Gear Review: Hyperlite Mountain Gear Windrider 3400
You’ll be hard pressed to trek too far on the Appalachian Trail or Pacific Crest Trail without running into someone using a Hyperlite Mountain Gear Windrider 3400. These 100 percent Dyneema packs have exploded in popularity among the long-distance backpacking community over the past few years. I had the opportunity to give this pack a test spin on my recent PCT section hike. The following are my takeaway thoughts.
Hyperlite Mountain Gear Windrider 3400 Review
Weight: 28.8 ounces*
Capacity: 3,400 cubic inches (55 liters)
Max load: 40 pounds
Material: Dyneema Composite Fabric
*Note: Pack weights vary based on torso size. I wear a small.
Hyperlite Mountain Gear’s Windrider 3400 is an ultralight pack designed for long-distance treks requiring multiple days between resupplies, appropriate for hikers carrying a maximum of 40 pounds. Made out of 100 percent Cuben Fiber (now Dyneema Composite Fabrics), this pack is less than two pounds of durable, waterproof goodness.
Circumstance of Review
I carried the Windrider 3400 for about 210 hot, dry miles of the PCT in Southern Oregon. Having already hiked over half of the PCT with a different pack, I went into this section with a very well-developed sense of how I roll on this trail: my hydration system, where everything lives in my pack, how fast I can hike, how many miles I can pull daily, etc. So what I was paying the most attention to was my efficiency by way of the pack’s efficiency. Consistent with my previous experience on the PCT, I hiked about 30 miles a day and, on average, I estimate I was carrying ten to 15 pounds (depending on water, amount of food, and proximity to my next resupply).
This pack has a number of small details and features that I’d love to take time to highlight, but I’m only focusing on the big ones here.
Hip belt: Many ultralight packs shave ounces by making the hip belt less substantial. In my opinion, this is a huge mistake. The majority of your pack weight should be resting on your hips, and the belt will heavily contribute to the ease with which you carry that weight. HMG definitely didn’t cut this corner with the Windrider and I was very happy with the amount of support in the belt. The webbing and buckle are both substantive, with minimal but sufficient padding. Same for the lumbar cushion.
My only complaint was that I’d be in trouble if I lost much weight. Although I could theoretically tighten the belt enough even if I lost several inches, it’s not good to have the hip belt coming around the front of your hips much further than it is in the photo here. I think an extra small option would be a good addition for HMG’s future iterations of this pack.
Hip belt pockets: These pockets are to die for. They are seriously huge–and this is a key update from the older version of this pack. Sometimes even a little too huge, because it was hard to quickly grab things if the pockets weren’t full enough—everything would get jumbled around. But would I reduce the size? No. I can think of several circumstances in which I’d want them exactly as they are. I also appreciate how sturdy the pocket zippers are. Very little risk of snagging the fabric or of what I call “limited lifetime” hardware. Another ounce-cutting corner that HMG did not cut, of which I wholeheartedly approve.
Compression system: I liked the compression system on the Hyperlite Mountain Gear Windrider 3400. The side compression straps for horizontal compression allowed me to keep the pack weight closer to my body, and the top Y-strap compression strikes me as an especially smart and efficient way to reduce the amount of webbing on the pack. I wasn’t a huge fan of the Velcro sealing the roll-top, but it wasn’t an actual drawback.
Suspension system: This aspect of the pack took the most adjusting and getting used to. The absence of load lifters threw me off at first (if you aren’t familiar with the anatomy of a pack, check out this link), but I was able to compensate by changing the width of my sternum strap. The load lifters weren’t a very big deal due to my incredibly light pack weight, but had I been carrying a heavier load I’m not sure how much I would’ve been digging it. The padding on the shoulder harness was sufficient, but the width of the straps where they meet the pack was problematic. I’m a fairly small person, and the width of the strap there was over half the width of my shoulder, leaving it to rub against the slope between my shoulder and neck. Much like the hip belt, I hope HMG will consider an extra-small or women’s-specific, more slender option for the shoulder harness as it continues to refine the Hyperlite Mountain Gear Windrider 3400.
Outside mesh pockets: I guess the Hyperlite Mountain Gear Windrider 3400 is just all about the pockets, because these pockets are the jam. The mesh is divided into three spacious compartments, with one on each side and one in the center. The side mesh wrapped around far enough that I could grab water bottles from either side without much trouble and without having to stop, making possible what turned out to be a more efficient hydration system than what I previously used on the PCT. And the center mesh was perfect for 1) drying things and 2) miscellaneous stuff that I needed to access often. The mesh is also super substantial–yet another promise for great durability over time.
OK, OK, nifty features are great and all, but the most important question: Was it comfortable? Yes–once I figured out how to make the suspension system work for my body. The shoulder harness rubbing on my neck was a drawback, but it was easy enough to fashion a solution, and otherwise, the pack molded to my body nicely and I moved incredibly easily with it on.
- Handmade in the USA (this is a big one for me)—check out HMG’s bio here
- Gigantic hip belt pockets
- Gigantic mesh pockets
- Shoulder harness too wide
- Not really suitable for anything but ultralight
- No short/X-small sizing option
Overall, I am a big fan of this pack. It’s a smart, streamlined design, thoughtfully tailored to the minimalist backpacker. HMG cut weight in all the right places, picking quality over ounces where it matters most. My trip was cut short due to a tibial stress fracture, so I am stoked to keep getting the Hyperlite Mountain Gear Windrider 3400 dialed in once I’m back on my feet. Stay tuned for review revisions and updates.
Final Overall Rating: 9/10
Disclosure: This product was donated for purpose of review.
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