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Backpacks

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Hyperlite Mountain Gear 3400 Southwest Pack :: Drive By

by , November 21, 2016

Beneath the glow of a full sky of stars our two guides say a quick prayer. Cast before them is the Besakih temple nestled into the foothills of Mount Agung, the most sacred area in all of the Indonesian island of Bali. For this ascent we’re going light, fast and up a new trail. As their prayers finish and their offerings fall silently to the ground I saddle up with Hyperlite Mountain Gear’s (HMG) 3400 Southwest Pack. How does this ultralight bag hold up to 10,000’ of smoking rock?

Hyperlite Mountain Gear 3400 Southwest Pack

Hyperlite Mountain Gear 3400 Southwest Pack

Who It Suits

The HMG 3400 Southwest is geared for more experienced hikers who have dabbled with the ultralight backpacking philosophy. It’s a technical pack constructed with space-age material. This roughly 65-liter pack weighs less than one kilogram (2.1 lbs). It’s the answer for those who have already slimmed down their outdoor carry and are tired of hauling five-plus pound packs on their adventures.

The HMG 3400 Southwest is geared for more experienced hikers who have dabbled with the ultralight backpacking philosophy.

Hyperlite Mountain Gear 3400 Southwest Pack

Who It Doesn’t

New hikers and those who prefer more physical comfort while deep in the woods. In general this pack makes sense if you’ve got your gear selection and system dialed in to go light and fast. That’s not to say this pack isn’t accessible by others but the single access point to the bag’s interior, minimal design and premium price tag are easier to justify when you’re trying to shave a precious few more pounds from your gear.

The Good

The 3400 Southwest is part of HMG’s family of hard-wearing packs constructed with Dyneema Composite Fabrics (formerly Cuben Fiber). There exists a cult of HMG backpackers that swear by these packs, notably long-distance thru-hikers. This entire family is constructed with ultra-durable Dyneema – 150D to be exact for the pack reviewed. Part of the reason for this cult following is that pound for pound, Dyneema is stronger than steel, 100% waterproof (note that because of hydration ports and whatnot, the overall pack is water resistant, not waterproof), won’t stretch when it gets wet and is incredibly light. The list goes on and we’ve gone deep into it before.

It’s the answer for those who have already slimmed down their outdoor carry and are tired of hauling five-plus pound packs on their adventures.

Hyperlite Mountain Gear 3400 Southwest Pack

The 3400 Southwest gives you 55L of internal storage and another 10L of external storage. It’s the same configuration as the 3400 Windrider but has Dyneema Hardline pockets on the outside instead of mesh pockets to prevent snagging and tearing. This pack will comfortably carry 25 – 40 pounds of gear which, depending on how you pack, will easily get you by for a week in the backcountry.

The 3400 Southwest is part of HMG’s family of hard-wearing packs constructed with Dyneema Composite Fabrics (formerly Cuben Fiber).

The pack itself is really stripped down and dialed in. There’s just one interior pocket and three exterior pockets. Inside the cavernous depths of this pack there is a mesh sleeve that can catch a bladder. But while the pocketing is simple, the straps that line the pack are not. At first glance there is a spider’s web worth of webbing criss-crossing the 3400 Southwest. While being intimidating at first it means that this pack can be compressed down like nobody’s business. Side compression straps do the majority of the work and a Y strap on the top cinches down the roll-top opening. It’s also a convenient way to hold a sleeping pad.

Hyperlite Mountain Gear 3400 Southwest Pack

All this compression is a good thing because when fully opened, the 3400 Southwest is huge. Granted I reviewed the tall version but the bag is a good 1.5 meters tall. Great for when you’ve got a pile of food to take with you or a pile of down sleeping gear for cold weather adventures. Stories abound online about sleeping in this bag in emergency situations. Luckily the compression system keeps the pack manageable when more moderate undertakings are the order of business.

“…this pack can be compressed down like nobody’s business. Side compression straps do the majority of the work and a Y strap on the top cinches down the roll-top opening.

Finally the packability. Because the 3400 Southwest is first and foremost an ultralight pack, it’s got a minimal suspension system. Specifically a ¼’’ foam back panel and two contoured aluminum backstays. These backstays are removeable. When they are removed the bag can be folded down small enough to comfortably fit into a larger duffel. Great for those who don’t like to travel with an outdoor backpack or have to check their hiking bag at the airport.

Hyperlite Mountain Gear 3400 Southwest Pack

The Not So Good

With the caveat that the 3400 Southwest is a technical ultralight pack, there’s not a whole lot to dislike with this bag. Overall it’s very dialed in. That said –

There’s one access point. The 3400 Southwest can only be accessed through a roll-top opening. It’s great for keeping the bag streamlined and increasing the bag’s water resistance but can be a nightmare when you need to get at something in the bottom of the pack. There is also a high risk of small children being lost for days in the depths of this bag. It’s seriously big and cavernous.

The 3400 Southwest can only be accessed through a roll-top opening. It’s great for keeping the bag streamlined and increasing the bag’s water resistance but can be a nightmare when you need to get at something in the bottom of the pack.

Hyperlite Mountain Gear 3400 Southwest Pack

Along with knowing where not to place gear in the bag, you also need to know where to place your gear in the bag. The minimal suspension system, granted with a non-removable hip belt and sternum strap, means that there’s no heavy-duty back panel to help transfer the load from your back and shoulders to your hips. Basically heavy stuff in the bottom.

The minimal suspension system, granted with a non-removable hip belt and sternum strap, means that there’s no heavy-duty back panel to help transfer the load from your back and shoulders to your hips.

Aesthetically speaking, the compression straps required for this bag (as opposed to zippers) means that there are a lot of dangling straps that can make the bag look like it’s having a bad hair day when it’s windy outside. Admittedly not a big deal when you’re miles from any civilization but there you go.

Hyperlite Mountain Gear 3400 Southwest Pack

And the price. Although the 3400 Southwest is basically just one giant pocket, it’s one giant Dyneema pocket. And despite how easy it is to wax poetically about Dyneema fabric, there’s a cost for this functionality – $330 to be exact. But hey, there are no free lunches.

Hyperlite Mountain Gear 3400 Southwest Pack

Verdict

Without a doubt the 3400 Southwest is pushing the limits of traditional pack construction. It’s constructed with space-age material and at less than one kg with a super minimal design, makes you question how much of a pack you really need on your back. That said, there’s no getting around the fact that this is an ultralight backpack. As strange as it sounds there’s a learning curve with this bag. You don’t just throw your gear into it and run off into the woods. Your gear and how you access this gear needs to be dialed in before the $330 price tag makes sense – we’ll even say you’ll likely be a bit obsessed with shaving ounces off your carry.

Your gear and how you access this gear needs to be dialed in before the $330 price tag makes sense – we’ll even say you’ll likely be a bit obsessed with shaving ounces off your carry.

Hyperlite Mountain Gear 3400 Southwest Pack

However, if you’re ready to make that leap there is nothing quite like Dyneema Fiber for a technical outdoor pack. Hyperlite Mountain Gear’s 3400 Southwest is a seriously heavy-duty pack and one of the hardest wearing on the market. Price aside, this bag is the stuff of Carryologist dreams.

Hyperlite Mountain Gear 3400 Southwest Pack

The Breakdown

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Geek (Performance)

Space & Access
7
Organization
6
Comfort
6

Style (Design)

Look & Feel
10
Build, Materials & Hardware
9
Features
6

Stoke (Experience)

Warranty & Support
8
Brand experience
8
Value
7
X Factor
7

Reader's Review

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  • Christopher

    Excellent review! I did want to ask if you could compare the overall experience of the Hyperlite Mountain Gear’s 3400 Southwest to say a Gregory Baltoro 75, which does have more of the comfort features. Thanks!

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