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.
Hyperlite Mountain Gear Stuff Pack Review
Cons: Not comfortable as a backpack with heavy loads, expensive.
Manufacturer: Hyperlite Mountain Gear
Our Analysis and Test Results
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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