Hyperlite Prism Review
Cons: Back panel is not breathable, pricey
Manufacturer: Hyperlite Mountain Gear
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|Pros||Comfortable, durable, water resistant, versatile, removable lid||Comfortable, affordable, durable, fully featured||Versatile, simple, durable, well-priced||Lightweight, simple, excellent pack for steep, technical terrain||Durable, comfortable, good features for cold expeditions|
|Cons||Back panel is not breathable, pricey||Not as lightweight as some packs||Less features, some wonky strap designs||Less durable, less versatile, no side straps||Cumbersome ice axe attachment, heavy for volume|
|Bottom Line||This impressive pack is one of the best all-around mountaineering packs we've ever tested||This is an excellent pack for most mountaineering uses, excelling in comfort and versatility in all alpine terrain||This is a pack-of-all-trades well suited to a variety of mountaineering pursuits||This is an excellent on-route climbing pack for challenging steep terrain in the mountains||This pack is optimized for alpine expeditions such as Denali’s West Buttress, as the name suggests, with high marks for comfort|
|Rating Categories||Hyperlite Prism||Osprey Mutant 38||Black Diamond Speed 40||Black Diamond Blitz...||Gregory Denali 100|
|Weight To Volume Ratio (20%)|
|Specs||Hyperlite Prism||Osprey Mutant 38||Black Diamond Speed 40||Black Diamond Blitz...||Gregory Denali 100|
|Measured Volume (liters)||50||37||45||29||90|
|Measured Weight (pounds)||2.25||2.84 (without lid), 3.25 (with lid)||2.93||1.09||6.3|
|Measured Weight (grams)||1020||1288.2||1330||496.1||2860.2|
|Weight to Volume Ratio (grams per liter)||20.40||34.82||29.56||17.11||31.78|
|Frame Type||Sewn-in foam backpanel with single removable stay||Inner framesheet with aluminum stays||Removable foam and plastic framesheet with 3 stays||Foam pad||Integrated framesheet, removable aluminum stays|
|Fabric||DCH150 + DCHW||210D nylon with 420HD nylon packcloth on bottom||210d ripstop main, 420d abrasion||Dynex ripstop||210D nylon|
|Pockets||1 main, 1 lid, 2 side wand pockets||1 zippered lid||1 main, 2 zippered lid, 1 internal hydration||1 main compartment, 1 waterproof top lid, 1 internal zippered||3 zippered lid, 1 zippered side, 1-2 zippered front (modular), 1 zippered hip belt, 2 side pockets; 1 side access zipper|
|Hip Belt?||Yes - removable||Yes - reverse wrap hybrid EVA foam w/ gear loops and ice clipper holsters||Yes - padding removable, not belt||Yes - removable webbing belt||Yes - removable, with gear loop and pocket|
|Removable Suspension Padding?||No||Removable framesheet and/or dual stays||Yes||Yes||Yes - removable framesheet and stays; also has a removable foam pad which unfolds to double in length|
|Lid?||Yes - removable||Yes - removable with stowable FlapJacket for lidless use||Yes - removable||Yes - removable||Yes - removable|
|Hydration System Compatible?||No||Yes - internal pouch with buckled hanging loop||Yes||Yes||Yes - internal pouch with buckled hanging loop|
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Hyperlite Prism is a stark white backpack in a colorful range of products. It stands out for its simplicity, durability, and excellent carrying comfort.
The Prism is certainly an alpine specialist. The main drawback to this pack is that the back panel is NOT breathable. The waterproof fabric ensures that your back will get sweaty 1) if it's hot out and 2) if you're a sweaty person. This can be a major drawback for some people, so consider this carefully. The saving grace, in our opinion, is that the design of this pack steers its usage to alpine environments, which tend to be, well, cold. Even in the summer. But you may consider bringing an extra base layer to sweat all over on the approach up.
The Prism offers impressive versatility with minimal extras, which we love. HMG thought everything through, and this pack just makes sense. This is an excellent all-rounder for mountaineering, alpine climbing, ice climbing, lightweight expeditions, and will even serve you on cragging days and same-day missions as well (it really is that lightweight).
Weight to Volume Ratio
The Hyperlite Prism has an impressively low weight, especially for a backpack worthy of both overnight trips and fast-and-light day missions. For packs of similar volume (around 50 liters), this bag has a more cylindrical look and narrower profile. This keeps packing relatively simple and allows it to extend upward at the collar without impacting how it carries. The Prism carries nicely with 40 liters of gear capacity, keeping it relevant for fast-and-light alpine day missions, and extends upwards with the collar to accommodate 50 liters for the haul to basecamp.
The Prism shines bright for its thoughtful use of features and materials, ensuring excellent utility without becoming heavy and cumbersome. For this review, we report the capacity of the main backpack and not any pockets, but the external crampon pouch, as well as the lid, do provide extra carrying capacity, upwards of 10L. This became more relevant to us in the memorable year of 2020 when restocking sanitation supplies on guided climbs during the Covid epidemic — the crampon pouch, when not used for its namesake, was also perfectly sized for a large package of disinfecting wipes. What a weird year…
Hyperlite Mountain Gear continues to set the new standard in technical climbing packs and carrying comfort. We have seen so many body types discover HMG packs and instantly resolve years of drama in finding a comfortable pack, and this one in particular covers a range of activities from fast-and-light alpine to expedition hauls.
The back panel is made of integrated foam and a plastic stiffener which is not removable. It has a single stay in the frame, which is removable. We typically don't like the single-stay design as much, as it tends to bend easier and get out-of-whack. This pack did not suffer from this problem, however.
The Prism also has a very simple and comfortable removable hip belt and nicely padded shoulder straps. The peculiar thing about the pack is its lack of load lifter straps. The brain connects to the top of the shoulder straps, hooking into a daisy chain that runs the length of the straps. The design and balance of the pack are so well thought out that, in fact, we never felt we needed load lifter straps to prevent the pack from pulling back and out on our shoulders. Phenomenal.
Hyperlite makes their backpacks out of Dyneema Composite Hybrid fabrics. Dyneema (formerly cuben fiber), HMG reports, is lighter than silnylon and stronger than Kevlar. What makes it so unique and valuable for the outdoor industry, however, is its strength and the way it can flex without losing strength at stress points. The fiber is additionally waterproof (prior to stitching) and UV resistant.
Dyneema Composite Fabrics were originally used in high-end sail making, but the utility has reached far beyond maritime sports. The hybrid fabric is specially crafted to withstand abrasion and cutting, which is a high risk in the mountain environment. The Prism pack features this hybrid material, which includes lightweight Polyester (50 or 150-denier rating), or Woven-Dyneema (375-denier), which is laminated with Dyneema Composite Fabric backings. This creates strong, rip-stop, abrasion-resistant, and water-resistant (no longer waterproof due to holes from stitching) backpacks, duffels, and shelters. Wow.
Ok, so it's all fancy technology and stuff. What about its performance in the field? As you would expect, up to snuff. HMG places its most durable fabrics in areas of high wear or serious threat of sharps: in the crampon pouch as well as on the sides so you can stash your 'pons or slide your skis for an A-frame carry with ease and no stress. Nice work, Hyperlite!
The HMG Prism really steals the show with its thoughtful application of features. It does not have a lot, but we appreciated all of them. The crampon pouch is awesome — we always want to shun these very specific-use pockets, but we just love them anyway. The side straps are simple — just two of them, and they're long enough for a full-length foam pad without being too long. The very slender wand/picket pocket on either side is also excellent and adds peace of mind that these items won't fall out in transit.
The rope securing strap is great, of course. And the removable brain is something we actually really like and which is not offered on all HMG packs in order to make them more waterproof (with a roll-top closure). For our higher alpine uses, this is totally fine; we prefer the durability of the sewn Dyneema composite hybrid fabric to pure waterproofness. Otherwise… well, that's it! It's just that simple, and we love it.
Ok, so here's the major drawback with Hyperlite Mountain Gear packs. They're expensive. Like double the price of other similar-use packs. If you're in it for the long haul, you value lightweight and high quality, and you also want durability, then these packs are worth the price tag, hands down. This is not likely a great pack to buy if you're just dabbling in alpine climbing as it is fairly specific-use, but if you're an avid alpinist, the Prism is well worth the price.
The Hyperlite Prism is a pack that brings us back to what really matters in an alpine climbing pack. It is as if other packs are a mere refraction of the purity and simplicity of this product. Needless to say, if you can afford it, we recommend it highly.
— Lyra Pierotti
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