Gear Review: Hyperlite Mountain Gear 3400 Junction Backpack

The Hyperlite Mountain Gear 3400 Junction  joins the Southwest and Windrider in Hyperlite Mountain Gear’s series of lightweight packs geared toward multi-day trail hikes with few resupply points. The Southwest and its three solid outer pockets are made for hikes where abrasive canyon walls or vegetation close in. The Windrider replaces the solid pockets with three mesh pockets, providing space to stow and dry wet gear. The Junction fits in the middle of those packs: big mesh outer pocket for wet gear and solid side pockets for water bottles or tent poles. The Junction also comes in 2400 cubic inches; the Southwest and Windrider come in 2400, 3400, and 4400 cubic inches.

Hyperlite Mountain Gear 3400 Junction At-a-Glance

MSRP: $345
Weight: 2 pounds

Internal volume:
3,400 cubic inches (55L)
External volume: 600 cubic inches (9.8L)
Total volume: 64L

Load capacity: Up to 40 pounds

Body material: 50 denier Dyneema Composite Hybrid (white)
Body material: 150 denier Dyneema Composite Hybrid (black)
Bottom material: 150 denier Dyneema Composite Hybrid (black and white)
External center pocket material: Mesh
External side pockets material: 250 denier Hardline with Dyneema

Best Use for the Junction 3400

I carried 22 pounds for trail testing, and there’s room in the pack for a lot more gear.

The Junction is at home on any long-distance trail. AT, PCT, or CDT, this pack has you covered. The solid outer pockets hold two one-liter bottles on each side. Or stash a water bottle and tent poles in one of the pockets and water in the other. The solid material side pockets ward off snags from brush or branches crowding the trail. The cavernous inside body holds a tent, sleeping bag, bear can, clothes, and other trail gear with ease. The roll-top closure expands the pack for food resupply, and cinches down as your food diminishes.

Circumstance of Use

This pack rode on my back, packed with 22 pounds of gear and food that I would take on a five-day trip, on day hikes over three months. (Because of COVID-19 trails near me were closed to camping during the test period, but remained open for day hikes.) I hiked in hours of rain to test the pack’s water resistance. I pushed through mountain laurel crowding trails. Through it all the 3400 Junction impressed me as one tough, lightweight backpack.

Hyperlite Junction Features

Fit: I’m five feet, 10 inches, and a medium 3400 fit me like a glove. Hyperlite’s packs come in small, medium, large, and tall to provide a better fit. Hyperlite’s fit guide is here.

Backpack body: The 50-denier Dyneema Composite Hybrid is durable, water resistant, and lightweight. The body compresses easily with the roll-top closure.

White or black?: The black body is 150 denier, and 34.32 ounces compared with 32 ounces for the white body. So if you want a stronger pack that doesn’t show the dirt, go with the black. If ounces count, and you don’t care about dirt and scuffs marks, go with white. The 50 denier is still plenty strong. Hyperlite recommends spot cleaning the pack with soap and water, but a day of hiking in the rain also washed away the dirt.

The outer mesh pocket expands to hold a lot of gear you want to get at quickly.

External center mesh pocket: This is great for stashing rain gear, water filter, lunch, or anything else you need during the day, and don’t want to dig into your pack to get. The thick mesh expands to hold a lot of gear, and is great for storing wet gear.

Two side pockets: The pockets are made with solid Hardline with Dyneema, and hold water bottles, tent poles, or other small gear. Compression straps hold the gear inside the pockets. But I could not grab my water battles from the pockets while the pack was on my back.

Two hip belt pockets: Large enough to fit my phone, Garmin inReach Mini, map and compass, glasses, and snacks. The pockets have water-resistant, sturdy #5 YKK zippers.

Hip belt: Comfortable without being overly cushioned. The belt is sewn to the pack and cannot be adjusted.

Shoulder straps: Comfortable. Held the pack snug to my back.

Sternum strap: Adjustable strap with self-tensioning elastic. A combination orange emergency whistle/buckle connects the straps. It. Is. Loud.

Stays: Removable, contoured aluminum. Adjustable to fit your back.

Back pad: Quarter-inch foam back panel pad. It’s comfortable, but there’s no ventilation between your back and the pack.

Back sweat: No other way to say it. The Dyneema material that keeps water from getting into the pack also keeps the sweat on your back from going anywhere. The pack sits against your back, with no air ventilation. This is a hot pack to wear on warm days.

Weight capacity: Hyperlite says 40 pounds is the upper limit for this pack. So I loaded it up with 22 pounds (my test weight), 30 pounds, and 40 pounds. The fit and comfort felt the same as my test weight of 22 pounds. But I felt like 40 pounds was testing the pack’s strength, and mine.

Big side pockets. Two water bottles on one side, a water bottle and tent poles on the other. But I couldn’t get remove the water bottles while the pack was on.

Compression system: Roll-top closure with vertical side straps to pull the top down tight, and diagonal straps to compress the front of the pack. A top Y strap provides extra compression.

Load lifters: Hyperlite eliminates load lifters from its packs, reasoning that by offering four sizes hikers can find a better fit and not need load lifters. I didn’t miss them.

Seam sealing: All seams are sealed. Hyperlite says the seams are what prevent them from declaring their packs 100% waterproof. Some of my dry bags inside the pack were moist after hours of rain, so I would suggest a pack liner, especially if you don’t use dry bags.

Internal mesh sleeve: Hydro port and internal mesh hydro sleeve. I carry water bottles and didn’t use it.

Accessory buckles: Four exterior buckles for optional pack accessory straps. I didn’t use any of them.

Ice axe loop: Hiking in the Southern New England spring, it wasn’t something I used.

Plenty of room to cram gear into this pack.

No brain: Leaving off the top storage lid, or brain, is a trend in ultralight packs, and one that I’ve welcomed. I felt as though I loaded the brain on other packs with too much stuff anyway, making my pack top heavy and pulling it away from my shoulders. Now I use a ziplock bag for the things I used to put in a brain, and pack it at the top of my gear in the pack.

What I liked best: Generous storage in the outer pockets; waterproof and lightweight Dyneema fabric; comfortable fit; roll-top closure. Can you tell I really like this pack?

Warranty: Hyperlite says the original purchaser can return a product that fails because of a manufacturing defect within one year of the purchase date, and recommends saving the sales receipt. Hyperlite will repair or replace the product, or at the company’s discretion refund the price paid. Hyperlite does not cover products purchased from an unauthorized dealer, such as on eBay.

Point of manufacture: Made in Biddeford, Maine; Dyneema material made primarilty in Arizona and North Carolina

The Dyneema Difference

Dyneema has changed the outdoor industry, much like Gore-Tex did with its waterproof, breathable material in the 1970s. Dyneema (introduced as Cuben Fiber before being rebranded in 2015) is a lightweight, strong, waterproof material. The strength-to-weight ratio is exceptional, making it the preferred material for ultralight tents, backpacks, tarps, and stuff sacks. Hyperlite uses variations of Dyneema in its gear.

Dyneema Composite Fabrics: High-performance, non-woven, ripstop, composite laminates used in ultralight tents, backpacking tarps, and stuff sacks.

Dyneema Composite Hybrid: Lightweight polyester (50 denier or 150 denier) with Dyneema Composite Fabric backing for what Hyperlite says is high resistance to abrasion, exceptional strength, superior ripstop properties, and waterproofness. Used in Hyperlite’s backpack bodies.

Hardline with Dyneema: 250 denier nylon that has Dyneema fibers placed in a grid to create a ripstop fabric for additional strength. Coated with a water-resistant backing, but does not have the same level of water resistance as the backpack bodies. Used in Hyperlite’s hip belts, shoulder straps, and solid exterior pockets on the Southwest and Junction.

The Dyneema fiber and fabrics that Hyperlite uses are made primarily made in Arizona and North Carolina.

About Hyperlite

Mike St. Pierre started Hyperlite in 2010 in a renovated 1880s textile mill in Biddeford, Maine, before ultralight gear had really taken off in the outdoor community. His reason was simple: he couldn’t find durable ultralight gear so he started making his own. When his gear that he made himself with Cuben Fiber drew attention from other hikers, he started Hyperlite. Cuben Fiber, rebranded as Dyneema, has been the backbone of Hyperlite’s gear since its founding. Mike and brother Dan now run the company together.

 

Pros

Lightweight: At 2 pounds, it is at the upper weight of ultralight backpacks.

Compression straps: Wide, with generous-sized buckles that are easy to lock and release. My previous lightweight pack had thin straps that were hard to tighten and small buckles that I sometimes struggled to lock and release.

Outer pockets: They hold a lot of gear.

Trail snacks? Hand sanitizer? There’s plenty of room in the hip belt pockets for those and more.

Hip belt pockets: I also crammed a lot into these.

Roll-top closure: Highly adjustable. Start out with the pack loaded high, and tighten it down as your food diminishes. Or if you’re traveling light roll the top way down.

Durable: Dyneema is strong, lightweight, and water resistant.

Cons

Ventilation: Rides snug against your back with no airflow. Overheats quickly.

Side pockets: I couldn’t get my water bottles out of the pockets.

Cost: Expensive for this class.

White body: Do dirt and scuff marks on the pack bother you? Go with the black pack. Or hike in the rain to clean it.

The Dyneema fabric throws back sweat right back at you on hot days.

 

Final Thoughts

This is the most comfortable pack I’ve worn. I’ve always had a pack with generous back padding, so I was concerned how the Junction would ride with less padding. I never had a problem. The water-resistant Dyneema is a huge plus. It took me awhile to stop using the brain in my old pack, and the Junction’s roll-top closure on a cavernous pack made me a full-fledged convert to a brainless pack.

Overall Value

The Junction costs $345, at the high end for packs in this category, but it’s made in the United States. And that counts for something. I expect the durability to be outstanding.

Shop the 3400 Junction Here

Comparable Backpacks

Osprey Exos 58

MSRP: $220
Weight: 2 pounds, 11 ounces, men’s medium; reduce the weight to 2 pounds, 5.3 ounces by removing the top lid, sleeping-pad straps, and compression straps
Capacity: 58L, men’s medium
Material: 100 denier nylon

Granite Gear Crown2 60

MSRP: $200
Weight: 2.2 pounds without the brain; 2.36 pounds with the brain, men’s regular torso
Capacity: 60L
Material: 210 denier nylon

ZPacks Arc Blast 55

MSRP: $325
Weight: 20 ounces
Capacity: 55L
Material: 50 denier Dyneema Composite Fabric

This product was donated for purpose of review.

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Comments 4

  • Jeff : Jun 16th

    Good review, Hugh and I always like reading confirmation about a purchase I’ve made 😉. May I ask what your torso length is?
    I got a black Junction 3400 last November and am enjoying it. I’m 5’9″, 165 lbs., 19.5″ torso and carry around 30 lbs. when backpacking. HMG was sure the Large would be better for me. It seems fine but I wish I had been able to try a Medium for comparison. Since you’re an inch taller, I was wondering if you have a shorter torso, hence the Medium working better for you.

    Reply
    • Hugh Owen : Jun 17th

      Jeff, I’m glad you liked the review. My torso (if I’m measuring correctly) is 20 inches. So that means I would need a large, right? But a colleague who’s about 5 feet, six inches, said she has a small HMG pack. So I went with a medium, and I like the fit.

      Reply
      • Jeff : Jun 17th

        Thanks. Someday I will stop by Biddeford, Maine and let them check out my fit. Let me ask you a question. Do you feel like the bottom of the loaded pack rests more on the small of your back or more on your tailbone? I think it’s sort of in the middle for me. I’m not saying it’s bad, I just wish I had been able to compare a medium and a large at the same time. Yes, 20 in. would clearly indicate the large size, but if it’s working for you, that’s obviously the important thing.

        Reply
        • Hugh Owen : Jun 17th

          I would say it’s more the small of my back. Good luck with finding a good fit.

          Reply

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