The Hyperlite Mountain Gear Windrider is an incredible pack made by an equally impressive company. I first heard of HMG on the Appalachian Trail in 2015 and almost immediately bought a Windrider 2400 after getting off the trail, wholly dissatisfied by my failing ULA Circuit and the equally dismal customer service. Read more about that experience HERE.

The difference between the Circuit and the Windrider is like that between a Volkswagon and a Porsche- both are nice, but the HMG is leagues beyond the ULA. The craftsmanship and stitching of the straps and seams are like that of the finest sports cars, the fit- like a lambskin glove. Everything about a HMG pack screams quality, including top notch customer service should you ever run into any issues.

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Loaded Down in the White Mountains of New Hampshire

Though not fully waterproof, my Windrider stayed completely water free strapped to the top of a mostly flooded kayak on an intense Aquablaze of the Shenandoah River on my 2016 hike of the AT, with waters 6-7 feet above average. Ultimately, my sweat loosened the adhesive on the cuben tape and it lost much of this water resistance through the seams, but this took several hundred miles of hiking and gallons of sweat (my trailname easily could have been Sweaty McGlisten).

The carry within the 20-25lb weight range is truly impressive. I’ve found no other pack that more properly transfers weight to the iliac crest of the hips than the HMG, despite having a modestly padded hip belt. In fact, not once in over 2,200 miles of hiking with the HMG did I ever find the shoulder straps or hip belt to be uncomfortable, even when overloaded through the hundred mile wilderness with six days of food and a bottle of McAllan 12 scotch.

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The HMG, however, is one of those packs that doesn’t feel much better or any lighter with 12 lbs than it does with 20, which is something to consider if you’re looking for a truly UL experience. My Windrider 3400 in black, in a size tall weighed just over 37oz – a far cry from true UL numbers. The ability to carry 35lbs in comfort, however, places it in the class of ‘lightweight’ and not ‘ultralight’ which is just fine for different types of trips.

I selected the upgrade to the black 150d fabric to provide increased durability, specifically to the bottom of the pack. After my thru hike, despite what I consider to be a reasonable amount of care, the bottom of my pack had worn through just from setting it down multiple times a day throughout the hike. This is not a problem that a fabric like Dyneema Gridstop or Hardline would have, as there are hikers who have over 8,000 miles on a pack like the Mountain Laurel Designs Burn. That said, when I order another Hyperlite, I will indeed pay the custom charge to have them reinforce the bottom with a double layer of 150d or Hardline.

Overall, Hyperlite Mountain Gear packs are, in my mind, the best middleman between a heavier backpacking system, and becoming truly ultralight. The fit and quality are superb, and the customer experience is top tier. Check out HMG’s offerings here.