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, unlike its slightly lighter sibling, the 3400 Windrider, which has mesh pockets on the outside. It's one of the largest-capacity models in this review and weighs only a little over two pounds. We loved the large waist belt, with enough padding to keep it feeling comfortable under heavy loads, and two large storage pockets with well-situated zippers.
Hyperlite Mountain Gear 3400 Southwest Review
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
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Our Analysis and Test Results
Regarding adaptability and weight-to-volume ratio, the Hyperlite 3400 Southwest was 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.
The Southwest is fairly average regarding weight-to-volume when compared to other packs in this review. The Gossamer Gear Mariposa had an average of 14 g/L, and the Hyperlite Southwest has an average of 15 g/L. Though the Mariposa has a larger capacity on paper, the Hyperlite has a larger feel. 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.
Load Carrying Comfort
Due to its simple frame and overall lack of padding or suspension, it came as no surprise that the Southwest 55 was not the most comfortable pack in the fleet under heavy loads. The shoulder straps are thin, and the back panel provides little ventilation for sweaty backs. Since the overall design is very similar to the Windrider, we found the Southwest to perform similarly under heavy loads. 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 North Face Phantom 38 has a slightly beefier support system and managed heavier loads a bit better than the Southwest.
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, like the Mountainsmith Scream.
We were very pleased with the features of the Southwest. Simplicity is the key word 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 Windrider.
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, the Osprey Exos 48 or the Gossamer Mariposa both have a few more options for external storage.
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). This pack had a much larger range than the Mountainsmith Scream 55, even though both packs claim the same volume.
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 pack 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.
With a price tag of $365, 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.
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