Gear Review: Hyperlite Mountain Gear Versa
The early 1990s have recycled themselves and fanny packs are back, there’s no two ways about it. Amusingly, this is apparently the case not only in Hiker Trash Vogue but also in actual Vogue. I can’t speak to the fashion trend, but here’s the lowdown on function when it comes to Hyperlite Mountain Gear’s new fanny pack, the Versa.
Hyperlite Mountain Gear Versa Specs
Weight without webbing: 2.91 ounces | 83 grams
Weight with webbing: 4.25 ounces | 121 grams
Volume: 137.3 cubic inches | 2.25 liters
Dimensions: 2.25″ (Height) x 6″ (Width) x 9″ (Length)
Body material: Dyneema Composite Fabric Hybrid
The Versa has two primary pockets: a main clamshell-style top-loading compartment, and a smaller outer pocket on the front. Water-resistant YKK #3 zippers serve as the closure for both. There’s also a bonus “stash” pocket for quick-access items on what you might consider the back of the pack—the part designed to be closest to your body. For organizational purposes, there are a non-removable mesh divider and key clip on the inside of the clamshell pocket.
One-inch webbing serves as a removable strap. With the strap, the pack can be worn freely around the waist as a traditional fanny pack, or over-the-shoulder/cross-body if you’re too cool for the fanny look. Without the strap, the Versa is designed to be compatible as an attachment to the hip belt or sternum strap of your backpack. I tried all of these set-ups except the sternum strap—you’ll notice the advertising photos displaying that arrangement are of a man. I’ll just let you think that one through on your own.
Hyperlite Mountain Gear Versa Pros
Versatility. It’s probably safe to assume this is how the pack got its name. I tried out the Versa in a number of different ways: day hiking with the Versa alone, day hiking with the Versa and a day pack, and cross-country skiing with the Versa on its own.
Day hiking with the Versa alone was perfect for a relatively short hike on which only a small amount of water was desirable, if any at all. In this scenario, I had space in the clamshell pocket for a small snack, my keys, and one bulkier item such as a warm hat or, quite perfectly, Microspikes. In the outer front pocket, I had space for my phone (iPhone 7), my wallet (which, for reference, is very small/thin), and my ChapStick. If I wanted to be carrying water, I used my handheld running water bottle.
For longer day hikes on which I needed to be able to add/shed layers and carry some other additional items, I combined the Versa with my Osprey Daylite. It was a pretty efficient combination, though I didn’t need all the space of the Versa for my easy access items.
I also tried out the Versa while skiing, just to really give the versatility a run for its money. The biggest difference was that I had more unwanted movement when I wore it cross-body style, due to the different motions of skiing compared to hiking. Otherwise, the activity didn’t seem to make much difference.
Much to my chagrin I haven’t been able to get out on a backpacking trip with the Versa. In any case, I was curious about pack compatibility, so I got out my gear as if I were heading out on a thru to see how it would shake out with the addition of a fanny pack (I do not recommend doing this to yourself if you have yet to figure out which trail comes next; it is agony). In combination with my HMG Windrider 3400 (which I still love, reviewed here), the Versa actually didn’t work very well; more on that below. It worked much better in combination with my Granite Gear Crown VC Ki, which I also love, primarily because the Crown doesn’t have any hip belt pockets. In combination with either backpack, the Versa offers a little too much extra space for my personal level of minimalism (which is admittedly fairly high). But as long as you’re a person who needs or wants access to a relatively large amount of small stuff, I think the Versa would be a solid addition to any pack that doesn’t have existing pockets for things like snacks, lip balm, camera, etc.
Lightweight and Waterproof(ish). Dyneema Composite Fabric (formerly Cuban Fiber) products are booming in the outdoor industry, especially among the ultralight community. DCF creates an incredibly lightweight option without compromising strength or durability; in fact, the strength-to-weight ratio actually makes it stronger than steel.
While DCF is waterproof as a material by itself, stitching and zippers undermine the final product’s waterproofness. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the opportunity to test out how damp things would get during extended wet circumstances; however, the zippers are pretty close to what HMG uses on their Windrider hip belt pockets (#5 YKK, as opposed to #3), and I can attest that all the snacks and knickknacks I kept in my pack’s hip belt pockets stayed mostly dry through several rainy/snowy/generally nasty days on the PCT. That said, I echo HMG’s very explicit statement that their packs should not be thought of as 100% waterproof, and some form of dry bag redundancy within your pack is necessary for full protection.
Bonus: It’s also worth mentioning that, per usual, I am a big fan of gear made in the USA, by companies I feel good about endorsing. Based in Biddeford, Maine, Hyperlite Mountain Gear is one of those companies. For more on sustainable brands in the outdoor industry, check out this article.
Hyperlite Mountain Gear Versa Cons
Size. One of my only real issues with the Versa is that it’s on the larger side. The size was nearly perfect for short day hikes on which I wanted to carry only the Versa but still wanted have Microspikes with me. But in combination with a day pack, I had trouble filling up the extra space afforded by the addition of the Versa. There’s bound to be variability in how any piece of gear fits differently sized people, but it seemed especially noticeable just how much of my torso the Versa covered. You can also see in the photo that I’m holding some extra webbing that extended beyond the tail keeper. I offer that simply for reference; it is really no big deal at all and you could easily trim the strap if it bothered you that much, or just double back through the tail keeper like I did.
Compatibility. This is really also a function of size. The HMG Windrider 3400 has a fixed hip belt and no extra-small size option (as is the case for all HMG packs, as far as I know). As such, the Windrider pockets come pretty far around my waist and there is relatively little webbing in between them. When I tried adding the Versa as a pack attachment on my hip belt, there was literally not enough space for it to fit. Additionally, that created too many pockets for not enough stuff. I hope HMG is coming out with a low-volume pack with a more minimalistic, pocket-free hip belt that might pair better with the Versa.
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