Hyperlite Mountain Gear’s Ultralight Backpack Updates – 2018

Taking in the view from the Sachem Peak Ledges
Taking in the view from the Sachem Peak Ledges, Acteon Ridge, New Hampshire.

Hyperlite Mountain Gear Backpacks are popular with thru-hikers and backpackers because they’re light weight, streamlined, and durable. Their 2400 Southwest backpack (40L) is my personal favorite and the pack I’ve been using for most of my backpacking trips, day hikes, and bushwhacks for the past 3 years.

While my HMG Southwest 2400 is buttery-soft and sweat-stained from use, it’s lasted far longer than any other ultralight backpack I’ve owned because it’s made with Dyneema Composite Fabric and it doesn’t have any external mesh pockets (which rip quickly). While the HMG Southwest 2400 isn’t the lightest 40L backpack you can buy, I’m willing to take the small weight penalty for a durable pack that I can count on when I have to bash through dense spruce or scramble up avalanche slides.

But the first generation Southwest 2400 wasn’t perfect because it had very small hip belt pockets that were difficult to use for much more than carrying a pair of Aquamira bottles or a small bottle of bug dope. I eventually trained myself not to depend on them as external storage, even though I do like packs with big hip belt pockets.

Hyperlite's backpack pockets are large enough to store cell phones, POS cameras, or even PLBs
Hyperlite’s new backpack pockets are large enough to store cell phones, POS cameras, or even PLBs

But HMG recently upgraded their backpacks by increasing the volume of their hip belt pockets by about 20%. That might not sound like much, but the pockets are now substantially deeper so you can store larger objects in them and get your fingers in and out without the risk of amputation. For example, you can now store a point-and-shoot camera, a cell phone, or an inReach Explorer+, which is a big improvement.

Hyperlite doesn’t offer an pocket upgrade for packs made with the smaller pockets though, at least not yet.

Pre-bent aluminum stays

Hyperlite has also started shipping pre-bent aluminum stays, instead of flat stays. Backpack frame stays prevent a backpack from collapsing on itself when you load it up and help transfer your gear weight to the hip belt.  The advantage of aluminum stays over a frame is that you can bend them to fit your exact body shape and personalize the fit like a custom backpack. But learning how to bend aluminum stays can be intimidating if you’re not familiar with them (See How to Bend Backpack Frame Stays) and the new pre-bent stays included with Hyperlite’s packs often fit without any adjustment needed.

Strap and hip belt fabric

Hyperlite has also switched from covering the inside of their shoulder straps and hip belts from spacer mesh to a softer, more densely woven fabric that’s the consistency of softshell. There’s no noticeable change in how the new fabric grips you or wicks sweat, but it’s much softer to the touch.

Wrap Up

Those are the biggest changes I’ve noticed in this latest generation of Hyperlite Mountain Gear’s Backpacks. None of them are huge modifications to the form and function of the packs, just incremental refinements that make them more comfortable and easier to use. While innovation is good, I shy away from backpack companies that are always changing the design or look of their backpacks from year to year. I take some comfort in knowing that I can probably replace my HMG Southwest 2400, if I ever wear it out, with a backpack that’s nearly identical to the original. Change is inevitable, but for the moment, my Southwest 2400 is dialed-in and I like it that way.

Hyperlite Mountan Gear has provided the author with several backpacks.

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  1. Phillip, I still miss the pad keepers that make the GG packs so comfortable. But, I really don’t care about the hip pockets. Sometimes, they don’t get used at all.

  2. I agree with James, pad keepers are a must. Pockets are bulky add weight and hardly used.

  3. I sent HMG an email asking if they would change out the pockets, they never responded, so I am assuming from your article, they wll not do it. Its to bad, I’m not willing to purchase a new pack just for the upgraded pockets. I’ve thought about cutting them off and adding a different pocket, but I don’t have the heart or courage to do so.

  4. Gossamer Gear sells a nice accessory pocket that a lot of people use.

    • My husband has two of those pockets. But looking at the HMG pockets, I am not sure if I will damage the belt trying to remove the zipper that is sewn onto the belt. Do I just cut away the pocket and leave the teeth of the zipper? It isn’t as straight forward as I thought it would be.

  5. I am extremely interested in the HMG Southwest and the ULA Circuit. I am new to backpacking but want quality and want to go ultralight. Really like the minimalist idea. Is it worth the extra money for the HMG?

    • HMG and ULA packs are really too heavy to be considered ultralight backpacks. The ULA Circuit weighs 41 oz and has a capacity of 68L. That’s heavy and huge. For UL, you probably want to be looking at a 40L pack. The HMG 2400 SW which has a 40L capacity would be a much better option, but at 30-32 oz, it’s also kind of heavy, because HMG overbuilds their packs. My advice would be to look at a Zpacks Nero 38, which weighs 10.7 oz and costs $199. Also a very high quality pack. But its weight is more in line with UL backpacking than these other two packs.

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