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Hyperlite Mountain Gear 3400 Southwest Review

Made of durable Dyneema material and has a simple, utilitarian design
Hyperlite Mountain Gear 3400 Southwest
Photo: Hyperlite Mountain Gear
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Price:  $355 List | Check Price at REI
Compare prices at 3 resellers
Pros:  Durable, comfortable, unique materials used, good feature set
Cons:  Lacks support for heavier loads, expensive
Manufacturer:   Hyperlite Mountain Gear
By Jane Jackson ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  Apr 30, 2020
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72
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#9 of 15
  • Weight-to-Volume Ratio - 35% 7
  • Comfort to Carry - 25% 7
  • Features - 20% 7
  • Adaptability - 10% 8
  • Durability - 10% 8

Our Verdict

The Hyperlite Mountain Gear 3400 Southwest is a simple pack made of tough, durable fabric. It provides heaps of volume for its weight and can carry a wide range of loads due to its highly adjustable roll-top closure system. The large exterior pockets use the same durable material as the rest of the pack, and it's one of the largest-capacity models in this review and weighs only a little over two pounds. This pack is ideal for travel through rocky, rugged terrain carrying heavy loads, in potentially wet conditions.

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Awards  Editors' Choice Award Top Pick Award Best Buy Award Best Buy Award 
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$270 List$360.00 at Backcountry
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$139.95 at Backcountry
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68
Star Rating
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Pros Durable, comfortable, unique materials used, good feature setDurable, comfortable, well-designed pockets, carries light and heavy loads wellDurable, simple design, lots of external attachment optionsVery light, large volume, versatile compression systemGreat for medium loads, inexpensive, thoughtful set of features, external storage and lashing options
Cons Lacks support for heavier loads, expensiveLarge capacity makes it less versatileExpensive, lacks features, few external pocketsNo frame, poor comfort for medium loadsHeavy, less durable than others
Bottom Line Made of durable Dyneema material and has a simple, utilitarian designThis pack wowed us with its perfect set of features, comfortable design, and carrying capacityBuilt for serious adventures with lots of external attachment points and a durable constructionFor the ultimate lightweight pack, this pack steals the show with its entirely frameless design and streamlined set of featuresThis incredible pack has tons of features, carries medium-sized loads well, and is comfortable to boot
Rating Categories Hyperlite Mountain... Gossamer Gear Mariposa Hyperlite Mountain... Granite Gear Virga 2 Osprey Exos 48
Weight To Volume Ratio (35%)
7.0
8.0
8.0
10.0
4.0
Comfort To Carry (25%)
7.0
10.0
7.0
5.0
9.0
Features (20%)
7.0
10.0
8.0
6.0
8.0
Adaptability (10%)
8.0
8.0
7.0
6.0
7.0
Durability (10%)
8.0
9.0
8.0
7.0
8.0
Specs Hyperlite Mountain... Gossamer Gear Mariposa Hyperlite Mountain... Granite Gear Virga 2 Osprey Exos 48
Measured Weight 35 oz 30.5 oz 31.5 oz 18.5 oz 37.6 oz
Stripped Weight 35 oz 30.5 oz 31.5 oz 18.5 oz 33.9 oz
Claimed Volume 55 L 60 L 55 L 50-58 L 48 L
Measured Main Pack Volume 46 L 48 L 58 L 41 L 40 L
Measured Volume Total (minus hip belt and shoulder strap pockets) 57 L 64 L 58 L 49 L 59 L
Measured Volume Stripped (minus hip belt, shoulder pockets, and removable lids) 51 L 59 L 58 L 49 L 53 L
Average Weight-to-Volume Ratio (grams/Liter) 15 g/L 14 g/L 15.4 g/L 10 g/L 18.9 g/L
Carrying Comfort 15 pounds Great Great Great Good Good
Carrying Comfort 30 pounds Ok Great Good Poor Great
Frame Type 2 removable alumium stays Foam pad/ removable stay Dyneema Hardline, removable aluminum stays, padded back panel None (foam pad) Tensioned Frame - AirSpeed SL Suspension
Fabric DCH150 70 & 100 denier Robic nylon Dyneema Cordura 100D high tenacity nylon, 100D high tenacity ripstop nylon
Main Pack Pockets 3 4 None 3 3
Hip Belt Pockets 2 2 2 None None
Single Hip Belt Pocket Capacity 3 cliff bars 4 2 cliff bars N/a N/a
Shoulder Strap Pockets No No None No No
Whistle on Sternum Strap Yes No Yes None Yes
Internal Hydration Sleeve Yes Yes No Yes Yes
Bag Sizes/Torso Lengths Available S, M, L, tall S, M, L M, Tall, L Long, short, regular S, M, L
Mix and Match Hip Belt Sizes No S, M, L No No No
Can Easily Strip Off Frame and Hip Belt No Good No No No
BearVault BV500 Compatibility Good Good Ok Ok Just OK
Lid (aka Brain) No No No No Yes, Removable

Our Analysis and Test Results

The 3400 Southwest is a durable, large capacity pack that shines in wet conditions, though we don't recommend it for heavy loads (despite its fairly large carrying capacity). If you are planning on doing lots of scrambling through rocky terrain, or hike mostly in wet environments, this pack is a good choice. If comfort is your main concern, it may make sense to look elsewhere.

Performance Comparison


When it comes to adaptability and weight-to-volume ratio, the Hyperlite 3400 Southwest is top-notch. We loved the durability, as well as the water-resistant qualities of this pack's Dyneema material. The large external pocket and dual water bottle holders on each side are well-positioned and useful, giving the Southwest high scores in the features metric.

Weight-to-Volume Ratio


The Southwest is fairly average regarding weight-to-volume when compared to other packs in this review. It has an average weight-to-volume ratio of 15 g/L; though it has a smaller capacity than some packs in this review on paper, it has a larger feel due to its roll-top closure system. The downside to the Hyperlite is its lack of adjustability; the pack is fairly simple, and what you see is what you get when it comes to reducing the overall weight.

The Hyperlite Southwest has a fairly good score in terms of...
The Hyperlite Southwest has a fairly good score in terms of weight-to-volume - as its fairly light overall and has a large capacity.
Photo: Eric Bissell

Load Carrying Comfort


Due to its simple frame and overall lack of padding or suspension, it came as no surprise that under heavy loads, the Southwest 55 is not the most comfortable pack in the fleet. The shoulder straps are thin, and the back panel provides little ventilation for sweaty backs. When carrying more than 30 pounds, the Southwest caused our shoulders to ache a bit. For us, this was to be expected, since the pack provides very little regarding support.

The Southwest sits close to the back, which is good for heavier...
The Southwest sits close to the back, which is good for heavier loads as it keeps the weight closer to the center of gravity.
Photo: Eric Bissell

We recommend this pack for loads between 15 and 25 pounds if optimum comfort is your goal. For a model that works better with heavier loads, see options with a more substantial suspension system.

Features


We were very pleased with the features of the Southwest. Simplicity is the keyword here — as the pack is a waterproof, seam-taped Dyneema sack with a few external pockets for storage. The material is waterproof and tough, making this a great pack for wintery or wet conditions. One large external pocket made of the same durable material lacks stretch but is baggy enough to fit extra clothes or gear that you plan on using throughout the day. The two side water bottle holders can be reached when the pack is on and are deep enough to keep bottles from falling out. We preferred the pockets on the Southwest to the mesh versions of the Hyperlite Windrider.

We loved the Southwest for its simplicity and thoughtful feature set.
We loved the Southwest for its simplicity and thoughtful feature set.
Photo: Eric Bissell

The pack also has many compression straps on the outside. We liked the V-Shaped, over-the-top compression strap to keep our kit secure. The side compression straps often went unused when we were out with the pack since the pockets, and main body had so much storage space. If features are your thing and the HMG packs don't fit the bill, there are plenty of options with more features in the world of ultralight packs.

The large external storage pockets provide tons of extra storage...
The large external storage pockets provide tons of extra storage beyond the main body of the pack.
Photo: Eric Bissell

Adaptability


The roll-top-closure contributed to the 3400 Southwest's high scores in this metric. When fully opened, it was hard to reach the bottom of this pack without falling in! This makes the Hyperlite a good option for a bivy sack in a pinch, as it came above our waist when we crawled inside. With all the compression straps, the pack can be condensed to a small size if your load is small. On the flip side, it can expand to be one of the largest-volume packs in this review (compromising some comfort when fully loaded down).

The back panel is minimal, though it still provides support with two...
The back panel is minimal, though it still provides support with two small aluminum stays that give the pack structure.
Photo: Eric Bissell

Durability


When it comes to durability, HMG packs are hard to beat. Compared to the delicate fabrics used in the ultralight Gossamer Gear Murmur, the Southwest is miles above. The pack uses 100% Dyneema, which is the same material used in the construction of many climbing slings (which are rated to over 20kN. Lacking the mesh pockets of the Windrider, the Southwest is by far the most durable pack in this review. That said, if you plan on carrying metal in this pack (i.e., climbing gear or a carbon-fiber bear can), the sharp metal edges can wear through this durable material if you are moving through lots of rocky terrain. Be forewarned; this pack is nearly indestructible, but the sharp metal edge of the bear can cause abrasions if it is not padded well.

This may be nit-picky, but we did notice a small nick in the fabric...
This may be nit-picky, but we did notice a small nick in the fabric along the roll-top fold after a few months of use.
Photo: Eric Bissell

Value


The 3400 Southwest is one of the most expensive packs in this review. The pack's 100% Dyneema fabric raises the price of this somewhat simple pack. Unless you are set on this brand, the price tag is hard to rationalize when there are many less expensive options out there.

The Hyperlite claim to fame is their use of Dyneema in their fabric...
The Hyperlite claim to fame is their use of Dyneema in their fabric construction. This makes their packs incredibly durable.
Photo: Eric Bissell

Conclusion


This pack's durability, simplicity, and "cool" appearance make it a popular item among the ultralight crowd. While we liked the pack for these reasons, the overall lack of comfort made this pack fall a bit short in our side-by-side comparisons.

Jane Jackson