backpacks and the other with their 4400 backpacks. I tested a small and a large pod from the 2400/3400 size.
  • The pods also work well in backpacks from other manufacturers including the Mountain Laurel Designs Exodus 58L, a Zpacks Nero 38, and even an Osprey Talon 44. I doubt that was intentional, but it’s a happy accident.
  • Each pod has a white label area that you can write on with a sharpie, but I suspect it will be permanent, so proceed with caution.

These Hyperlite Mountain Gear packing pods aren’t revolutionary and they really are just stuff sacks with a unique shape. But they are a clever way to help you organize your gear and pack it in a way that efficiently uses all of the space in your back. I was surprised at how much more gear I could get into my backpack when using them, which becomes increasingly important as the weather becomes colder and the amount of sleep insulation I need to carry increases.

Disclosure: The manufacturer provided the author with sample pods for this review.

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One comment

  1. ou might be asking yourself, “Do I really need pods for my 2400/3400/4400 HMG pack?” and if so, “How many and what sizes?” This review might help you in the process of arriving at a decision for your own specific needs. My approach to writing this rather lengthy review was to try and answer the questions that I
    originally was seeking answers to.

    Organize: to form into a coherent unity or functioning whole, to arrange in an orderly way.

    Order: the arrangement or disposition of people or things in relation to each other according to a particular sequence, pattern, or method.

    I like “order”. When I intentionally focus on keeping my belongings/possessions, my gear, in a organized, orderly state, my life seems to naturally and spontaneously go smoother, and consequently, I feel happier, even mentally clearer. In fact, the more thorough I am at organizing my “things” in my life, the more external support from various outside “realms” seems to come my way. Moreover, I see my belongings as tools, in a sense, because each one, no matter what it is, has a functionality, a “purpose”, that hopefully supports, uplifts and sustains my life, and the lives of those around me.

    With that particular perspective on life motivating and inspiring me, I didn’t hesitate purchasing HMG’s 4400 Southwest Backpack last summer because of its truly unique qualities; extraordinarily light, durable, comfortable, innovative in design, and, in a certain simple sort of way, a real technologically constructed work of art. I had seen the “Pods” at the same time when I purchased the pack but decided to check the pack out first, in the field, before I made any further purchases.

    As we know, access into a HMG pack is through the top, and along with the main compartment of the 4400, there is an internal hydro mesh sleeve for a water bladder, 3 external pockets for gear, and two small hip belt zippered pockets for small items, like a few protein bars.

    I had an assortment of regular stuff sacks on hand so I arranged and then rearranged my gear up into the sacks and then arranged and rearranged them into the pack, and, like any large, single compartment backpack, finally settled them in to what I thought would best utilize the pack’s interior space, in relation to weight distribution. However, during my first trip out, I came to two important conclusions. Firstly, the odd sizes, colors, quantity and quality of my 20th century stuff sacks didn’t quite seem adequate for my 4400 pack. And secondly, and most importantly, the HMG Integrated Pod System, as I call it, seemed like the obvious, intelligent step to take, since the pods were specifically designed to fit neatly in this pack, taking up any unused space, and providing easy access to any item within a minute or two, no matter how deep in the pack it was. The thought of buying these pods just made sense, for an anal retentive backpacker like me.

    When I got home from that camping trip I measured the depth of my 4400 pack, from the inside bottom to the very top, with the pack open, it measured 40” (although the HMG spec sheet states 38.5”). (Obviously, the 2400, the 3400 and the 4400, each have a different inside measurement, top to bottom.)

    So, before I made any purchases, I took a look at the dimensions of the pods, and I attempted to calculate the sizes of my various camping provisions in order to determine how many of the large and how many of the small I might want to get. This was not exactly an easy process without pods in my possession. In fact, with a veritable kaleidoscope of different ways to arrange ones personal gear, in multiple, two sized pods, I realized I needed pods in-hand to make such determinations.

    As most of you probably already know, HMG makes four pods. A small and a large for the 2400/3400 packs (6.5” deep x 12.9” wide) and a small and large for the 4400 packs (8.7” deep x 14.1” wide). As I mentioned earlier, I’ve got the 4400 Southwest pack, so I decided to purchase 3 small pods and 2 large pods (with the thought of adding another large one, later, if needed), and I’ll explain why I went with these numbers and sizes. The specs on the pods, in terms of the height or thickness are the same for both the 2400/3400 and the wider, deeper, 4400. Small: 4.5 inches thick, and Large: 6.5 inches thick.

    Even though HMG recommends the pod should not be forced to expand (by stuffing too much gear in it) beyond the 4.5”/6.5” HMG spec sheet height/thickness, I discovered, depending on the gear going in, the height can be reasonably expanded beyond those dimensions. However, and most importantly, it depends on what’s going in (and how it goes in). Softer gear, like a down jacket or ultralight sleeping bag, can be compressed, whereas a solid object, e.g. a camp stove, fuel canister and a pot, cannot.

    So, I found that a small pod filled with soft, compressible material can easily expand beyond the given 4.5 inch “spec” thickness, to 5.5 and up to 6.5 inches, without seemingly putting too much stress on the material/stitching (IMHO). HMG staff might strongly disagree with that statement, in order to cover their warranties, but I suspect their staff would unofficially agree with my findings. The reason I’m bringing that point up is because if one is considering “How many pods should I buy, and what sizes?” then maybe you might get a better idea if I can layout my reasons for purchasing the 5 that I have.

    It should be noted in advance: When stuffing a sleeping bag, for example, into a larger pod, which is the size pod I use for my sleeping bag [Enlightened Equipment’s Revelation Quilt], I zip the pod at least half way closed, if not more, and I have the end that is zipped closed, touching the ground between my knees, as I am kneeling, then I carefully push the sleeping bag slowly down through the opened end, compressing each handful as I push it in, with the pod also being squeezed between my knees so it’s easy and smooth to gradually zip up once the entire bag is inside (the unzipped portion of the zipper needs to be close together as it’s being slowly zipped up. Hence, squeezing between knees.). The seams appear to be sewn with care, precision and strength, in mind, but regardless, I don’t want to take any chances for that potential rip to start. Also important to know, when all the pods are packed into the 4400, I can push from the top down, before rolling up and snapping closed, to squeeze the pods down, thereby removing excessive pressure on potentially extended seams and to reduce the overall height so the top of the pack is not hitting low branches.

    My 4400 pack is HMG’s tallest pack. According to the HMG pod specs, 3 small (4.5” height each), stacked on each other, comes to 13.5 inches. 2 Large (6.5”) stacked on each other comes to 13 inches. The total of these 5 add up to 26.5 inches. The overall, inside height of my 4400, fully unrolled, opened, is: 40”. Obviously the top needs to be folded over, once or twice and clipped into place to make the gear inside secure and protected from the elements. If one were to fold the top over adequately, to seal it, then that might leave about 35, maybe 36 inches of inner height space available, but that’s pushing it, in terms of overall height. My point is, those numbers reflect, roughly, the height usage one might want to potentially extend upward…could be more, though.

    So, in my case, if I were to maintain the HMG guidelines for pod thickness with my 5 pods (26.5 inches) then I might possibly have 10 inches more of usable room above the 5 pods. However, I found that it was very easy to fill both the small and the large with an inch, and even up to 2 inches, more in height, without taxing the seams. I’m not recommending you do that, but the pods seem capable of withstanding that much expansion. So, 2 inches times 5 is 10 inches, added to 26.5 inches would be 36.5 inches, which might allow me to roll the top, twice, to seal it.

    I should also mention that many of my more popular backpacking areas require a Bear Canister. I have a Large BV 500 (which truly annoys me; round, heavy, not really pack friendly) and its diameter is around 8.5 inches. With that in my pack (with pods it has to go in sideways and can’t go to the bottom of the 4400, i.e. pack narrows towards the bottom, so it sits about 2/5ths of the way from the bottom of pack) I can put 2 pods below and 3 pods above but that brings the total 36 inches (without going beyond the recommended thickness level of the pods), which means the top of the pack can be sealed, but just barely, and again, I’d have to not over stuff the pods when using a bear canister, or, over stuff and use one less pod.

    In an ideal world, i.e. no hungry bears to contend with, one of the pods would hold my food, I’d purchase a 6th pod (Large), so everything would be in pods, and the bear canister could go out to pasture with a drop kick. Maybe HMG could produce a bear resistant pod?

    Anyway, I’ll break it down to most of the things I carry, so you can see what I sometimes, but not always, use my pods for.

    1. Small Pod – Terra Nova Solar Photon 2 Tent (The Solar Photon 2 tent is the lightest 2-person self-supporting tent in the world! But I use it as a 1-person tent that can also shelter my gear.) Tyvek ground cloth.

    2. Small Pod – Exped DownMat TT- This is my proverbial kitchen sink, a bit excessive but I like to sleep in comfort. (I’m willing to sacrifice, by carrying a couple more pounds of weight, in return for a good 8 hours of deep sleep, and I’ve not found a better mat than this one for warmth and comfort that compliments my quilt sleeping bag)

    3. Small Pod – First Aid, toiletries, head lamp, flashlight, misc

    4. Large Pod – Enlightened Equipment “Revelation” wide/long 950 Quilt Sleeping bag.

    5. Large Pod – Clothes; socks/underwear/swimsuit/shirts/shorts/down jacket/hat

    6. Bear Canister (or 3rd Lg, Pod (to be purchased) if canister is not required) – Food, Stove, Pot, fuel canister.

    7. 3 outside pockets on the 4400 Southwest pack – Arcterx Rain Jacket, Titanium water bottle, Nalgene water bottle, Crocs, Sawyer/Platypus gravity water system, garbage bag pack cover, compass, map.

    8. 2 hip belt pockets – Snacks

    So, what’s my overall thoughts on the pods? I think they are the perfect complement for the HMG packs. My pack “feels” (and is) organized, like a Swiss Army knife. If it rains, the pods add a second layer of protection inside the pack, and I’ve numbered each pod, so I can quickly identify what is in each. It’s an integrated system making access so easy now.

    Lastly, we all carry essentially similar basic categories of provisions for our trips (shelter, sleeping bag, mat, food, clothes, etc.) but that’s where the similarities end i.e. we all have a multitude of likes and dislikes when it comes to our own unique tendencies. My suggestion, if you are swayed in the direction of pods, is to begin by purchasing one large and one small pod. Set all your gear on the floor and calculate what gear fits in the large pod and what gear fits in the small pod, then based on your pack size, count how many it would take to fill up your pack. Try different combinations until you can determine what gear (winter vs. summer too) you have can fit in a small and what gear needs the large pod, then, order the rest.

    Personally, I’m planning on one more large pod to complete my system, as I said above. 3 small and 3 large, used when no bear canister is necessary, while going on an extended trek.

    I forgot to mention. I was able to purchase my 4400 SW on sale, and that was helpful. The pods seem a bit pricey. Retail on the five pods I purchased is $270. I was fortunate and I got them for a little less (on sale now at HMG). However, the quality of the material along with craftsmanship is above top notch, so I’m not complaining. And as we all know, you get what you pay for.

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