Hyperlite Mountain Gear Windrider 3400 Review
Cons: Side compression straps lack functionality, uncomfortable with heavier loads
Manufacturer: Hyperlite Mountain Gear
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Hyperlite Mountain Gear Windrider 3400 earns a top adaptability score and high scores for weight-to-volume ratio and durability. The primary limiting factor in the overall rating is mediocre performance carrying medium loads. We hoped this pack would comfortably carry 30 pounds or a bit more, but were disappointed.
This pack is available in four torso sizes and two fabric choices; we tested a large pack with the lighter weight white Cuben hybrid fabric.
At 15 g/L, both max and stripped, the Windrider earns a decent score for an average weight-to-volume ratio of the packs we tested. This model has a very high roll-top closure. Our extended main volume measurement used just three folds to close the roll top. A more typical use mode rolls the top down much further. A total volume of 51 liters without extending the top is the best direct volume compared to the other top scorers.
Load Carrying Comfort
This product earned a "Good" rating for carrying both 15 and 30-pound loads. While HMG suggests this pack can reasonably carry 40 pounds, we didn't find this to be the case. One of our testers took his Windrider on a three-day trip into Colorado's Lost Creek Wilderness loaded down with 35 pounds and was disappointed in its performance. He found that the frame stays and hip belt did not adequately transfer this amount of weight to his hips, and his shoulders suffered. This pack has many very nice attributes, but we wouldn't recommend carrying more than 30 pounds and expecting your shoulders not to suffer. Besides, the waterproof Cuben back panel fabric that hugs your back is one of the worst for hot weather and sweaty backs.
The most distinguishing feature of this pack is its waterproof main pack fabric and seam-taped construction. Otherwise, this pack brings basic features to the table. Two independent aluminum frame stays stiffened the back panel, and the roll-top closure completes the "waterproof" main bag. The large exterior pockets are a loose, non-stretchy mesh with elastic at the top openings; this creates a lot of volume, but equipment shifts around if they're not full. Two hip belt pockets are larger than average, but not big enough to be in the way. The waist belt tightens with a traditional center buckle.
The compression straps are one of our complaints with the Windrider. The two straps on each side are outside the mesh pockets, and the lower one is virtually useless if you want to be able to access the side pockets. That said, we do like the V-shaped over-the-top compression strap, and the side straps that clip to the roll-top for low volume. A single center ice axe loop is useful.
The Windrider features a large internal mesh pocket to hold your hydration bladder and a sewn loop up top for securing it upright. A single port through the pack lets you route the drinking hose to your right shoulder. All told, the Windrider's design is relatively simple. Most of the other competitors in this review have more features than the Windrider.
This bag earned a top score for adaptability, largely due to the extendable top of the main pack. It's also the only pack that would reach the waist if you put your legs inside to bivy. However, this large volume doesn't translate to increased load-carrying comfort, and there are no load lifters for the high top. That said, not everyone has the same comfort demands, and this pack has the most internal storage of any we tested. While the compression straps perform poorly for reducing the girth of the main bag, straps on the sides that can be used with the roll-top buckles can also easily be used to reduce the main compartment's height vertically.
It seems that Hyperlite Mountain Gear focused on durability when designing the Windrider. Indeed, several of the material choices focus on durability rather than comfort and ease of use. An example of this is the non-stretch mesh used for the exterior pockets. While a stretchy mesh would be more functional, HMG's mesh is much more durable. The same case could be made for the aluminum frame stays. They don't do as good a job transferring weight for load carrying, but they're virtually indestructible. As a result, the Windrider 3400 earned one of highest durability scores in our review.
This product is one of the most expensive ultralight packs we reviewed. While the hybrid Cuben fabric is expensive, we don't know if the performance delivered is worth the high price.
"Waterproof" and durable, the Hyperlite Mountain Gear Windrider 3400 is impressively light relative to its large volume. While many thru-hikers have been happy with their Windriders, our testing showed that there are packs that offer both better performance and value.
Sizing, Accessories, & Other Versions
The Windrider is made in four torso sizes: small, medium, large, and tall, with permanently attached waist belts. We tested a white 50D fabric model, but heavier black 150D is available as well. Smaller and larger Windriders: 2400 and 4400 cubic inches are also options. The Hyperlight Mountain Gear Southwest is also available in these three volumes. It is the same pack with solid Dyneema Hardline fabric exterior pockets.
— Brandon Lampley