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Hyperlite Mountain Gear Stuff Pack Review

Hyperlite Mountain Gear Stuff Pack
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Price:  $96 List
Pros:  Lightweight, waterproof, durable, versatile, simple.
Cons:  Not comfortable as a backpack with heavy loads, expensive.
Manufacturer:   Hyperlite Mountain Gear
By Chris McNamara and Max Neale  ⋅  Mar 4, 2013
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The Skinny

The Stuff Pack could be the most versatile waterproof stuff sack on the planet. However, ordering it is not very convenient, since it is only available directly from the small manufacturer in ME. This 25 liter shoulder strap equipped cuben fiber dry bag weighs a mere 3.4 ounces and stores anything from a sleeping bag to two weeks of backpacking food. Various GearLab testers have taken the Stuff Pack on backpacking trips, bicycle tours, and mountaineering expeditions all over the world. This review discusses the Stuff Packs's applications, shortcomings, and offers advice on whether to get it in the lightweight cuben fiber pictured above or a more durable, heavier version sold as the Metro Pack. Due to its tremendous versatility, the Stuff Pack is one of this author's all time favorite pieces of outdoor gear.


Our Analysis and Test Results

Material

Cuben fiber, or non-woven dyneema (NWD) is the lightest, strongest, and most durable waterproof material currently used in the outdoor industry. Cuben laminates use unidirectional tapes of in-line plasma treated Dyneema fibers spread to mono-filament level mylar films with titanium UV protection. In other words, Dyneema threads (50-70% lighter and 400%+ stronger than Kevlar and 1,500% stronger than steel per unit weight) are sandwiched between tough UV resistant Mylar. Cuben fiber can be repaired quickly with adhesive tape, doesn't absorb water and weighs less than half as much as most silnylons. Cuben fiber is the most advanced waterproof fabric we know of; it's exceptionally good for backpacks and tents. For more info on waterproof fabrics see our Backpacking Tent Buying Advice Article.

Hyperlite Mountain Gear Metro Pack (white) and Stuff Pack (grey). The white cuben fiber hybrid fabric is significantly more durable than the ultralght grey cuben fiber. Both are exceptionally durable for their weight.
Hyperlite Mountain Gear Metro Pack (white) and Stuff Pack (grey). The white cuben fiber hybrid fabric is significantly more durable than the ultralght grey cuben fiber. Both are exceptionally durable for their weight.

Overview


The Stuff Pack's best attribute is its versatility. The size is large enough to store a everything from a -25 degree expedition down sleeping bag to small items like food, clothes, or diamonds. The pack is completely waterproof with sealed seams. Its airtight so you can blow it up and bop it around like a balloon.

Applications



Backpacking

Ultralight backpackers might say the Stuff Pack is too heavy for use as a sleeping bag stuff sack. And they are correct: it is roughly 2.5 ounces heavier than draw cord closure style ultralight cuben fiber sacks. Some people have used the Stuff Sack for various purposes on the trail and then as a resupply pack for trips into town. We believe the sack performs OK for backpacking, but it's not its ideal application if you're an ultralight gear junkie.

Terra Nova Solar Photon 2 camped along the Big Sur Coast  California. Also note the Feathered Friends Rock Wren sleeping bag (right) and Katabatic Gear Palisade sleeping bag hanging from the tree and Hyperlite Mountain Gear Metro Pack (right).
Terra Nova Solar Photon 2 camped along the Big Sur Coast, California. Also note the Feathered Friends Rock Wren sleeping bag (right) and Katabatic Gear Palisade sleeping bag hanging from the tree and Hyperlite Mountain Gear Metro Pack (right).
Summit Pack

One tester used the sack to store an expedition sleeping bag on a Denali expedition (Mt. McKinley, Alaska) and then as a summit pack. With this setup he avoided carrying a colossal 6 lb. expedition backpack on his final push to the summit.

Hyperlite Mountain Gear Stuff Pack climbing Mt. McKinley  Alaska.
Hyperlite Mountain Gear Stuff Pack climbing Mt. McKinley, Alaska.
Up Denali for the second time; Hyperlite Mountain Gear Stuff Pack at ~16 500 ft.
Up Denali for the second time; Hyperlite Mountain Gear Stuff Pack at ~16,500 ft.
Bike Touring

Several testers have taken the Stuff Pack and Metro Pack (see below) on bicycle tours. This author used it on a ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles, others took it on a 6-week trip down Mexico's Baja Peninsula and for a two month trip through India and Nepal. When filling out post trip gear surveys both of these other testers responded that the Stuff Pack was among the most useful items on their trips. The waterproof properties of the pack allow you to strap it on top of a rack in between two panniers. It becomes a backpack for day hikes and activities on foot.

Biking in India with the Hyperlite Mountain Gear Metro Pack (white) on top of the bike rack.
Biking in India with the Hyperlite Mountain Gear Metro Pack (white) on top of the bike rack.
Travel

Having a backpack that compresses smaller than a tennis ball is amazing for traveling because you can fold it up and put in your pocket. The grey color is unassuming and masks the fact that you may be carrying valuable items. Most of the world hasn't seen cuben fiber and doesn't know that it's a very high performance, expensive material. Unlike daypacks with numerous zippers the Stuff Packs' single roll top closure is hard to steal from. If you're really paranoid you can clip a carabiner to the two webbing loops near the buckle to make it completely pickpocket-proof. Our testers felt very secure wearing and carrying the pack in potentially sketchy areas in both in the US and abroad. Having a super small and light pack is very handy for air travel. The author brings a Stuff Pack on almost every trip because it makes an excellent "personal item" on a plane and can serve as an extra checked bag if you buy things that don't fit in existing bags or need to carry extra gear home.

Max Neale with the Hyperlite Mountain Gear Stuff Pack shopping at a market near Antalya  Turkey.
Max Neale with the Hyperlite Mountain Gear Stuff Pack shopping at a market near Antalya, Turkey.

Limitations


The primary drawback to the Stuff Pack is its ultralight nature. We tore several holes in it over a 15-month period of hard use. Two holes in the side were easily patched with adhesive strips of the same material from Hyperlite Mountain Gear. More importantly, the stitching that holds the shoulder strap to the bottom of the pack is beginning to come undone. We suspect that the pack would not last through another Denali trip but it has proven itself on numerous less intense trips without any additional tears. In the future we hope hat Hyperlite Mountain Gear will modify the bottom shoulder strap connection area to be stronger (see the photo below).

Hyperlite Mountain Gear Stuff Pack wear after 18 months of hard use. The bottom shoulder strap connection could be reinforced better.
Hyperlite Mountain Gear Stuff Pack wear after 18 months of hard use. The bottom shoulder strap connection could be reinforced better.
Given the pack's ultralight nature, it is uncomfortable to carry more than twenty pounds. Even with lighter loads the shoulder straps bunch up into a small area that can dig into your shoulders. We'd found that we have to readjust the straps every once in a while in order to keep them spread out, which helps to distribute weight and make the load more comfortable. Although this can be drawback if you're carrying a full pack all day, we rarely find it to be a significant problem because the shoulder straps can be made more comfortable by wearing more clothing or by making custom pad sleeves, similar to the optional accessories for messenger bags. On the whole, we believe the low weight and packability far outweigh the comfort drawback. We generally use this primarily as a stuff sack and less frequently as a backpack.

Other Versions


The white Metro Pack is constructed with a much more durable cuben fiber and polyester material and has padded shoulder straps that make heavier loads more comfortable. This version costs $128 and weighs 5.7 ounces. That's $22 and 2.3 ounces more than the Stuff Pack. We've tested an unpadded shoulder strap version of the Metro Pack. Though we're interested in the padded straps, the unpadded version hasn't been a significant problem for any of people that have used the model we have. It is worth spending an extra cash and carrying an extra weight of the Metro Pack? Based on our experience with the two materials, which includes extensive use of the company's other backpacks (Windrider, Porter, and Ice Pack), we believe the Metro Pack is a better-long term value because it's more durable. The added weight, excludes it from use as a lightweight sleeping bag stuff sack but increases its functionality as a backpack. One tester who carried the Metro Pack throughout India and Nepal said, "It was great because it looks dirty and rugged and similar to cheap plastic rice packs, which the locals use. It disguised all my valuables while walking around towns and was an extra pannier on my bike."


Chris McNamara and Max Neale