HMG Windrider 3400 & 3400 Southwest – (Long Term Review From a Thru-Hiker)
by Josh “Cheesebeard” Tippett
In this article, I will be breaking down and reviewing the HMG Windrider 3400 and the HMG 3400 Southwest. What are they about? What are their differences? Which one should you get? Let’s find out!
Black HMG Windrider 3400 on the CDT
My Experience With Hyperlite Mountain Gear
I have used these packs along the Pacific Crest Trail, Continental Divide Trail, Annapurna Circuit (Nepal), Greater Yellowstone Traverse (500-mile route in Montana and Wyoming), and along a 500-mile cross country traverse of the Sierra. I used a white HMG 3400 Southwest for the PCT and Annapurna Circuit, and a black HMG Windrider 3400 for the rest.
The packs come in four torso sizes: Small, Medium, Large, and Tall.
Sizes are based on your torso length, measured from your C7 vertebrae to your iliac crest. Although this sounds complicated, Hyperlite Mountain Gear provides a great guide on how to do this on their website.
Both packs come in 3 different sizes: 2400, 3400, 4400; which translates to 40 Liters, 55 Liters, and 70 Liters.
This article is centered on the 3400 as it’s what I’ve used and is the optimal size for most backpacking trips.
HMG 3400 Southwest on the Greater Yellowstone Traverse
Difference in Models
The only difference between the two models is the material of the back pouch and water bottle pockets. The Windrider uses a mesh material, and the Southwest is a non-mesh nylon fabric woven with Dyneema. The Southwests’ use of nylon fabric was designed to take more abuse from abrasive rocks and brush.
Both models come in either a 50 denier (white) or 150 denier (black) Dyneema Composite Fabric (DCF) material. On the 50D white packs, the bottom panel is 150D DCF to increase the durability of the pack.
So why does denier matter? Denier is the thickness of the individual fibers used in the fabric. The higher the number the thicker the fiber, the tougher the material and thus the durability.
The Southwest with nylon pockets weighs less than an ounce more than the Windrider that uses mesh pockets.
2.00 lbs | 32.11 oz | 910g (White)
2.18 lbs | 34.97 oz | 991g (Black)
1.98 lbs | 31.82 oz | 902g (White)
2.17 lbs | 34.82 oz | 987g (Black)
Recommended Max Carrying Capacity
Price is the same for both packs
The 50D white packs cost 345 USD
The 150D black packs cost 365 USD
The main compartment of the packs are a very simple tube design with a slight taper to the bottom. There is a water bladder compartment inside the pack, with a hydro port near the shoulder strap to accommodate a camelback like water system.
Hyperlite Mountain Gear uses a simple velcro closure at the top of the main compartment. It rolls down and clips using straps that run along the sides of the pack to help compress the pack vertically.
Effective velcro roll-top closure
Hyperlite packs have a basic compression system consisting of a strap on each side that cinches. I don’t usually use it to compress my pack as much as I do to slip a Tenkara fishing rod or ice axe behind them and tighten it down to my pack.
The shoulder straps have just enough padding to be comfortable without being overly bulky and heavy. A daisy chain runs down both straps, which allows for custom placement of your sternum strap. It also allows for different pockets to be strapped onto them.
Shoulder Straps and Backpanel
Back Panel and Pack Frame
The frame system is two aluminum frame stays that slip into channels inside the main compartment of the pack. It is very simple and easy to remove the frame stays, and doing so removes roughly 4 oz (112 g) from the total pack weight.
The back panel on the Hyperlite packs is a DCF panel with a piece of foam between the panel on your back and the frame stays on the inside. While the foam seems quite thin, it is surprisingly comfortable when below a 30 lb load. The area at your lower back uses the same padded mesh as found in the hipbelt.
I am a rather boney person and can feel the aluminum frame stays when my pack reaches around the 30 lb weight range. Talking to other Hyperlite users I seem to be an anomaly here, but if you are also a skinny boney person it may bother you as well. It isn’t unbearable but is definitely noticeable.
Tubular Frame Stays
Hip-Belt & Hip-Belt Pockets
The hip-belt is pretty minimal without being overly so. There seems to be just the right amount of padding to make it comfortable without adding unnecessary weight. The material is that meshy black material found on most pack straps and athletic gear.
The hip-belt pockets used to be the downfall of these packs, but not anymore. They used to be so small it was hard to even fit a Clif bar into one. Having anything in them would also make it so that the item would dig into your hips as you wore the pack. In the past few years, Hyperlite has updated the hip belt pocket and they are now quite spacious. You can fit several snacks in one without any detriment to your comfort.
Spacious hip belt pockets
Ice Axe Loop
The ice axe loop is just below the back pocket in the dead center. I find this to be a poorly placed spot for the ice axe. It has no place to sit streamlined to the pack. If your back pocket is too full, the axe won’t strap straight up and down with the pack and instead is more angled out backward.
I also have found that my loop has worn over time and in my most recent trip, my ice axe kept falling down. I would have to drop my pack and re-strap it or have one of my compatriots help me out. I often opt to carry my axe in the water bottle pocket using a compression strap to hold it tight against the pack. This is not ideal as the bottom spike of the ice axe puts unnecessary wear on the water bottle pocket.
Centrally located ice ax loop isn’t ideal
External Mesh Pocket
The mesh external pocket on the Windrider is amazing. Although the material doesn’t stretch you can fit an obscene amount of gear in there. My mesh pocket was an ongoing topic of conversation along the CDT, as friends would rib me for the chaos of my back pocket. My argument was that you could always fit more, so why take anything out?
The external pocket on the HMG Southwest is a solid black nylon material. I found it unable to fit in nearly the same amount of gear as the Windriders’ mesh system. The philosophy behind the Southwest is to be able to get through brush without getting snagged or tearing up your external pockets as you might with the mesh.
Windrider mesh pocket is a little less durable but fits more and is easier to use
Water Bottle Pockets
The water bottle pockets on the HMG Windrider are also made from the same mesh as the back pocket. The mesh has just enough stretch that you can fit quite a lot into them. Some combos that I have had in a single pocket are as follows: 2 1-liter smart water bottles, a 32 oz Gatorade bottle plus 1-liter smart water, a1-liter smart water plus a Mefoto Backpacker Travel Tripod. The combinations are endless.
The HMG Southwest uses the same nylon fabric for its water bottle pockets as its back pocket. As with the back pocket, I found them to be a much tighter squeeze than the HMG Windrider. I found them to be a bit more difficult to get in and out water bottles while I wore the pack as well.
Wear Over Time
These packs being made of Dyneema Composite Fabric means they definitely get holes over time from abrasion.
The rate of wear between the 50D (white) and 150D (Black) fabric is very noticeable.
After my PCT and Annapurna circuit hike my white 50D HMG 3400 Southwest was pretty toast. It was very threadbare in spots even to the point where one of the frame stays was poking out from the bottom.
Meanwhile, my black 150D HMG Windrider 3400 is still in fairly good shape despite going through some really nasty bushwacks along my 500-mile connection of the high routes of the Sierra, a traverse of the Yellowstone ecosystem, as well as my CDT thru-hike
I find it is worth the extra money to go for the Black 150D Dyneema Composite Fabric over the 50D white. Not only is the black much more durable, the white fabric stains quickly with sweat and dirt turning into a beige-brown color after a few weeks of use. The black material hides the dirt pretty well.
Hyperlite Mountain Gear Packs Pros & Cons
Ice axe loop
They are both very well rounded and fully capable of taking on more intense trips than the big three long trails.
However, to choose between the two, I would have to give it to the Windrider. The increased carrying capacity of both the water bottle pockets and back pouch with mesh is absolutely worth the slight decrease in durability. I have slogged my HMG Windrider 3400 through miles of hellish manzanita brush slushin, miles of shwacking through dense pines, 1000s of feet of glissading, and hours of breaks of me laying on my pack and it’s pockets are all still kicking.