Hyperlite Mountain Gear 3400 Southwest
Ultralight, tough, surprisingly comfortable and versatile pack. A real winner.
- Watertight (almost)
- High comfort-to-weight ratio
- Harder to organize stuff
- More difficult to pack for a good carry
- Needs a zippered pocket
I've always had pretty high-tech backpacks. My original internal frame backpack was an Osprey Zenith, loaded with bells and whistles. From that 7 lb behemoth which served me well, I eventually ended up with an Osprey Aether (the original model), which at about 4 lbs, served me well on a thru-hike of the JMT.
I thought I was doing pretty well getting my pack weight down to about 34 lbs for a six-day trip. I realized there was a lot more weight I could shave off, so I ended up with a lot of new gear, but I resisted going to one of the minimalist, ultralight packs. I was afraid of the lack of a fancy suspension. They just looked sacks with shoulder straps.
Then one night, while trying to figure out how to shave more pounds from my pack for another JMT hike, I pulled the trigger on the HMG 3400 Southwest pack.
It arrived and the box was noticeably light. I immediately stuffed it with mostly clothes, put it on and paraded around the house. Not bad, but I needed some weight. The next night I assembled most of my gear. After figuring out the best way to pack around my bear canister (yes, it fit well) and using all the cavities created by the roundness of it, I filled this two pound pack with about 30 lbs of gear, including a load of water.
It felt good! The torso length in the Tall size fit me really well. I am 6'2". It nestled down into my lower back perfectly. I thought the lack of shoulder-top load adjusters would be an issue, but it never was. The pack hugged the contours of my back. The Cuben fiber, although it feels stiff, is not bad against your back. The waist belt was just right, not too padded, but padded enough.
I took it out on a test day hike with a full load the next weekend and I was very impressed. I did not find myself missing all the bells and whistles load and comfort-wise of my Osprey.
Took it out next on a three-day backpack trip. I had to do a bit of sorting on the bladder carrying. There is a bladder pocket inside, but I found that difficult to use because I had the pack so stuffed. I ended up putting a Platypus bladder in the right outside pocket and ran the tube through the straps and clipped to my shoulder strap. Worked really well. And it was incredibly easy to get to it for refilling vs. putting it inside the pack. I carry two 32 oz bladders instead of one large one.
The pack basically had three outside pockets: one huge one and two smaller ones on either side. They hold a lot of stuff, but in the big pocket it is easy to lose track of stuff. There are two zippered pockets on the waistbelt, small ones, that are great for energy bars. I put a lot of stuff in the outside pockets. The elastic along the top of them works better than I expected at keeping stuff in, but you need to makes sure any small, important items are at the bottom of the pockets to make certain you couldn't lose them.
One thing I would add is a small, zippered pocket either inside or outside one of the pockets, probably inside, to store important items like a wallet or cell phone. I ended up putting stuff like that in the water bladder pocket at the bottom of the pack.
The roll-top closure looks kind of funky when you are used to a regular pack top, but it works really well unless you completely overload the pack. With the top rolled down a couple of times, this pack is like a dry bag.
The acid test of the pack was 10 days on the JMT. I managed to get my total load down to 28 lbs (light for me) and this pack was great. I had no discomfort from the pack, either the back, the shoulders or the hips. It was pretty comfortable from the get-go. I was very impressed. For a 34 oz pack, this thing is awesome.
The build quality is great and the material seems very bomber. The bottom and up the sides a way is double-layered, so I think the pack will hold up a long time.
This pack is a lesson in simplicity of design. All those things we take for granted on a lot of packs — adjusters on the waist belt, load levelers, a dozen pockets, removable turn into a fanny pack lids — are really marketing gimmicks. You don't really need them. If you travel light why not save a minimum of one to two lbs on your pack? I'm glad I took the plunge. And it felt good buying a product made in the USA.
Added 6/27: two things I forgot to mention about the pack - it is really versatile in load compression. The roll top and side compression straps give you a lot of flexibility to manage load size down to probably about 1800 or so.
The OTHER thing, and this is FAR more important, the white cuben fiber is very accepting of ink ART WORK!! My wife got a little artsy and creative adding a big graphic to my pack. I think it looks great. Can't do that with many other packs. I'm not too sure HMG realized they were releasing a new level of creativity in the use of their packs!
Source: bought it new
Price Paid: $330
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Current Retail: $379.00
Historic Range: $241.50-$550.00
Reviewers Paid: $330.00
2.0 lb / 31.4 oz / 890 g
|Interior Storage Volume||
3400 cu in main compartment.
|Exterior Storage Volume||
600 cu in Spectra Hardline outer pockets