A good pack can make or break a backpacking trip. It is one of the items of focus when one is looking to go lighter, and that was part of my reason for looking at this pack from Hyperlite Mountain Gear. However I was also attracted to the fact that it is largely waterproof, has a reputation for quality, and has a huge internal volume of 85 litres. This might seem excessive, but when multi-day packrafting you will fill it quite easily, and having a roll down top you can make it smaller if you need to. It weighs just about 3lbs or 1.4kg, it really is remarkably light for the size. It isn’t frameless either! Definitely worth a look then.
The pack comes in four different sizes, meaning the straps are sized to fit different torsos/back lengths (advise on sizing is available on the Hyperlite Mountain Gear website).
A word about fabrics
One of the things that put me off moving to a DCF pack was my perception that it would not be durable. DCF is a curious fabric, being fantastically strong when it comes to tearing, but being pretty poor with abrasion. Abrasion can well be expected in a pack that’s under hard use, one minute carrying heavy loads on your back, the next strapped to a packraft and hurled down rapids. This made me a bit reluctant to purchase one.
The fabrics used in this pack are polyester-faced. The main pack is faced with 150 denier polyester, which feels very durable and has proven to be so after the last few years of use. When you first receive the pack, this material is quite stiff, but it does soften with age and use. The bottom of the pack is reinforced with 375 denier fabric. You can see the two fabrics in the image below. The 375 denier fabric is on the bottom. It is extremely rugged and I needn’t have worried.
As I stated in my opening paragraph, this is an 85 litre pack, which makes it pretty cavernous. It is ideal for packrafting. It does not have lots of pockets and pouches, just one large roll-down opening.
Having said it doesn’t have lots of pockets, inside is a single zipped pocket, which you can see above and in the images below. This is probably designed to take wallets, keys, etc. but I find it pretty much perfectly fits my Primus Camping Toaster, which is what I keep in there most of the time. I also purchased the optional Porter stuff pocket, again a very durable mesh pocket that clips to the ladders on the face of the pack. This is a large pocket, big enough to comfortably take a white water helmet, or water filter, bottle, pegs, map, etc. As the pack is a single chamber, it can be a pain to find things quickly so having the pocket avoids you having to empty the pack to find readily accessed items. The pocket has a small drain hole at the bottom so it will not collect water.
There are also two pockets on the waist strap, which are big enough for things like compass, compact camera, sun screen, insect repellent, etc. The fabrics throughout are excellent, and although a bit grubby show no signs of any wear. These fabrics are not easily cleaned so if a grubby pack triggers you this might not be the one for you!
The pack has a variety of straps to help you secure and stabilise the load. On each side of the pack are three white straps that you loosen as you load and then tighten to pull the pack into a stable shape. You then roll the top down until you reach the load, and use the straps on both sides of the pack to tighten this down. Finally, there is a strap that goes front-to-back over the top of the pack which keeps everything really neat. That top strap can also be used to secure kit to the outside of the pack if you found that 85 litres just wasn’t enough! Below are images of the pack at the summits of Ben Alder and Pumlumon Fawr respectively, which show how it looks packed.
I mentioned at the outset that this pack is not frameless. It doesn’t have a huge frame, which is how it stays light, but it does have a couple of metal bars that are inserted into sleeves to keep the pack’s shape and keep the weight on your hips. This really works well, and having used frameless packs I can say that for the minor weight penalty this is really worthwhile. However, if you feel strongly that you don’t want them, there are velcro flaps that you can open to give access to the sleeve to remove the metal bars. You can just see the tip of the bar in the image below.
The stitching throughout the pack is first class. I have carried some fairly heavy loads with this pack, probably around 40 lbs / 18 kg or so. It’s not skipped a beat with no stitching pulling or any issues whatsoever. The pack is, in fact, rated to a massive 60 lbs / 27 kg! The shoulder straps are very well stitched as shown below, and the waist band has some padding to keep things comfortable. This is one of the more comfortable packs that I’ve used.
I mentioned that it’s ‘largely’ waterproof and I say this because despite what some people say, it isn’t fully waterproof. It is however much better than other packs I’ve owned. My previous pack needed to go inside a bivi bag when strapped to my packraft, with this one I don’t bother. Some water does get in, but it’s pretty minimal. All stitching through the pack is taped on the inside, which definitely helps, and if your kit is inside dry bags then all will be well. As you can see below, I’ve had the pack in some pretty tough conditions when packrafting in Scotland and it’s never let more than a small amount of water in, except when fully submerged following a capsize when I will admit, I ended up with soggy crumpets. I still ate them though!
Let me start by saying I paid full price for this pack, and have no connection to Hyperlite Mountain Gear. I really am struggling to find anything I dislike about this pack. The fabrics are robust and near waterproof, it’s light for it’s size, comfortable to carry, swallows all my packrafting gear, is amazingly well stitched and nice and simple (in a good way). It’s as near to perfect as it gets, and since purchasing mine about 2 and half years ago I haven’t used anything else. I would buy another tomorrow. Highly recommended.